On the Healing Power of Mushrooms

Mushrooms can sustain, heal, or poison. Some can even guide us into the metaphysical. But all are proof of the natural wonders we have yet to fully understand.

Mushrooms are ancient beings, reaching back 155 million years into our shared history. They are expansive. The largest known organism of our planet is a mycelial network of honey mushrooms reaching over 2200 acres in eastern Oregon.

Paul Stamets, a leader in mycological innovation, studies the antiviral, pesticidal, and remedial properties of mushrooms. Working to combat the collapse of honey bee hives, reaching rates of 30-40% in the winter, Stamets began treating the bees with mushroom extracts. According to NPR, he found certain species could reduce the honeybees' viruses and increase their lifespans.²

Stamets notes that, “although mushrooms have long been used by various cultures, only recently has modern science rediscovered what the ancients knew long ago—that mushrooms can be deep reservoirs of powerful medicines.”

“The Greek physician Hippocrates, circa 450 BCE, classified the amadou mushroom (Fomes fomentarius) as a potent anti-inflammatory and for cauterizing wounds... Ötzi, the Ice Man, who lived nearly 5300 years ago, carried amadou and a birch polypore tethered in a pouch to help him survive in the Alps of northern Italy. First peoples of North America used puffball mushrooms (Calvatia genus) as wound healers.”³ The list goes on...

Out of the many tens of thousands of species of mushrooms, about fifty have exceptional healing properties. A few of these standouts include reishi, lion's mane, and chaga.

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) holds in its form an abundance of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. These together help strengthen our immune system, increase energy levels, and reduce inflammation. In addition, the mushroom boasts more potassium than a banana, more germanium than turmeric, more antioxidants than blueberry or açai, and more rubidium than green tea. As an organism that prepares us for the treks ahead and enlivens our minds so that we may find inspiration in the everyday, it is no wonder chaga mushrooms hold the title of superfood.

According to Stamets, “Chaga contains compounds with enticing medicinal properties. Of particular interest are the ethanol-soluble lanostanic triterpenoid antioxidants, which … mitigate the damaging effects of free radicals that harm tissue and interfere with DNA replication. A breakdown in the antioxidant capacity of cells is suspected to underlie various health challenges, such as inflammation, premature aging, and some cancers.”

Here at Olderbrother, we eagerly await further research to fully elucidate the healing powers of mushrooms. For now, we invite you to drink chaga tea and wear our chaga-dyed pieces with us.

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  1. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/115m-year-old-mushroom-oldest-fossilized-fungus-180963634/
  2. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/10/09/446928755/could-a-mushroom-save-the-honeybee
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684114/
  4. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/chaga-mushroom_b_1974571


Photography: Kelsey Mcclellan; styling by Michelle Maguire; modeled by Jack Kyle Franklin; mushrooms by Far West Fungi.