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Super Awesome Science Show: The marvels of mushrooms

Magic mushrooms are seen at the Procare farm in Hazerswoude, central Netherlands, Friday Aug. 3, 2007.
Magic mushrooms are seen at the Procare farm in Hazerswoude, central Netherlands, Friday Aug. 3, 2007. AP Photo/Peter Dejong

Mushrooms can be a welcome addition to any dish. They offer an earthy flavour as well as a meaty texture to tickle our palates. But while mushrooms are great in cuisine, they also have other uses outside of the kitchen. On this week’s Super Awesome Science Show, we explore some of the scientific uses of these edible fungi and how they may be able to improve our lives.

READ MORE: Spread of ‘death cap,’ world’s deadliest mushroom, prompts new B.C. safety campaign

For centuries, mushrooms have been regarded as medicine in several cultures. Our first guest, Chow Lee, is working to merge the modern with the ancient. Lee, a professor at the University of Northern British Columbia, is trying to find chemicals in mushroom varieties that may help to treat a disease that has spanned the ages — cancer. We learn more about his work and also his belief that we can learn from traditional medicine to develop modern-day cures.

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While some mushrooms are used for medicinal cures, others are known for their ability to cause hallucinations. These “magic mushrooms” are known to contain a chemical called psilocybin. There’s been an interest in psilocybin use in mental health as it seems to help people who suffer from migraines, anxiety and depression. Our next guest has been looking at the function of this chemical in nature and how it has spread across the mushroom landscape. Hannah Reynolds, an assistant professor at Western Connecticut State University, says this chemical may be harnessed for mass production so that we can test it for its medicinal value.

READ MORE: Denver becomes first U.S. city to decriminalize psychoactive ingredient in ‘magic mushrooms’

In our SASS Class, we look at how mushrooms can help us live better. Our guest teacher is Robert Beelman, director of the Center for Plant and Mushroom Foods for Health at Pennsylvania State University. He’ll take us through some of the chemicals that can sustain our health and introduce us to one called ergothioneine that might eventually be used to give us a chance to live longer.

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Thanks to you, we’ve won a Canadian Podcast Award for Outstanding Science and Medicine Series. We have been changing the way the world sees science, and it is definitely for the better. Let’s keep the awesome momentum going together! 

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Contact:

Twitter: @JATetro
Email: thegermguy@gmail.com

Guests:

Chow Lee
Web: https://www.unbc.ca/chow-lee

Hannah Reynolds
Web: http://wcsu.edu/biology/surf/faculty-mentors/reynolds/
Twitter: @hreynolds_fungi

Robert Beelman
Web: https://foodscience.psu.edu/directory/rbb6

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  • Click the name of an episode from the list below to listen.

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  • Open the Spotify app, search for Super Awesome Science Show (SASS) and select it from the list of results.
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  • Click the name of an episode from the list below to listen.
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