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History of use in Asia;

The Reishi mushroom has had a documented history of use as a ‘health booster’ within China and Japan for almost 2,500 years, with depictions frequently being seen in both Chinese and Japanese writings and artworks. The reality is that Reishi has most likely been used for far longer than its recorded beginnings, being estimated to have been consumed up to 4,000 years ago throughout many Asian cultures, being featured in both Indian and Korean history too. The mushroom, often nicknamed ‘the mushroom of immortality’ is also known as Lingzhi in China and Mannetake in Japan. In East Asian culture, the Reishi mushroom has been and still is one of the most sought after medicinal herbs, with a number of powerful artworks and myths, for example the myth of Magu (seen in Chinese and Korean literature) referring to the power of reishi.

The first noted mention of the mushroom comes in The First Edition of The Chinese Materia Medica (History of Pharmacy), during the Han Dynasty, over 2,000 years ago, with the mushroom still receiving mentions in China’s modern pharmacopoeia editions.

History of use in Scandinavia;

The Chaga mushroom has a lengthy history of use, throughout Russia, Korea, Eastern and Northern Europe, Northern United States, North Carolina mountains and Canada, with reports detailing that ‘Otzi the Iceman’ (a caveman who was preserved within a sheet of ice), was found with Chaga in his pouch. This was known to be a prehistoric way of both making and sustaining fires for long periods of time, with Otzi believed to have lived over five thousand years ago. The mushroom was once again mentioned in China’s first documented pharmacopoeia as a ‘king of herbs’

The Chaga mushroom has a detailed history of use within Native Medicine, dating back to The Khanty People of Western Siberia in the 12th Century and the Native Canadian population who used a Chaga tea to detox their body and to create anti-inflammatory soaps. Many references to the Chaga mushroom can be seen throughout Russian texts, being used to treat tumours and a host of other medical conditions such as liver conditions and stomach problems including gastritis and ulcers. 

Earlier Mushroom Use;

When looking further back into the history of mushroom use

Visual and written documentation of pre-Mayan cultures using psychedelic psilocybin mushrooms dates back to 1500 BCE, with temples and stones depicting the gods of fungi dating back to 1000 - 500 BCE, whilst shamans from the Mazatec Civilisation in Mexico were well known for their use of psychedelic containing mushrooms during spiritual ceremonies. 

Accounts of psychedelic mushroom use has also been reported in early Greek Traditions, with a drink known as kykeon being reported to contain psychoactive chemicals, including mushrooms, whilst in Northern Australia, cave drawings dating back as far as 10,000 BCE have been shown to depict shamans under the influence of psychedelic mushrooms. 

History of Pharmaceutical Industry/Birth of Modern Medicine 

For thousands of years, civilisations relied solely on natural medicines and supplements to solve medical problems and for daily support. In the last 100 - 150 years there has been a total change in medical approaches, with the explosion of the pharmaceutical industry, society has often forgotten natural medicines and instead now relies solely on synthetic mediations. 

The roots of the pharmacological industry date as far back as The Middle Ages, with a rather wild west style of apothecaries and pharmacies offering, often hit and miss, rudimentary treatments that were usually passed on by folklore and would be largely natural treatments. It wasn’t until the mid 19th Century that industrial pharmaceutical really began, with the likes of Merke and GlaxoSmithKline emerging in Germany, Pfizer in USA, Roche and Sandoz in Switzerland and the first factory dedicated solely to making medicines was opened by Beecham’s in The UK in 1859. 

Both the civil war in the USA, along with the two World Wars that later came really accelerated both the power and scope of the pharmaceutical industry, creating an insatiable demand for both painkillers and antibiotics. During this period the unregulated nature of the trade in medicines meant now controversial products like heroin and cocaine were often seen on the over-the-counter market. Regulation and control of the market largely came soon after the war, with the creation of the NHS in England, bringing in price fixing (ensuring the pharmaceutical companies a good return for investments when creating new drugs). This was when the pharmaceutical boom truly happened, both in profits for the companies, along with the production and development of many new drugs.

Whilst some companies largely focused on the development of new drugs, truly for the benefit of those who needed them, the majority of pharmaceutical companies saw profits as their biggest concern. The companies patent many drugs (so that others are unable to produce them), whilst pushing the prices of these drugs higher, often to a point where those who need them most simply can’t afford them. Malaria medication being one of the most obvious examples of this, which, if given out for free throughout the African continent would, whilst affecting profits, most likely solve a problem that over 600,000 people die from every year.

Almost 100 years later we have seen the true scope of the power that money can bring, with many pharmaceutical companies having their moral compass truly brought into question. With the ability to pick and choose who and where medication will be sent to, pharmaceutical companies have a seemingly unbreakable stronghold of power throughout the political world. 

With a slew of controversies marring the name of the pharmaceutical industry, including bribery and human rights abuses it wasn’t until an epidemic took hold of The American population that the world really started to listen. A massive push to prescribe both opiates and benzodiazepines throughout Northern America has led to an drug epidemic on a scale never seen before. It wasn’t gangs or street dealers getting people hooked but actually the health professionals who were meant to help them. A simple sporting injury or broken bone, coupled with a prescription from the doctor has brought many, who would previously never have touched ‘illegal drugs’ to a lifetime of addiction and the very real possibility of overdose and death. 

Synthetic medicines, which actually often use natural medicines as their precursors, are now being exposed for their potentially harmful reactions and their often lack of ability to actually cure the problems that they are meant to be helping with. This is most prominent when it comes to complex issues such as mental health and gut health, where pharmaceuticals are compared to placing a plaster over the wound, without ever actually healing it. As such, natural supplements are now making their way into the mainstream again as people lose faith in the pharmaceutical industry, instead looking for their own alternatives and solutions. Cognitive function, mental health issues, gut health/immune response, natural energy boosts and even skin conditions are just some of the reported functions that are most successfully treated through natural solutions.

Over the years, Hibbett has continued to receive support from the federal government, including the Joint Genome Institute, for his basic research on fungal genetics and evolution. He studies white-rot fungi, which break down lignin. By helping decay rotting wood, white-rot fungi have played an important role in the cycling of carbon between living things and the environment for some 290 million years, according to his research. Shiitake are a white-rot fungi, but scientists have not yet pinpointed when they first emerged.

"Fungi are the base of all terrestrial ecosystems," Dr. Bruns said. "No ecosystem on the planet would continue to operate without fungi to decompose and recycle wood and plants."