Plant Medicine
September 30, 2022

What's All the Hype About Mushrooms?

After years of bad press, the interest in mushrooms has exploded. How did they undergo such a significant image transformation?

Growing up I loved to seek out toadstools after a rain storm. They grew in rings under the chokecherry trees lining our driveway and appeared like clockwork in spring and fall.

To be honest, I sought them out to kick them apart, not to admire them.

Which is my point today: in the span of just a few years, mushrooms have undergone a massive image transformation.

A Transformation: From Toadstools to Fantastic Fungi

With the success of "Fantastic Fungi" and the best-selling status of "How to Change Your Mind", mushrooms have gone from maligned to adored. But why?

Exploring the Fifth Kingdom

For the longest time, scientists classified fungi somewhere between plants and animals. {Since high school biology is but a mere memory for many of us, Kingdom is a taxonomy used to understand the origin of organisms.}

In 1969, biologists introduced the fifth kingdom - exclusively for fungi - based on how they break down food. This 5th kingdom thrives out of sight, with no need for air or sunlight. Fungi produce molecules that are difficult to reproduce in a lab, and have provided building blocks for nature for billions of years. They are so unlike any other kingdom that they seem alien.

As the grand survivors of the natural world, fungi seem to adapt to anything. They are known to learn to consume oil spills and waste materials like plastics, while they’re underground networks support the health and well-being of the forest

Frankly, I can’t think of a more resilient and inspirational entity!

Sunset in a meadow amongst trees

Mushrooms More Similar to People then Plants

DNA similarities are few and far between when comparing kingdoms. Yet, we humans share 50% of our DNA with fungi. We even contract many of the same viruses.

Which is why we are so enamoured with mushrooms: if we can identify the natural immunities that fungi have developed, we can also benefit as a human race.

That’s why functional (non-psychoactive) mushrooms are currently selling out in online marketplaces and with mushroom growers. 

Research shows that functional mushrooms improve immune response, reduce oxidative stress and neuroinflammation, protect neurons, and regulate digestive health. Fungi are being tested to treat cancer, Alzheimer's disease, depression, and as the next generation of antibiotics.

There is, of course, another aspect that is influencing the interest in fungi. 

Psychoactive Mushrooms and the Modern Human

You can’t go on social media these days without exposure to the benefits of psychedelic therapies. 

They’ve been widely researched since the 1930s, even if there was a significant pause during the D.A.R.E era. But now, as humans are experiencing greater sense of distress and ill-ease with their lives - we’re looking for new and novel ways to change our experience. 

There’s a broad set of fungi species that are naturally psychoactive. After consumption, these fungi light up the brain’s cortex, which mediates neuroplasticity changes. These changes can enable the creation of new patterns, the unlearning of old patterns, and an increase in emotional sensitivity.

Seems like a panacea, right?

Fungi: A Solution to Existential Dread?

According to research at Imperial College London, Johns Hopkins University and University of Zurich, psilocybin - the widely-studied psychoactive mushroom - contributes to reductions in somatic diseases, major depression, cluster headaches, alcohol addition, and complex PTSD.

It seems like a natural avenue - as opposed to the many pharmaceutical interventions available - to finding peace in one’s life. 

Yet, the outcome of consuming psychedelic mushrooms isn’t as obvious as consuming functional mushrooms. 

Functional mushrooms improve markers of health often in an unseen, unfelt fashion. 

Psychedelic mushrooms profoundly shift a person’s perception in ways that can be uncomfortable and intense. 

While Functional Mushrooms can be used without the supervision of an expert, the same can not be said for Psychoactive Mushrooms. These mushrooms can shift perspective in such a way that feels foreign and untenable. Let’s explore why.

Winding road surrounded by colourful autumnal trees

Psychoactive Mushrooms: A Door to the Non-Ordinary

I use the terms psychedelic and psychoactive interchangeably. 

Psychedelic means ‘mind manifesting’. 

Psychoactive means ‘affecting the mind or behavior’. 

It’s by design that I intermix this language when referring to psychedelic mushrooms. 

On one hand, it’s part of my effort to educate people about the potency of these mushrooms. As a psychoactive agent, they demonstrate potential for mediating psychology transformation. As a mind manifesting agent, they open the doors to perception inviting exploration of consciousness, spirituality and the nature of the universe. 

Scientists call this a ‘pivotal mental state’. While it sounds incredible…it requires a lot of work. 

To benefit from this state, a person needs to prepare with ample coaching/therapy. After consuming the psychoactive mushrooms, a person must be committed to shining a light on their findings. While revelations can be gentle and sweet, they also can be profound and troubling. Preparation is key to ensuring a psychoactive mushroom experience manifests in beneficial changes.  

There’s a number of ways to work with these mushrooms. While I have many of my own opinions, I encourage you to learn more about microdosing, macrodosing, and abstaining. 

Mushrooms caps grown together

A Whole New World (for Humans)

Mushrooms have so much to teach us about our health, our perception and our interaction with the world. This exploration will reveal a lot about evolution, ecology, and community. 

"Fungi have a billion years of experience in doing the hard work of living.”

Fungi are, in my opinion, the most resourceful and successful of life forms. We can learn alot from them. Rest assured they will continue to adapt as humans explore their relationship with mushrooms.

Team member photo
Andrea Wood

After years of bad press, the interest in mushrooms has exploded. How did they undergo such a significant image transformation?

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