Mushroom spores have benefits for humans and the planet that are largely unknown to most people. Understanding the many roles that mushroom spores play in supporting human and planetary health is now more important than ever given the dire health status of both people and the planet. You may not be aware that the mushroom we see above the ground is the fruiting body of the fungus, while most of the fungal “body” lives underground in the form of a complex, interconnected mycelial web that in many ways resemble the interconnected neural networks within your own brain. This mycelial network carries out critical functions in maintaining the health and homeostasis, or balance, of the ecological systems they inhabit throughout the planet.
The mushroom spores we pick to for food and medicinal purposes are only a miniscule part of the body of the fungus they sprout from. In fact, if you have ever wondered what the largest living organism on the planet is, you may have guessed a 200 ton blue whale that can be found swimming in the Pacific ocean off the coast of Oregon. The Blue Whale however is a lightweight compared to the giant fungus Armillaria Ostoyae originally found in the Malheur National Forest in the Blue Mountains of Oregon in 1998. This single fungal body, currently known as the largest living organism in the world1,2,3, is thought to be around 2400 years old. It’s body occupies almost 4 square miles underground and weighs up to 35,000 tons. This is only one of the many astounding and fascinating facts about the magical world of mushrooms presented in this article.
Ecology and Planetary Health
Paul Stamets, the most well know mycologist and expert on the uses and benefits of Mushroom spores, published a book in 2005 titled “Mycelium Running; How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World”. In this groundbreaking he describes many powerful ways fungi can solve critical root cause problems underlying pollution, climate change, planetary health and the health of humans and all other living species on the planet. Water pollution, toxic oil and chemical spills and other ecological disasters can be detoxified using the powerful abilities of fungi to break down hydrocarbons and other pollutants threatening the planet, natural or man-made. His book is a “manual for the mycological rescue of the planet”4 and provides invaluable insight into how growing mushroom spores can help create sustainable forests, regenerate the soil, solve the most dire climate and ecological problems on the planet AND provide a powerful source of nutrition and medicine to nurture and help maintain human health and well-being. Paul Stamets’ website, Fungi Perfecti, is a must review for anyone interested in fungi and the many benefits of mushroom spores. The website also offers provides a planetary sustainability report5 that demonstrates how his company, Fungi Perfecti, sets an example for a sustainable, ecological friendly business.
A Sustainable Nutrient Dense Source of Food
Mushrooms have been used by humans as a source of food for at least 19,000 years.6 Mushrooms are a nutrient dense food that contain many important vitamins, minerals and are a great source of B vitamins (B2, B3, folate, B5), Phosphorus, Vitamin D, Selenium, Copper, Potassium and other micronutrients such as phenols that are powerful antioxidants7. In addition to the high nutrient density of mushroom spores, they are also a good source of prebiotics that feed and provide micronutrients that nourish the good bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract. A healthy microbiome is now considered one of the most important determinants of health. Including mushrooms in a healthy plant-based diet provides all the support needed to keep you and your bacteria healthy.
Mushroom spores also contain all of the essential amino acids needed for protein production and can be consumed with other plant-based protein sources to optimize the protein content of a vegan or vegetarian diet. Using mushrooms with other vegetable sources of protein is a healthy alternative to red meat or any other animal-based source of protein. Eating a fungi and plant-based diet is also a powerful ecological and planetary health benefit as eating meat and other animal products as a source of dietary protein results in massive amounts of deforestation and carbon production. Most people are not aware that animal agriculture accounts for a large percent of world-wide greenhouse gas production and is a major contributor to planetary warming and the climate crisis that is now a code red threat for all life on the planet.
Fortunately, mushroom spores also taste great!! For many centuries, mushrooms have been a common ingredient in the cuisines of cultures across the globe. It’s hard to list the many American, Italian, French, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, . . . recipes that include mushrooms for the wonderful taste and texture they add to meals. The taste, versatility and many health benefits of mushroom spores makes them an ideal ingredient to include in your daily meal planning to support your health and help heal the planet.
Medicinal Benefits for Mind and Body
A recent article summarizing the medicinal benefits of mushroom spores stated “More than 100 medicinal functions are produced by mushrooms and fungi and the key medicinal uses are antioxidant, anticancer, antidiabetic, antiallergic, immunomodulating, cardiovascular protector, anticholesterolemic, antiviral, antibacterial, antiparasitic, antifungal, detoxification, and hepatoprotective effects; they also protect against tumor development and inflammatory processes.”8 Mushroom spores are commonly used to boost immune system function which is especially important as a defense against viruses and other pathogens we are exposed to on a daily basis. Common species of mushroom spores known to enhance immunity include Chaga, reishi, turkey tail, shiitake, maitake, lion’s mane and cordyceps.14 There are also many available nutraceuticals and nutritional supplements that contain the mushroom extracts known to boost immunity and support immune health.10,11
One of the greatest and most hopeful health benefits of mushrooms now being researched and supported at major medical teaching institutions such as Johns Hopkins12 involves the use of psilocybin to treat, and even heal, severe mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Major Depression, addiction disorders and other serious mental health conditions that are typically difficult to treat, or untreatable, with cognitive therapy and/or commonly prescribed psychiatric medications. There is an explosion in research and recent medical publications that demonstrate the miraculous power of psilocybin mushroom spores to treat and even cure severe cases of depression, PTSD and addiction disorders9. There are many startup pharmaceutical companies that produce pharmaceutical grade psilocybin-based medications to treat mental health conditions and enhance cognitive function and psychological well-being.13 It is the psychoactive substances such as psilocybin and baeocystin in magic mushroom spores that are extracted and used in the medications and nootropics (brain function enhancing substances) produced by these pharmaceutical companies.
Magic mushroom spores have been used for centuries in many cultures and are well known to generate mystical, psychedelic and often mind-expanding experiences. Even though bad outcomes with psychedelics occur, many scientists and researchers believe psilocybin mushrooms and related psychedelics, if used in a controlled fashion, may be able to achieve in one session, the mental health benefits that would take many years to achieve with combined medication and psychotherapy treatment. As more studies are published verifying the efficacy and benefit of psilocybin and other psychoactive compounds, this form of therapy will become common place and a powerful tool used by mental health and addiction health care professionals throughout the country.
For information on exploring the magical world of mushrooms go to BlueStemFungi.com
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