Agarikon Mushrooms: A Quinine Conk with Beneficial Properties
The Agarikon mushroom, aka laricifomes officinalis or fomitopsis officinalis, packs a plentiful punch of health and wonder. Dioscorides, a greek physician back in 65 A.D. described the Agarikon mushroom as the “elixir of long life.”* The Agarikon mushroom is also well known in Iranian traditional herbalism for its unique biological activities.* Agarikon grows on several substrates and can resemble beehive-shaped stumps or a sea mussel like form. The fungus is a polypore, meaning that it forms these large fruiting bodies and has pores on its underside. Other widely known polypores include Turkey-tail and Bracket fungus, which both subtly resemble Agarikon’s shape upon first glance.
Agarikon mushroom is also known as the quinine conk because of its exceptionally bitter taste. While these curious conks were once collected for their alleged magic properties, they do not in fact contain any quinine.
However, Agarikon deserves the spotlight for myriad other reasons. Aside from being one of the oldest mushrooms in the world, Agarikon are also touted as some of the longest living. Despite their ancient reputation, these fungi have just recently entered the radar of modern science. Researchers and mycologists like Paul Stamets are trying to save strains of Agarikon to bolster mycological diversity, which are currently being analyzed for their unique immune supporting functions and potential to support the body’s inflammatory response.* Let’s take a look at what role Agarikon mushrooms may play in supporting human healthfulness and overall well being.
Agarikon has an exceptionally bitter taste that separates it from some of the more popular culinary varities. While it is edible, it’s not often consumed in large quantities.
When looking at the benefits of Agarikon mushroom, researchers found that the mycelial body (the white, interconnecting web that mushrooms use to transport nutrients) has more immune supporting properties than the fruiting body.* It is important to keep this distinction in mind if foraging for Agarikon or creating an immune supporting tincture.
Agarikon and The Future of Mycotherapy
Agarikon has recently found its way into modern homeopathy, but its use to support healthy immune systems has predated modern science.* There are over 72 strains of Agarikon and counting, some with very unique beneficial properties. As mycologists have already discovered, some strains of Agarikon can help support healthy immune systems.* Working with Agarikon mushrooms shows great promise for the future of mycotherapy.*
Above all, the discovery of Agarikon mushrooms calls for increased conservation efforts. Agarikon mushrooms are currently endangered and they only grow in old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. Right now, cautious mycologists who harvest Agarikon leave the fruiting bodies intact and take a small tissue sample to clone. Because of their unique properties, cultivating and preserving the Agarikon mushrooms and the forests they reside in is extremely important.
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