Medicine Box has introduced me to a lot of plant allies early on, but mushrooms are a newer acquaintance — or discovery, if you will. While my maternal grandfather often went mushroom hunting with my father and uncle during visits, and I occasionally would look for mushrooms with a friend of mine in the northern hardwood forests of New Hampshire.
In particular, we were fond of these hollow, bulbed mushrooms that we would call “bombs.” That’s because whenever you stepped upon them, they’d explode and emit these grey plumes of spores.
That was long before I became a grower and learned about the importance of the rhizosphere from my mentor, Michael Hollister. As above, so below: Hollister often observed how the vast network of subterranean roots mirrored the overlay of nerve cells and synapses which connect the various lobes within our brains and throughout every portion of our nervous system, from central to sympathetic.
As it turns out, mycellium, the delicate strands of hyphae which extend for miles underground, play a pivotal role in the rhizosphere of a plant’s underground life. They connect trees and plants to each other in forests, transferring nutrients from older “hub” trees to younger species in a “wood wide web” which is often compared to the internet where you’re reading this blog post on right now. Mushrooms act in some (but not all) fungal species to spread spores, and they all have their own unique strategies to spread themselves. Take, for instance, truffles, those fantastically expensive mushrooms with the distinctive smells. The whole point for mushrooms is to spread their spores, and some depend on us humans for their dissemination. Of course, some are poisonous, but as Terence McKenna once said, it’s not unlike any other living species: some like us, some can’t stand us, and others don’t care either way.
Mushrooms and the Medicine Box way
While those of you may remember my first experience with magic mushrooms, my introduction to medicinal mushrooms came with the reformulation of Happy Belly, our gut health formulation. I learned, through our Glad Scientist Dr. Refael Aharon, about Reishi and Chaga and studies tying them to the gut microbiome. They are excellent sources of antioxidants, and their polysaccharides provide energy resources as well, too. But what resonated with me the most was the connection to the rhizosphere, and their role in maintaining homeostasis. Over many years of managing cultivation, I have come to understand the rhizosphere as a sort of sponge, one that requires attention to detail and balance in order to nourish everything within its sphere of influence.
The Rodale Institute once said, “Feed the soil; feed the plant.”
So let’s say, “Feed the gut; feed the human.”
That manifested in our efforts to “build soil.” Too much fungi and beneficial bacteria and nematodes could be depleted; the converse also held as well. This also holds, I’ve found, with the gut biome, and preliminary studies have found an association between transplants of “aggressive” biomes and a corresponding change in the animal in question — the fabled gut-brain connection. If the gut biome is anything like the rhizosphere, maintaining a balancing act will be crucial for our mental health. Making the proper alliances with the right fungi will make all the difference.
Every time I head up the stateline fire lookout trail here on North Lake Tahoe, I check in with nature and learn a little bit more from her. I’m hardly done yet, but I’m constantly reminded how important it is to keep open to new information. What you don’t know can possibly save your life, when it comes to the natural world.
It’s an embodied relationship our world has with its plants, and it’s ongoing. Of course, as you’ll recall from last week, fungi are even more mysterious, and we’re just beginning to ask the questions about them that carry important implications for our mental, physical and spiritual health going forward. What we do know for certain is that mushrooms and their mycellial structures support the plants that support us.
Now that they can start to speak with hemp and its associated cannabinoids, whether it’s CBD, CBG and CBC crossed with Reishi for Happy Belly or Chaga, Maitake and Shiitake with CBD, CBG, CBN and CBC for Vital Recovery, they bring new vitality to the wellness work we’re already doing. These herbs, mushrooms and compounds create a nexus of rejuvenation that, alongside diet and lifestyle, can truly make the difference.
Try it and see. Check out our special blends, Vital Recovery and Happy Belly at Medicine Box Wellness.