Paul Stamets


American Mycologist, Author, and Advocate of Bioremediation and Medicinal Mushrooms

Author Quotes

I think we will see a viral storm in the very near future. These viral storms are a direct result of loss of biodiversity and the efforts of nature to knockdown the virulent organism, which unfortunately means us.

Lion's mane mushrooms are not your classic-looking cap-and-stem variety. These globular-shaped mushrooms sport cascading teeth-like spines rather than the more common gills.

Mycologists are few and far between. We are under-funded, poorly represented in the context of other sciences - ironic, as the very foundation of our ecosystems are directly dependent upon fungi, which ultimately create the foundation of soils.

There are some things that are implicitly true in life. I have to say I have found a deep well of knowledge. Literally every day that I wake up I am happy to be alive because I know my life has meaning and I can save thousands of lives if not thousands of species.

I told my mother that I had this great epiphany. I wanted to share it with her because I think it is a bridge between people who think they are on polar opposites but they actually aren't. I actually made this into a bumper sticker. It is ?Evolution Is God's Intelligent Design?. I think that says it all. The mystery of Nature and that of God is far greater than that which our minds, with all their limitations, can even begin to comprehend. If we knowledge that we are ignorant in the face of Nature and God's complexity, then any interpretation that we have of God is inherently flawed, which doesn't mean that you can't be spiritual. It means that, as we struggle to understand the vastness of the universe, whether you believe in one deity or whether you believe in Nature, I think it is all one and the same. Ultimately I think that the chasm between people who believe in Nature versus people who believe in God that will narrow. Indeed Nature and God is one.

Maitake mushrooms are known in Japan as 'the dancing mushroom.' According to a Japanese legend, a group of Buddhist nuns and woodcutters met on a mountain trail, where they discovered a fruiting of maitake mushrooms emerging from the forest floor. Rejoicing at their discovery of this delicious mushroom, they danced to celebrate? Maitake can achieve humongous sizes, sometimes up to 50 pounds per specimen! Massive maitake can form annually from dying dendritic tree roots for many years, even decades.

Nature is a numbers game. We need all the support we can get as our immune systems and health are under assault from pollution, stress, contaminated food and age-related diseases as our lifespans increase.

There were at least two cataclysmic events that steered evolution on this planet. 250 million years ago there was a huge asteroid impact. When that occurred, enormous amounts of debris were jettisoned into the atmosphere. The earth became shrouded in dust. The skies darkened and sunlight was cut off from the face of the earth for years, decades, we really don't know how long. Because there was no sunlight plants died. Large animals died. More than 90% of the species actually went extinct and fungi inherited the earth. The organisms that paired with fungi survived obviously because most of these fungi did not require light. So life then again began to proliferate. Lots of species then evolved. Then we marched forward again until 65 million years ago and BAM, we got hit again. There is a recurring theme here folks. So again, with the second asteroid impact the earth was shrouded in dust. The sunlight was cut off and fungi re-inherited the earth.

I was a starving student living at the end of a dead-end road A-frame with no power and no water. One night, around 11 o'clock I felt emboldened to stand up and I walked through the woods at night on an old abandoned logging road. There was no moon. And I suddenly stopped frozen. I leaned down in total darkness and I put my hand on top of this species that has only been collected twice over decades.

Most listeners may not know the history of the use of penicillin. It was actually a housewife in 1942 who sent in a moldy cantaloupe to a military hospital laboratory in response to the US government's plea to Americans to send your moldy fruit to this one location. From her moldy cantaloupe came a strain of Penicillium chrysogenum that produced 200 times more penicillin than the government had in any of the laboratories. Her strain led to saving millions of lives. The Japanese and the Germans did not have penicillin. But the Americans and the British did. So that is an example of biodiversity. But this mushroom growing in the old-growth forests doesn't enjoy the widespread habitat distribution that a Penicillium mold does. It is restricted. We need to invest in our ecosystems. Biodiversity is absolutely critical to human survival. Nature, through hundreds of millions of years of experiments has many great successes. How we navigate through many of the issues that we face today by looking back and looking towards nature to see the experiments that have been successful, we can gain a lot of tools that have been tested in the theater of evolution that are extremely helpful to us.

Nitric oxide production by immune cells is one of the key mechanisms that our bodies use to destroy diseased cells. Enhancement of these types of immune responses is seen consistently with many medicinal mushrooms that have been tested by cancer researchers.

