Mushroom magic in Cotacachi: Medicinal ‘shrooms improve our health and the planet’s too

Feb 8, 2020

By Deb DuBoff

Meet Felipe Alvarez.

He is one of Cotacachi’s young business owners who have a desire and passion for living a healthy life in our naturally abundant area. He has found a vital niche to fill by providing products that keep us healthy while also promoting the health of the planet. Felipe recently moved from Quito to Cotacachi to follow his passion for exploring and sharing the benefits of mushrooms, or fungi, growing them to eat, and offering tinctures for health benefits. Felipe has started a mushroom farm in Cotacachi and is offering medicinal tinctures for sale in Ecuador. Here is what he has to say about his passion for the business.

While studying permaculture, I became aware of the overall importance of fungi in every living system. I got so excited about how profoundly important they are to life on the planet I became passionate about learning all I could. Six years later I have devoured the books, attended conferences and convergences. I have grown mushrooms, eaten them and taken lots of tinctures, and I am ever more committed to enjoy and share the benefits of mushrooms as much as I can. Now I am developing my own mushroom farm where I grow and design projects related to fungi, ecology and natural medicine. I also sell medicinal tinctures to people who might find them helpful for their health and well-being.”  

Felipe in his Cotacachi lab.

What I learned from Felipe is that mushrooms are so much more than just good to eat.
Felipe is so passionate about mushrooms because his research has shown that they have always been a cooperative partner for the well-being of the planet and our bodies. Mushrooms have many phenomenal properties that are believed to be responsible for life on earth as we know it. They are believed to have been on planet earth for at least 2.4 billion years. They actually breathe oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide just like us; they are genetically closer to animals than they are to plants.

We are just beginning to understand how important they are. The Kingdom of Fungi is becoming better known and research into the benefits of mushrooms is developing rapidly. They are incredibly cooperative beings, 90% of all plants live in mutual relationship with fungi. For example, ginger root hosts 4 fungi that provide the health benefits that we enjoy. Fungi can control pests in the home and our crops making their use more effective than pesticides. They can transform toxic soils into healthy growing mediums. They are able to strengthen the immune systems of bees which can help to overcome colony collapse.

Mushroom tictures.

How can mushrooms help our bodies?
Mushrooms contain protein, they are fat and cholesterol free, and they contain important nutrients. Within our bodies they are prebiotic which means they create conditions in our gut to enhance the benefit of probiotics and improve digestion of nutrients.  Fungi help to strengthen our immune systems. Fungi are able to help create conditions in the body that assist it to eradicate diseases such as cancer, arthritis, high blood pressure, fatigue, and diabetes. Mushrooms have been used in Japan and China to treat cancer patients and are currently being researched in the U.S. to treat cancer.

Cordyceps mushroom.

Additionally, more recent research has found that fungi are adaptogens; they have a specific mode of action that involves normalizing physiologic functions and restoring the body to equilibrium just like they do for plants in the forest. They also protect cell mitochondria from the effects of the stress hormone cortisol so they normalize body functions and strengthen systems compromised by stress.

Mushrooms have been used in other parts of the world for healing and well-being. Although mushrooms are not widely used for healing in all of Ecuador, they have been used in the Amazon. Mushrooms can be taken as whole food, as powders, teas, or as tinctures. The good news is that several medicinal mushrooms that have been widely used in Eastern medicine are now available in Ecuador. Felipe is very passionate about the health benefits of mushrooms and has tinctures available in Ecuador so interested individuals can determine if mushrooms are useful as part of a personal health program.

Felipe only works with organic mushrooms which ensures that no harmful chemicals have been absorbed by the mushrooms. I have been taking Cordyceps and Lion’s Mane to enhance my immune system and create balance in my body. Here are brief descriptions of the Reishi, Cordyceps, Maitake, Turkey Tail and Lion’s Mane tinctures that Felipe is working with.

The Reishi mushroom, also known as Ganoderma lucidum and lingzhi, are a staple in Eastern medicine. They are known as the mushroom of immortality. Reishi boosts the immune system, by increasing white blood cells so it helps the body fight infection, allergies, asthma and cancer.  Reishi mushrooms are adaptogens, so they help to regulate blood pressure and blood sugar, taking the body to equilibrium. They can also fight fatigue, anxiety and depression.

Lion’s Mane mushroom.

