Twelve weeks ago I was presented me with my eighth grandchild, a little boy whose name is Arlo (after both his grandfathers). My wife and I visited our kids and new grandson in their home on the island of Kauai. My son is a mycologist (a mushroom expert) and a full-time mushroom farmer who supplies exquisite organic varieties all over the Islands. My daughter, a talented yoga instructor, supplements their income.

I had a chance to spend time watching him in his sterile lab where he develops new strains and experiments with creating new growing environments. The subject came up about growing the hallucinogenic “magic” psilocybin mushroom, which would be a lucrative cash crop. But alas it’s against the law, because in 1970 Congress made it illegal to possess psilocybin mushrooms (and other hallucinogens), classifying them as Scheduled 1 Drugs; defining them as having no legitimate medical use.

This is unfortunate, because healers for thousands of years have used them to relieve suffering and there is considerable current research using hallucinogenic mushrooms as an effective treatment for cluster headaches.

Cluster headaches affect 1 million Americans and can be so severe they are called “suicide headaches”. No treatment has yet been shown to extend remission from its’ pain. Dr. John Halpern, a psychiatrist at Harvard’s McLean hospital, recently reported in the journal Neurology (June, 2007) that a majority of the 48 patients who had taken hallucinogenic mushrooms found partial or complete relief from their cluster attacks. These were not people you’d expect from the drug culture; they were lawyers, teachers, and business owners, who had a painful and debilitating condition and found meaningful relief.

Dr. Charles S. Grob, a UCLA psychiatrist, has been using psilocybin mushrooms under a special DEA permit, looking at its ability to alleviate the suffering in the terminally ill. Dr. Francisco Moreno, a psychiatrist at the Univ. of Arizona has been using psilocybin mushrooms to treat patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder with promising results. It is my experience and that of many other psychiatrists, that they could impart a lasting sense of spirituality and connection that might prove effective in treating patients with mental disorders and addictions.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating the recreational use of psychedelic mushrooms, because their effect remains unpredictable. What I am saying is we ought to be listening to our shamanic ancestors who used them extensively, and we ought to be supporting research in this area (www. Maps.org), because it has enormous potential clinical utility.

And let’s not forget the relief it would bring to my children who are struggling organic mushroom farmers. To all of you my relatives, in this holiday season, whatever it is you’re growing, may it grow with love and in peace.