Mycelium Running


Mycelium Running

Mycelium Running by
                          Paul Stamets
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Paul Stamets� Mycelium Running is a must have reference book for anyone working the land in any form, whether it be a farmer, forest manager or an environmental cleanup person. But also for people like me, who like to grow things, especially exotic and delicious edibles.

Mycelium Running is a treasure trove of useful practical information on what Stamets refers to as mycofiltration (of water), mycoremediation (of toxic waste) and tips on how mushroom mycelium can help improve soils and boost productivity in farming and forestry with less use of pesticides and fertilizers.

As an example, a method for building a mycofiltration bed to filter waste water is described in exacting detail. Dimensions, depth, layers and recommended materials and mushrooms are listed. This mycofiltration is especially useful for filtering manure enriched farm runoff water.

And not only does it solve the problem of farm runoff and E. coli contamination of nearby streams, it can also yield highly palatable food mushrooms, and the bed itself can be dug out every 2-3 years and used as an excellent fertilizer for the farm.

The benefits of no-till farming are also described in Mycelium Running in terms of how it benefits saprophytic soil fungi, which in turn help protect the soil from erosion as well as break down organic matter at a rate that is better paced to benefit plant life than if the stubble were to be plowed under and broken down by anaerobic bacteria.

Forest management can benefit greatly from using methods that promote saprophytic fungi, which help break down organic matter, as well as mycorrhizal fungi, which live in a symbiotic relationship with many trees and plants.

There are 8,000 known species of decomposing mushrooms, known as saprophytic fungi. The most common and best known may be Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor, a.k.a. Coriolus versicolor). Not only do saprophytic fungi help break down and recycle organic matter. They also help combat many parasitic fungi (blights) that may potentially kill large numbers of trees. Stamets gives useful suggestions on how to seed beneficial saprophytic fungi in blight infested forests as a natural �fungicide,� fighting fire with fire, so to speak.

Mycorrhizal fungi likewise can be seeded to support tree growth, or these beneficial fungi may simply be encouraged to grow naturally through smarter and more enlightened forested management. Most plants benefit from partnerships with mycorrhizal fungi, especially trees, which become much more drought resistant as well as disease resistant when they partner with a mycorrhizal mushroom species.

Mycoremediation, a term invented by Paul Stamets, is a method described in Mycelium Running whereby toxic waste may be neutralized. In cases of petrochemicals and synthetic toxic materials, they may be effectively broken down by fungi into harmless compounds. Bacterial contaminants can be killed by anti-bacterial compounds excreted by the fungi. And toxic levels of heavy metals may be absorbed and organically bound, thereby being neutralized and rendered harmless.

And all that is just in the first half of the 300 page Mycelium Running. The second half is an instruction manual on growing your own mushrooms, which is something that may be of interest to forest managers for mycoforestry, environmentalists for mycoremediation, farmers for increasing soil productivity, and the rest of us for growing our own gourmet mushrooms for food and medicine. In other words, this is a book for anyone and everyone.

Medicinal Mushrooms in History

One of the mushrooms was Birch polypore - Piptoporus betulinus - which it is believed he used as a remedy against intestinal parasites. Eggs of the whipworm parasite (Trichuris trichiura) were found in his intestines. The other mushroom in the possession of Oetzi was Tinder fungus - Fomes fomentarius - which has been traditionally used in Europe to cauterize wounds and stop bleeding.

Both of these are polypores, so named because they have pores instead of gills underneath. No species of polypore is known to be poisonous. They usually grow on trees, dead or alive.

Few polypores are edible because they are hard and fibrous. But people in the Orient as well as the Occident have used them to treat a multitude of diseases for ages. Usually in the form of a tea that would be brewed and drunk; sometimes as a poultice placed on a wound or over an aching body part.

Native American traditions tell of using different kinds of polypore extracts to combat smallpox and other diseases introduced with the arrival of Europeans. This includes Reishi (Ganoderma resinaceum), Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), Birch polypore, and Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor), as well as the now rare and endangered species Agarikon (Fomitopsis officinalis).

Although nearly extinct today, Agarikon was once common in the old-growth forests of ancient Europe. Greek physician Dioscorides referred to Agarikon as a remedy for tuberculosis in Materia Medica, 65 B.C. It's the earliest record of a medicinal mushroom in European literature. Two millennia later, the historic use of Agarikon in Poland was put down in writing in the article Medicinal mushrooms in Polish Folk Medicine by K. Grzywnowics. Again, it included lung conditions, as well as rheumatoid arthritis and infected wounds.

While mushrooms have been utilized medicinally in the West, it pales in comparison to the adulation they have received in the Orient. Next follows three species of medicinal mushrooms from Asia, which simply have to be included in any article on medicinal mushrooms.

First out is Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), sometimes nicknamed the "Mushroom of Immortality" due to its wide range of healing properties. Reishi was mentioned in Shen Nong's Herbal Classic from around 2,000 years ago. Many ancient Oriental temples and wood-carvings include images of this highly revered "cure-all" fungus.

Next is a mushroom from Tibet known as Cordyceps, a small fungus growing out of the bodies of silk caterpillars. Its first mention was in The Classic Herbal of the Divine Plowman, 200 A.D. Traditionally used as an aphrodisiac, today it's popular with athletes to improve strength and stamina.

Last but not least is the medicinal mushroom Shiitake, better known as a culinary delight. However, Shiitake is also one of the most research mushrooms for medical properties. Commercial cultivation of Shiitake began about a thousand years ago in China. Medicinal uses include immune enhancement, antibiotic and more. Shiitake extracted Lentinan polysaccharide is approved as an anti-cancer drug in Japan.

Modern research into medicinal use of mushrooms began in earnest in the late 1960's Japan. One pioneer, Dr. Ikekawa, discovered that families of mushroom growers had significantly lower cancer rates than their surrounding communities. Scientific research into medicinal mushrooms has expanded exponentially since that time and continues to increase and intensify until this day. Medicinal mushrooms are still in the process of making history. For a recent reliable souce on medicinal mushrooms, visit World Mushroom Society

Note: The article is informational only. The FDA has not approved mushrooms for medicinal use. Always consult a licensed medical practitioner before using any product to treat an illness.



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Mushroom Books:
All That the Rain Promises and More, by Arora
Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms, by Stamets
Mushroom Cultivator, by Stamets & Chilton
Mushrooming without Fear, by Schwab
Mushrooms Demystified, by Arora

Mycelium Running, by Stamets

National Audubon Society Field Guide to Mushrooms, by Lincoff
Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World, by Stamets & Weil
Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom
Mushroom Articles:
History of Medicinal Mushrooms
Spiritual Mushroom History
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Other Books:
Agaricus blazei Murill, Discover the Beta Glucan Secret
The Complete Mushroom Book (cook book)
Cordyceps: China's Healing Mushroom
Maitake Magic
The Mold in Dr. Florey's Coat (penicillin)
Mushrooming without Fear, by Schwab
North American Boletes
The Power of Japanese Red Reishi
Shiitake: The Healing Mushroom
The Truffle Hunter (children's book)
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Arctic Drift (Novel), Cussler
The Light Fantastic (Novel), Terry Practhett
Tree Meditations Website
Unconditional Self-acceptance Website (Metaphysical)

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