Scientists have known for some time that mushrooms are not plants. Far from it. They are more closely related to animals and humans then they are to the vegetables we eat. Because of that, they are often at risk from the same bacteria and other "bugs" that cause diseases in humans. Being well aware of this fact, Stamets asked himself how agarikon - a perennial mushroom living for up to 50 years - managed to fight off diseases so well in the perpetually wet rainforests. It must possess a potent immune system, he concluded, with potential anti-bacterial and anti-viral compounds that may act as antibiotics for humans.
Agarikon in the wild looks somewhat like a beehive on the trunk of some of the giant, ancient trees of the old-growth forests of the American northwest. Be aware that this is an endangered species, which should be left unharmed in the wild. But be sure to bring your digital camera so you can prove to your mushroom club friends that you saw it.
It should be noted that the agarikon Paul Stamets uses is not harvested in the wild. He grows his own, and uses it for the extract he produces. A sample of that extract was submitted to the Defense Department, to be tested at a top security laboratory in Fort Dietrich, Maryland. The Defense Department's BIO Shield Program at that location searches for cures to biological warfare agents such as smallpox and anthrax.
Within this BIO Shield Program, tens of thousands of natural and manmade compounds have been tested for use against biological warfare pathogens. Drug discovery supervisor John Seacrest was happy to report on the radio show that the agarikon extract provided by Stamets had indeed been one of the few substances tested that had proved effective against smallpox related viruses.
Paul Stamets has since applied for a patent on a mushroom-based anti-viral drug. Boston investor John Norris is one of his financial backers. Mr. Norris believes in the project due in part to the fact that some individuals simply are not willing or not able to be vaccinated against smallpox or other potential biological warfare agents.
A former second in command at the FDA, Mr. Norris is hopeful that he and Paul Stamets will be able to sell hundreds of millions of doses of this agarikon extract to the American, German and British armies' defense stock-piles.
However, that may still be a few years off. This new mushroom-based anti-viral drug must first go through many lab trials and then gain final approval by the FDA.
Note: The above article is intended for informational purposes only. Agarikon has not been approved by the FDA for use as a medicinal. Never use any herbal or mushroom-product for medicinal purposes unless advice to do so by a licensed medical practitioner.
Reference: Banse, T., NPR Morning Edition, "Smallpox Defense May Be Found in Mushrooms," August 4, 2005.
Click the following link to see chart for therapeutic properties of Agarikon Extract.
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