The Power of Mushrooms

- Sara Berlowe

I am realizing more and more that people need something to believe in; something truthful, something ancient, and something healing. I have found strength and solace in the mushroom, a spiritual superfood that has unimaginable gifts to give us. Mushrooms offer adaptogenic gifts to support human consciousness and drive positive ecological change, through processes like mycorestoration and mycoremediation. A vast and complex network of fungi are silently at work as we live and breathe, sustaining the life of our natural world. If we look closely and learn from this species, perhaps we can conjoin with their powers and begin to heal ourselves and the world. 



Paul Stamets, renowned mycologist and researcher, has been unveiling the ability of mushrooms to save the world. Working with the Environmental Protection Agency, he has used oyster mushrooms to help breakdown petroleum spills in oceans and regenerate soil nutrition for healthy crops. Stamets continues to research the healing effects of mushrooms on the human body, revealing the power of Reishi mushrooms to support longevity, turkey tail mushrooms to boost the immune system, and so on.



My journey in wellness began in the beginning of 2021, as the pandemic raged on. I decided to channel my hope and research into this world of wellness and began exploring subaltern voices offering healing practices in the realm of homeopathy and herbalism. Desperate to cure a gnarly case of tonsillitis that was quickly narrowing my breathing, my friend recommended finding remedy in a book entitled The Magic and Medicine of Plants. I found Purple Coneflower (Echinacea Purpurea) and Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis), along with potent home-brewed ginger root tea to soothe my throat. Alas, I healed the root cause of my dis-ease with the power of the flower and once again felt healthy, at ease. I felt empowered that my health was in my hands, that working with the earth would offer me remedies to boost my strength. Our ancestors have used these means to heal for eons, why shouldn't we?



I dug deeper still and the world of mushrooms revealed itself to me. Fungi are something of a north star, a guide to existing in a toxic world and learning to heal and thrive within that very world. Mushrooms are a radical species: anti-viral, anti-cancer, anti-tumorigenic, and anti-radiation, instead offering medicinal properties to regenerate the climate, body, and mind. Shiitake mushrooms are known immuno-modulators; Cordycep mushrooms contain anti-tumor inhibiting agents; Reishi mushrooms offer regenerative effects to cells exposed to radiation. And when these fruits are taken in combination, their synergistic mingling offers an even stronger immunological response. These are powerful agents of information and transformation, from eating toxic oil and breaking down overflowing trash heaps to restoring bee colonies by protecting them from deadly viruses. Mushrooms appear to have the processing power beyond that of any supercomputer, guiding environments and organisms towards prosperous living conditions. 



I wanted to see the power of fungi with my own eyes, so I conducted a gourmet growing project with my partner. We obtained mushroom spores from mushrooms sold right here at the Co-op, from Flyway Family Farms. We inoculated bags of brown rice and watched as the mycelium slowly colonized the feed. As an aside, this myceliated brown rice contains a plethora of beneficial compounds, and Paul Stamets’s mushroom cultivation company, Fungi Perfecti®, actually mixes their rice substrate with mushroom mycelium to maximize the magic of their products. Soon, we had grains of spawn (rice pieces covered in mycelium) to mix with hydrated coco coir, which then further colonized in darkness for nearly ten days. Alas, we opened the box to fresh air and light and misted it to simulate the conditions of a rainforest until mushrooms began to pin, peeking out from beneath the dirt and reaching toward the light. They doubled in size every day, and seven days later we had beautiful, home grown mushrooms to consume. The magic of this cultivation process opened my eyes to the power of nature, strengthening my belief in the resiliency of living organisms through symbiosis and imagination.



Luckily, there are teams of believers out there performing mushroom cultivation at grand scales, delivering mushroom remedies directly to food cooperatives like ours. At Common Ground, we dedicate nearly an entire shelf to Host Defense products, a shrine of Fungi Perfecti® which ranges from immune defense and rejuvenated respiration to neurogenesis, stress regulation, and sleep aids. I believe that mushrooms will save us in mind, body, and soul; they remind us of the gentle work to be done for every individual, to begin to heal the earth. Share this information with the people you love and come visit us at Common Ground to feel the magic for yourself!



MycoMedicinals: An Informational Treatise on Mushrooms by Paul Stamets and C. Dusty Wu Yao & Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets