Michelle Janikian is the author of Your Psilocybin Mushroom Companion: An Informative, Easy-to-Use Guide to Understanding Magic Mushrooms—From Tips and Trips to Microdosing and Psychedelic Therapy. This thoroughly enjoyable read is helpful for both beginners and psychonauts alike, so we just had to reach out for an interview. Luckily for us, she said yes.
In this chat, we learn about her journey from experimental teenager to myco-journalist, discuss microdosing, and the magic of mushrooms.
Vivian Kanchian: I would love to know just a little bit about how you got into mushrooms. I got into medicinal mushrooms decades ago when I walked into an elixirs and tonic shop in LA called Dragon Herbs. I walked in on the verge of coming down with something, and after taking a few droppers full of this mystery tonic… I literally walked out saying to myself “I think I’m well”. I never did get sick. So, that is what sparked my interest. And I’m curious what got you interested.
Michelle Janikian: I talk about this a bit in the book intro. I was a teenager. [My pursuit of mushrooms] wasn’t health-based, honestly. It was more consciousness exploration-based. And I fell in love with it. I was unprepared my first time, and I talk about all the ways that I really misunderstood the gravity of the experience I was about to embark on. I really was very mesmerized with the three and a half gram mushroom dose experience, a full dose. And I got obsessed.
I was 17, I read all the books, I showed all my friends, we did it together a few times. It was really that experience, that place I went to…it was all very very weird and magical. But it also just made me feel like myself, and [realize] how comfortable I was with myself in that space. [It was just] like a big homecoming…a very powerful thing for me. So my first mushroom trip got me into it, short answer.
It was 10 years later, in my late 20s that I began experimenting again… around 2005. There was an underground movement of mushroom therapy, but I had no idea. That wasn’t in the news. [I would see things] a little bit on Erowid and some [other] message boards. Even back then, the internet was less a part of my life. It was just a different time. And then, I was already a cannabis reporter and there was all this news on mushroom therapy, which is when I really got interested.
Both as a person who just needed… I kind of shy away from the word healing. But you know, as a person who could use some help, and [as] a reporter that was really curious in this new space, that was very adjacent to my beat. I started writing about mushrooms and psychedelics first, and after a retreat experience, I really got into more of a health-based and personal growth based-experience.
It was really mind-opening for me and that this is so much more than a really crazy afternoon. Even though I always had big insights when I would [previously] take mushrooms just for fun, I didn’t really pursue them, I didn’t take them very seriously, until I really got deep into it.
VK: When you moved to this more wellness-based kind of experience, what were some of the things that you did differently post-trip to really nurture those feelings of expansion?
MJ: We use the word integration in the psychedelic world. For me, it was journaling. Keeping track of it all has been really helpful in revisiting that. I am a writer, so it [especially] makes sense for me to do that. But everyone’s gonna have their own little way to do this.
But yeah, right after the trip or the next day, I try to journal right before too. So I see kind of where I was going in, and then I write down a trip report of what happened, what I felt, what my big insights were. And then, going back to those entries is really powerful. Especially on the verge of another trip, maybe a year later, or just seeing where I was at that point in time and where I am now. And I think that’s how I’ve learned.
By writing them down and revisiting them, I don’t forget them as easily. And sharing them with the world as a writer. The experiences that I’ve talked about and written about are the ones that have stuck with me the most. And coming back to them when I’m feeling really low, remembering that place that’s inside of me that makes me feel like I can literally do anything… that’s always with me, so that’s helpful.
VK: I love that. So do you think there is a connection between the journaling and the intention setting? And why is intention setting kind of such a big deal? Some people come in with the intention of wanting to quit smoking or wanting to be more social or whatever the case may be. There seems to be a suggestibility component. What do you think that’s about?
MJ: For me, the pre-trip journaling helps me solidify and clarify my intentions. But, I actually personally try to go in a little bit open-minded because when I set too many intentions or get too specific, it really does have a big influence. To answer your question, why? I think to be honest, humans’ intentions affect every part of our lives, our expectations. And mushrooms and psychedelics amplify that. It’s really all it is.
