Dr. LeTa Jussila believes “magic” mushrooms could be key to helping us escape depression, alleviate anxiety and migraines and overcome trauma and PTSD. Produced by Jody K. Biehl Shot and edited by Kevin Painchaud Lookout Santa Cruz
LeTa Jussila believes “magic” mushrooms could be key to helping us escape depression, alleviate anxiety and migraines and overcome trauma and PTSD. Standing among the redwoods in the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, she explains in this video what psilocybin is and how Santa Cruz and our nation are moving toward decriminalizing it for medicinal purposes. She thinks our country made a mistake by making plants illegal in the late 1960s and that many of us could benefit from taking small doses of mushrooms (microdosing) regularly.
Have something to say? Lookout welcomes letters to the editor, within our policies, from readers. Guidelines here.
LeTa B. Jussila — known as Dr. LeTa to her patients — is fascinated by mushrooms of all kinds, but especially the “magic” ones.
In fact, in the video above, she explains why she believes “magic” mushrooms could be the answer to the exploding cases of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, migraines, suicidal thoughts and other ailments she sees in her patients in Santa Cruz and the Bay Area.
LeTa holds a doctorate in traditional Asian medicine and acupuncture and is a licensed herbalist and cannabinoid medicine specialist who has been practicing for 17 years, including the past three years in Santa Cruz.
In her video, she explains why microdosing — taking small, controlled amounts of “magic” mushrooms in pills — should be legalized and available to help people who are suffering long-term ailments that often baffle their Western-style doctors.
She is not alone.
A burgeoning and diverse number of influential people — including famed nonfiction author Michael Pollan, pop stars Miley Cyrus, Sting and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, and even former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination against Donald Trump — have been speaking publicly about their use of or research into psychedelics.
Perry, who describes himself as a “historically very anti-drug person,” is convinced psychedelics can change the lives of war veterans suffering from PTSD. Mainstream news articles and TED Talks (there are nine) brim with information on magic mushrooms.
The Biden administration is increasingly open to psilocybin and psychedelic therapies and “anticipates” regulators will get approval for some treatments in the next two years. Johns Hopkins University has even created a $17 million research center to study psilocybin. LeTa refers to some of the funding in the video.
LeTa is not — she wants to be clear in the video — advocating hallucinatory, recreational or “party” drug use, although there is increasing evidence that psychedelic drugs and “good trips” can have healing properties and long-term benefits.
She is pushing for controlled use of mushrooms as medicine, just like Indigenous cultures did before the advent of modern medicine.
“We’re talking about one-tenth to one-twentieth a recreational dose of psychedelics,” she says.
Indigenous communities across the globe have used psychedelics for centuries, as far back as 6,000 B.C.
“For example, in Oaxaca, the Mazatecs use these magic mushrooms for healing illness, both physical and mental,” she says. “They gather as a family in ceremony to pray and communicate directly to the mushrooms. Even today, they use these practices often over a more modern medicinal approach because it is useful and there may not be access to a doctor. The mushrooms then guide and tell the family and the person that is unwell where the problem lies.”
The “magic” of mushrooms comes from psilocybin, a hallucinogenic chemical found in certain varieties of mushrooms. When humans consume psilocybin (by eating them — usually mixed with other food, as they are quite bitter — or drinking them as tea) it can, in large doses, initiate a wild, psychedelic experience that may include brightly colored visions, euphoria and “hand of God” revelations.
Or it can make you vomit. Sometimes, it’s both.
But unlike other drugs, psilocybin does not appear to be addictive, LeTa says.
Psilocybin became illegal during the Nixon administration — at the height of the War on Drugs and the crackdown on antiwar demonstrators — even though early scientific studies showed promising results about its potential benefits.
In California, it’s still illegal, classified as a Schedule 1 drug, alongside heroin and cocaine — although there is movement to change that. And in Santa Cruz, in early 2020, just before the pandemic hit, the city council voted to “decriminalize” the adult use of natural psychedelics, including mushrooms.
LeTa’s own trauma fueled her interest in mushrooms’ power to heal.
Last May, her dear friend and client Michael Rudometkin was shot and killed by a coworker at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority rail yard. Eight others died, as did the gunman, in the mass shooting
“Michael was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.” she says. “Losing him set me on my mission to look into more ways I can help others with signs and symptoms of mental distress. I think many health practitioners are seeking new ways because you can’t solve a problem with the same consciousness that created it.”
Her patients — dozens of whom are in their 60s or older — come to her to learn. Many think of her as a healer — someone deeply in touch with nature, with them and their bodies.
LeTa believes microdosing can help our brains get healthier and “younger” by breaking the rigid neural pathways that come with age and trauma.
“Micro-dosing … can help us to become more focused and tap into flow state,” she says. “This helps with our connection with ourselves, others, the divine, nature … we are also in touch with our own intuitive gifts. It increases neuronal-growth factor in the brain as well as neurogenesis.”
She also teaches qi gong (pronounced chi-gong), the ancient Chinese medicine practice of doing exercises to move energy within the mind and body, and has a thriving acupuncture practice. She has dozens of devoted fans who take her classes weekly.
All of her movement classes happen outdoors — usually at the beach, sometimes in the redwoods or a park. She teaches three times a week, sometimes more, and has varying price scales from $25 per class to $150 unlimited for a month.
TELL US WHAT YOU THINK
Make your voice heard with a letter to the editor
Share your thoughts by sending a letter to the editor. Email us at email@example.com. Please include your full name, address and telephone number for verification only. Letters should be 200 words or fewer. Please do not include personal attacks, inaccuracies or vulgarities. Learn more here.
Teaching outdoors helps her and her clients relax and connect with nature, she says. That enables the quickest connections to self-awareness.
She invites her clients to get “unstuck,” insisting, “you are so much more than what happened to you,” and offering natural ways to remove blockages that keep them from experiencing joy and peace in their bodies.
“Get really good at asking yourself questions because — as with mushrooms — it’s the same with you,” she says, standing in the redwoods, talking about her process.
“The soil is the most important part. You can be who you want and do anything you want as long as you’re connected to yourself and to something. And I want this for you, I want this for our community. For each of us to feel the interconnectedness. And from this point we can live the life we desire, but also have the effect we want to create in the world, which is our highest form of currency.”
LeTa B. Jussila is a doctor of acupuncture and traditional Asian medicine and a national wellness expert who works with patients to achieve health care goals. She received her doctorate from Five Branches University in San Jose, a master’s in traditional Chinese medicine from Five Branches Institute in Santa Cruz and a bachelor’s in policy studies from Syracuse University. She grew up in Massachusetts. She uses genetic testing, lab work, clinical experience and the Chinese medical paradigm to help her patients increase productivity and live the lives they desire.