Those two asteroid impacts steered the cooperation or symbiosis of animals and plants with fungi. So we exist today in collaboration with fungi. They are the construct of the food web. Fungi are the grand molecular disassemblers of nature. They break down plant, animal and mineral into soil. So these are the great soil magicians of nature. And most everybody knows that the topsoil on the earth is incredibly thin and yet it supports hundreds of millions of different species that live in the very top 6 inches. This thin skin that has given us life is greatly threatened. As we lose biodiversity, especially with fungi, we begin to unravel the very food networks that have given rise to us.

I was fascinated by the psilocybin mushrooms and did a lot of work with the electron microscope and was a significant contributor to Dr. Gastan Guzmon?s monograph on the genus Psilocybe, which is a world monograph. In that genus are the majority of psilocybin active species. I have named four species in that genus to date that still survive in the scientific literature. Sometimes the named species are thrown out later by other mycologists. I'm happy to say that after 25 years they still stand as being valid species. This led me into cultivation. Then as my horizons broadened, I started to become very interested in growing other types of mushrooms, non-psychoactive ones. My mother was happy about that!

Mushrooms also have a very keen sense of humor. The psilocybin mushrooms are most often found in the Northwest around law enforcement facilities, courthouses, universities and churches. So if you want to go and find psilocybin mushrooms in the Northwest, go to your local Sheriff's Department. It's a little bit of a problem frankly. But they have a very peculiar sense of humor it seems like the institutions that need them the most are where they tend to migrate to. Folks, I'm being absolutely serious. It's funny. But it's true. So mushrooms have appeared to me in the strangest of ways. There is a Psilocybe species called Psilocybe sylvatica. Only two collections have been made in Washington State in the past 40 years.

Now if we lost our old-growth forests, if we lost that species that grows exclusively in that forest as they have in Europe, and there was a smallpox epidemic, and after 1980, no one has been immunized against smallpox, we are extremely susceptible to a smallpox epidemic. If we had lost the biodiversity within the forest that has the species that potentially could fight smallpox, millions of lives would be at stake. So we can't say now whether it will be clinically applicable. But all indications thus far are extremely positive. The Bioshield Program is funded with $4 billion or $5 billion and they have some of the best testing protocols of any laboratory in the world. We have passed all of their major benchmarks.

Through trial-and-error and observable outcomes, our ancestors narrowed the field of edible mushroom candidates to just a few with remarkable, health-supporting properties.

I wrote Al Gore and Richard Branson. They haven't written back. But I wrote a two-page document on reversing global warming and saving biodiversity by investing in humus. Mycelium and mushrooms are composed of complex carbohydrates. They sequester carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. As the mycelium grows, it produces these wonderful acid crystals called oxalic acid, which are two carbon dioxide molecules joined together. So is the mycelium grows not only are these carbon rich compounds like proteins, but the cell walls are exoskeletons that are extremely high in polysaccharides, carbohydrates.

Mushrooms are like tips of an iceberg. Unfortunately it is the tip of the sinking iceberg as we lose biodiversity. But it is important that children are familiarized as quickly as possible that we live in symbiosis. We are symbiotic communities. Even humans are not just one species. We are these large mosaics of microbes.

Of all mushrooms commonly consumed, oyster mushrooms in the genus Pleurotus stand out as exceptional allies for improving human and environmental health. These mushrooms enjoy a terrific reputation as the easiest to cultivate, richly nutritious and medicinally supportive.

Time is short. We are going to lose 50% of the species on the earth in the next hundred years, of species that we know. What about the species that we don't know? Over 90% of the species in the kingdom of fungi are unknown. We only know about 10% of all the species that are out there. So we have a little bit of knowledge. And the little bit of knowledge that we have and what we know about it and how rapidly we are losing these candidate species means that we are losing tools in our biological tool chest.

If there were a United Organization of Organisms, otherwise called Uh-Oh, if every organism voted, would we be voted on the planet or off the planet? I think that vote is happening right now. Unless we pay attention to preserving biodiversity, the very organisms that give us life will be destroyed.

Mushrooms are miniature pharmaceutical factories, and of the thousands of mushroom species in nature, our ancestors and modern scientists have identified several dozen that have a unique combination of talents that improve our health.

Prevention is a lot better than treating after the fact. Every hour that we spend trying to prevent these bioepidemics and lots of species going down the toilet frankly, will be time very, very well spent.

Today, reishi stands out as one the most valuable of all polypore mushrooms in nature for the benefit of our health. Many naturopaths and doctors prefer organically-grown reishi from pristine environments because they are more pure.

If you do not know where the mushroom products you are consuming are grown, think twice before eating them.

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American Mycologist, Author, and Advocate of Bioremediation and Medicinal Mushrooms