Monday, August 20, 2012

The Elegant Stinkhorn

While gathering tomatoes from the garden I found these little gems hiding out in the mulch at the edge of the garden.  These are called stinkhorn fungus with the longer version of the name being the elegant stinkhorn.  This fungus' fruit start off looking like an egg that burst open to reveal the narrow red fruit.  The Latin name of Phallus impudicus simply means that it looks like a penis, which it does.  While this is not the smelliest of the stinkhorn fungus family, it is not hard to catch the odor of decomposing flash or even feces when walking past it.  This is the way the spores are moved from one place to another.  Flies, attracted to the rotting smell come down onto the fungus and are covered with the spores, then the flies fly away and often go to the next place of rotting scents.  This is the perfect place for the fungus to start growing again.  One great use for the stinkhorn fungus is to put in into your compost bin or pile because it can speed up the break down of organic material into compost. 

In China the fungus is sliced thin, dried and sold for eating.  I, myself, would not have the fruit drying in my house, nor touching anything I own, just because of the odor it gives off.  Still you can find stinkhorn being sold in Chinese apothecary shops for medicine as well as for eating.

What I will be using it for is a medicinal.  This fungus is actually an amazing find.  It is known for its antibiotic properties both topically (on the skin) and internally.  Its juices can be spread on cuts and burns to help ward off infections as well as kill off any bacteria that my already be in the wound.  Internally it has been used to start the healing process of ulcers, killing off the bacteria that cause them.  When using stinkhorn it is best to use a good probiotic because it is  indiscriminate on which bacteria it kills.

Despite it being a fungus itself, it is actually a pretty good fungicide, helping to heal things such as athlete's foot or ring worm.

And recent Latvian experiments show that the juice may have the ability to help fight cancer.  They injected the juice of the stinkhorn under the skin and found that in as little as 15 days cancer tumors had shrunk significantly, as much as 54% compared with a control group.  So this little stinky 'shroom shows great promise in healing.  Perhaps scientists should listen to folk healers more often.

Because the fruit of the fungus grow, matures, and dies in a matter of hours (usually right after a rain), I am going to preserve mine in a tincture.  I simply poor a strong (190 proof) grain alcohol over the fruit.  The fruit dissolves very quickly into the tincture and that cloudy fluid will go into my medicine cabinet next to my many other tinctures waiting for injuries or illnesses that may occur. 

This is a great find out in the garden.  It is breaking down my mulch, making it into next year's compost and its fruit is going into my medicine cabinet for any eventuality that may come.  It's nice to know that my garden does more than just feed me, it feeds this wonderful little gift from nature.

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