Paul Stamets’ TED Talk 10 years ago triggered the modern movement around all things mycelium and fruiting body. His 17-minute talk was a quick dive into the deep end of the pool in some of the many ways mushrooms can save the world—cleaning polluted soil, making insecticides and treating smallpox and flu viruses.
Mind-expanding though that TED Talk was, Natural Products Expo East attendees can thrill to a Stamets' treatise that’s nearly three times as long as he finishes off the Wednesday, Sept. 12, Supplements Round Table.
Herewith, we excerpt four Q&As with Stamets from one of his books, MycoMedinals: An Informational Treatise on Mushrooms (MycoMedia Productions, 2002).
Why is it important that mushrooms be grown organically?
Paul Stamets: Mushrooms are great sources of medicines but they can also concentrate heavy metals, especially if their culture is proximate to an industrialized area. Pollutants from air and water can be taken up from the soil and passed directly into the mycelial network. It is essential that not only mushrooms are grown according to certified organic practices, but are grown in environments free of air and water pollution. Remember: mushrooms are a reflection of the environment in which they are grown.
Simple question to ask your supplier: Where are their mushrooms grown? Do you provide an analysis for pesticide residues? Answers to these questions could significantly influence the quality of medicinal properties of the mushroom products being marketed and consumed.
Why use a mushroom blend?
PS: A number of researchers have come to the conclusion that, to maximize a host-mediated response—that is, to ‘awaken’ the immune system—a panoply of polysaccharides and medicinal mushroom constituents is best. These constituents increase the number and activity of macrophages, killer T and NK (natural killer) lymphocytes. Combining medicinal mushroom species sends the immune system multiple stimuli, awakening the body’s natural defense. As each species is a unique combination of these macro-sugars, their decomposition sequences result in sub-derivatives that are unique, activating a broader spectrum of receptor sites in the immune system than from just one species or compound.
Should mushrooms be cooked?
PS: Mushrooms should be cooked before being eaten. They offer little nutritional or medicinal benefit if not heat tenderized. Experts in nutrition like Andrew Weil, and numerous experts in mycology agree. Cell wall constituents such as, but not limited to, protein-bound polysaccharides are not readily digestible without heat treatment. It is well known that, for instance, raw shiitake mushrooms will pass undigested if uncooled, whereas they will be digested when subjected to heat. This is because the polysaccharides are in a matrix of chitinous-like cells forming the touch exoskeleton of the mycelium.
Are there any studies that show that certain mushrooms are safe to take in an extract form during pregnancy and at what dose?
PS: No, none that I know. In absence of precise information to the contrary, I would still error on the side of caution and not recommend the use of extracts during pregnancy. Consult a qualified medicinal practitioner, which frankly may be difficult to find in this subject field.
Paul Stamets at Natural Products Expo East
What: Stamets will conclude The Supplement Round Table with a talk titled "Building a Healthier World with the Power of Mushrooms." His speaking slot is 2:50-3:30 p.m.
When: Wednesday, Sept. 12, 1-3:30 p.m.
Where: Hilton, Key Ballroom 9/10
Sponsor: Reserveage Nutrition