Fungi, or molds, are among the first forms of life ever found on Earth. Most people know fungi as mushrooms, funky looking plant-like organisms that we see growing above the ground. Fun fact: most fungi actually live underground or float in the air, where they play an important role for other flora and fauna.
Fungi, mycelium and their superpowers
How can mushrooms be a solution to current environmental problems? The answer has to do with their larger fungal organism, which is called mycelium. Mycelium is a network of tiny 'threads' that wrap around or burrow into tree roots. The threads are part of a so-called 'mycorrhizal network', which connects plants to transfer water, nitrogen, carbon and other minerals. What is special is the fact that fungi can absorb carbon from trees to grow themselves. Some fungal species can even store an extraordinary amount of carbon underground, preventing it from entering the atmosphere. In addition, fungi are also excellent cleaners that can clean up toxic waste such as oil, zinc, iron and lead.
Mushrooms and mental health
Mushrooms can help heal certain psychological problems. Theories of magic mushrooms as medicine may seem niche, but the fact is that mushrooms have been used for centuries to support health and wellness. In the 1960s, there was a renewed interest from American scientists in (magic) mushrooms and their beneficial effects. But all forms of research were blocked by Nixon in his war on drugs in 1970. Magic mushrooms were seen as a hard drug for hippies. In 1971, the United Nations also labeled the magic mushroom an addictive and dangerous drug. Only in recent years have Western scientists begun to investigate the beneficial effects of mushrooms on mental health.