Paul Stamets, a Mycologist committed to advancing our understanding of the importance of mushrooms, has found more than just a healing potential of some fungi. Stamets, a dedicated explorer, has pursued his passion to preserve and protect ancestral strains of mushrooms from ancient Old Growth Forests. His work has been recognized by thought leaders for “creating a paradigm shift for helping ecosystems worldwide“ (Perfecti, 2021). Stamets has identified mushrooms that can be used to combat diseases, used as pest control, and can combat climate change and pollution. Although, we are not the first to know about the benefits of mushrooms. The mycologist states “We are now rediscovering that which our ancestors long ago knew that mushrooms are deep reservoirs for very powerful medicines” (Perfecti 2021). These fungi have many health benefits such as immune health support.
Although, his passion and research for fungi goes beyond their importance of health benefits. Another message that he wants to educate others on, is that we are fully involved in the Sixth Mass Extinction on Earth. Due to human activities, our biosphere is rapidly altering, decaying the life support systems that have allowed human civilizations to evolve and adapt. Unless new policies are put into act, and new technologies are used to correct the course in the near future, then biodiversity will continue to plunge. He offers that fungi are a practical and powerful solution that can be used immediately.
Stamets often gives lectures to help educate people on the importance of fungi. In a ted talk, he talks about three different species of mushrooms and their benefits. Armadou mushrooms are anti-inflammatory. By hollowing out the center of the fungi, one could put embers inside to keep a fire alive for days. If this mushroom is boiled, it delaminates into a cellular fabric that can be used for clothing. His hat is actually made from Armadou mushrooms. The second mushroom he mentioned was called a Gerakan mushroom, and it is the oldest living mushroom. It survives in the Old growth forest under extremely adverse conditions. The living conditions include hundreds of inches of rain per year, wind sleet, hail, and intense heat. Scientists discovered Fomitopsterols inside of Gerakan mycelium, which is a new class of potent antivirals and antimicrobials. Antivirals and antimicrobials can be used to create new medicines and vaccines. The last mushroom he mentioned was the Cordyceps mushroom species. Cordyceps have been used medicinally for hundreds of years. Cordyceps has been used for organ transplants and Gilenya fungi for Multiple Sclerosis. Cordyceps can also be used as bait for pests. Termites are attracted to extract of pre-sporulating mycelium and over a day, turn the ants mummified. Cordyceps can be used for mosquitos, ants, termites, etc.
Stamets is the owner of the company and website Fungi Perfecti, where they give exclusive access to different types of mushrooms, mushroom products, research, and guides to grow your own mushrooms. His mission is to show people the benefits of the large range of mushroom species. These benefits include: support for the immune system, a pesticide-free alternative to the white button mushroom, help to recycle wood and agriculture byproducts, and fungi can be easily grown by anyone in any controlled environment. Stamets expresses that “Our close evolutionary relationship to fungi can be the basis for novel pairings in the microbiome that lead to greater sustainability and immune enhancement.” Fungi create a huge opportunity for us to slow the global crisis. The more people that educate themselves on the benefits of fungi and mycelium, the more awareness and respect for the organisms. The biggest mission is to find new ways to slow climate change. Fungi is a natural and effective way to bring back biodiversity sustainably. Now, all it takes is a hand that wants to help.
If you're interested in fungi and have a passion for plant science or climate change, check out the biology and natural resource classes offered here at Reedley College.
Fungi Perfecti, 2021, fungi.com/pages/about-us.