Welcome to Mycognosis

Fungi are essential to life on Earth, but strangely, until quite recently they have largely been ignored by western science, medicine and agriculture.

Now, as a result of recent research, a resurgence of traditional knowledge, and the efforts of citizen scientists and home cultivators, the value of these species is being recognized as a source of nutrition, medicine, ecological remediation, soil building, recycling and more.

This site is dedicated to learning and sharing information about Fungi, what part they play in nature, and how we can benefit from integrating them into our lives, our communities and our environment.

Herbs & Mushrooms vs Lyme Disease

Yesterday we went to see Steven Martyn of the Sacred Gardener giving a talk called “Dancing with Lyme“. Steven is an experienced herbalist who has personally experienced Lyme in the long term. He first acquired it while camping in Florida, and after initially suppressing it with pharmaceutical antibiotics, it resurfaced (or he re-acquired it)  about a decade later. With the help of his colleagues who shared their knowledge based on recent advances in the understanding of how the infection works, he is now symptom-free. He does not discount the possibility that the bacteria may still be in his body in its encysted, dormant form.

I will report what I can recall of his account, as he had a lot of useful insights and references. I also added some links of my own. After that I’ll add what I have found in reference to mushrooms which might also help in the prevention and cure of Lyme, because Steven’s expertise in mostly in the area of herbs.

Spirochetal Bacterium Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is an infectious disease caused by bacteria of the Borrelia type. It is a spirochetal (corkscrew-shaped) bacterium which is extremely fast and capable of drilling itself into tissues to avoid detection by the immune system. It targets inflammation in joints and nerve tissue, taking advantage of existing conditions like candida, arthritis, and congenital predispositions, like nerve problems.

These bacteria are carried between species by black legged, or deer, ticks. The nymphs hatch from the eggs uninfected, but can acquire the bacteria from the small rodents on which they pass their first stage of feeding. The tick then lies in wait for a larger animal: a deer, a dog, or you. As the tick begins feeding, the bacteria react to the first blood “analyzing” the immune response and adapting itself to attack or evade, your specific defenses. Individuals with compromised immune systems, whether through emotional or physical stress, genetic predisposition, poor diet, or preexisting infections etc., are more susceptible.

In addition to Lyme, ticks (being the filthy little creatures they are) are usually carrying one or more other bacteria (Babeia, a malaria-like parasite, Bartonella, bacteria that live primarily inside the lining of the blood vessels and more) so that a majority of those infected by Lyme report co-infections of one or more other pathogens. Lyme takes advantage of the inflammations caused by these co-infections. And of course these diseases have there own symptoms.

It should be noted that Steven and all the experts he cited said that if you have been bitten by a deer tick to immediately go to emergency for treatment with antibiotics. If the course they offer is less, go to your doctor and get it extended to 18-21 days. Unfortunately sometimes the bacteria may survive the treatment and emerge later, in which case further treatment with antibiotics may prove ineffective.

Steven’s main treatment reference is a book by Stephen Harrod Buhner called Healing Lyme. Buhner’s protocol is outlined on his site. Steven also got a lot of help from Stephen O’Neill at the Ontario Lyme disease Clinic and Dr. Maureen McShane.

Astragalus, Huang-qi, Astragalus membranaceus a member of the Pea Family (Fabaceae or Leguminosae) is native to Northeast Asia, cultivated elsewhere. The root is used, and is a famous tonic in traditional Chinese medicine, valued in the West as an immunostimulant.For prevention they recommend Astragalus (available as dried herb, seeds, or young plants from Ritcher’s). Treatments for active Lyme include Teasel, Cat’s Claw, Japanese Knotweed Root (get it from a neighbor who is battling the stuff), Artemisia (Wormwood), Cleavers and Andrographis. Buhner recommends drawing out the spirochetes (with teasel tincture), and rebuilding your collagen, before killing the them.

Buhner has a page recommending herb sources on his site (probably US suppliers), and Steven Martyn recommends Organic Connections, Wainfleet, Herbies Herbs, Toronto, Judy’s Organic Herbs, Ottawa (who has a line of Buhner remedies), and Amazon. With the Ontario companies tell them that Steven From Algonquin Tea sent you and outright demand the best herbs.

