5 Surprising Mushroom Myths
Mushrooms are a mysterious lot.
They’re neither plant nor animal, they can sprawl for kilometres beneath the soil, and they’re responsible for life as we know it.
So naturally, a living thing that carries so much wonder, mystery and significance, is also prone to some juicy myths and misconceptions.
So, we think it’s time to set the record straight with our top 5 mushroom myths…
Common mushroom myths, busted
Myth 1: All wild mushrooms are dangerous.
Eating backyard mushrooms is probably something your mum warned you against.
And while there are a few feisty fungi that aren’t fit for human consumption, saying that all wild mushrooms are poisonous is like saying all people are bad (a little rude and just plain wrong). Given that there are more than 1.5 million types of fungi, it would be foolish to throw them all out with the (presumed toxic) bathwater. In fact, research suggests that there are only around 60 species that are actually poisonous.
But before you go foraging for your dinner, we must admit that it can be quite difficult to tell the difference between an edible and toxic mushroom. You know how you were once told colourful mushrooms were the dangerous ones, and the boring white ones were for cooking? Yeah, another thing that’s not entirely true. One of the most dangerous mushrooms in the world looks as inoffensive as your standard supermarket variety. And as some poisonous mushrooms can kill, it’s pretty damn important to know what you’re consuming.
Moral of the story: leave wild mushroom foraging to the experts.
Myth 2: There’s a difference between mushrooms and toadstools.
If you were asked to picture a mushroom and toadstool side-by-side, what would come to mind? Possibly something bright and colourful on the left, and then maybe your standard cooking mushroom on the right?
Toadstools are sprinkled throughout literature as a symbol of fairylands and magical universes (Alice in Wonderland, anyone?) As children, we were told to look for fairies under spotted mushrooms in the garden (and were careful not to trample them while we were playing). So, despite these magical connotations, is there a difference between toadstools and mushrooms?
Well, uh, no.
Not in a scientific means, anyway. There’s no widely accepted way to tell the two apart, it’s just become acceptable in common speech to use the word toadstool to refer to toxic and inedible mushrooms, whereas mushroom describes the fungi we all love to cook with.
Myth 3: Magic mushrooms can explain the origin of Santa.
Since we’re on the subject of myth, we couldn’t skip past this one.
If you’re thinking that this less-than-innocent tale of Christmas cheer sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve already written about magic mushrooms and Santa here. But for those of you who are new here, according to anthropologists, magic mushrooms may explain why kids wait for a red-and-white flying elf to bring them presents on December 25.
An ancient folklore claims that Siberian Shamans used to share gifts of hallucinogenic mushrooms to their neighbours each winter. These red and white magic mushrooms look suspiciously like Santa’s iconic suit and are commonly found at the foot on pine trees (get it?)
And to top it off, reindeer were the spirit animal of Siberian Shaman, who were known to deliberately search for and eat these mushrooms.
Like any good story, it evolved. Quite a lot. Until these traditions spread around the world, blurring the lines between religious traditions and psychedelic mushrooms.
Some wholeheartedly believe this mythology. Others aren’t so sure. So, we’ll leave this one up to you.
Myth 4: Medicinal mushroom use is a new trend.
While Western culture may have been late to the mushroom party, medicinal mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. In fact, one of the earliest known usages was from the Greek physician Hippocrates, circa 450 BCE, who classified the amadou mushroom as an effective anti-flammatory. Despite its historical use, mushrooms seem to remain an enigma to modern medicine - however this unawareness appears to be (thankfully) rapidly changing.
Myth 5: Mushrooms are made up of mostly water and contain no real goodness.
While it’s true that mushrooms are made up of mostly water (92%, in fact), they’re loaded in goodness (the technical term for nutrients, of course).
Yep, there’s an (almost) never-ending list of health benefits attributed to mushroom consumption. Made up of vitamins, minerals, fibre, beta glucan, protein, antioxidants, B vitamins, potassium and more, mushrooms can work to support immunity, decrease inflammation, boost brain health, increase energy and promote a healthy heart.
And that’s just the beginning.
At Natura Mushrooms, we grow, harvest and source a range of medicinal mushrooms to enhance your mind, body and spirit. From brain-boosting lion’s mane to relaxing reishi to immunity-enhancing turkey tail - take a look at our mushroom supplement purchasing guide to find the best solution for you.