Early clinical studies have generated exciting results in all of these areas.
However, bringing licensed and approved psychedelic drugs to market to treat these conditions is a long haul. The time from drug discovery to commercialization can run as long as 10 years. Total costs to develop a new drug can range into the $100s of millions.
It’s very difficult for start-ups in this space to go from start to finish-line in such a scenario. For this reason, many emerging psychedelics companies have added a “functional mushrooms” division to their operations.
What are functional mushrooms?
Psychedelics investors are familiar with psilocybin. This is the highly psychoactive substance that is naturally produced in over 100 species of “magic mushrooms”.
However, there are roughly 2,000 (known) species of edible mushrooms. Of those species, more than a dozen non-psychoactive species are recognized as providing medicinal benefits: functional mushrooms.
As with many natural supplements to gain popularity in recent years, the use of functional mushrooms first attracted a wide following in Eastern cultures.
Mushroom species with exotic-sounding names like Reishi, Chaga, and Lion’s Mane are among the functional mushrooms that are becoming top-sellers in health supplements outlets around the world.
It’s also generating new terminology.
Terms such as “nootropics”, “biohacking” and “adaptogens” are now heard almost as often in corporate boardrooms as they are at dietary supplements retailers.
This is a major market in a very large space. How big a market?
Functional mushrooms: a $23.3 billion dollar market
Functional mushrooms are a rapidly-growing niche in the enormous market for dietary supplements. An August 2020 report projected dietary supplements to be a $349.4 billion market by 2026.
A 2019 report on the functional mushrooms market from Mordor Intelligence (Functional Mushroom Market 2020 – 2025) estimated this to already be a $23,290.98 million market. Mordor Intelligence is predicting a very solid 8.04% CAGR from now through 2025.
Within this segment, Shiitake mushrooms are expected to generate the greatest growth. As noted, global sales are centered in the Asia Pacific markets. But North America is also rapidly emerging as a growth market for functional mushrooms.
However, the Mordor Intelligence report was produced prior to the breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Increasing health concerns (and health-related spending) are likely to fuel even higher growth rates.
This becomes obvious when we look at the medicinal and health benefits for which functional mushrooms are being touted.
Potent medicinal properties
Researchers and naturopaths who have delved into the properties of these mushrooms are pointing to many health benefits, several of which are common to all functional mushroom species.
- Antioxidant properties
- Immune system support
- Promoting brain health
Increasing antioxidant activity within the body has been a high priority with many consumers of health supplements. Among the reasons for doing so is that this is thought to be an important anti-cancer strategy.
In 2020, however, coronavirus concerns have made boosting the immune system an even more urgent health priority among consumers. Because of this factor, many readers of this article may already be consumers of functional mushrooms.
Herbal and naturopathic practitioners have identified functional mushrooms as being among the best (if not the best) supplements for boosting the immune system in the human body. For this reason alone, the projected CAGR for functional mushrooms is likely too conservative.
Then there are the purported benefits of functional mushrooms in promoting brain health.
Synergies with psychedelics
Functional mushrooms have health-promoting properties that are seen to promote brain health through supporting the growth and maintenance of neurons. This is considered to be generally beneficial with respect to cognitive function and especially short-term memory.
Tero Isokauppila goes further. The founder of Four Sigmatic (a mushrooms/superfoods company) and author of Healing Mushrooms points to the “adaptogenic properties” of Reishi mushrooms.
Isokauppila explained that this will “help your body to manage occasional stress”. Here we see direct synergies with psychedelics.
Psychedelic drugs are being developed and tested to treat depression, anxiety, PTSD and addiction. All are stress-related disorders.
As noted in a recent article, there is a Mental Health Crisis sweeping the globe. Depression, anxiety and substance abuse are endemic in our societies. PTSD is at epidemic levels among military personnel, first responders, and other high-stress occupations.
Psychedelic drugs are being researched and developed (over the longer term) to improve treatment options for these disorders. In the meantime, functional mushrooms can be consumed as preventative aids to (hopefully) reduce the prevalence and severity of these mental health disorders.
A 2018 report estimates that mental health disorders will cost the global economy $16 trillion between now and 2030 in lost productivity.
With so much at stake, there is plenty of room in the marketplace for both functional mushrooms to improve brain function and mental health along with psychedelic drugs to treat mental health disorders.
Psychedelic drugs have blockbuster potential over the longer term to generate a number of medicinal breakthroughs in multi-billion treatment markets.
However, functional mushrooms also represent a multi-billion market. And this market is already open for business today.
This allows companies that are active in both functional mushrooms and psychedelic drug product development to offset some of the R&D costs associated with psychedelics research with near-term revenue streams from functional mushrooms.
Functional mushrooms: they perform important functions in our health. They are also fulfilling an important function in the development of a psychedelic drug industry.