Final Paper Update

After meeting with Dr. Vesna and my group this past week, I think that we are on pretty good track for our final booklet. My entry will go second to last and will hopefully tie together essays about bread making and medicine. I am still working on completing the entirety of my essay, but I have made good progress on my essay, and have found some public domain/creative commons images to include in my final essay. 

 

Introduction 

Dear King Philip Came Over For Good Soup is the mnemonic device used to remember the taxonomic ranks. 

Domain, kingdom, phyla, class, order, family, genus, species. 

Each taxonomic rank contains categories of organisms that allow for further classification of a particular living being. While we often think of the animal or plant kingdom, we often forget another important kingdom of organisms -- fungi. 

Fungi have long confused biologists for their strange characteristics that resemble both plants and animals (What Are Fungi?), but their dual nature warrants them their own taxonomic kingdom. As decomposers, fungi serve one of the most important roles in our ecosystem. Fungi are responsible for breaking down organic material, and replenishing our environment with essential nutrients (Moore and Constantine). 

Fungi surround us and are integrated into our lives in ways that we are often unaware of. At a size of 10-20 micrometers, fungal spores can be found in the air, the oceans, and our human bodies. Fungi species, in the forms of yeast, can be found in wine and bread -- we even eat fungi in the basic form of a mushroom. It is clear that fungi are integrated deeply into our lives, whether we know it or not. The applications of fungi can even be seen further in modern biotechnology and modern artworks -- even during the COVID-19 outbreak, can we see the applications of fungi taking root. 

Fungi in Medicine and Biotechnology

One of the most notable applications of fungi in medicine is the development of penicillin, an antibacterial medication used to treat a wide variety of bacterial infections. In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered that a rare strain of the mold Penicillium notatum was capable of killing and inhibiting various bacteria growth (Discovery and Development of Penicillin). This mold species was then isolated, and scientists learned to grow the mold species in fermentation tanks to then purify and use as a bacterial treatment. Since then, penicillin has been used as a novel treatment in the prevention of bacterial growth and infection. Fungi has distinct implications in the development of medicines and biotechnologies. 

Fungi have also been relevant to some of the biggest biological theories to date. The one gene, one enzyme theory was initially created by Sir Archibald Garrod, where he initially linked genes with enzymes that perform specific biological functions (“One gene, one enzyme” ). Using the common bread mold species, Neurospora crassa, scientists George Beadle and Edward Tatum were able to produce an experimental procedure that broke down certain enzymatic steps in the pathway for Neurospora growth. In doing so, Beadle and Tatum were able to confirm the notion that individual genes corresponded to specific enzymes. 

However, fungi and mushrooms have also been applied to less researched medicinal uses. In many indigenous cultures, mushrooms are used to treat various health conditions. In Nigerian indigenous communities mushrooms have been used to treat headaches, gonorrhea, and hemorrhoids (Oyetayo). For example, Pleurotus tuberrigium is used by Nigerian indigienous communities to treat headache, cold, fever, stomach ache and constipation, and it is just one of many species used for medicinal purposes. Haploporus odorus was used by the Native American Plains tribes to treat diarrhea and dysentery (Mushrooms as Sacred Objects in North America). Grown on the undersides of willow trees, H. odorus is known for its strong licorice scent, and could also be used to stop bleeding. 

While non-indigenous individuals are in the process of learning more about indigenous uses of mushrooms, it is important that researchers address the concerns of biocolonialism and pirating of indigenous knowledge. Biocolonialism is the process taking biological knowledge or resources for profit and without consent of those who hold the original body of knowledge. Exploring the indigineous knowledge of mushroom and fungi are allowed and validated, but research on these topics must be ethical and acknowledge indigenous communities’ right to said knowledge. If future research on mushrooms produces a substantial medical breakthrough, indigenous communities need to be credited for their contribution. Indigenous communities suffered through the colonization and theft of their land, and their knowledge should not be stolen either. 

Aside from the medicinal application of mushrooms in indigenous communities, the application of mushrooms, a macrofungus, to psychotherapy treatments has been the centerpiece of recent research. Psilocybin is a common hallucinogen that is the byproduct of more than 100 mushroom varieties, and the hallucinogen may have clinical applications according to research (Daniel and Haberman). A recent clinical trial showed that there were no serious adverse effects to psilocybin applied in a regulated dosage (Bergland). Additionally, this recent trial also showed that psilocybin resulted in mood alteration, and did not exhibit any negative effects on research participants. Psilocybin shows prominence as an emerging treatment for several psychological disorders. 

Fungi as an Artistic Influence and Medium 

In addition to their medicinal application, the psychedelic effects of fungi have also been explored in various art forms ranging back hundreds of years. Known as “magic mushrooms” or “shrooms,” the hallucinatory effects of mushrooms have influenced artists in multiple ways. Evidence of mushrooms used as a hallucinogenic appeared in cave paintings dating back to as far as 10,000 BCE (Entheonation). Rock paintings in Spain provide evidence that magic mushrooms were used by hominids as early as 4,000 BCE. 

