Day 185 @ ITP: Fungus Among Us

Final Presentation:
"Medicinal Properties of Reishi & An Experiment in Growing and Using Reishi Mushrooms for Immunity"

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Download the full PowerPoint presentation PDF here (does not include the Reishi tea, which was poured in class.) 

Links cited:

Video: Health Benefits of Reishi Mushroom

Definition: Polysaccharide

Reishi extract:

Reishi supplements: 

Video: Mushroom Powders Vs. Extracts

Reishi Mushroom Kit that I ordered:

Reishi Mushroom Tea Recipe:

Further research:

During this presentation I also explained that part of my final will be to experiment with growing Reishi mushrooms on my own. I ordered a kit, and plan to start it in May after this semester ends. I also explained how I used to get bronchitis every year my whole life, and that since using mushroom immunity pills (which include a variety of mushrooms as well as Reishi) for maintenance, I haven't gotten bronchitis in 3 years. 

I would like to start regularly using and processing dried whole Reishi mushrooms in tea or tincture form (eventually incorporating in the Reishi that I grow myself) to use every day instead of taking the mushroom immunity pills for daily maintenance. Overall I think it will be cheaper and more sustainable to incorporate into a daily routine. 

Also, a note on our mycelium growing project:

I am continuing to try to spore my mycelium experiment from class, though it appears to be stuck where it was. The spores are not spreading beyond the middle layer of the tupperware container I chose to house it in. I allowed more oxygen in but no further growth has appeared. I was definitely inspired to also make an art object inspired by it but focusing on Reishi seemed to be closer to my heart for this project, and I most likely would not have thought of trying to grow my own if it were not for this class and our experience with growing mycelium.

I think if I had focused on an art object I would have perhaps turned my piece into a plant holder or something practical that could live in my home to remind me of mycelium and its ways. However I think the readings and work in this class has solidified that I will be thinking about mycelium in relation to many things from now on.

Day 182 @ ITP: Fungus Among Us

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Slater, Lauren. "How psychedelic drugs can help patients face death." NY Times (2012).

Once the drug took effect, Reamer lay there and rode the music’s dips and peaks. Reamer said that her mind became like a series of rooms, and she could go in and out of these rooms with remarkable ease. In one room there was the grief her father experienced when Reamer got leukemia. In another, her mother’s grief, and in another, her children’s. In yet another room was her father’s perspective on raising her. “I was able to see things through his eyes and through my mother’s eyes and through my children’s eyes; I was able to see what it had been like for them when I was so sick.”

If psilocybin can so reliably induce these life-altering experiences, why have the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have taken magic mushrooms recreationally not had this profound experience? Grob explains that in addition to the carefully controlled setting of these studies and the opportunity to process the experience with the researchers, the subjects are primed for transcendence before they even take the drug. “Unlike the recreational user, we process the experience ahead of time,” Grob says. “We make it very clear up front that the hoped-for outcome is therapeutic, that they’ll have less anxiety, less depression and a greater acceptance of death.” Subjects, in other words, intend to have a transformative experience. Grob says that psilocybin taken in this setting is “existential medicine.”
Perhaps end-stage cancer patients are able to capture enduring benefits of psilocybin precisely because they are processing their drug experiences again and again with research staff and in doing so are changing the way the brain encodes positive memories. The phenomenon might be similar to how other memories work; when we remember something sweet-smelling, the olfactory neurons in our brain start to stir; when we remember running, our motor cortex begins to buzz. If this is the case then merely recalling the trip could resurrect its neural correlates, allowing the person to re-experience the insight, the awareness, the hope.

Griffiths continued: “When you make people less afraid to die, then they’re less likely to cling to life at a huge cost to society. After having such a transcendent experience, individuals with terminal illness often show a markedly reduced fear of dying and no longer feel the need to aggressively pursue every last medical intervention available. Instead they become more interested in the quality of their remaining life as well as the quality of their death.”

