July 16th, 2024

Student businesses growing remedies for mental health


By Theodora MacLeod - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on October 4, 2023.

Herald photo by Theodora MacLeod University of Lethbridge student Gregory Robinson, along with two other student entrepreneurs have launched a campaign to discuss natural methods of mental health care, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

Gone are the days when mental health was a taboo topic spoken about only in the presence of a doctor or confidant. As the public understanding of health evolves to include the mind, so too has the methods of care. What was once considered “alternative” is now simply natural and many university students are embracing that shift.

In honour of Mental Health Awareness Week Oct. 1-7, three student-run businesses at the University of Lethbridge have launched a campaign to discuss natural methods of mental health care. Mycos is a mushroom-based supplement company founded by Ph.D. student Gregory Robinson, while UrbanDropout is an online activewear brand founded by Jaxon Doram and Cole Childrey, and Litty Love is a candle company started by Bailey Porter.

The campaign, called #MycosMentalHealth, features a chalkboard on which students are asked to write their natural remedies for caring for their mental health. The campaign will be touring Alberta, as well as other parts of Canada and western United States until May.

Gregory Robinson began his research with mushrooms by looking at the benefits of psilocybin, a psychedelic compound found in many species of fungi that has been shown to benefit those with depression and anxiety when used in a supervised setting. However, with regulations currently limiting the use and distribution of psilocybin in Canada, Robinson began looking at other compounds in fungi and mushrooms and their benefits when consumed.

Robinson says that unlike many mushroom-based supplements on the market, Mycos uses a targeted extraction method developed at the University of Lethbridge that allows them to go beyond the chitin cell walls to extract compounds that otherwise would not be fully digested if the mushroom were consumed whole.

Mycos currently has three products available online, Sexy Shroom aimed at sexual health and treating erectile dysfunction, Gluco Shroom for improving glucose management in the blood, and Neuro Shroom, the star of the campaign, that boasts improvement to brain function, mood, and energy levels.

“The thing that many people forget is that fungi is a kingdom of life,” says Robinson. “You can think of all the different compounds that we get from plants that show various different health benefits, with fungi we’re doing the same thing.”

With the use of mushrooms and fungi based on traditional Chinese medicine, Robinson says there are findings from studies in the western world validating the claims of that traditional medicine and showing even more benefits than previously thought.

That’s good news in light of information released by Statistics Canada last month citing a growing prevalence of mental health disorders, including rates of generalized anxiety disorder, doubling since 2012.

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