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Mushrooms [publisher's letter]

Tracy Patterson

I am excited to introduce our new Plant Medicine section, which starts on page 34 and will be featured in every issue. Plant medicine has been in use for thousands of years, and it only makes sense to include this section so that you, the reader, have a place to begin your research on some possible alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs. And plant medicine is not just about treating illness, we can also use the power of plants as a proactive method of keeping illness away and attending to our overall mind-body health.

Over time, we will take a look at a variety of topics, including medical marijuana, herbs, roots, essential oils, flower essences, certain foods, and any other wonderful tidbits we can “dig” up as we go along.

I’ll leave you with a short anecdote on mushrooms, which I was reminded of after reading the article “Medicinal Mushrooms: Beyond Buttons and Portabellas” on page 36.

A number of years ago, I found myself at a mushroom festival. I knew next to nothing about mushrooms, other than a couple of varieties I often bought at the grocery store were very tasty.

As I’m talking to people in this huge room filled with every kind of mushroom imaginable, I’m thinking, “Who knew that people have fungi as a hobby, and that it is such a vast subject, requiring so much knowledge?!” It was particularly interesting (and a little scary) to learn that two species can look almost identical, and yet one is edible and the other poisonous—in other words, one should know their mushrooms before sampling these delicacies along the trail.

One species I learned about at the festival, often found along the trails where I lived, was the fly agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria). They have whitish stalks with white-spotted bright-red caps. What I didn’t know is that they are known for their hallucinogenic properties, but they aren’t often eaten because they have unpleasant side effects.

All I could think about when I saw them was that they looked like little villages, and I expected to see tiny people coming out of these red-capped “structures.” In fact, this fairy-tale scene triggered a memory of old Disneyland cartoons, particularly Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. And, no, I did not eat any before these thoughts popped into my head!

I hope that you enjoy this new section and that it provides you with more plants to ponder in your quest for holistic alternatives.