In a future still far off, Grob imagines retreat centers where the dying could have psilocybin administered to them by a staff trained for the task. Doblin asks: “Why confine this to just the dying? This powerful intervention could be used with young adults who could then reap the benefits of it much earlier.” The subjects who have undergone psilocybin treatment report an increased appreciation for the time they have left, a deeper awareness of their roles in the cycle of life and an increased motivation to invest their days with meaning. “Imagine allowing young adults, who have their whole lives in front of them, access to this kind of therapy,” Doblin says. “Imagine the kind of lives they could then create.”
If David Nutt, in Britain, is able to prove the efficacy of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression, would the F.D.A. ever consider approving it for that use? And if that ever were to happen, what sort of slippery slope would we find ourselves on? If, say, end-stage cancer patients can have it, then why not all individuals over the age of, say, 75? If treatment-resistant depressives can have it, then why not their dysthymic counterparts, who suffer in a lower key but whose lives are clearly compromised by their chronic pain? And if dysthymic individuals can have it, then why not those suffering from agoraphobia, shut up day and night in cramped quarters, Xanax bottles littered everywhere?
Besides, Grob told me, scientists are still at the very early stages of this research. “Twelve people,” he says of the size of his study. “One study with 12 people is not very definitive.” And yet, talking to him, you can hear a hint of excitement, something rising. “We saw remarkable and sustained changes in cancer patients’ spiritual dispositions. People’s entire sense of who they are has been altered in a positive manner.” He is looking forward to the day, he told me, when Griffiths and Ross “crunch their numbers” from their current studies. Grob says, “From what they say they’re seeing, it all sounds very positive.” Perhaps, then, we need not understand precisely how and why psilocybin works, accepting, as Halpern puts it, that “when you combine the chemical, the corporeal and the spiritual, you get a spark. You get magic.”
Bone, Eugenia. "Can Mushrooms Treat Depression?" NY Times (2014)

A study published last month in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface compared M.R.I.s of the brains of subjects injected with psilocybin with scans of their normal brain activity. The brains on psilocybin showed radically different connectivity patterns between cortical regions (the parts thought to play an important role in consciousness). The researchers mapped out these connections, revealing the activity of new neural networks between otherwise disconnected brain regions.
The researchers suspect that these unusual connections may be responsible for the synesthetic experience trippers describe, of hearing colors, for example, and seeing sounds. The part of the brain that processes sound may be connecting to the part of the brain that processes sight. The study’s leader, Paul Expert at King’s College London, told me that his team doubted that this psilocybin-induced connectivity lasted. They think they are seeing a temporary modification of the subject’s brain function.

The fact that under the influence of psilocybin the brain temporarily behaves in a new way may be medically significant in treating psychological disorders like depression. “When suffering depression, people get stuck in a spiral of negative thoughts and cannot get out of it,” Dr. Expert said. “One can imagine that breaking any pattern that prevents a ‘proper’ functioning of the brain can be helpful.” Think of it as tripping a breaker or rebooting your computer.
A range of studies have suggested that controlled doses of psilocybin can help the user escape cognitive ruts of all sorts. One study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2012, rated the vividness of autobiographical memory of subjects on psilocybin and found the drug enhanced their recollection, and “subjective well-being” upon follow-up. The researchers concluded that psilocybin might be useful in psychotherapy as an adjunct therapy to help patients reverse “negative cognitive biases” — a phenomenon common in depression by which one has a greater recall of negative memories than positive ones — and facilitate the recall of important memories.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting 16-year-olds take magic mushrooms. I’m not suggesting they be used to party at all. What I am advocating for is a mind open to the possibilities of their use to help people in need. Because illiberality doesn’t cure disease; curiosity does.

Claire Evans, "Livin' in a Mycelial World" Science Blogs, 2011

a visualization of the network structure of the Internet by  Hal Burch  and  Bill Cheswick , courtesy of Lumeta Corporation.

a visualization of the network structure of the Internet by Hal Burch and Bill Cheswick, courtesy of Lumeta Corporation.

Stamets, who calls mycelium “Earth’s Natural Internet,” puts it this way:
I believe the invention of the computer Internet is an inevitable consequence of a previously proven biologically successful model. The earth invented the computer internet for its own benefit, and we, now, being the top organism on this planet, [are] trying to allocate resources in order to protect the biosphere.
Going way out, dark matter conforms to the same mycelial archetype. I believe matter begets life, life becomes single cells, single cells become strings, strings become chains, chains network. And this is the paradigm that we see throughout the universe.
Mycelium, an intertwined network of cells permeating virtually all land masses of Earth, is not something to take lightly. It literally engulfs the soil beneath us in a sentient web, rising up beneath our footsteps, hungry for nutrients. There is something beautiful and horrifying, ancient and keenly technological about these organisms, a complexity it may take a psychedelically-informed, non-institutional mind to fully appreciate.

Day 178 @ ITP: Fungus Among Us

Critical Response

Paul Stamets: Mycelium Running

"We face the possibility of being rejected by the biosphere as a virulent organism. But if we act as a responsible species, nature will not evict us."

