Mycologist Paul Stamets studies the mycelium -- and lists 6 ways that this astonishing fungus can help save the world.
By Dr. Mercola
Paul Stamets has the kind of forward-thinking mind that stands to make a real difference for the future of the planet. At first, it may seem strange to be as passionate about fungus as Stamets is, but his vision is in many ways parallel to mine: improves the health of the population and the planet using natural means.
“There are more species of fungi, bacteria, and protozoa in a single scoop of soil than there are plants and vertebrate animals in all of North America,” Stamets writes in his book Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World (which, by the way, is well worth reading if you find this topic as intriguing as I do).
And it seems there is virtually no limit to what these fungal spores – which Stamets calls “the neurological network of nature" – can do:
- Restore habitat that’s been devastated by pollution
- Naturally fight flu viruses and other diseases
- Kill ants, termites, and other insects without using pesticides
- Create a sustainable fuel known as Econol
It’s hard to imagine that in one cubic inch of soil, there could be eight miles of mycelium – or that it can hold 30,000 times its mass. But, then again, the best solutions are often the most obvious – and the simplest. And as the first organism to come to land – many thousands of years ago and still going strong – fungi must be doing something right.
Mushrooms for Your Health
Just as mushrooms can strengthen the immune system of the environment, they can also strengthen the immune system in your body. Aside from being rich in protein, fiber, vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium, and minerals, there are about 50 species of medicinal mushrooms that are so rich in antioxidants they can do everything from boost your immune function to lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, and allergies.
In ancient times, Egyptians and Asians created longevity tonics from mushrooms – and even the 5,000-year-old “Ice Man” that was found in Europe a few years back had dried mushrooms with him.
Interestingly, if grown and dried in the right way, mushrooms are also one of the few foods that can provide you with vitamin D. As many of you may know, sun exposure is still the best route to make your vitamin D, but one study found that exposure to ultraviolet light could enrich growing, or just-picked mushrooms with a large supply of vitamin D.
Stamets’ book that I mentioned above also describes this topic in detail, including a study in which shitake mushrooms increased in vitamin D from 110 IUs when they were dried indoors to 21,400 IUs when they were dried in the sunlight!
Getting Back to Sustaining the Earth
It’s always been apparent that the health of your body is intricately tied to the health of the land, but lately it seems the tides are turning in regard to how we view our connection to nature . Increasing numbers of people are choosing to honor the laws of nature and are reverting to the more sustainable practices of long-ago generations.
I believe that future health depends on creating sustainable farming practices that will provide pure, nourishing food – and along the way this requires cleaning up the soil that has been pilfered by industry. And what could be a better start to this than Stamets’ “life boxes” – which are cardboard boxes full of fungi and seeds that can grow food, clean up toxic wastes, and even provide a new beginning for old-growth forests?
Once again, it seems, the simplest ideas will be the ones that ultimately improve the world.