Art influenced by magic mushrooms was especially prevalent in Central and South America. Sculptures and paintings from these areas show the ritualistic use of magic mushrooms. In these cultures, mushrooms were often used for sacred and ritualistic purposes, and the art from this area depicts these specific uses. In Central America mythology, there was a god called “Seven Flowers” that is often associated with psilocybin use, and art of this god usually featured him holding mushrooms. 

Of this region, psychedelic mushroom use is most strongly linked to the Mayan people (Wing and Gregoire). Mushrooms are a common motif in Mayan art, and often symbolize a dreamlike state within Mayan artworks. In addition to this, giant mushroom stone carving can be found throughout Guatemala, and are linked to the Mayans. 

However, the use of magic mushrooms has also influenced art in more recent contexts. During the counterculture movement, psilocybin mushrooms became a symbol of a hippie lifestyle. During the counterculture movement, many artists used shrooms or magic mushrooms, a hallucinogenic form of mushrooms, to help gain inspiration for their music. The use of psilocybin during this period led to the creation of the “psychedelic art” era, where artists would create masterpieces while under the influence of psilocybin and LSD (Dasgupta). 

One notable example of such art is the photo essay by mycologist Robert Gordon Wasson titled “Seeking the Magic Mushroom.” Wasson’s photo essay follows his journey to Mexico in order to participate in indigienous rituals that involved the use of magic mushrooms (Wasson). At the time, Wasson was one of the first westerners to try hallucinatory mushrooms, and the publishing of his essay had a huge impact on the counterculture movement. Following the release of Wasson’s essay in Life Magazine, many others went to Mexico in order to try psychedelic mushrooms. 

Some images I plan to include in my final essay that are public domain or creative commons images: 

Figure 1: “Shrooms.” Image from United States Department of Justice. 

Figure 2: “Penicillium sp.” From: de Pax, Carlos. Accessed 31 May 2020. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0c/Penicillium_sp._%28ascomycetous_fungi%29.jpg 

Figure 3: “Religious statues involving Psilocybe Mushrooms.”  Accessed: 30 May 2020. https://web.archive.org/web/*/www.drugabuse.gov/whatsnew/meetings/Psychoactive/Halpern.ppt 

Works Cited

Bergland, Christopher. “Psilocybin: Four Important Takeaways from a Clinical Trial.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 14 Dec. 2019, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201912/psilocybin-four-important-takeaways-clinical-trial.

Dasgupta, Shalina. “Into the Psyche of Psychedelic Art.” Media India Group, 28 Jan. 2020, mediaindia.eu/culture/into-the-psyche-of-psychedelic-art/.

Daniel, Jeremy, and Margaret Haberman. “Clinical Potential of Psilocybin as a Treatment for Mental Health Conditions.” Mental Health Clinician, vol. 7, no. 1, Jan. 2017, pp. 24–28., doi:10.9740/mhc.2017.01.024.

“Discovery and Development of Penicillin” American Chemical Society, www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/whatischemistry/landmarks/flemingpenicillin.html

Entheonation. “The Fascinating History Of Psilocybin Mushrooms.” EntheoNation, http://www.entheonation.com/blog/psilocybin-mushrooms-history/

Moore, David, and Constantine John Alexopoulos. “Fungus.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 27 Feb. 2020, www.britannica.com/science/fungus/Form-and-function-of-fungi.

“Mushrooms as Sacred Objects in North America” Cornell Mushroom Blog, 6 Jan. 2010, blog.mycology.cornell.edu/2010/01/06/mushrooms-as-sacred-objects-in-north-america/.

“One gene, one enzyme” Khan Academy. Khan Academy. https://www.khanacademy.org/science/biology/gene-expression-central-dogma/central-dogma-transcription/a/one-gene-one-enzyme-hypothesis

Oyetayo, Ov. “Medicinal Uses of Mushrooms in Nigeria: towards Full and Sustainable Exploitation.” African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, vol. 8, no. 3, Nov. 2011, doi:10.4314/ajtcam.v8i3.65289.

Wasson, Robert G. “Seeking the Magic Mushrooms.” SEEKING THE MAGIC MUSHROOM, www.imaginaria.org/wasson/life.htm.

“What Are Fungi?” Department of Biology Intermountain Herbarium, Utah State University, herbarium.usu.edu/fun-with-fungi/what-are-fungi.

Wing, Nick, and Carolyn Gregoire. “The More We Learn About Psychedelic Mushrooms, The More Fascinating They Become.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 7 Dec. 2017, www.huffpost.com/entry/psychedelic-mushrooms-facts_n_6083436.