Paul Stamets has been a dedicated mycologist for more than four decades translating his love for the fungi into a thriving business and a visionary research facility. He has received many awards including but not limited to:

  • 1998, "Bioneers Award" from The Collective Heritage Institute
  • National Geographic Adventure Magazine's "Green-Novator"
  • 2008 he was named one of "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World" by Utne Reader
  • 2014 the "Invention Ambassador" by the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

As an author he has written six books on mushroom cultivation, identification and use which have been recognized as the definitive texts, as well as many scholarly papers and articles, and his book "Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms can Help Save The World" he reveals the hitherto unrecognized value of these denizens of the forest floor.

The path that started with a trip

Paul Stamets was a shy young man with a stuttering problem and because of it he couldn't look people in the eye. At the age of 18 he ate a psilocybin mushroom for the first time and while hallucinating he got caught in a summer thunderstorm and climbed a tree for shelter. While nestled in the bough of the tree, tripping out on psilocybin, he began to examine his life and asked himself why he stuttered so much. Not finding an answer he began repeating to himself, "Stop muttering now".

The next morning someone greeted him and he looked them back in the eye and responded in kind without stuttering. That was when he realized that mushrooms were really important to him.

Stamets enrolled in college and eventually graduated from Olympia's Evergreen State College. He studied biology and electron microscopy and pioneered research on psilocybin. His love if not outright obsession for mushrooms has led to many amazing discoveries.

In one study he revealed how oyster mushrooms can break down 95% of hydrocarbons in a diesel soaked patch of dirt much more effectively than conventional methods. And what is most amazing about his process is that the toxic hydrocarbons are broken down into its non toxic constituents. This method can also be used, says Stamets, to break down dioxins, PCBs and even nerve gas.

Guardians of the ecosystem

Mushrooms are the guardians of the ecosystem and are a primary pillar of the food web, connecting food chains, recycling nutrients keeping the forests healthy and may have been the harbingers of life on this planet as fossil records have revealed that at one time the planet was populated by fungi as big as trees. Though it was 650 million years ago that the animal kingdom branched off from the fungi kingdom, fungi and humans still have nearly half of their DNA in common. Because of this, "our ancestors", as Stamets likes to refer to mushrooms are susceptible to many of the same infections we are.

Stamets has also shown that the health benefits of mushrooms goes far beyond their potential abundance of vitamin D. In one study he reveals the antiviral properties of the mycelium of the mushroom and his "mycomedicines" have the capacity to treat influenza, HIV, cancer, smallpox without any apparent toxicity. Over a four year period he filed twenty-two patents and once after giving a talk about the use of fungi to kill carpenter ants he was approached by two retired pesticide industry executives who warned him to watch his back, feeling that their former employers would feel threatened by his cheap, nontoxic pesticide.

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