What is mycelium? Dictionary.com defines mycelium as “the mass of hyphae that form the vegetative part of a fungus.” In other words, it is the threadlike part of a fungus that lives in the soil or in places that it can thrive in. Mycelium is the main part of a fungus and mushroom. It behaves similar to the neurons of the human brain, allowing it to grow into a living weblike network that adapts to its environment. Metaphorically speaking, mycelium is like the root of a plant and the mushroom and fungus are like the buds, leaves or fruits of a plant.
The fungal mycelium is an organism made of countless hyphae that communicates to its counterparts by using a weblike network, which is why some fungus experts refer to it as “the neurological network of nature.” It is this living mycelium network that allows fungi to communicate and absorb nutrient so that they can grow. According to Paul Stamets, author of Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, mycelium, mushroom and fungus can save the world because they can be used as medicine and natural cleaners.
Benefits of mycelium
The fungal mycelium has so many health and environmental benefits that it is believed to be able to remove and reduce the harmful effects of certain toxic contaminants, including but not limited to biological warfare agents, heavy metals and industrial toxins (e.g., pesticides, dioxin, PCBs). The benefits of mycelium are made possible due to its ability to absorb contaminants and release enzymes to break down contaminants into neutral substances. Besides being beneficial for the environment, mycelium can protect crops from certain pests and help plants grow better.
The metaphysical properties of mycelium
Paul Stamets describes mycelium as the “the neurological network of nature” that behaves like a “sentient membrane.” In other words, it is like a single organism made of a collective network of neurons that can think. When you look at mycelium, it looks like a bunch of fibrous tissue. However, under a microscope its fibrous tissues look similar to a network of brain cells. Like brain cells, the fungal mycelium can grow new connections and respond accordingly to environmental stimuli.
Stamets believes that mycelium is part of a neurological network of nature that operates similar to the internet, allowing it to communicate with the planet and other species. This neurological network of nature can be found not only on Earth but also in the web structures of dark matter, the matrices of string theory and many parts of the Universe.
How mycelium, mushroom and fungus can save the world
Due to the healing features of mycelium, mushroom and fungus, and their ability to detox the environment of harmful substances, some researchers believe they can save the world from environmental pollution. Here are some ways they could save the world:
- Mycelium could be used to clean oil spills or absorb radiation without the toxic side effects of cleaning agents.
- Certain mushrooms and fungi are great for filtering out water contaminants and therefore they could be used to purify rivers, lakes and streams.
- Many mushrooms have natural healing substances that could be used to develop new antibiotics and medicine for healing “incurable disease.” Some mushrooms are highly active against viruses, such as the flu, AIDS and smallpox.
- Since the fungal mycelium has the ability to restore nutrients in soil, it could hasten reforestation.
- Certain fungi are great for absorbing toxic chemicals in soil and driving away certain pests. Instead of using toxic chemical fertilizers, farmers could use these fungi to reduce pests and improve crop yields.
- Mycelium has the ability to convert cellulose into fungal sugars and thus it could be used to make a fuel called Econol.