For fighting Lyme, Steven recommended a diet that avoids  sugar, even maple syrup, fruit or sweet corn. Concentrate, instead, on high quality proteins and fats. Astragalus is food herb that boosts the immune system which can also be added to dishes as a thickener. Hot baths, showers, saunas help make the body inhospitable to the germs, and movement like Tai Chi, yoga or exercise helps clear the lymph system of the waste byproducts of the immune response.

Ingredients for an Immune Boosting Tea Clockwise from the top: Clockwise from the top: Ginseng, Maitake, Reishi, Chaga, Artists' Conk, ShiitakeSteven’s talk prompted me to do a bit of quick, research on recommendations for specific mushrooms to treat Lyme disease. To be honest, I should have looked this up before, as Lyme is endemic in the area.

The sites I found were mostly anecdotal, but a quick glance over the offerings finds the regular suspects recommended: Chaga*, Shiitake, Maitake*, Reishi, and Coryceps. I’m curious about the possibilities for Artists’ Conk* and Birch Polypore* because they are also found in the woods* where the ticks hang out, and my mother taught me that the cure is often found near the cause (like nettles and dock). According to The Fungal Pharmacy they are both anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, analgesic, and immune boosting.

One site that lists similar herbal treatments to what Steven recommends as well as some mushroom extracts is Restor Medicine.

We’ll be taking Sacred Gardener’s Astragalus tincture along with our regular Chaga and Turkey Tail. I also keep a brew of Immune Boosting Tea on the slow cooker with the addition of Birch polypore. We will also be starting a dedicated garden for the herbs mentioned above.

Cold/Flu Immune Booster Tea

Ginseng, a well known immune system booster, is the only non-fungal ingredient in this concoction. The mushrooms included are Maitake, Reishi, Chaga, Artists’ Conk, Shiitake These are chosen for their general immune boosting, or specific flu fighting, properties according to The Fungal Pharmacy by herbalist Robert Rogers. The Reishi and Ginseng were bought in Toronto’s Chinatown, the rest were grown or foraged locally.

Ingredients for an Immune Boosting Tea Clockwise from the top: Reichi, Artists' Conk, Chaga (centre), Maitake, Ginseng, ShiitakeThe amount below was added to 2lt of water and simmered on the wood stove down to 1lt. The result can be kept in the fridge added to juice, kombucha or tea (or any combo of those) for a daily tonic. For a less bitter tea leave out the Reishi and the Conk. The resulting broth is good in soups and other dishes where stock is used.

Ingredients for an Immune Boosting Tea Clockwise from the top: Clockwise from the top: Ginseng, Maitake, Reishi, Chaga, Artists' Conk, Shiitake

Ideas for a Local Mushroom Working Group

Pleurotis ulmarius: White Elm Oysters grown indoors on straw Wood chips and sawdustI want to get some like minded people from my area together to share our interest in fungi, and maybe work together on some projects. Somehow calling it a “Mycological Society” or “Association” doesn’t sound right. So for now I’m going with a “Working Group”, as I hope it will be activity oriented, and proactive in the larger community. Below I’ve jotted down some ideas on the subject:

Why a Mushroom Working Group?

Fungi are essential to life on Earth, but strangely, until quite recently they have largely been ignored by western science, medicine and agriculture. Now, as a result of recent research, a resurgence of traditional Hypsizygus ulmarius: (Elm Oyster) Found growing from a wound on an elm treeknowledge, and the efforts of citizen scientists and home cultivators, the value of these species is being recognized as a source of nutrition, medicine, ecological remediation, soil building, recycling and more.

Fungi are a part of every ecosystem, and many mycophiles (people who love mushrooms)  get a great deal of pleasure just observing, photographing, collecting and identifying the various species that they encounter on a walk in a forest, field, park, or their Ingredients for an Immune Boosting Tea Clockwise from the top: Reichi, Artists' Conk, Chaga (centre), Maitake, Ginseng, Shiitakebackyard. For many the “use” of a particular fungus is less important than its identity and its interrelationship with its environment.

Others see that our forests contain a wealth of food and medicine just waiting to be harvested. Others use techniques for growing mushrooms indoors and out that they are constantly refining. Strains of fungi are being developed for countless applications, from recycling specific waste products and breaking down toxic compounds to attacking specific diseases.

