They can look like tiny umbrellas, or clusters of shells or even like real life Dr. Seuss drawings.  One hilarious, but lifelong immature, friend refers to them as little spongy penises. There are over ten thousand known species of mushrooms.  From horticulture to potlucks to hormone therapy to music festivals, one guest can be found at every party – the mushroom.  These small wonders of nature have an unbelievably broad spectrum of uses.  

The Dirty Work

Everyone has seen random mushrooms sprouting up in the yard, after a good rain. This is actually just another example of the perfection of nature. When mushrooms occupy soil, surrounding plants benefit! Depending on the type of mushroom, fungi work to alter the composition of the soil. There are three main categories: saprotrophic, mycorrhizal and parasitic.

Saprotrophic mushrooms are decomposers that break down dead tissue and matter into smaller particles. They then release nutrients back into the soil which are beneficial for surrounding plants.  Mycorrhizal breeds form a partnership with the roots of other plants.  The fungi supply extra moisture and phosphorus to its partner’s roots, while the host plant provides delicious glucose for the mushrooms.  Parasitic species are much like saprotrophs, only if left unharvested, they will eventually decompose their host entirely.  Each of these categories of mushrooms contain edible and medicinally useful breeds.

The Deliciousness

Mushrooms are one of the most nutritious and versatile foods on the planet. Their naturally al dente texture adds a hearty feel to any meal. They have an earthy, nutty flavor on their own; but easily take on any herbs or spices they are cooked with, due to their porous flesh. People eat them raw, on pizza, stuffed, sautéed, marinated, skewered, in gravy, on steak, with pasta, grilled, in their omelet, in stews and the list goes on.

Mushrooms are nutrient dense as well. They all supply varying but significant amounts of protein and fiber. If you are mineral deficient, try adding some shrooms to your diet. They are loaded with phosphorus, potassium, selenium, copper, riboflavin, niacin and are a phenomenal source of natural vitamin D

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The Medicinal 

We’d like to highlight some of the therapeutic benefits of some specific mushrooms.  

Chaga – The DNA of the Chaga is closer to the DNA of human beings than any other plant on earth.  They are masters at cellular regeneration throughout the body.  They are adaptogenic and so they reduce the cause of 90% of all disease; which is stress.  Our joints and bones greatly benefit from the Chaga, and it is also a known pain reliever.

Cordyceps – These ancient superfoods are used to reduce oxidative stress because of their specific enzyme and nutrient profile.  They boost immune function while slowing the aging process.  It is also believed they increase both fertility and libido.

Lion’s Mane – This mushroom is known to stimulate brain cell growth, reduce symptoms of anxiety/depression, stimulate the growth and repair of nerve cells, reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, and support heart health.

Maitake – Studies have shown this mushroom to possess the following medicinal properties: anti-bacterial, anti-candida, anti-tumor, anti-viral, blood pressure moderator, blood sugar moderator, cholesterol reducer, immune enhancer, lungs/respiratory support. It may also help with weight loss. Maitake is also one of the best sources of Vitamin D.  This mushroom is packed with so many benefits!

Reishi – Nicknamed the “Queen of the Mushrooms”, this specimen is known to be an incredible immune booster, energy booster, and mood booster. It is high in antioxidants and can improve heart health and support blood sugar control. It can reduce body weight and prevent weight gain and fat accumulation. This mushroom can also help with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, all while protecting the liver.

Turkey Tale – Turkey tail is a mushroom linked to an impressive range of potential health benefits. Studies have shown that it is very high in antioxidants, contains polysaccharopeptides that can support the immune system, it can improve gut health, it can boost cellular nutrients, and could even support people with certain cancers and their treatments.  In fact, since 1977, Turkey Tail has been approved for use as an anti-cancer adjutant in Japan.  

The ongoing research into the way medicinal mushrooms are being used to battle cancer is quite promising.

The Others

In addition to edible and medicinal mushrooms, there are also those which are hallucinogenic.  These are commonly referred to as magic mushrooms, and they are different from medicinal mushrooms.  The compound in this type of mushroom, which is responsible for its vivid effects, is called psilocybin.  While the reputation of these is linked to silly images like the caterpillar of Alice in Wonderland, they are starting to be recognized as a serious consideration for extreme psychological disorders, such as PTSD and trauma.  Even the FDA has referred to psilocybin as “breakthrough therapy”.

There is a long history of mushrooms depicted in ceremonial and religious art.  Interestingly, there are ancient drawings and cave paintings of mushrooms all over the world.  Such illustrations in Spain, Brazil, Tassilli, the Sahara and France have dates ranging from 7000 to 25,000 years old.  Many of the paintings resembling people with mushrooms and beams of light between the mushroom and the forehead of those depicted.  It is believed by historians that the ancient inhabitants viewed the hallucinogenic properties as a tool of worship.  One painting in Tassilli, seems to show the Holy Trinity surrounded by dancers holding mushrooms.

Whether you grow them, cook with them or use them medicinally, mushrooms are a wonder of creation.  Their genetic make-up is closer to humans than to plants.  Mushrooms come in bizarre shapes and sizes and they certainly don’t look all that powerful.  Their abilities should remind us all that sometimes the most odd looking and unlikely have the greatest value.

Your Worth is Powerful, Roots to Remedies

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