The mushroom boom: What informs Medicine Box’s view of mushrooms
Mushrooms have quite an interesting story to tell about themselves, but it’s only now that WE are starting to listen. Could be for a lot of reasons: back in the ‘50s, amateur mycologist R. Gordon Wasson theorized that you could split the world into two types of people: mycophiles (mushroom lovers) and mycophobes (mushroom haters).
And to be sure, there are plenty of mushrooms out there that will stick you — old-school. But without them and the larger fungal kingdom within which they reside, nothing could possibly live. More closely fusing with our estranged partners could help us meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Of course, keep in mind that out of 1.5 billion types of fungi, only about 20,000 actually sprout mushrooms. Nonetheless, amateurs continue to find new species in the woods all the time. Thanks to OG rockstars such as the late Terence McKenna and Paul Stamets (whose TED talk on mushrooms and fungi has over 6 million views and counting), the hardcore amateurs’ numbers are growing as well. Once you have your eyes open to fungi, you find them everywhere. The largest organism on earth is an Armillaria ostoye fungus in Eastern Oregon’s Blue Mountains which covers over 2300 acres, while fungi live symbiotically within and without our gut. Tellingly, 90% of our serotonin is created in our gut, a key neurotransmitter regulating our moods, and gut microbes play an important role in its production. Examinations of these interactions between the gut biome and the corresponding mental life of its host has given birth to the fledgling field of neuromicrobiology, which explores how the microbiome may influence mental health — not to mention the work we’ve put into our own gut formulation, Happy Belly.
For those who are just beginning to explore this world for yourself, we’d like to point you to two pieces of media that have illuminated our view of this ignored element of nature. Both are extraordinarily inspiring works that allow for multiple points of entry. No matter how little you know, almost every person can contribute to the knowledge of this field. Many of the field’s newest names are pretty much self-taught. We’re glad to be amongst their number ourselves.
Fantastic Fungi (documentary, 2019)
Narrated by Brie Larson, this lush documentary features plenty of gorgeous time-lapse photography (a specialty of director Louis Schwartzberg, who has shot documentaries for National Geographic and Netflix) and interviews with several of the field’s heaviest hitters, including Michael Pollan and an extended discussion on Stamets’ work. There’s also plenty of discussion about the ability of certain fungal species to heal us, including a pretty prescient segment on global pandemics. But perhaps the most interesting parts of the movie are the fungi themselves, which take on many colorful, bizarre and intriguing forms. And for anyone in need of good news, it ends on a particularly upbeat note. Like Stamets, the movie asserts that the fate of humanity, currently living through the dreaded sixth extinction, which may be speeding up the species extinction rate by 1000. To bend that curve, we’re going to need to improve our knowledge of the ecosystem, stat, and it starts with the fungi below our feet, upon our skin, in our air and everywhere we turn.
Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake (2020)
Perhaps the most important single book published on fungi for a general audience since Stamets’s Mycelium Running — written by the son of Rupert Sheldrake, the man behind morphic resonance, no less. Merlin has seen fungi from many different sides — within this book, he shares memories of hanging with Terence at his Botanical Dimensions retreat in Hawaii, goes truffle hunting in Bologna, Italy, and studies a flower that needs no sunlight in the islands of Panama. Sheldrake sees the world of fungi as inherently paradigm-shifting, whether it’s through the mind-expanding properties of fungal or fungus-derived psychedelics such as psilocybin or LSD or the hardy symbiotic ecosystems of lichens. Like Fantastic Fungi, Sheldrake gives a glimpse of a world that we barely know, and is truly anyone’s game. After all, if one of the most potent cultivation/sterilization advancements of the past decade can be developed by a man only known by the online handle hippie3 (also founder of mycotopia.net), then anything’s possible.
Mushroom and 1Cab healing
Best be said that fungi can’t do this alone. Rather, the mycellium which constitute their roots climb up into the roots of trees, plants and even flowers (allowing one flowering plant Sheldrake studied, Voyria, to survive without any sort of sunlight whatsoever), allowing them to develop mutually beneficial exchanges of carbon, water, minerals and nutrients. We are more than pleased to finally allow mushrooms into the 1CaB healing ecosystem, where they likewise intersect and embellish the properties of our hemp and herbs. The healing cycle begins anew, with more options in front of us than ever before. We’re taking advantage. So should you.