Interview by Sam C. Long, article by Alexa Nasiedlak, additional reporting by Haley Alexandra Yaman
After managing a tired body, a family history of neurocognitive disorders, and a couple of intense snowboarding injuries that should have left him paralyzed, George Moulton turned to plant medicine. Quickly, he discovered that nature really can heal the body. Moulton used mushrooms to heal himself physiologically, leading him to create something that would help others heal.
“I had a formula I was working on,” Moulton recalls. “I knew I wanted Lion’s Mane [mushrooms] for memory and focus, Cordyceps because it was the athlete’s mushroom for stamina and performance… And I wanted something enjoyable that people would actually want to take every day.”
This would form the basis for Moulton’s company fungtion, and its signature mushroom elixir. Shortly after his epiphany, Moulton met Phoebe McPherson; now head of Brand and Education for fungtion, McPherson is an herbalist with a background in plants and mushrooms. She’s spent years learning about mushrooms and plants from wisdom keepers, psychologists, scientists, facilitators, and alchemists in the field, also personally working and building relationships with nature herself.
It is obvious that the two have their head and their heart in the business.
fungtion: Functional Mushrooms For Wellness
Based in Southern California, fungtion is now an aptly named wellness and educational brand focusing on the natural, powerful impacts functional mushrooms and plants can have on the brain and the body. Founded by Moulton as an almost passion project, he wanted to “successfully create something meaningful to leave behind.” He and McPherson work tirelessly to curate a brand that focuses on education and using the plant to better mental and physical health.
Described as “psychedelic adjacent,” it’s important to note the different types of mushrooms that are out there. There are three distinct categories: gourmet, psychedelic, and functional. Gourmet mushrooms are the mushrooms we like to eat and cook with; occasionally, these mushrooms crossover with functional mushrooms, which provide some type of health benefit. Psychedelic or “magic” mushrooms contain psilocybin and create an altered state of consciousness when ingested, usually accompanied by hallucinations.
At fungtion, Moulton and McPherson concentrate on the third type, functional mushrooms, meaning varieties that have medicinal properties. These mushrooms, including common types like Lion’s Mane, can have brain-boosting properties, alongside antiviral, antifungal, or digestive support qualities, and more. Many functional mushrooms people can access at any grocery store; safe, legal, powerful.
What Makes fungtion's Mushroom Elixir Different?
“Within the functional space, you’re going to have mushrooms you use on a day-to-day basis,” McPherson comments. “We’re used to talking about psychedelics and cannabis [where] we take something to arrest our system to feel a certain way. But with functional mushrooms and plants, which are totally legal everywhere, we’re really tapping into the power of nature. You start to notice positive shifts in your body, like if you took a B12 vitamin for a week or started to drink the amount of water you actually need every day… It’s that shift we’re creating in the psychedelic adjacent space, because you need the patience to allow these things to work in your body.”
The fungtion mushroom elixir, primarily using Lion’s Mane and Cordyceps, is also stacked with other plants to activate different health benefits. Ginger supports the digestive tract; goji berry promotes sexual energy and endurance; ginseng boosts endurance and balances mood; rhodiola relieves stress related fatigue. These plants’ powers combine into a full-body wellness cocktail, but their effects are actually quite subtle. So subtle, in fact, that McPherson advises that each consumer give it two weeks with the formula to see what it’s doing long-term for them.
Functional mushrooms do work best when people understand their dosages, a trait shared with psychedelic fungi (and with most primary vitamins - you want to take them daily, but not overdo it.) One person’s microdose might be another person’s macro, and it’s important to find out what helps your body the most. Part of fungtion’s appeal is that its elixir is mixed with the perfect ratios to help consumers eliminate a majority of the guesswork.
According to fungtion’s website, their elixir supports “cognition, sustained energy, and libido.” Moulton clarifies that this means libido in the sense of maintaining healthy blood flow, circulation, and physical energy in a daily routine, though the product is not an aphrodisiac by itself. However, the brand’s current offering on the market will soon be joined by a sister product designed to open the heart, and can legitimately be called an aphrodisiac under certain circumstances. Welcome to the wonderful world of the South African succulent, Kanna.
For those of us who don’t know what Kanna is, it’s an indigenous South African succulent plant classified as an empathogen. Indigenous communities in South Africa, the San and the Koi, would often smoke cannabis and Kanna together; other times they might ferment Kanna root and chew it all day long– their version of microdosing throughout the day.
In Western-medicine terminology, Kanna operates in a similar way to an SSRI. It can function as a “natural antidepressant and dialytic. It has been clinically shown to help those fighting addiction, fighting feelings of codependency, those that have an overactive amygdala, those that are struggling with coming out of fight or flight and just want to feel better on a daily basis,” McPherson clarifies.
Why Is Kanna A Special Plant Medicine?
Unlike other empathogens, Kanna doesn’t have amphetamines in it like MDMA or sassafras, both of which are scheduled and illegal in many places around the world. Kanna is also understood to be non-addictive and non-toxic. It’s not only legal in most places, but it’s widely viewed as safe for most people to explore. Like other empathogens, the South African plant encourages love, joy, and empathy; it opens you up, allows “you to feel a lot of love and a lot of empathy towards the world,” says McPherson.
“Oftentimes within the psychedelic space, we think about the brain, the body, the spirit, but we're not oftentimes thinking about the piece that is the heart and finding safety in our hearts, safety in what we're feeling, and then connecting that to the mind and the body,” McPherson elucidates. That’s what’s so special about Kanna: its focus on the heart allows for full body connection and activation.
Just like any other plant medicine and functional mushrooms described above, Kanna works in dosages and over certain amounts of time. McPherson recommends giving products made from the succulent two weeks to take effect, just as she suggests for mushroom-based items.
Kanna is not a hallucinogenic, so no visuals or active hallucinations like the ones you’d get when you’re ‘tripping’ on psychedelic mushrooms, just an open heart, extreme love, situated in a very vulnerable loving space. Whereas microdosing mushrooms you may be able to pinpoint your mood changing, microdosing on Kanna is more of a retroactively noticing the difference in your day.
fungtion's Kanna Elixir And The Future Of Plant Medicine
Fungtion’s Kanna elixir launched in May; meanwhile, their mushroom elixir is constantly gaining fans across various markets. “If you’re a fan of cannabis, you will be a fan of Kanna and mushrooms,” McPherson declares.
But for her and Moulton, fungtion goes beyond their primary plants to help humanity embrace all natural substances, and form connections within themselves. “Working and operating in a psychedelic adjacent space means that people start having the tools that access the wellness they need to be able to continue on this path,” McPherson concludes. “Whether it’s something you’re exploring recreationally, healing pharmaceutically, the whole nine yards - it’s absolutely essential.”
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Featured image: fungtion founder George Moulton and Head of Brand and Education Phoebe McPherson (C) fungtion