Mushroom Medicine

“Look mom! Puhpowee!”

These words are excitedly shouted throughout the year at me by my boys - whenever they see a mushroom that has suddenly appeared. I taught them this word, puhpowee, after reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass. Puhpowee is an Anishinaabe word meaning the force which causes mushrooms to push from the earth overnight. One word, an entire mysterious process explained. It makes me think that the First Nations people had a better understanding of the fungal world than we do. They knew this land intimately and knew its medicine. To have a word that can encapsulate an entire concept indicates deep knowledge, at least to me.

Mushrooms do push out overnight, don’t they? What is that about?

Mushrooms are this incredible, mysterious, sometimes edible, piece of the underworld. The largest mushroom currently known is in East Oregon. Scientifically named armillaria ostoyae, it is affectionately referred to as the humongous fungus and covers almost 2,400 acres of land.

Mushrooms can be exceptional medicine.

Reishi has a growing track record for rebalancing some autoimmune conditions.

Chaga is recognized as a powerful immune supporting agent (I put Chaga in my herbal coffee blend).

Cordyceps is excellent for energy support.

Turkey tails seem to offer protection in cancer treatment.

Lion’s mane is getting attention for it’s cognitive support abilities.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mushrooms as we simply don’t yet know what we don’t know. If the track record continues, the fungal world has a lot to offer in terms of healing.

This time of year mushrooms are popping up everywhere. Andrew Weil, M.D. recommends “unlimited amounts” of cooked mushrooms* in his anti-inflammatory diet. I may have eaten an unlimited amount of buttery chanterelles a few days ago… maybe. The boys and I located a patch of morels on my property this past Spring that promptly became dinner. My point is consuming wild mushrooms seems a prudent part of a well balanced diet and as we learn more about these mysterious fungi, I imagine we’ll discover more and more about the health benefits of them.

So next time you see a mushroom on your path consider the force with which it pushed itself out of the earth… puh-pow-ee!

*Accurate identification with mushroom foraging is critical. It is unwise to eat foraged mushrooms without 100% positive identification. With deadly varieties around there isn't any margin for error. Purchasing from a local farmers market where competent foragers are selling local varieties is a great choice.

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