Alice In Wonderland…Lewis Caroll’s Imagination or Mushrooms?

Johnny Depp is recreating Lewis Caroll’s, Mad Hatter from Alice In Wonderland. The incredible fantasy that Caroll creates of Alice’s mad romp through Wonderland has caused millions to suspect that Caroll had to have been on some sort of acid or other mind altering compounds to create such vivid, outlandish, thoughts and images.

The available data does not support this theory, but one does wonder when reading the story or watching previous visual presentations of the story, what symbolism, if any, those gigantic mushrooms/toadstools were meant to suggest? Oh, and let’s not forget the caterpillar smoking the bong!

There is no clear distinction between the use of the term mushroom vs. toadstool but over time, in some cultures, the word toadstool inferred that the mushroom was poisonous and of course, had the typical umbrella-like look.

Take a look at some of the fascinating mushroom photos below. They hardly look real and remind me of childhood images I recall from watching Alice.  

Amanita Muscaria 

The classic example of a toadstool is Amanita Muscaria. The various species of Amanita Muscaria mushrooms are very colorful and truly fascinating to look at. Amanita is not very well known for any particular health benefits but some shamans in Siberia did use it to go into a trance. It is also not particularly famous as an edible mushroom, and is only edible after it has been boiled in water thoroughly to remove small amounts of toxins.

Trametes Versicolor                         

Trametes Versicolor is also called TurkeyTail (because of the resemblance). Extracted from this mushroom is a long chain sugar known as Polysaccharide-K (PSK). PSK is approved for adjunctive (used with other medicines) cancer treatment in humans, in Japan, China and some places in Europe.



Psilocybe Mushrooms (aka Magic Mushrooms, Shrooms, Mushies)

Psilocybe mushrooms cause psychedelic and hallucinogenic experiences. These mushrooms are both non-toxic and non-addictive. A study done at Johns Hopkins University on normal middle aged, college educated, adults, with no history of drug abuse, reported that two thirds of the participants who took these mushrooms had a profound religious experience and ranked the experience among the top 5 in their life times. One third of the participants found the experience caused them to become anxious. Interestingly enough, in a similar experiment, the participants still felt the magnitude of the religious experience 14 months later.

Purported but not well substantiated health benefits include:

1. Treatment for cluster headaches
2. Treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Reishi (Lingzhi)

Reishi has been medicinally used for many centuries in Asia. Studies show its benefits for: enhancing immune function, as an anti-fungal, an anti-bacterial, liver protectant, male urinary function and possible weight loss aid (though the back-up science is meager).

It may have anti-cancer effects against some kinds of tumors by inhibiting the formation of new blood supply and preventing migration of the tumor cells (metastasis). There is moderate evidence that Reishi may reduce cholesterol.

Maitake Mushrooms (Grifola Fondosa)

 Maitake is classified as an adaptogen, that can help the body adapt to stress and resist infection. Adaptogens have the ability to raise what is low and lower what is too high… in the case of blood pressure or blood sugar for example.

 Being a powerful immune-booster, maitake extracts can help prevent infection from both bacterial and viruses, as well as perhaps provide the body with support to fight some cancers when used with chemotherapy agents. These agents have been shown, in some studies, to be more effective when used in conjunction with the maitake. Furthermore, the side effects of the chemotherapy were reduced in many patients when maitake was added.
I hope you enjoyed this brief look at these amazing fungi.

Yours in health, and education,

Curt Hendrix M.S. C.N.S.  C.C.N.

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