Humanity has always had a deep fascination with the fungal kingdom. Stories involving the mysterious world of mushrooms are layered into the folklore in every culture that has ever existed.
Even the earliest intact human we know of, Otzi the Iceman (5000 y old), had a pouch containing 2 medicinal mushrooms (Birch and Tinder polypore). Both of which are considered to be helpful with parasites and bacterial infection, which he was shown to be suffering from.
The deeper we dig into the world of mushrooms, the more we find ourselves in amazement and awe at the potential keys that the fungal kingdom unlock. The fungal kingdom has a potent place in helping tackle many of the major issues we face in the world right now. When we take into account all the new technology, growing edge science, and old world knowledge surrounding mushrooms, it is a mind opening experience. The more we learn about them and their dynamic, integral part in life, the more we realize how little we know about our own planet, ourselves and the future of our health sovereignty…
Currently studies and testing are being done on fungi in many sectors of government and industry, including use in disease control, immune support, chronic diseases, food sources, flame resistant and lightweight building materials, biofuels, pollution remediators, communications medium and more. Even though many of us are unfamiliar with some of these uses for mushrooms, currently the worldwide industry is valued at over 45 billion dollars and rapidly growing.
Every time we open a new door into the world of fungi, we find 10 more to explore…
Leading us to questions such as..
Can Fungi help save our planet from the damage we have done?
Can many of humanity’s current issues be tackled using mushrooms?
And the answers coming back are starting to look like a yes… on multiple fronts.
I’d like to share with you a handful of mind boggling facts and info bites about how mushrooms show up on this planet:
- First off, there are over 1.5 million species of fungi on the planet. We have only been able to classify around 14,000- 20,000 species that produce fruiting bodies (mushrooms), but this could be only 10% of the fruiting species, due to the fact that they can lay dormant for many years and only produce fruit when shocked or in ideal circumstances.
- Fungi make up ¼ of the total biomass (living organisms) on Earth. Collectively this kingdom acts similarly to a nervous system or world wide web for the planet, offering all sorts of valuable nutrients, immune support and informational exchange with the rest of life.
- Mushrooms have been on earth for approximately 1,300 million years, slowly breaking down lava rock to create an environment where plants could exist. Plants have only been here for 700 million years. That’s almost twice as long!
- There are single organisms of fungi that have been recorded to be over 1,500 years old, weighing over 100 tonnes and covering over 35 acres. And we think whales are big!
- If given the right environment and enough food to reach full maturity, the spores from one giant puffball mushroom would create a mass 3 times the size of the sun. Thats a lot of potential power!
- Some fungi spores are capable of handling extreme circumstances such as radiation and the hardships of space. Mushroom spores are the only thing that survives in the highest parts of our atmosphere (stratosphere). — Food for thought– anything that leaves the planet or comes to the planet becomes covered in a layer of spores. Possibly this is how life got started on earth, and/or how earth will give life to other planets in the future…
- Many Mushrooms release trillions of spores in one season, with the ability to know just the right moment to catch the updraft. Once in the air they help congeal water vapour creating rain so they can fall again.
- Fungi and Animals (humans too) share up to 67% of the same DNA. Whereas, plant and animals only share around 25%. This makes us also share more similarities in disease types, communication, growth patterns and so on..
- In a single day, some mycelium travel many miles underground, while others produce 10 or more pounds of growth in the form of fruiting body. (Maitake has been recorded to produce up to an 80lb fruiting body in just a few days)
- All plants voluntarily create mycorrhizal relationships with fungi, this is where the roots bind with mycelium, acting like “second roots” to increase the plant’s absorption of nutrients, immune function, and open communication channels with other organisms.
What most interests me though, when it comes to mushrooms, is the medicinal benefits of the polypores (and similar species) that work as biological modulators and educators for our body systems, helping with some of our most challenging “dis-eases”. In particular its the advanced inter-branching 1000+ carbon chains known as polysaccharides, and the unique hormone like steroidal structures known as triterpenes that seem to have a very profound health enhancing effect on the human body.
All in all, the conversation and understanding of how valuable of a resource fungi is to all life on this planet is starting to awaken in our science, and in our consciousness. If you would like to learn more about Mushroom Medicine join me in the next blog – part 2, where I will go in-depth on the benefits of many of the the world’s most Famous Fungi!!
Yarrow Willard Cl.H – www.harmonicarts.ca
Yarrow Willard is a Clinical/Master Herbalist and co-visionary/formulator of the Harmonic Arts Botanical Dispensary on Vancouver Island. Raised by two herbalist parents, he has been immersed in the world of plant medicine since birth. Yarrow is a passionate and entertaining promoter of plant based nutrition and medicine. He is continually updating his knowledge and understanding with the growing edge science of re-claiming wellness and vibrant living. Yarrow’s path and purpose is in cultivating a deeper connection with the natural world through a seasonally tuned holistic approach to life. With hopes in assisting our collective evolution towards high vitality, he shares health empowering practices with herbs, mushrooms, superfoods, advanced nutrition and more.