THE MUSHROOM HUNTERS

“The women, who did not need to run down prey,
had brains that spotted landmarks and made paths between them left at the thorn bush and across the scree
and look down in the bole of the half-fallen tree,
because sometimes there are mushrooms…”

 

Medicinal mushrooms provide nutrients that support our natural immunity, cardiovascular health, adaptation to stress, mental clarity, focus and memory, detoxification and digestion, energy, stamina, and general longevity. Here we will look at three key medicinal mushrooms that have been well researched over the past decade.

 

LIONS MANE Hericium erinaceus – Supports the function of the nervous system by stimulating nerve growth and repair, such as the regeneration of the myelin sheath that conducts nerve impulses, and thus enhances signal transition. This is particularly important for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease where the myelin sheath becomes coated in a heavy metal plaque and thus interferes with nerve conductivity. Lions Mane is known to enhance general cognitive function such as memory and alertness.

 

TURKEY TAIL Trametes versicolor – Supports the immune system by activating our T-cells in the gut when ingested and also directly reducing cancerous metastasis. T-cells are a part of our immune system that inhibit the growth of cancer cells and thus reduce cancerous growths. Turkey Tail has been used to treat breast, lung, colon and prostate cancer along with conventional treatments, and has shown to reduce side-effects and enhance recover from conventional radiation treatment.

 

CHAGA Inonotus obliquus – Supports the immune system both as an anti-viral, a potent protective antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and as an inhibitor of cancerous cell division. It is taken to enhance energy and resilience. Chaga has been used for centuries in Eastern Europe and Eurasia boiled in water and made into a bittersweet immune enhancing strengthening tea.

 

The biological compatibility of mushrooms and humans go beyond Lions Mane, Turkey Tail and Chaga, it is becoming known that most edible mushrooms have a medicinal quality to them. Myconutrients, or the nutrients from mushrooms, provide us with micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, that have an affinity for supporting our immune system. For example, shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) provide the precursors to vitamin D, which is essential for regulating autoimmune functions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis. What is even more interesting is that if the shiitake is left in the sunlight it will actually produce the bioavailable form of vitamin D2, making it the ideal mid-winter nutrient boost. Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) contain cholesterol-lowering constituents and also provide antioxidants that protect the liver and digestive system from toxicity and damage. Cordyceps has been used for centuries in China to support energy, athletic endurance and sexual potency. Even the humble button and portobello mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) are known to inhibit aromatase. Aromatase inhibitors are manufactured as a class of pharmaceutical drugs used for the treatment for breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Button mushrooms may not be a pharmaceutical grade treatment in themselves but can certainly be used within the diet as preventative medicine along with many other delicious mushroom varieties.

Fungi seem to work synergistically and symbiotically wherever they are, particularly within the soil. Fungi live symbiotically with plants, exchanging nutrients and creating a communication network from plant to plant. If one plant comes into contact with a predator or pathogen they will communicate through the mycelium network to alert and secrete their defense constituents, such as volatile oils and alkaloids. It is interesting to note that these defense constituents in plants are also the constituents that are known to have some of the strongest medicinal effects within human biology. Therefore, not only are mushrooms directly medicinal for us but they also enhance the lives of plants, and in turn the plants become more effective medicines for us!

For more information check out the wonderful book Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World written by the King of Mushrooms Paul Stamets

THE MUSHROOM HUNTERS

Science, as you know, my little one, is the study
of the nature and behaviour of the universe.
It’s based on observation, on experiment, and measurement, and the formulation of laws to describe the facts revealed.

In the old times, they say, the men came already fitted with brains designed to follow flesh-beasts at a run,
to hurdle blindly into the unknown,
and then to find their way back home when lost

with a slain antelope to carry between them. Or, on bad hunting days, nothing.

The women, who did not need to run down prey,
had brains that spotted landmarks and made paths between them left at the thorn bush and across the scree
and look down in the bole of the half-fallen tree,
because sometimes there are mushrooms.

Before the flint club, or flint butcher’s tools,
The first tool of all was a sling for the baby
to keep our hands free
and something to put the berries and the mushrooms in, the roots and the good leaves, the seeds and the crawlers. Then a flint pestle to smash, to crush, to grind or break.

And sometimes men chased the beasts into the deep woods,
and never came back.

Some mushrooms will kill you,
while some will show you gods
and some will feed the hunger in our bellies. Identify.
Others will kill us if we eat them raw,
and kill us again if we cook them once,
but if we boil them up in spring water, and pour the water away,

and then boil them once more, and pour the water away, only then can we eat them safely. Observe.

Observe childbirth, measure the swell of bellies and the shape of breasts, and through experience discover how to bring babies safely into the world.

Observe everything.

And the mushroom hunters walk the ways they walk
and watch the world, and see what they observe.
And some of them would thrive and lick their lips,
While others clutched their stomachs and expired.
So laws are made and handed down on what is safe. Formulate.

The tools we make to build our lives:
our clothes, our food, our path home…
all these things we base on observation, on experiment, on measurement, on truth.

And science, you remember, is the study
of the nature and behaviour of the universe,
based on observation, experiment, and measurement, and the formulation of laws to describe these facts.

The race continues. An early scientist
drew beasts upon the walls of caves
to show her children, now all fat on mushrooms and on berries, what would be safe to hunt.

The men go running on after beasts.

The scientists walk more slowly, over to the brow of the hill
and down to the water’s edge and past the place where the red clay runs. They are carrying their babies in the slings they made,
freeing their hands to pick the mushrooms.

~ Neil Gaiman

 

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