9 Surprising Facts About Mushrooms

Mushrooms have been raising quite a few eyebrows lately, and for good reason. The fungi is a fascinating specimen, which can feed you, heal you, kill you, and if you’re lucky, can send you off on a cerebral adventure.

The mushroom is considered neither plant nor animal; it is a fungi with a communication network that not only links itself, but other species as well. Despite its long history with humans, this intelligent microorganism has remained somewhat of a mystery to us. There are currently more than 10,000 different types of mushrooms that we know of, with many mycologists believing that this just scratches the surface of the fungi kingdom.

Perhaps you’re only familiar with mushrooms from the fresh produce section of your local grocery store… Well there’s more, much more in fact, to this incredible fungi, and it’s well worth some exploration.

Mushrooms are our cousins.

Mushrooms and humans have common DNA, around 30%, making mushrooms closer cousins to humans and animals than they are to plants. Both humans and mushrooms produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, a trait that has thus far only been found in the animal kingdom.

Once upon a time only royalty were allowed to touch mushrooms.

In ancient Chinese culture, the lingzhi mushrooms were eaten for longevity. Even today, for the Chinese new year, mushrooms are served as a symbol of immortality. Hence, in ancient China and Egypt, the commoners were banned from touching mushrooms. They were considered divine and were reserved only for the royals.

Mushrooms are the safest recreational drug alongside cannabis.

A study of 19 commonly used legal and illegal substances in Scotland found mushrooms alongside cannabis to be our greatest allies, ranking LAST in the analysis of the actual danger that each substance possessed to individuals and to the wider society. Not surprisingly, alcohol (kills three million every year) ranked high on the list of actual danger, only to be usurped by heroin, crack and crystal meth.

Fried Chicken Mushrooms.

Vegans rejoice, it is said that Lyophyllum Decastes taste like fried chicken. When lightly sautéed in butter, the texture turns chewy resembling that of fried chicken. I don’t how much I buy into this, but hell, if it’s even half as good as fried chicken and has less calories than an apple, I’m going to consider it.

Magic Mushrooms are truly magical.

The active ingredient in what is commonly known as magic mushrooms is psilocybin. Obviously not all mushrooms contain this very interesting compound, however, this particular type of mushroom has been revered for its healing powers in various cultures around the world for millennia. The Stoned Ape hypothesis posited by renowned ethnobotanist terrance Mckenna suggests the human brain may have evolved when our ancestors consumed psilocybin mushrooms. Currently there is some promising research being undertaken in the scientific community on the effects of psilocybin on conditions such as PTSD, anxiety and depression.

Animals too love tripping out on mushrooms.

Apparently reindeers in the wild go to great lengths to seek out the fly agaric mushroom (Amanita Muscaria). When consumed they tend to run about aimlessly, make strange noises and suffer from head twitching. Some believe the reindeers eat the mushrooms to deal with the loneliness of the long, dreary winters of the far north. To make things even weirder, the herdsmen get in on the action by drinking reindeer urine, which is said to be more potent due to the digestion purifying the compounds of the mushroom from the toxins.

Mushrooms growing on lava deposits in Hawaii can induce orgasms.

A study published in International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms claimed to have found an unnamed species of mushroom growing on lava deposits, which when smelled induced spontaneous orgasms in nearly half of the female volunteer participants. Unfortunately, as it turns out, the study was called into question and at this time cannot be confirmed with any certainty. However, I firmly believe in manifesting your dreams, so I choose to consider this wonderful thing exists.

The largest living organism in the world is a fungi.

Nicknamed the Humongous Fungus, this is an organism much bigger than a blue whale covering nearly 4 square miles of a forest in Oregon. With a huge network of roots called mycellia that spread below the forest floor, this organism is a real life villain that loves infecting, felling and devouring trees in its wake.

Fungi could save the earth from plastic.

Recent studies have shown that even the ‘eco-friendly’ biodegradable plastic bags don’t disintegrate as promised. A university in the Netherlands has used fungi to convert toxic plastic waste into nutritious biomass. The fungi ate up the plastic and digested it completely and they are now looking at mycelium to help with long term waste management solutions. Mushrooms can digest plastic bags in the span of months rather than the hundreds of years they take to disintegrate naturally.