Magic Mushrooms: The Many Uses of Fungi

Magic Mushrooms: The Many Uses of Fungi

Author:Delfina Jauregialzo
There's an invisible kingdom running under our feet and we don't even notice. It's usually associated with mold, decomposition, decay, and even death, but actually, we should be grateful this species exists. Indigenous peoples have been using mushrooms for food and medicine for centuries. Now is our turn to start paying attention to the numerous advantages fungi have to offer to humankind.

We are used to thinking of mushrooms as these cute little red hats with white polka dots spread on the ground of moist woods. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a huge part of them that we don’t see, the mycelium, a rich underground network that weaves links with plants in a virtuous bond of mutual help and decomposition. The mycelia are vital because they regulate the communication between the soil, its nutrients, and the forests; they feed and sustain nature.

The universe of the Funga is very varied, there are edible, medicinal, hallucinogenic mushrooms and they are even used as raw material to generate industrial products.

A Cure for the Mind

The first mention of hallucinating mushrooms in mass media was in 1957 when American author and ethnomycologist Gordon Wasson published an article in Life magazine about “mushrooms that cause strange visions”.

Other mycologists, like Paul Stamets, continued studying various kinds of psychotropic mushrooms, but later on, the so-called “war on drugs” Richard Nixon declared in the 1970s, put a stop to almost all research in this regard.

Psychedelic mushrooms are those that contain psilocybin, a chemical compound that, when digested and transformed into psilocin, generates psychedelic experiences. In recent years, investigations have been focusing on the benefits these mushrooms have on our imagination and creativity. Furthermore, scientists have discovered that, if consumed in small doses, they are very effective in treating conditions related to our nervous systems like depression, trauma, stress, anxiety, epilepsy, Alzheimer's, autism spectrum disorders, and even addictions and eating disorders.

There is scientific evidence that indicates that following a microdose protocol produces an elongation of neurons that helps with neuronal recovery. It’s just a matter of time before this kind of treatment becomes common practice for doctors worldwide. In his latest book, This is your mind on plants, writer and journalist Michael Pollan writes: “As I write, psychedelics seem to be undergoing a change of identity. Since researchers have demonstrated that psilocybin can be useful in treating mental health, some psychedelics will probably soon become FDA-approved medicines: that is, recognized as more helpful than threatening to the functioning of society.”

Beyond the food and psychedelic uses of mushrooms, the underground world of fungi is full of potential. They can also be used for architecture, furniture objects, and fashion materials.