450 million years ago, you could find yourself in what is now known as Saudi Arabia looking out over a stark , barren landscape save for a few shrubs and bushes, but somewhere in the distance would be standing an 8-metre tall monolith. Known as Prototaxites, these giant beasts were actually mushrooms.
In fact mushrooms have been traced as far back as 2.4 billion years, and genetic records show that animal genomes split with fungi around 1.5 billion years ago and that in fact humans have more genetic material in common with them than plants.
The Original Internet
What we know as mushrooms, are actually just the tip of the fungal iceberg. They are the fruiting body of an immensely vast root system known as mycelium. This network spans the entire globe (it has even been recently discovered at the bottom of the ocean!). Mycelium is only one cell wall thick, meaning that in order to thrive it must be extremely successful at fending off bacteria and other predators that would seek to devour it. These characteristics are part of what makes the potential application of mushrooms in a nutritional and medicinal context so exciting.
Mushrooms as medicine
The use of mushrooms in Chinese medicine dates back to 7000 years. Similarly in Japan and other parts of Asia. Mushrooms have been prized for their remarkable contribution to human health, longevity and well being. Out of all of these the most widely cultivated, consumed, and studied is the Ganoderma Lucidum known as the Lingzhi in Chinese or most commonly by its Japanese name Reishi.
The Mushroom of Immortality
Also known as ‘King of Mushrooms’ or the ‘Mushroom of Spiritual Potency’, the Reishi has profound adaptogenic qualities. It acts as an immune system modulator, and is thought to return the nervous system to a state of equilibrium, which allows the body to regulate and process hormones such as cortisol (the stress hormone) naturally. Among its other properties, Reishi combats inflammation, improves liver function, and has been shown to be effective in aiding allergy and asthma sufferers.
In the circumboreal regions of the planet grows another miraculous and generous organism. Used for centuries in Russian folk medicine, Chaga is undergoing a renaissance in the west for its slew of applications in the treatments of modern day ailments and diseases. Although its properties are just beginning to be studied in depth by Western medicine, historically it was ingested to treat and prevent cancer. But it can be used simply, as a daily tonic to strengthen the immune system, lower blood pressure and fight inflammation.
Tea made from the Chaga mushroom has a distinct earthy and woody flavour, is quite palatable and can be mixed with other super-healing foods such as cacao or turmeric to enhance its restorative properties.
The Chaga we are serving at the cafe has been wild-harvested locally and dried. It is brewed for up to 6 hrs at a low temperature to ensure adequate extraction and preservation of nutrients.
Do you want to sharpen your mental abilities? Are you looking for a boost in your cognitive organizing power? Lions mane could very well be part of the answer. Hericium Erinaceus, goes by many names: Monkey Head, Bearded Tooth Fungus, and Satyr’s head, to name a few. This is one of the more appetizing varieties of mushrooms treasured for their curative characteristics. Lions Mane has been demonstrated to combat dementia, help to relieve anxiety and depression, and may even help to reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s.
The Future of mushroom Therapy
Encouraging an allyship with our fungaloid brethren breeds exciting prospects for a future free from disease. The potential applications for the healing of psychological trauma, both on the individual and the collective level are astounding. As scientific research melds with ancient Shamanistic wisdom and practices, we are hinting at a new era of superlative healing discoveries.