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Mycelium Magic: Unlocking the Healing Power of Mushrooms with Mycelium

Updated: Apr 22

We're all familiar with the mushroom's fruiting body - that distinctive umbrella cap we sauté, roast or add to dishes. But did you know that mushrooms have an even more powerful source of nutrition found in their mycelial networks underground?

Mycelium is the root-like structure that mushrooms use to transfer nutrients and information through an extensive web that connects trees, plants and other life forms across entire forests.

Pioneering mycologist Paul Stamets refers to mycelium as the "neurological network of nature" and "one giant consciousness."

Through decades of research Stamets has proven that mushroom mycelium is a rich source of antioxidants, glycoproteins and other bioactive compounds that offer profound health benefits when consumed as a functional food or nutraceutical extract.

"Mycelium is the immune system of the planet," says Stamets. "By extending those same defensive attributes and allowing the human immune system to cross-react, we may increase our potential for health and well-being."

Here are the research-backed benefits of incorporating mycelium into your diet:

Boosting Immunity

Mushroom mycelium contains beta-glucans, arabinoxylans and other compounds that prime the immune system's alpha and beta defensive forces. Studies show mycelial extracts can increase the production and activity of key immune cells like lymphocytes and natural killer cells.

Brain Health

Mycelium produces compounds like erinacines and hericenones that stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF) and may help regenerate neurons. Research indicates mycelial extracts could be beneficial for neurological conditions like Alzheimer's and dementia. Paul Stamets has developed and is researching a unique blend of psylicibe, lion's mane, and niacin to reverse the effect of aging on the brain. The Stamets stack has proven to be regenerative on neural connections and even return motor function to some test subjects who were losing some.

Heart Protection

The plethora of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents in mycelium help inhibit LDL cholesterol oxidation, reduce triglycerides, and improve overall heart health markers.

Blood Sugar Balance

The fiber, proteins and alpha-glucans in mycelium help moderate the glycemic response and improve insulin sensitivity, making it a supportive functional food for diabetes.

How to Add Mycelium to Your Diet

You can obtain the benefits of mycelium by consuming mushroom extracts in capsule or powder form. Stamets' company Host Defense offers a variety of myceliated supplements. You can also grow and consume the mycelium itself by purchasing grow bags and kits. This is a bit difficult to harvest and process if you are not already growing, so not a money saver, but fun for hobby mycologists.

There's an entire world of untapped healing potential, mushroom mycelium represents an exciting new frontier in functional nutrition. As Stamets says, "Mycelium is the source of the source in finding new antimicrobials, new anti-cancer compounds, new anti-viral compounds."

Personally, I use Fungi Perfecti/Host Defense extracts and powders in coffee, smoothies and protein shakes, as well as in stews and chili and sauces. It's easy to add, does not have a strong or distinctive flavor that changes the flavor too much either, just adds some umami. I also just consume liquid extracts directly under my tongue whenever I feel any inflammation or irritation in my body. It gives you a high dose that you can repeat without taking food or drink at the same time.

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