I want to say that it’s probably related to witchcraft and magic too, because if you think about casting a spell, that is intention-setting with sometimes a plant ally and a time in the moon cycle. I really think mushrooms are magic. It’s not just a phrase. There is something very magical about them and our intentions heighten that. I’m getting very far away from the scientific stuff, but I really feel that when we set an intention and we take a large dose of mushrooms, it’s a form of witchcraft – and it works.
It’s going to make a big impact on your trip, and you just go to this very child-like sensitive place in your mind that is just hard to access any other way. But if you set a lot of intentions, it can be hard. It can be good in healing. But it’s going to bring up stuff that you didn’t even realize was involved with your intention and your goal, it can be really deep, it can be hard. So I like to go in open-minded, with the intention that I’m here for learning, because I know the mushrooms always teach me something.
VK: I love that you talk about witchcraft. As humanity, it seems to me we kind of lost that intuitive part of ourselves because we just don’t practice it anymore, right? We don’t have to look out for that mountain lion or that poisonous berry anymore. And it seems like there’s something about mushrooms that takes us back to that place, takes us back to our origins a little bit. What do you think about that?
MJ: Like the Daleks. I mean, we’re engines [generally speaking]. I think modernity definitely has changed humans. I’m really into ancient Greece right now and in my personal research… pre-Christianity, things [revolved] a lot more around ceremony, nature, and intuition.
I do think the fact that these medicines were used by those cultures, especially mushrooms and indigenous Mexico… it does seem to me that shamanism and paganism are very related. And I think sometimes when we talk so scientifically about how mushrooms treat depression [for instance], we’re missing a very key aspect of this, which is that, we don’t really know. And it feels like there’s magic involved.
VK: You mentioned indigenous knowledge around myco-medicines earlier. How important do you think it is for people who want this experience to have it in a more authentic or historical context? Or do you think the experience could be just as powerful sitting in a psychotherapist’s office?
MJ: Well, it would really depend on the person and what they’re looking for. If they’re looking for an authentic cultural experience. I think there should be options – when it’s legal, that’d be ideal. Right now, illegally, there are options. You can seek out an indigenous healer, or an underground therapist, you can do this on your own, you can do it with friends.
In the book, I try to go into what each different experience is like. Whatever speaks to you, if that’s what you’re seeking, that’s what you should do. I don’t think there is a best way. I think everyone’s different. And I think that you should just be honest with yourself and figure it out with a little research… and maybe talking to some other folks who have tried doing it other ways.
VK: Timothy Leary was a psychology professor at Harvard before he went on to become a preeminent advocate for psychedelics. After his very first trip, he said he learned more about himself in those five hours compared to the 15 years that he had spent in school. He became famous for telling people to “turn on, tune in, drop out”. Almost what seemed like overnight, he made some pretty profound changes. I’m wondering if there’s any one thing in particular that you’re comfortable sharing that mushrooms have helped you with.
MJ: The change overnight thing, in my opinion, is not that common. It’s kind of a misconception. The quote isn’t wrong, that you can learn so much about yourself in five hours. Whether or not that changes you, though, is a whole other thing. It definitely changed Tim Leary. I mean, he dropped out of his whole life at Harvard to become the hippie guy. He was on the run from the FBI. Like, his life got crazy.
I think for most people, their first psychedelic experience, their first major trip, is a really powerful thing. But you know, I’m not one of these people that’s like that. I still get depression and anxiety. I’m a little better with it, ‘cause I’ve learned a lot about myself. What I learned on mushrooms about my own depression and anxiety was that I was causing a lot of it with negative self-talk, insecurity and jealousy. I could see those things more clearly about myself on psychedelics. But it hasn’t been a quick fix.
