Fans of Super Mario play with them. Doctors study them. Chefs around the world cook with them. They appear overnight, disappear just like fast and leave no trace of their visit. Students of this world are called mycologists and now, the fungus is being viewed as a possible treatment for cancer, PTSD-post-traumatic stress disorder and some psychological disorders.
Mushrooms, sometimes called toadstools, are fleshy bodies of fungus that grow above ground on soil or on a food source. They’re separated from the plant world in a kingdom all their very own called Myceteae because they do not contain chlorophyll like green plants.
Without the method of photosynthesis, some mushrooms obtain nutrients by deteriorating organic matter or by feeding from higher plants. These are referred to as decomposers. Another sector attacks living plants to kill and consume them and they’re called parasites. Edible and poisonous varieties are mycorrhizal and are observed on or near roots of trees such as oaks, pines and firs.
For humans, mushrooms may do certainly one of three things-nourish, heal or poison. Few are benign. The three most popular edible versions of this ‘meat of the vegetable world’ will be the oyster, morel and chanterelles.
They’re used extensively in cuisine from China, Korea, Japan and India. Actually, China may be the world’s largest producer cultivating over 50% of all mushrooms consumed worldwide. Shroom chocolate Most of the edible variety inside our supermarkets have been grown commercially on farms and include shiitake, portobello and enoki.
Eastern medicine, especially traditional Chinese practices, has used mushrooms for centuries. In the U.S., studies were conducted in the early ’60s for possible methods to modulate the immune protection system and to inhibit tumor growth with extracts utilized in cancer research.
Mushrooms were also used ritually by the natives of Mesoamerica for a large number of years. Called the ‘flesh of the gods’ by Aztecs, mushrooms were widely consumed in religious ceremonies by cultures throughout the Americas. Cave paintings in Spain and Algeria depict ritualized ingestion dating back in terms of 9000 years. Questioned by Christian authorities on both parties of the Atlantic, psilocybin use was suppressed until Western psychiatry rediscovered it after World War II.
A 1957 article in Life Magazine titled “Seeking the Magic Mushroom” spurred the interest of America. The following year, a Swiss scientist named Albert Hofman, identified psilocybin and psilocin since the active compounds in the ‘magic’ mushrooms. This prompted the creation of the Harvard Psilocybin Project led by American psychologist Timothy Leary at Harvard University to study the effects of the compound on humans.
In the quarter century that followed, 40,000 patients were given psilocybin and other hallucinogens such as LSD and mescaline. More than 1,000 research papers were produced. Once the federal government took notice of the growing subculture available to adopting the utilization, regulations were enacted.
The Nixon Administration began regulations, including the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The law created five schedules of increasing severity under which drugs were to be classified. Psilocybin was place in the most restrictive schedule I alongside marijuana and MDMA. Each was defined as having a “high potential for abuse, no currently acceptable medical use and deficiencies in accepted safety.”
This ended the research for nearly 25 years until recently when studies opened up for potential used in dealing with or resolving PTSD-post-traumatic stress disorder alongside anxiety issues. By June 2014, whole mushrooms or extracts have been studied in 32 human clinical trials registered with the U.S. National Institutes of Health because of their potential effects on a number of diseases and conditions. Some maladies being addressed include cancer, glaucoma, immune functions and inflammatory bowel disease.
The controversial part of research is the use of psilocybin, a naturally occurring chemical using mushrooms. Its ability to simply help people experiencing psychological disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD and anxiety remain being explored. Psilocybin has already been shown to be effective in treating addiction to alcohol and cigarettes in a few studies