I have been interested in mushrooms for several years now. When first learning, my focus was mainly on edible species and when discovering some of the tree mushrooms, they had little appeal because of their inedible nature. They are not toxic or poisonous, although most are too tough in texture for the culinary creativity of the “wild” chef. So for a while I continued foraging for edible mushrooms and plants all the while passing by what would one day be a profound ally.
Even at that time knowing these mushrooms weren’t choice for cooking, they have always fascinated me. While hiking deep in the forest, looking up and seeing a giant Artist Conk towering overhead would incite a feeling of wonder and they always seemed to have a kind of sentience.
Coming full circle now polypore mushrooms are my greatest passion within the fungi kingdom and this living intelligence that I noticed in fungi has become a deeper inquiry since starting to read Stephen Buhner’s book: Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm: Beyond the Doors of Perception into the Dreaming of Earth.
The Great Recyclers and Detoxifiers of Ecosystems
“Mushroom mycelium represents rebirth, rejuvination, regeneration.” Paul Stamets
As an archetype, fungi have a tremendous amount to teach us about life itself. In the forest ecology, nothing is wasted. Everything is recycled back into new life again and unlike our modern habitats, natural ecosystems create no “trash” to be disposed of.
Not only have fungi shown the ability to break down dead and dying life in the forest, they also hold an incredible key to dealing with pollutants such as oil and diesel fuel. In an experiment conducted by the Washing State Department of Transportation, 6 piles of soil were saturated with heavy oil and on each pile a different remediation treatment was used by top companies. All conventional “clean up” and treatment techniques left the pile not very much better, the last pile re-mediated by Paul Stamets used oyster mushrooms to clean the hydrocarbon smelling oil. After several weeks, the pile which used fungi to clean up the toxic spill was full of grass and insects and teeming with life, with very little oil remaining in the soil.
The application of fungi for bio-remediation and detoxification of our ecosystems is very promising. There are many strains with functions that have yet to be discovered still. Some applications include cleaning up radioactive waste, oil, and other toxic chemicals. But this is only the beginning.
Fungi are truly alchemists of ecosystems, straddling the spheres of life and death, serving as a gateway in the transformation and cycling of matter.
Diversely Functional and Intelligent Medicines
I am very passionate about the protective qualities of practices and elements we can bring into our life architecture to support vitality and nourish life force. To me, polypore (tree) mushrooms are one way we can strengthen and protect our body systems from the damaging byproducts and lifestyles of modern society in a profound way!
The fascinating thing about medicinal mushrooms is that they have such a wide range of benefits for the body.
On a side note: the only thing that comes close to the diverse functionality of medicinal mushrooms are some plant adaptogens and also cannabis (speaking not only of THC containing plants but also CBD varieties, and the non psychoactive RAW cannabinoids that can be ingested by almost everyone – without the high – and all the numerous benefits. Check out this video to see the astonishing power of raw cannabis juice here)
Medicinal mushrooms can help our body adapt to the stresses of modern life and deal more effectively with the toxic load that we accumulate.
Though there is a large range of medicinal effects and many different medicinal mushrooms you can incorporate into your diet and supplement intake, a few that stand out of the crowd are reishi, turkey tail, chaga, cordyceps, shiitake, and maitake.
Some of the benefits medicinal mushrooms can impart:
- Balance an overactive or even low immune function (immune modulating)
- Help regulate cholesterol levels
- Regulate blood pressure
- Lower histamine (help with allergies)
- Increase resistance to stress (adaptogenic)
- Fight bacteria, viruses, and fungal infections
- Assist the body in destroying cancerous tumors
- Regenerate myelin sheath in the nervous system (lions mane mushroom)
With this list which isn’t even exhaustive, it’s not a wonder why medicinal mushrooms are increasingly being used by athletes, alternative medicine practitioners, health enthusiasts, and even those who are very sick and need to support their body back to health and stable energy levels.
A New Member of the “Essential” Family… Essential Sugars
Also known as “glyco-nutrients” or smart sugars, this class of substances is gaining quite a bit of attention in the medical and scientific community.
Essential Sugars are like other essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids. Some of these can be found in all medicinal polypore mushrooms. These essential sugars are purported by some medical experts to be the missing link in food, and even the missing link in medicine. These sugars are essential for cellular communication which is vital for our immune system. When our cells have these essential substances, they become more responsive and can tell the difference between healthy cells and sick cells, and as most of us are aware, our cellular health is one of the pillars of our health as a whole.
These sugars form a kind of sugar-antennae forest which coats our cells prevents bacteria and viruses from gaining entry, and also provide functions of structural stability, tissue regeneration, cell replication, and immune response.
These Essential Sugars are: Fucose, Glucose, Xylose, Galactose, Mannose, N-Acytelgalactosamine, N-Acetylglucosamine, and N-Acytelneuraminic Acid.
Check out this amazing video on glyco-nutrients by Geiske de Ruig:
Remediation and Detoxification of our Psychological Terrain
While undergoing my first PDC (Permaculture Design Certificate) in 2010, me and a few others were having a discussion about how, much like fungi are able to break down dead organic matter and toxins in the ecological world, psilocybin mushrooms in this instance, are able to transmute old emotions into substrate for new growth in our psychological terrain or ecosystem.
In the fall of 2012 I discovered there was someone who had wrote a book and brilliantly articulated the sentiment about the psycho-remediation that psilocybin mushrooms could offer those who seek to transform themselves and be reborn again, less bound to limiting self perspectives and emotional wounds.
The book is called Decomposing The Shadow, written by James W Jesso. I highly recommend checking out his work if you are interested in the mature and conscious use of entheogens or plant medicines.
This is exciting to see as I’ve been following the movement of the resurgence of psychedelic medicines since I was in my late teens and more recently in particular have been very interested in the work that MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) has been doing to further this knowledge into the realms of psychiatry and medicine.
When it all comes down to it, it’s pretty phenomenal that such an overlooked life form can not only teach us so much, but also help to heal us on the multiple levels of mind, body, and planet.
With that said, let us remember the mushroom as a great ally when we are on our hero’s journey to a more evolved and harmonious world!
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