A British Columbian herbalist guru speaks highly of mushrooms for their medicinal properties.

Yarrow Willard is the founder of Harmonic Arts, a botanical dispensary located in the Comox Valley of Vancouver Island.

The native Calgarian is an herbalist who has found success in the natural remedy industry.

In addition to Harmonic Arts, Willard teaches workshops on the benefits of using mushrooms for medicinal purposes.

He spends his time foraging mushrooms in local forests and embraces a lifestyle of sustainability and healing through food and natural medicine.

(Photo by Andy Maxwell Mawji/The Weal)

(Photo by Andy Maxwell Mawji/The Weal)

“Mushrooms are powerful medicines,” he said.

In order for people to use mushrooms without rigorous health claims, they classify them a “super-food.”

“If you think of plants as the great consumers, mushrooms break back down the energy.”

Willard shows his clients how to grow mushrooms in his inoculation class.

“There is an estimated over 1.5 million species of fungi on the earth,” he said.

“We have only identified 15,000 to 22,000 species that produce mushrooms.”

He said the fungi live mainly underground. However, many don’t produce the fruit (mushrooms).

Optimal conditions are required for the mushroom to grow. Their main purpose is the deconstruction of organic matter.

The fungi kingdom is more closely related to Animalia (humans) than Plantae (plants).

“They know how to show up in the world and how to integrate within the natural cycles of the planet,” he said.

Willard recommends the following types of mushrooms for medicinal properties: turkey tail, reishi, chaga, lion’s mane and cordyceps.

Turkey tail is known for its help in recovery from radiation and chemotherapy. The Japanese government has covered this fungus as a medicine for its citizens since the 1980’s. It is primarily known as an anti-pathogen.

The reishi mushroom grows on trees. This fungus is most famous in China and has been used there for centuries in association with good health and longevity.

Triterpines are anti viral and anti-fungal. This mushroom is known to have a grounding effect on the body. It is used for Alzheimer’s disease, insomnia, asthma, and lowering blood pressure.

Chaga mushrooms grow only on birch trees and are found in Siberia, North America, and have been used in Russia for over 500 years.

They are used as anti-inflammatories, regulating blood sugars, and reducing oxidative damage.

Cordyceps mushrooms are parasite fungi that grow on insects. They can be found in high mountain ranges such as the Andes and the Tibetan plateau. Athletes use these mushrooms to promote better oxygen to the cells. It helps with bronchitis and helps to increase endurance.

Other mushrooms can commonly be found in grocery stores. Oyster mushrooms help to lower cholesterol. Shitake mushrooms are anti bacterial, anti viral and helpful for the liver.

There are also mushrooms that people use as “party drugs,” according to Willard.

Shamans use these as a tool in small doses to help people see beyond their limitations. Typically, it is ground mushrooms that contain hallucinogenic properties.

“If you want to have real powers you have to move past that.”

Generally, mushrooms grow in biodiverse areas of the planet.

“It is an important piece of ecology to save the places where mushrooms grow,” said Willard.

“We might one day find one of the most potent medicines.”

Harmonic Arts sells their mushrooms in elixirs, tinctures and as a powdered extract.

The brand is sold at a variety of health food stores across Alberta and British Columbia.

In Calgary, Community Foods, Amaranth and Sunnyside Natural Market carry these products.

Their whole line can be found at www.harmonicarts.ca.

“In essence, mushrooms hold a key to sustainability on this planet,” said Willard.

“They are the night to the day, the yin to the yang.”

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