Agarikon: A Mushroom for Physical and Spiritual Strength
Agarikon, known by its scientific name as Fomitopsis officinalis, is a polypore mushroom. Polypore mushrooms, instead of gills, have small holes through which they expel spores. Polypores, for the most part, grow on trees and contribute to brown rot or white rot depending on the species. Some of the benefits of Agarikon include antiviral, antibacterial, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory molecules (Elkhateeb et al, Abstract).
In general, medicinal benefits from mushrooms come from molecules such as polysaccharides, terpenes, phenols, and amino acids — with polysaccharides being the most biologically active group (Elkhateeb et al, 285).
Agarikon has been on record as a medicinal mushroom for thousands of years. It is highly likely that its use extends beyond our written histories into pre-historical times. Native Americans used Agarikon for both medicinal and spiritual practices. The Bella Coola Indians, whom call themselves the Nuxalk and still live in the Bella Coola Valley in British Columbia, were recorded in 1920 as using Agarikon mushrooms carved into masks for a ritual called the ‘Fungus Dance.’ The Fungus Dance and other rites using Agarikon are related to drawing physical strength from the spirit world (Blanchette, 10). Similar rituals have been recorded as independently arising among some indigenous peoples of Nepal (Blanchette, 10-11). The evidence is strong that Agarikon has been seen to give those that live and think with it a strong physical and spiritual presence.
As has been mentioned, Fomitopsis officinalis, has been proven in the lab and in clinical trials to possess antiviral, antibacterial, and anticancer molecules. It has also been shown to have antimicrobial, antiviral, and antibiabetic properties (Elkhateeb et al, 285). It has been successfully used as a treatment for tuberculosis, smallpox, and as an agent against Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Agarikon’s anti-inflammatory activity is especially helpful for the inflammation that contributes to asthma (Elkhateeb et al, 287).
Nutraceutical molecules in mushrooms have been shown in the lab to be more effective against different types of cancer. That is, different mushrooms are more effective against different types of cancer. Polysaccharides and polysaccharide-protein complexes short-circuiting communication via the intracellular signaling pathways that cancer cells use to promote their own growth and survival (Durgo et al, 436). Agarikon has been shown in the lab to be particularly effective against lung and colon cancer cells (Durgo et al, 445).
Agarikon’s anti-viral molecules don’t just benefit humans, however. Extracts of agarikon have been used to greatly reduce DWV (Deformed Wing Virus) [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deformed_wing_virus] and LSV (Lake Sinai Virus) [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4488739/] viral infections in bee colonies (Stamets et al, 3). Bees are a keystone species for all life on planet earth. The strong protective benefits of the anti-viral molecules of Fomes officinalis in regards to these diseases makes it a keystone species as well. Agarikon in the wild is considered endangered, so effective and widespread cultivation via wood-based substrates is a crucial step towards preserving all life on the planet.
Blanchette R A (2017) Extraordinary Fungal Masks Used By the Indigenous People of North America and Asia. Fungi (10, 3) pp 8-12
Elkhateeb W A, Daba G H, Elnahas M, and Thomas P (2019) Fomitopsis officinalis mushroom: ancient gold mine of functional components and biological activities for modern science. Egyptian Pharmaceutical Journal (18, 4) pp 285-291
Durgo K, Koncar M, Komes D, Belscak-Cvitanovic A, Franekic J, Jakopovich I, Jakopovich, N and Jakopovich B (2013) Cytotoxicity of blended versus single medicinal mushroom extracts on human cancer cell lines: contribution of polyphenol and polysaccharide content. International journal of medicinal mushrooms (15, 5) pp 435-448
Stamets P E, Naeger N L, Evans J D et al (2018) Extracts of Polypore Mushroom Mycelia Reduce Viruses in Honey Bees. Nature: Scientific Reports. pp 1-6
Hodge K T (ed) (2010) Agarikon. Cornell Mushroom Blog. Retrieved from https://blog.mycology.cornell.edu/2010/04/12/agarikon/
Image by Steph Jarvis / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)