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Functional Mushroom Advocates at Umbo See Bright Future for Healing

From left: Umbo partners Rashad Evans, Del Jolly and Jake Plummer.

Hemp Business

Functional Mushroom Advocates at Umbo See Bright Future for Healing

The road to next month’s Mushroom Summit has been a long one for Jake Plummer and Del Jolly, who, with business partner and former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, own functional mushroom company Umbo

Plummer, the former Denver Broncos quarterback, says his interest in nature as medicine comes from his mother, who believed in holistic healing and bequeathed him a healthy skepticism about Western medicine. Those lessons came back to him as an adult as he confronted a constant stream of pills and quick fixes for his football injuries. “It was take this now, mask this pain, get back on the field,” Plummer recalls.

His experience went against everything he was taught growing up. When, in 2015, his friends and former NFL players Nate Jackson and Ryan Kingsbury told him about Charlotte’s Web CBD oil, Plummer was intrigued. He retired from the NFL in 2006, but the aches and pains lingered. He found that when he took CBD oil, he had more freedom of movement and fewer headaches. “I could get down on the floor and play with my kids and then get up without moaning and groaning,” he says.

Moreover, Plummer was inspired by activist Paige Figi and others who were fighting for the right to give their children CBD oil for seizures, using his celebrity to bring attention to the cause. (“People listen to us big football players,” he jokes.)

Plummer also met Del Jolly, who was on the board at Charlotte’s Web and shared his interest in natural medicine. Jolly had been anti-cannabis for years but saw the light, he says, when he learned about Figi and the other mothers fighting to help their children. 

A longtime food forager, Jolly knew about mushrooms. A powerful psychedelic journey had inspired him to work on Decriminalize Denver’s successful campaign to end punishment for magic mushroom possession in 2019. The same year, Jolly founded Unlimited Sciences, a not-for-profit that has been working with the Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins University. He is fascinated by the “fungi queendom,” as he and Plummer call the taxonomic designation fungi.

Jolly breaks down the fungi queendom into three categories: gourmet mushrooms such as portobello and porcini that are commonly used for cooking; functional mushrooms, or varieties that have been used for millennia in Chinese medicine; and psychedelic mushrooms such as psilocybin. 

As he learned more about the functional mushroom category, Jolly realized there was an opportunity to bring healing to people through a company that could help fund Unlimited Sciences and its research into psychedelics. Inspired by his work at Charlotte’s Web – which supported the Realm of Caring Foundation – he sought to spread healing in a similar way with functional mushroom formulations.

Among the functional mushrooms used in Umbo’s formulations are Reishi, Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps and Turkey Tail, which are purported to help immunity and cognitive function. Jolly says most Americans are missing out on the benefits because, unlike their counterparts in Asia and Europe, they don’t eat mushrooms. “You need to look at it like a food group you have been missing,” he says.

“Umbo was founded to set a standard,” Plummer says, noting that the company’s mission is to educate people about different types of mushrooms and their benefits. Umbo’s profits will be used to further research into the many compounds that can be made from mushrooms, as well as to support continuing psilocybin research at Johns Hopkins. 

Plummer and Jolly look forward to the Mushroom Summit, which will be held in conjunction with Psychedelic Science 2023, as an opportunity for collaboration and learning in an area ripe for discovery. Plummer points out that the fungi queendom has “a couple million organisms” and that not much is known about many of them. He plans to get curious and connect with people to form a system akin to the mycelial network underfoot. “We learn from the mushrooms that connectivity is important,” Plummer says.

The Mushroom Summit is scheduled for June 19-20, 2023, at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. Psychedelic Science 2023 runs from June 19-23, 2023. 

Jolly wants people to learn about mushrooms that they can incorporate into their daily life. “These are 100% legal,” he says. Unlimited Sciences is planning to study families using functional mushrooms to help their children. One family has started a not-for-profit, Lily’s Lighthouse, that seeks to fund a clinical study of non-psychedelic mushrooms for epilepsy treatment after finding some success with their own daughter.

Plummer and Jolly hope the emerging functional mushroom industry will not be dominated by for-profit companies and stress that education and research are key.

“We don’t have IP on the healing powers of mushrooms,” Plummer says. “They have been doing this for millions of years. We are just getting around to it in Western culture.”

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