Mushrooms: The Fungus Among Us

Among being some of the most nutritious vegetables in the world, although they are not technically plants, mushrooms share a rich story in the history of the earth, and are magically beneficial to our minds and our bodies.  A part of the Fungi Kingdom, mushrooms are the largest organisms on the planet.  If you thought that perhaps whales or a redwood tree was a contender, think again.

In the Blue Mountains in Oregon, scientists have found a specific honey mushroom that measures in at a startling 2.4 miles in diameter.  Mycelia, or the underground networks of tubular filament, wholly comprises this humongous organism, and the only indication that this sleeping giant is even there are the fruiting bodies of the yellow-brown mushrooms that sprout from the ground.    Long before trees ever dominated the landscape of our planet, mushrooms were the giants of their day.  Going back 420 to 350 million years ago, the trunk of an early fungus called Prototaxites grew to a measure of 24 feet high, with a girth as wide as a meter.

 

 

 

Today, mushrooms come in much smaller sizes, and are completely edible (most of them).  Mushrooms have an enormous amount of nutritional value, including B vitamins such as niacin, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin.  These B vitamins are crucial for a healthy nervous system, aiding and maintaining healthy red blood cells, production of hormones, and promoting healthier skin.  Mushrooms are also the only item in any produce section that has naturally occurring Vitamin D.

There are also many therapeutic advantages from eating mushrooms, but the not the kind you will find in your local grocery store.  More commonly referred to as magic mushrooms, the active chemical found in these mushrooms, known as psylocybin, has actually been shown to produce many beneficial changes in the brain.  Scientists are now beginning to see that psylociben not only just alters a persons consciousness, but neurons make new connections in your brain which brings clarity and enlightenment on old and new thoughts.  Studies have shown that psylocybin is extremely effective for treating conditions such as depression, anxiety, stress, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

A study by the John Hopkins University found that 12 out of 15 smokers were able to quit smoking entirely by just sitting in a quiet room listening to calming music while tripping on psylocybin.   “The rates of quitting were so high, twice as high as what you typically see with the gold standard medication,” said researcher Matthew Johnson. But with psylocybin residing right next to marijuana on the schedule 1 list of drugs, it is highly unlikely that this chemical will see its full potential as a medicine until drug laws are drastically changed.

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