(By Paolo Propato, LAc) The other day Issa (my son) and I found a plethora of mushrooms in the woods. We both got very excited. “Issa, I’m not sure but I think these are Chanterelles!” Our eyes lit up like we had happened upon a hidden treasure. In my mind all I could see were plates full of mushrooms... there was enough for Mamma, Grace, Faye and the rest of the crew (we picked a lot of mushrooms).
As I looked at them sitting on the kitchen table I remembered Grace once had an experience of mistaken identity with chanterelles. A quick google and message to Grace with a picture, and the verdict quickly came in, they were not chanterelles but Jack O’lanterns. Very similar in appearance except Jack O’lanterns can cause GI distress. Of course I got rid of them, but it left an impression on me because they looked so good!
As I threw out the mushrooms a thought came to me: Do I think I’m a Chanterelle but am really a Jack O’ lantern, or vice versa? Have I convinced myself that I am one way but in reality I am something else?
There's no easy answer because like the mushrooms we are more complex than good and bad. This judgment led me to look up these bad-boy shrooms. Permaculturenews.org has an article describing the medicinal value of Jack O’lanterns. They contain Illusin S, which help stop tumor growth. Although you can not get this Illusin S directly, pharmacological research is finding ways to use it in chemotherapeutic drugs. Very powerful information, and that was from only one article. Also, the chanterelle is perhaps saved by animals not knowing if it is safe to eat because it looks just like the Jack O’lantern. From that point of view it is not so bad, in fact it may become a medicinal superhero in this world riddled with cancerous tumors.
The mushroom didn’t care that it was labeled a chanterelle or Jack O'lantern, it didn't care about its medicinal or poisonous effects, it was just doing what it does in the woods. We all have a little poison and we all have healing within us. It's not our job to only be only one way, even if that is what is expected by society, culture, family, friends. Just be what you are. The oak tree is majestic, but can it stop a tumor? The chanterelle is delicious but does it help save the other mushrooms?
Who are you? I was asked that question many years ago and only now is the question beginning to truly take root. I thank Jack O’lantern for the chance to reflect on it, but mostly thank Grace for sparing my family from the diarrhea-causing bounty.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.