Just as fungi, and their actions in the environment, are diverse, so are the ways in which people engage with them: collectors, foragers, farmers, Dehydrated Puffballs: Add the dehydrated mushies to your soup for a shroomey noodlewoodlot manages, gardeners, herbalists, restaurateurs, environmentalists, landscapers, and home cultivators all bring their unique perspective to mycology. A Mycological Working Group can benefit all these people as the communication will help increase the successes of everyone involved. Plus it’s  more fun in a group.

What can a Mycological Working Group Do?

Work on projects together
Piptoporus betulinus, commonly known as the birch polypore, birch bracket, or razor strop,and lend support to each others’ projects. These can include indoor and outdoor activities such as:
-Forage for edible and medicinal mushrooms
-Forage to identify/collect/photograph all types of mushrooms
-Inoculate stumps in harvested/de-forested areas to accelerate reforestation
-Grow mushrooms on farm/garden/kitchen waste
-Use fungi to help clean up land or water that is contaminated
-Create permaculture “forest gardens”, incorporating mushrooms and other food plants
-Combine mushroom beds within vegetable gardens
-Grow mushrooms indoors in containers or outdoors on logs or beds of wood chips
Outdoor mushroom cultivation on logs: Some species like to fruit standing up, some lying down, some partially or fully buried. Give them what they want!-Collect/propagate/preserve a library of mushroom cultures
-Build a lab for sterile procedures
-Build an incubator to grow cultures
-Build a room for fruiting large quantities of mushrooms

Share knowledge and skills.
A diverse group as mentioned above brings with it a variety of experience from which all can benefit. Below is a list of things that can be learned and shared.
-Mushroom Identification
-Laboratory techniques
The Contents of the Sterile Glove Box: In this case set up for cloning; petri dishes with nutrified agar, butane torch, needles and syringes, alcohol spritzer, scalpel and tweezers.-Culinary skills
-Food Preservation, tinctures and extracts
-Medicinal and nutritional knowledge
-Gardening/farming skills
-Animal husbandry
-Forest management
-Chainsaw/wood chipper skills
-Landscaping
-Construction
King Oyster mycelia: Mushrooms bought in Chinatown and cloned to agar-Heating and Air Conditioning
-Artistic skills (dyeing, paper and textile making, sculpture)
-Research

Share resources.
A group can take advantage of the economy of scale to save money buying supplies and sharing spaces together. Some of the resources a group might purchase together include mushroom cultures and spawn, consumable lab Cultivating spwan on Grain: Modified Mason Jars with silicone injection ports and polyfil filters for passive air exchangesupplies like disposable petri dishes and nutrient media, or grow bags for indoor cultivation.

Even better is sharing resources already in your possession on group projects. Facilities can be shared, like unused indoor spaces for meeting, growing, and storage. Public and private outdoor spaces like developed and undeveloped forested areas, gardens,  yards, and empty lots. Members of the group can also share growing substrates they may have access to, like farm/garden waste, wood chips, compost, manure, coffee grounds, spent grain from brewing and more.

Many members will have the specialized tools that go with their skills and areas of expertise:
King Oyster Harvest Time: Mushrooms bought in Chinatown and cloned to agar then grown out on sawdust and wood chips and straw.-Books
-Chain saw/wood chipper
-Pressure cooker
-Rototiller/gardening tools
-Tractor
-Construction and fabrication tools
-Lab/medical equipment
-Mason jars/bottles

Myco-medicine with Tradd Cotter

Tradd Cotter explains how his patented process will enable us to make personal, specifically targeted, antibiotic, antiviral and anticancer drugs. You can see lots more of Todd’s videos and buy his book at Chelsea Green Publishing. The video below starts at the part where he describes his discovery, but the whole video is worth watching if you have the time.

The Great Elm Oyster (Hypsizygus ulmarius) Mix-up

Hypsizygus ulmarius (elm Oyster) in situIn early October my partner mentioned they had seen a solitary mushroom emerging from a wound in an elm tree on our local trail. This especially interested me because of the Muskoka Mushroom Mystery. I took my camera up there to get some pictures on site before collecting the specimen to clone for possible cultivation.

With help from the FaceBook Mushroom ID Forum and a look at the Mushroom Expert website it seemed we had found an Elm Oyster (Tom Robbins photo of hypsizygus ulmarius from The Mushroom Expert http://www.mushroomexpert.com/hypsizygus_ulmarius.htmlHypsizygus ulmarius). Mystery solved. Perhaps, but this raised another question for me, because I thought I knew the Elm Oyster.

