The Ancient Love of Mushrooms

With the last day of summer behind us, we are reminded by the beautiful first signs of autumn, the grace in letting go. As the air turns crisp and the abundant harvests from summer are gathered from the gardens, we prepare for the arrival of fall. Each passing season has sage lessons to teach those who’re willing to listen.

We know that humans have long revered medicinal mushrooms for their health benefits. However, the extent of this use was genuinely felt in 1991 when scientists discovered a 5,300-year-old mummy in the Italian Alps. The mummy, named Ӧtzi the Iceman, was found with a leather traveling pouch preserved alongside him. What was Ӧtzi carrying to help him on his arduous journey through the mountains? Tools, weapons, and pieces of medicinal mushrooms. 

The science around some of these medicinal mushrooms underscores the thousands of years of historical use by people to nourish their bodies and support their health. I’ve read many, many mushroom studies, and there’s a great deal of evidence pointing to their pharmacological potential. 

Fantastic Fungi

While the world of mushrooms is one of the oldest, there’s still so much that remains a mystery, and getting an in-depth look into the intricate, wise world of mushrooms is no easy feat. I recently watched the film Fantastic Fungi, and have been left in awe from the incredible insights, knowledge, and beauty that was captured. 

Knowledgeable and dedicated individuals — including renowned experts, such as my friends and colleagues Dr. Andy Weil and mycologist Paul Stamets,  as well as best-selling authors Michael Pollan and Eugenia Bone — came together with Louie Schwartzberg, a master at time-lapse photography, to create an inspiring and simply breathtaking film about mushrooms and their magical rootlike filaments called mycelium. 

As the film’s website states, “When so many are struggling for connection, inspiration, and hope, Fantastic Fungi brings us together as interconnected creators of our world.” I couldn’t agree more. The documentary highlights the beauty, intelligence, and solutions that mushrooms offer in response to some of our most pressing health and environmental challenges. I simply can’t recommend this film enough. 

Mycelium Mysteries

While getting snuggled up with a cozy blanket and a great film is a fabulous (and relaxing!) way to get familiar with the world of fungi, I’d also like to share some information about an upcoming event that is very near and dear to my heart:  Mycelium Mysteries: A Women’s Mushroom Conference. This is a weekend-long virtual retreat that strives to showcase fungi as the grandmothers of our ecosystems and to help modern women connect with the roles and wisdom of our female ancestors.

Workshops at Mycelium Mysteries will be offered at beginner through advanced levels and will include topics in wild mushroom skills, fungal ecology, fungi and human health, and ethnomycology. This is a place to share knowledge and gain skills in a supportive community! The conference takes place virtually from September 25th through September 27th. Click here to register for this unique and empowering event.