Why We Need Mushrooms

Mycologist Paul Stamets explains how those fabulous fungi can protect our health and heal the planet.

| Jan. 13, 2009

For the last 30 years Paul Stamets has collected, cultivated, studied and written about mushrooms. He’s the founder of Fungi Perfecti, a company that sells a variety of mushroom-related products, including kits for growing edible mushrooms. He’s also written several books, including Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms, and Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World.  

Yep, you read that right: Stamets’ new book tells us how mushrooms can help save the world. If that idea sounds like a stretch, prepare to have your mind expanded. Stamets has done extensive research on the practical ways people can use mushrooms to heal ourselves and protect the planet. That includes studying mushrooms’ nutritional properties (many types are a great source of Vitamin D, among other vital nutrients), and their potential for developing new medicines (some species show promising antibacterial and antiviral properties) and cleaning up the environment (fungi can be used to help clean up oil spills and other types of soil and water contamination).

Stamets took the time to answer our questions about the health and environmental benefits of mushrooms. Here’s what he had to say about the fantastic world of fungi.

Mushrooms, Mycelium and the Planet

Your latest book is called Mycelium Running. First, what is mycelium exactly?

Mycelium is a network of fungal cells threaded together to form long, forking chains, creating a complex fabric of cells permeating virtually all land masses of Earth, from the tundra to the tropical rainforests.

How is mycelium related to mushrooms?

Karen Tipsword
11/26/2013 8:24:54 AM

As a producer of log grown shiitake mushrooms, I am always pleased to see knowledgeable information about the health benefits of mushrooms. Your article was interesting and thought provoking. I will certainly purchase Mr. Stamet's book, and look forward to reading it. Persimmon Creek Campground Murphy, NC

Jon Anderholm
9/14/2009 11:12:52 AM

Always interesting your journal... Best, Jon Anderholm Xun Biosphere Project Cazadero, CA

Stuart Lubin
9/12/2009 3:28:31 PM

I have read your article thoroughly, and people may eat mushrooms if they wish. It is not my desire to change anyone's opinion or eating habits, but to me, mushrooms are mycotoxins, and I would never ingest any. Fungi are a parasite that feeds off the body and requires the host to eat a lot of sugar to feed it and therefore makes the host fat, just as yeast makes flour rise.

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