I had bought some Elm Oyster (H ulmarius) liquid culture from Gallboys on Amazon in 2015 and I have been growing it quite successfully ever since. I find them particularly suited to indoor fruiting. Where the Blue and Pearl Oysters tend to produce “coral-like” fruits in my FWhite Elm Oyster from Gallboys identifed as H ulmarius but is it?C, the Elms produce big fleshy, but delicate, fruitbodies. Too tender,and quick to dry out, they would not do well in shipping or shelf life; but nice eating. The trouble is, they look like the mushrooms in the picture on the right. I wonder if these are Pleurotus ulmarius, a name which is sometimes mentioned as synonymous or outdated.

Hypsizygus ulmarius? No less that Paul Stamets has touted the H ulmarius on his site and trademarked the name Hypsizygus ulmarius Garden Patch (HUG) which depicts a Pleurotus-like oyster.It’s not just that Gallboys have mixed up their cultures (they do also sell what they call White Elm Oysters – P ulmarius which I have not seen). A search of the internet for “Hypsizygus ulmarius” turns up about a 50/50 split between pictures of the two distinct species. The divide is pretty clearly between growers and field mycologists.

No less than Paul Stamets has touted the H ulmarius on his site and trademarked the name Hypsizygus ulmarius Garden Patch (HUG) on a PDF which depicts a Pleurotus-like oyster. Studies have shown this mushroom to be a great companion for vegetables. The study is mentioned in Mycelium Running Growing Gourmet & Medicinal Mushrooms by Paul Stamets The study is mentioned in Mycelium Running and specs for growing it are featured in his Growing Gourmet & Medicinal Mushrooms. But how can these studies have gotten so far with the species misnamed?and specs for growing it are featured in his Growing Gourmet & Medicinal Mushrooms.  But how can these studies have gotten so far with the species misnamed?

I’m leaving the comments open on this post because I’d really like to hear from some of you who are in the know. I’ll  be posting a links on a couple of FB pages like MycTor and Mushroom ID in hope of getting some feed back.

Thanks in advance, fellow Mycophiles!

The One that (almost) Got Away Pt.2

Hypsizygus ulmarius (elm Oyster) in situIn early October my partner mentioned they had seen a solitary mushroom emerging from a wound in an elm tree on our local trail. I was interested, of course, but all the more so because it reminded me of the Muskoka Mystery Mushroom which had I found in similar habitat, but in a primordial stage that made it hard to ID. I immediately headed up there with my camera. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake as I did on the Cain Foray and just rely on my iPhone.

Mature elm oyster (H. ulmarius) with firm slightly striated stem stipeLong story short, it’s a very good candidate for the MMM. The horizontal stem emerging from deep in a wound. The very firm striated stipe. This was a very mature specimen quite dry and so no exudate, but that is not unexpected. Unfortunately I only have my memory to go on as the pictures of the MMM are not good.

Tom Robbins photo of hypsizygus ulmarius from The Mushroom Expert http://www.mushroomexpert.com/hypsizygus_ulmarius.htmlWith help from the FaceBook Mushroom ID Forum and a look at the Mushroom Expert website it seemed we had found an Elm Oyster (Hypsizygus ulmarius). Mystery solved. Perhaps, but this raised another question for me, because I thought I knew the Elm Oyster Because I grow them. Read more about the questions this raises…

Puffball Personal Pizzas

Here is a use for those pre-fried and frozen puffball slices. After thawing and separating them, I baked them on a rack in the oven at 350F while I prepared a tomato sauce and toppings. Then I dressed them and put them back in until they looked done. Served in this case with a side of borscht.

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New Improved RS Steam Heat Pasteurizer

After using my Richard Simmons Steam Heat Pasteurizer  a few times I could see some room for improvement. For one steam leaked out around the steam unit and heat was escaping all over. I found another bin at the Salvation Army and put the hole thing inside it and insulated with low expanding spray foam.

Substrate now heats up to 164F in about .5 of an hour with three elements on.  Then after .5 hour on one burner, the temp was 180 F. At that point the unit was turned off and left the substrate temp was still over 165 F over a hour later.