That’s what integration is for, and that’s why you kind of come together in circles with people, or even just come together with yourself. And, you know, it’s a lifelong journey. There is no such thing as healing period, you know? It’s healing dot-dot-dot. You’re never gonna fix yourself completely, you’re human. But you can, if you’re really broken, build yourself back up a bit for sure. You can always become a little bit better, but I don’t think mushrooms can change you overnight.
VK: Can you tell us what sparked your interest in taking on this huge endeavor of writing a book?
MJ: Yeah, as I had started to mention earlier, I was a reporter on this kind of a beat and it just kind of all started coming together as a professional and personal interest. Then, I started writing about it really publicly. And it just all happened really fast. I pitched the book as a how-to-trip for adults originally. Because I was just turning 30 and I was trying to figure this out also.
The Michael Pollan book, How to Change Your Mind, was really popular at the time, and the publisher thought that there was an opening. Like, if you’re a person who wants to do this, how do you learn about it? There were some resources, but there was no mushroom-specific resource on how to actually consume mushrooms and do it safely. I’m not super dogmatic on the “right way”. I just wanted to show people the ways that humans use them so they could make their own informed decision.
VK: OK. Let’s talk a little bit about microdosing for those who maybe haven’t explored it, but are kind of curious. There are a few different protocols out there, but generally speaking it sounds like a micro dose is considered anything between 0.1 grams to 0.3 or around 300 milligrams?
MJ: Yeah and the idea is that it’s one tenth to one twentieth of a tripping dose which starts at the two three grams range, and beyond. I think a lot of folks who are microdosing mushrooms, 0.1 milligrams, I think, is actually for your first time ever. Or if you have an option for half of that, this is a good place to start because sometimes mushrooms can be strong. And because every mushroom’s different… they aren’t standardized, and you may feel it just a little. Sometimes you don’t feel anything until 0.5 milligrams, it depends. So, it’s good to start small. You can always take more, but you can’t take less.
VK: There seem to be a few different ways to microdose, and the Stamets and Fadiman protocols are maybe the most popular. But I also read in your book that, because mushrooms have such long-lasting effects, some people will just take them every now and then when they feel they need a little bit of a nudge.
MJ: That’s what I do. I would say the protocols are pretty intense. If you’re dealing with heavy duty depression, maybe do a protocol with the guidance of a therapist, or if you’re feeling really stuck and you’re kind of experienced with mushrooms. I don’t want to take microdoses that much every week personally because even though it’s very subtle, it is very energizing. It’s just a lot for me personally to take so often.
If I’m feeling stuck, sometimes I feel really tired, you know, or I just can’t focus on my work. They can help a little. But folks should do their research. In the book I recommend for your first time, to try it on a day where you don’t have anything else going on. So you really get to know how it feels in your body. So if you want to try to do this on days when you are working, or you’re going to pick your kids up at school, that you really know what you’re getting into and it’s not a big experience. It’s more like CBD versus THC, for example. The protocols, I think are more for folks with serious mental health conditions that they feel quite stuck with.
VK: Cool. So, let’s say somebody does try mushrooms (either in a macrodose or microdose) and they have an experience where they’re wanting to be able to bounce this off somebody else. Any resources that you may know of? The Fireside Project comes to mind.
MJ: Yeah, I’ve heard of them. You could try calling their peer hotline. I do think most major cities now have psychedelic societies that are like free meetups. You could also join an integration circle.
VK: Thank you. Can you just tell us a little bit about where people can find you. And, if you have anything to announce that’s coming down the pike, please share so people can follow you and stay informed on what you have going on.
MJ: Yeah, thanks. The book is available everywhere. Your Psilocybin Mushroom Companion. I also sell it on my personal website in the US, MichelleJanikian.com, and you can find my past articles and other podcasts and things I’ve been involved with on my website. I’m pretty active on Instagram. Michelle.Janikian is my handle on Instagram and Facebook. I’m working on a second book, but I’m not ready to announce it. Someday, I am going to release a second book. Very much a work in progress.