Mushrooms have had a cultural throughline from the distant past to our current era. First discovered by ancient civilizations uncounted centuries ago, they soon moved into combination with religious and medicinal practices. Now, they’re the subject of research and fascination in the modern day. From their mysterious characteristics to their intriguing possibilities, mushrooms have an aura of mystery that has kept people interested throughout time.
1. Mushrooms Are More Closely Related To Humans Than Plants
Fungi have always been around us, but it took until 1969 to understand that they are not just another form of the plant, but instead a unique kingdom of life unto themselves. This is because whilst they may look like plants on the surface, in many ways their functioning and requirements greatly resemble those of animals.
For instance, unlike plants, fungi cannot produce their own oxygen, instead, they intake oxygen as animals do and use it for metabolism. Additionally, another way in which fungi compare more to animals than plants is their need for an external food source – something that plants can make without external interference.
Finally, when looking at the distant past for common ancestor links between the different kingdoms of life, it turns out that the breakage between the plant and animal worlds happened 1.547 billion years ago whereas the split between Animalia and Fungi was a much later 1.538 billion years ago – further establishing a closer connection to humans than ever before thought!
2. Humans Have Been Eating Psychedelic Mushrooms Since The Dawn Of Human History
Humans have been consuming psychedelic mushrooms for thousands of years—long before any written records were ever kept. Evidence of this can be found all over the world, from cave paintings in India to ancient Greek frescoes in Pompeii.
The most notable example, however, is a painting found on the walls of Tassili n’Ajjer (a mountain range in Algeria) that dates back as far as 4700 BC. It depicts two humanoid figures with mushroom-shaped heads dancing together in an unmistakably trippy way.
This early evidence suggests that humans may have started consuming magic mushrooms significantly earlier than previously thought and that these fungi were likely considered sacred within many early communities.
The actual practice of eating these mushrooms is wrapped up in mystery, it’s difficult to gauge what exactly motivated humans to start using shrooms this way—was it purely recreational? For medicinal purposes? Shamanic journeys? It remains unknown just how prevalent their ritualistic use was then, and how strong their impact has been on human culture and religion.
3. The Largest And Oldest Living Organism In The World Is a Fungus
The world’s largest and oldest living organism might just surprise you. It is a fungus, of the Armillaria ostoyae variety, more commonly known as the “Humongous Fungus.” This network of mushroom strands spans an astonishing 2,000 acres in eastern Oregon’s Malheur National Forest and weighs an awe-inspiring 35,000 tons.
To put that into perspective, this metric weight is equivalent to 175 Antarctic Blue Whales, the largest animal species on earth. Not only is the Humongous Fungus thought to be among Earth’s biggest organisms, but it is also speculated that it could be its oldest at around 8,000 years old!
It is incredible what nature has been able to create with such few resources over the centuries, and this underground fungal feat will surely be remembered for many years to come.
Not only does the Humongous Fungus serve as another interesting factoid falling under nature’s umbrella of spectacular phenomena, but it also illustrates how size doesn’t classify as a determining factor when bestowing longevity upon certain mushroom species. Here’s to hoping that our planet offers us more unbelievable surprises such as these!
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4. Mushrooms Can Be Good For Your Mental Health
Mushrooms are more than just a tasty addition to your dinner plate. Recent research has found that eating mushrooms regularly can have a positive impact on your mental health. A study from Penn State College of Medicine, for example, tracked data from 24,000 individuals over 11 years and discovered that those who consumed any kind of edible mushroom had significantly lower odds of developing depression.
But not all mushrooms are created equal – in particular, magic mushrooms contain the active ingredient psilocybin, which has been showing promising results in treating various mental health conditions. Scientists are looking into whether psilocybin could help treat PTSD, addiction, anorexia, and other issues.
Furthermore, regular mushrooms contain ergothioneine, a powerful antioxidant that can reduce the risks of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. All in all, adding this simple food to your diet could be the key to a better range of health benefits and well-being.
5. Modern Medicine Depends On Magic Mushrooms
The role of fungi in modern medicine is an ever-increasing one. Fungi have been utilized to develop treatments for a diverse range of medical conditions, from high cholesterol to multiple sclerosis.
By unlocking the medicinal potential within these organisms, researchers have discovered effective drugs such as lovastatin and ergotamine, both of which are derived from fungi. This has allowed the pharmaceutical industry to produce lifesaving products for worldwide distribution with relative ease.
In recent years, the use of fungi in modern medicine has gone further than just producing existing drugs more efficiently. Researchers are now investigating the use of fungal compounds on highly aggressive forms of cancer, including melanoma and pancreatic cancer.
Early results are showing that these compounds may be a viable solution as they seem able to attack tumors without attacking healthy cells in the surrounding area. Research continues into this promising area with scientists keenly attempting to unlock the full potential of these natural medicines and understand how they interact with diseased cells.
In this way, new treatment options can be created that are alternatives or supplementation to traditional medicine approaches like chemotherapy or surgery.
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Mushrooms are an intriguing and often underappreciated fungus. They have been around for centuries, yet their complexity and range of flavors continue to fascinate us today. Scientists regularly make incredible discoveries about mushrooms, uncovering new nutritional benefits, medicinal applications, and even more delicious varieties of mushrooms. With their unique tastes and textures, they are a healthy addition to any diet.
Growing your own mushrooms is also a great way to ensure a steady supply of fresh produce right in your own backyard. There are several types of fungi that are easy to cultivate at home with minimal effort and resources. If you’re considering giving mushroom growing a try, ThinkMushrooms.ca is an excellent place.