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Why talk about mushrooms? Mushrooms have been utilized by humans for thousands of years with over 2000 of these species being edible and or medicinal in value. Just like their enormous diversity suggests, mushrooms possess an extraordinary amount of variety, benefits and secrets. Today we’re going to explore a few of these mysterious fungi and their insane benefits: which all add to the magic of mushrooms. So what makes mushrooms so incredible?
Mushrooms Can Communicate
Just like humans, mushrooms have the ability to communicate across long distances and based on recent research, possess a level of unexpected intelligence. They have created a superhighway of information that allows interaction between a large and diverse population of individual mushrooms.They can help each other out and even sabotage one another.
Typically, the image we conjure up of a mushroom is the little leg and a cap, which in truth is their reproductive ‘fruit’. The leg allows the cap to rise above the earth and open up to release spores. Most of the body is a mass of thin threads spreading up to hundreds of meters below the earth. This is known as mycelium and can act as an underground internet. Mycelium links to roots of different plants as well as neighboring fungi communities for almost instant communication.
90% of land plants are in symbiotic relationships with this fungus. Plants provide fungi with food in the form of carbohydrates while fungi help plants absorb water and give nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen. Mushrooms can actually transport nutrients; this is how plants in forests manage to redistribute nutrients to help some thrive and stifle others.
Mushroom DNA Is Similar To Ours
Did you know that the last common ancestor between fungi, humans and plants was 1.1 billion years ago? Only after this point, animal and fungi separated on the genealogical tree. This means that mushrooms are more closely related to humans than plants. Interestingly, our close connection to our fungi cousins are part of the reason why treating fungal infections is notoriously difficult in the human body. The drugs that are created to fight cells of fungal infection may also attack healthy human cells as there is minimal structural difference.
Mushrooms are magical and mysterious, and they are more powerful than you know. With their healing properties, dense nutritional value and underground communities, mushrooms possess the power to change the way we live life, from our food consumption habits to managing our waste. Below are 4 ways mushrooms will change our life:
Have you heard of adaptogens? They have powerful health benefits. So powerful, that studies have shown them to be more effective than the traditional dietary supplements that more than 76% of adult Americans consume every day. Majority of these dietary supplements are synthetic and have potentially harmful doses, created by mega dosing and then partial absorption in the body.
Adaptogens however, are fully natural and come from a variety of plants and fungi. These naturally occurring adaptogens have been utilized in Eastern and Western medicine to assist with stress relief, immune system support, energy levels and overall health. These substances can help protect your body by stabilizing and optimizing physiological functions. Skip the chemicals commonly found in cold medication and Emergen-C & try out some of these natural, alternative methods.
Did you know that fungi have been grown into shapes to create an alternative to plastic packaging? Plastic has become ubiquitous in the past 50 years, with plastic pollutants now showing up all over the world including in water and beer. Humans are addicted to plastic, and one company Ecovative is working on creating alternatives with the growth of mycelium, which it can encourage to grow shapes and structures to potentially provide an alternative to furniture, packaging options and containers. If you are interested, you can even grow your own at home!
By placing mushroom spawn in burlap sacks with a mixture of food for the mushrooms, scientists have found that mushrooms are capable of cleaning up dirty and polluted urban streams. The underground part of the mushroom, mycelium can break down pollutants including E.coli, pesticides and oil.
It is no secret that monocultures have been extremely detrimental to soil health, increased use of pesticides and world- wide mass deforestation. Humanities dependence on food, particularly the animal agriculture industry, has cost us millions of cut down trees, large quantities of top soil loss and nutrient deficiencies in agricultural lands. Mushrooms, when incorporated into a farming system, can help bring back many of these nutrients by creating conditions similar to the wild and healthy, diverse biome of a forest. Increasing number of farmers are depending on permaculture and agroforestry techniques to harness the natural power of plants, to improve crop yields and decrease chemicals.
Whichever way you look at mushrooms, they are truly magical and incorporating them in our everyday lives will prove beneficial for our health as well as the planet's health. They can heal our bodies, replace plastic, clean our water and protect our crops.
What is your favorite thing about mushrooms? Do you enjoy eating them? Share with us some of your favorite recipes.