March 30, 2017

Holistic mushrooms

From April first to July 20th 1934, Austrian anthropologist David Winkler stayed in a northern Amazonian region where he visited remote Wayampi villages. The secluded tribe, speaking a Tupi language, like the cannibalist tribes who once inhabited the Brazilian coast, had escaped colonial extinction. In spite of the vicissitudes of life in the jungle, the population displayed astonishing joyfulness, energy and wit. Winkler noted that many of them could have been a hundred years old or older still. He did not see any trace of cancer, cardiorespiratory disease or rickets among them.

The anthropologist joined in a few communal feasts. On the menu, a simple broth of manioc and mushroom in calabash and grilled fish on banana leaf.

Winkler later linked the mushroom to the stropharia genus (now officially Stropharia winklerii). Abundant from December to May, picked and dried by the tribesmen, the mushroom was also used in a ritual to which Winkler was unfortunately not invited. 

An amateur mycologist, he hypothesized that the health conditions of Wayampi was du to their consumption of the fungus. It appears that this strophaire concentrates many health enhancing bioactive molecules: antioxidant against free radicals and aging, anti inflammatory against arthritis, ulcers and depression (isn't depression an inflammatory ailment of the brain ?), adaptogenic.

Also, as is well documented, mushrooms are an exceptionnal source of proteins, vitamins, and minerals, in addition to being without carbohydrates. The dietary fibers they contain nourishe the intestinal flora, balances the microbiome and facilitates the absorption of nutrients.

A few years before his death, Winkler turned to the medicinal properties of the fishe themselves, specifically the red-bellied piranha in the broth: he concluded that it it explained the communicative cheerfulness of the Wayampi. The anthropologist's medecinal credentials are still debated : some critics say his story is nothing but an April Fool's joke. 

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