3 Ways mushrooms can save the world
1. Reversing toxic destruction
Mushrooms’ incredible power to reverse toxic damage is far reaching. From biodegradable mycelial technology to vast mycoremediation possibilities, mushrooms can help clean humanity’s mess and restore habitats’ vitality and beauty.
A concept made famous by Paul Stamets, mycoremediation involves utilizing mushrooms to break down toxic materials from soil to sky. Mycofiltration is a subset of mycoremediation involving filtering pathogens from polluted water. Bioremediation involves restoring soil and biodiversity.
Oyster mushrooms are clearly one of the most talented bioremediators. But they’re far from the only restorative species of fungi. Scientists have identified more than 120 enzymes in various mushroom-forming fungi that effectively digest toxic and cancer-causing chemicals. There is almost no waste material or human-derived pollutant that a species of fungus can’t decompose. And that’s great news because carbon emissions, plastic contamination, and chemical waste threaten the earth’s survival.
A major toxic polluter, Chevron-Texaco, used mushrooms to soak up oil spill damage in the Amazon after leaving northern Ecuador more than 30 years ago. From 1964 to 1990, Chevron-Texaco dumped 12 billion gallons of toxic oil byproduct into the rivers and streams that local people depended on for drinking, cooking, bathing, and fishing. When the corporate giant left, it poured the rest of the crude and toxic waste into pits throughout the region. Sources say the cleanup was little more than a sham, but the mushrooms’ remediation potential proved real. Fungi release tenacious enzymes that feast on harmful pollutants like hydrocarbons, heavy metals, and plastic waste, remediating contaminated soil in as little as three weeks.
Plastic, in particular, is one of the most harmful materials known to earth and man. An overwhelming 91% of plastic isn’t recycled and does not biodegrade. Rather, plastic breaks down into smaller pieces and ends up in oceans, landfills, the air, and the food chain. Humans inadvertently eat five grams of plastic weekly and inhale up to 16.2 bits every hour (a credit card each week). Reducing plastic reliance and subsequent waste is essential. Fungi offer effective solutions, from bioremediation to mycelium fungus technology.
The mycelium fungus production process binds mycelium structures to organic waste, like hemp and wood chips, creating a natural, durable, biodegradable material. Mycelium fungus can form plastic-like structures, packaging, clothing, construction materials, and even food products that immediately degrade after the intended use.
Perhaps mycelium’s greatest rebalancing act lies in its potential to trap climate-change-inducing carbon emissions. Fungi sequester a great deal of carbon, which keeps CO2 from the atmosphere. Certain species of fungi allow the soil to store 70 percent more carbon than it normally would. Additionally, fungi can break down carbon into nutrients for the soil and plants to absorb, leading to greater biodiversity. Allowing more fungi to proliferate in nature is essential to encouraging this carbon-consuming process.
2. Reconnecting humans to self, community, and nature
Disconnection is one of the key forces driving humanity’s ecological and mental health crises. And the problem has gotten progressively worse with time and technological progress.
Industrialism divorced people from their ancestral connection to nature, replacing hunting and foraging with perusing grocery aisles. Modern technology has disconnected people from their communities, replacing meaningful relationships with social-media-induced dopamine hits. And consumerism offers shiny distractions that feed the ego rather than the soul.
These innovations undoubtedly signify human advancement and evolution. But gadgets also breed isolation, one of the top depression indicators, and environmental apathy, the biggest threat to the planet.
An apathetic global society doesn’t care about environmental destruction because it sees itself as separate from nature. In turn, a disconnected society unleashes massive waste, unstainable manufacturing practices, and carbon emissions in pursuit of material goods and convenience. The antidote? Magic mushrooms.
Psilocybin mushrooms are expansive tools for connecting humans to the wholeness of the natural world, inspiring them to care about its rapid degeneration. Centuries of ritual use illustrate this assertion.
Indigenous shamans from South America to Eastern Europe have used psilocybin and other plant medicines in spiritual ceremonies to elicit connection to God, land, and their communities. It’s no coincidence that these ancient civilizations also lived symbiotically with nature and considered it sacred. Shamans today echo that sentiment, citing psychedelics as conduits to communicating with nature, feeling empathy for the earth’s beings, and being more environmentally responsible.
Western research demonstrates that respect for nature is a universal effect of psychedelics, even outside ritualistic contexts. An Imperial College paper showed people’s affinity for nature drastically rose after just one psychedelic mushroom journey, and interconnected feelings lasted for months. Another paper surveyed 893 psychedelic users, finding that lifetime psychedelics use “positively predicted liberal political views, openness and nature-relatedness….” On a mass scale, these perspective shifts are just what the planet needs to reverse humanity’s destructive behavior.
3. Unlimited potential of mushroom medicine for health and wellness
Psilocybin mushrooms’ ability to foster inner connection is also critical in combating the global mental health crisis, one of the leading causes of disability, according to the World Health Organisation. Among young adults 15 to 29, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death. It’s no coincidence that young adults are also the loneliest generation, suffering from trauma and technology-fueled separation from family, friends, community, and self.
Magic mushrooms can resolve such profoundly engrained depression.
Psilocybin mushrooms, deemed a breakthrough therapy for treatment-resistant depression, dissolve the brain’s default mode network, activate serotonin receptors, and open novel neural pathways that inspire radical transformations. Scientists can’t fully explain mushrooms’ mechanism of action, but patients often report feelings of universal oneness and self-acceptance as core components of the experience.
Renowned activist Rick Doblin, Ph.D., believes psychedelics are so effective at resolving depression that the world could achieve “net zero” trauma by 2070.
By resolving trauma and depression, mushrooms could also reduce the risk of associated conditions, ranging from heart and kidney disease to nervous and immune system imbalance. Mushrooms’ chemical properties make these ancient fungi uniquely effective in addressing various physical ailments as well.
One key characteristic of fungi is that they don’t rot from bacteria. They do the rotting. So species of fungi are humanity’s most effective antibiotics. For example, the penicillium fungus revolutionized western medicine’s approach to infectious diseases. For many years, scientists created penicillin by growing penicillium mold and separating it to create a purified antibiotic medicine. Fungi hold the potential to develop the next line of antibacterial vaccines today.
Mushrooms could also create effective antiviral medications. Research indicates mushroom metabolites, notably polysaccharides, such as glucan, β-glucan, mannoglucan, heteroglycan, galactomannan, and lentinan, exhibit activities that rival current antiviral drugs. A study published in the journal Viruses indicates bioactive mushroom compounds can relieve HIV, influenza A, and hepatitis C as effectively as pharmaceuticals.
The study also points to functional mushrooms’ active metabolites, including polysaccharides, terpenoids, and phenolic compounds, including flavonoids, glycoproteins, polyketides, steroids, and alkaloids, and their ability to heal. These compounds exhibit immunomodulatory, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, gut-boosting, and even antitumor benefits.
Functional mushrooms exhibit the most obvious medicinal benefits of all fungi species. But even psilocybin mushrooms provide purely physical benefits, according to preliminary clinical research and patient anecdotes. Psilocybin for migraines, cluster headaches, and chronic pain are exciting research areas that could revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry, reducing reliance on addictive pain medication and increasing mental health and connection to nature simultaneously.