Lion’s Mane mushrooms, Melena de Leon, have both culinary and medical uses in Asian countries like China, India, and Japan. Lion’s Mane can boost the immune system. In Asian medicine they are attributed with assisting cancer cells to die at a faster rate and slowing the spread of cancer. According to research, Lion’s Mane mushrooms are especially helpful to the brain by encouraging the formation of new neurons and synapses. Lion’s Mane is being studied in the U.S. to determine if it can protect against dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, general degenerative brain disease, and memory loss. It is also being studied for treatment of hearing loss and to help decrease mild symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Turkey Tail mushroom.

Turkey Tail mushrooms are adaptogenic mushrooms known for potent antiviral and immune-enhancing effects. Research has shown them to help improve immune function, ward off viruses and other pathogens, and protect against various forms of cancer, especially breast and colorectal cancers. They are also anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant.  See the Mushrooms as Medicine video link below for more information on Turkey Tail Mushrooms and cancer.

Maitake mushroom, or Hen of the Woods, is a popular gourmet mushroom but also highly regarded clinically, especially in cancer therapy. Its polysaccharides have been shown to be the major active components of Maitake.  Animal studies indicate benefits from Maitake in diabetes models at high doses. Trials with diabetic patients have shown a significant reduction in blood sugar using Maitake. Other studies have shown that Maitake helps regulate cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Maitake mushroom.

One of the biggest promises of this mushroom is its potential to be helpful for conditions of the reproductive system. It has been shown to be effective in women with polycystic ovary syndrome, myomas, fibroids, and even uterine cancer. Maitake may also be beneficial for men with prostate related illness.

Cordyceps mushrooms are valued primarily for an ability to increase energy and reduce fatigue. Cordyceps have been a centerpiece of traditional Chinese medicine for more than 1,300 years, with the first known record of use dating back to the Tang Dynasty in A.D. 620.

Cordyceps have been studied for their possible benefits for cancer treatment, including non-small-cell lung cancer, lymphoma, and colorectal cancer.  They have also been studied for their potential to alleviate asthma and bronchitis.

Cordyceps are associated with an increase in adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production, which is a molecule that delivers oxygen to the muscles which can help enhance athletic performance. Research on elderly subjects has suggested Cordyceps may improve performance in aerobic exercise. In a study using younger participants the results suggested the fungus may enhance exercise endurance. Chinese studies suggest that Cordyceps may help shield cells against aging by protecting the mitochondria, or the powerhouse of the cell. (See references on Cordyceps below)

Chuchuwazo / Chuchuhuasi tree bark.

Felipe is also preparing his own tinctures made from the bark of the Chuchuwazo / Chuchuhuasi tree from the Amazon. The chuchuwazo tree has been used traditionally by Amazon Indigenous to decrease inflammation related to such conditions as arthritis, and it is also used as an analgesic.

Felipe is growing his business by also selling oyster mushrooms that he harvests from his growing room. Oyster mushrooms are not only good to eat, they contain lots of vitamins and according to research they can help maintain the levels of blood sugar, improve the function of the immune system, assist in heart health, brain health, and help treat anemia.

Felipe’s plans also include offering a health retreat center on his property in the future so you can come to Cotacachi and meet him in person.

INTERESTED IN TRYING MUSHROOM TINCTURES? HERE’S HOW TO ORDER MUSHROOM TINCTURES IN ECUADOR:

Contact Felipe Alvarez
Lucidum – Medicina Silvestre
(099) 428-5903
felipealvarezm@gmail.com

LEARN MORE ABOUT FUNGI: VIDEOS

Mushrooms As Medicine Lecture By Paul Stamets
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7agK0nkiZpA

Video Introduction To The Kingdom of Fungi
https://youtu.be/7ojzbeaZDqk

Animated Version Of How Fungi Communicate With Trees In The Forest
https://youtu.be/V4m9SefyRjg

Paul Stamets Lecture On How Fungi Can Save The Planet.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwLviP7KaAc

Website For Upcoming Movie on Fungi Debuting in 2020
https://fantasticfungi.com/

Mycologos – Mycology Education And Research
https://mycologos.world/

RESEARCH WEBSITE WITH REFERENCES TO MANY ARTICLES
https://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/ciencia2/ciencia_mushroomfungi.htm

Research On Cordyceps
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF02836405
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5236007/
https://www.worldscientific.com/doi/abs/10.1142/S0192415X10008494

FDA GRANTING BREAKTHROUGH THERAPY STATUS TO PSILOCYBIN
https://newatlas.com/psilocybin-magic-mushrooms-depression-fda-breakthrough-therapy/56928/
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Deborah DuBoff and her husband moved to Ecuador from the Pacific Northwest in 2014.  She has been living in Cotacachi since 2017. Writing is her hobby. She has a blog about being an expat in Ecuador that you can check out at www.thrivinginthenewnormal.com

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