Fungi is one of the six kingdoms of classification of biology. In primary school, the study of fungi never went much deeper than their decomposition of dead plants. However, they provide so much more than nutrients for the soil. Systems of mushrooms are connected with mycelium, the vegetative portion of fungi. It webs together in the ground and holds the soil together. It can support 30,000 times its mass and is incredibly tenacious. The mycelium provides the nutrients that feed the soil of vast forests and provides nutrients for the giant trees. It is an imperative part of the ecosystem that we humans rely on.
Paul Stamets is holding an Agarikon Mushroom. Stamets is the brainchild behind many of today’s mushroom based innovations.
Mushroom Made Vaccines
According to many mycologists, humans and mushrooms have quite a bit in common when it comes to evolution, and you can read more about it here. Although it may seem like a silly idea, this relationship helps scientists create solutions to problems humans face daily. Mushrooms release carbon dioxide, just as we exhale it. They absorb oxygen, such as we inhale it. Humans and fungi suffer from the same pathogens. Therefore, some of the best vaccines have been synthesized from fungi.
The Chaga Mushroom is one of the many types of mushrooms with possible cancer-fighting properties.
Chaga mushrooms have been long used in natural medicine. However, recent research has shown the potential these fungi have. Chaga mushrooms have been shown to provide good cell protection from free radicals, something that often causes cancer. These mushrooms have been shown to reduce genetic mutations amongst cells, thus providing a possible solution to various tumours. Read more about it here.
The Life Box
Paul Stamets has dedicated his life to the study of mushrooms and has several patents for fungi based products. One of these products is the Life Box. This is a seed sprouting cardboard box that can be used for general packaging needs. Imagine receiving an Amazon package and then watering a box that has seeds and mushroom spores within it. It can then be used to grow trees or vegetables. This is a practical solution to put all of the cardboard boxes we regularly get from online shopping to good use for the environment.
A final use for mushrooms is as a fuel source. The fungi convert dead plant materials into fungal sugars. Therefore, these sugars can then be used to create ethanol. This is another ingenious invention by Stamets, and it may be a solution to the energy crisis.
We can solve many of the most pressing problems facing our world by using fungi, an often overlooked part of our environment, in innovative ways. To find out more about the superhero-like powers of fungi consider watching Paul Stamets’ Ted Talk here.
Ermacora, T. (2010, July 01). Life Box: Paul Stamets Unveils Brilliant Seed-Sprouting Cardboard Box. Retrieved January 18, 2017, from http://inhabitat.com/life-box-paul-stamets-unveils-brilliant-seed-sprouting-cardboard-box/
Phelps, M. (2009, January 13). Why We Need Mushrooms. Retrieved January 18, 2017, from http://www.motherearthnews.com/natural-health/nutrition/mushrooms-health-benefits
Edited by: Nelli Morgulchik and Ruby Halfacre