I think it is particularly interesting to think of the human race as a "virulent organism" that could be ejected from the planet if we do not reform. We have a lot to learn from mycelium and its way of integrating with and supporting the natural and healthily codependent cycles of life on Earth. The idea of "Biotech" is interesting to me because it unites us again with the natural source of many answers to health concerns (in tandem with nurturing and preserving that source), which the pharmaceutical industry has led us far from. 

The relationship between the mycelium's network and nature is highly symbiotic, and caring for the whole. It seems to be a network of non-hierarchy, where the health of the entire system is paramount. Knowing that we are related to fungi in some way makes it easier to see how we too could benefit from creating a non-hierarchical system where we collectively reform our ways to preserve the planet and ourselves as part of it as a whole. It seems that mycelium have also survived many of Earth's species' extinctions and disasters, so there is definitely something for us to learn from there. 

In fact, it seems the very fabric of the universe very much mirrors a mycological network, which is also apparent in the workings of our own brains, and the internet, our invention which mirrors all of the above. In a way the internet also seems like it could create this nonhierarchical access, depending on how we choose to use it.

Seeing mycelium as our "allies" is a deeply moving idea, and their intelligence feels quite mysterious but also fundamental to the workings of both our human brains and the workings of all life on Earth as well as in space itself. So if we can see our brains as also tapping into the greater good of something greater than ourselves, i.e. this mysterious "whole", then maybe we can be a bit more like fungi.

The term "Astrobiology" is fascinating to me. If we can extend our consciousness out from ourselves, and Earth, to the Universe, maybe feeling very small in context of it all (and also mycelium's role in life possibly on other planets or in space), and also how we must be careful not to inoculate unnecessarily outside of our biosphere, of would be humbling and have a positive effect on us as a species and our perception of our role in at all, and duties to both thrive/survive and support and not disrupt the helping and inter-dependent relationships between nature and ourselves, and even outer space. 

The arrangement of "matterenergy" (also just learned this term) in the universe, strings which conserve energy and resemble mycelium, which resembles the internet, brings us back to Paul Stamet's theory that the internet is an archetype rooted in this mycelium-like form which natural networks take.

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Stamets often underlines that our salvation as a planet and species will be to make like a mushroom and become more integrated in a nonhierarchical web of life, mirroring by the interdependence inherent in fungus intelligence and working with, supporting and becoming allies with both actual "mushroom medicine" as well as with the deep wisdom and metaphysical teachings of mycelium.

"The interconnectedness of life is an obvious truth that we ignore at our peril."

Day 178 @ ITP: Fungus Among Us

Week 2

Paul Stamets “Mycelium Running” 

Read pp 1-114 of (Yes, it’s a lot, I know. There are charts and pictures and it’s a quick read and you’ll thank me, hopefully. It’s a great book.)

Deleuze, Gilles, and Pierre Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1987)
Introduction: Rhizome

Tsing, Anna. “Unruly Edges: Mushrooms as Companion Species” Environmental Humanities (2012

Supplemental Videos:

ANALOGY: Douglas Hofstadter, Analogy as the Core of Cognition

How Mushrooms Can Save Bees & Our Food Supply, Paul Stamets, bioneers, 2014


Phil Ross, Mycotecture

Maurizio Montalti, Officina Corpuscoli

Maurizio Montalti, Bodies of Change

Jae Rim Lee, Mushroom Death Suit

Mediamatic Bio Art Industry

Paddestoelen Paradijs: Urban Mushroom Farm and New Materials Lab

Intimate Science

Studio Eric Klarenbeek's mycelium chair

Katherine Ball, Biological Sabotagerie

Spores in Space

Joans Edvard, Myx Lamp

Day 178 @ ITP: Fungus Among Us

Final project outline
Working title: "Medicinal Properties of Mushrooms & Their Effects on the Health of Humans and the Biosphere"

For our final project I would to focus on the medicinal properties of mushrooms. I will outline different types of commonly used medicinal mushrooms (Reishi, Chaga, Shiitake, Maitake, Turkey Tail, etc.) and their individual benefits, and talk about how they are used in boosting the immune system in humans, and possibly even proven to be able to shrink tumors or treat cancer, etc. and provide a basic overview of how that relationship with the human body works. I would also like to touch upon Paul Stamets' theory on mycelium's role in increasing immunity in bees and the impact this could have in preserving our planet's ecosystem as we know it. This could also lead to drawing a greater conclusion or parallel about "mushroom medicine" as a remedy for the state of the planet as a whole, and how mycelium works similarly in nature (an analog between the human body and nature itself). 

I will be using the readings and videos assigned from our class as well as the E-Book "Medicinal Mushrooms: Following the Natural Path to Boosting Your Immunity, Energy and Overall Health".