Benefits of MushroomsMany people recognize mushrooms these days as a trending health topic, but the benefits of mushrooms reach far beyond its popularized portrayals of a healthy supplement to add to one’s morning coffee. The perspectives of several renowned scientists and organizations with focuses on international development have proven that mushrooms are substantial in their medicinal properties, disease control, agricultural and malnutrition solutions and much more.

Mushroom Medicine

Paul Stamets is a mycologist who people know for his research and advocacy of the various benefits of mushrooms. Some of his most important unearthings include a new class of antivirals and antimicrobials called Fomitopsterols which is more potent in treating flu viruses and herpes than Ribavirin is.

By working with the Bioshield Biodefense Program, Stamets confirmed that Agarikon, the longest living mushroom in the world, has anti-tubercular properties. In addition to this, Stamets worked to study the effects of turkey tail mushrooms, which can empower the immune system, on women with breast cancer suffering from impaired immune systems. His studies showed that these mushrooms can enhance natural killer cell activities in women.

Meanwhile, the Amadou mushroom is a useful source for sustainable textile innovations. Amadou can become a cellular fabric when one boils it. People can also use it to keep a fire burning for days by hollowing out the mushroom and putting embers inside.

Disease Control

Vector-borne diseases have a close association with poverty due to their large economic impact on growing populations in urban settings. As a result, they often affect some of the poorest countries.

Insecticides are becoming ineffective in Brazil due to a growing resistance in mosquitos. Many homes in Brazil require water storage tanks due to insecure water supplies. These tanks are also major breeding sites for mosquitoes.

Researchers in Brazil have discovered that using only a plastic bottle and a black cloth containing an entomopathogenic fungus can be an effective way of countering mosquitoes. The mosquitoes become attracted to the dark cloth surface and become infected with the fungus, killing the mosquito.

Stamets had another breakthrough revelation when he took the mycelium of Cordyceps without the spores and discovered that they became super attractants. One of the most significant studies involved the attraction of yellow fever mosquitos. This discovery has profound potential for disease control by steering insects from human populations, controlling diseases such as malaria, yellow fever and West Nile virus (WNV).

Alternative to Poaching

Poaching is a common consequence of poverty in Thailand. Freeland Foundation’s Surviving Together program encourages sustainable mushroom farming to replace poaching and illegal logging. The program leaders collect the mushrooms that the villagers cultivate and sell them at local markets. The money that comes from the mushrooms then goes into bank accounts for the farmers to save and grow their businesses.

Freeland Foundation described mushrooms as the most fitting crop choice for the villagers because it is in high demand throughout the year in Thailand. The mushroom business is providing opportunities to those who originally thought they had no alternatives.

This program provides protection to natural forests and prevents the loss of biodiversity. The families who once felt that they had no options are now contributing to saving ecosystems.

Solving Malnutrition

Recent success at Compassion, a child development center in Lomé, Togo, models how the benefits of mushrooms reach great depths. The development center had been struggling to find the definitive answer to meet all of its children’s needs. The support that the center was receiving to feed the children did not cover the abundant number experiencing malnourishment.

With the help of Critical Needs funding, the center started a mushroom farm which became a fundamental answer to resolving a crucial problem. These mushrooms provided nutrition to the children and replenished their health while remaining cost-effective and sustainable.

Thanks to the center’s mushroom farm, the children have been able to receive lunch and take-home packets each day. The center uses the remaining mushrooms to grind as an addition to a nutrient-rich porridge.

With an increase in enrollment, all the children attending the center have become a healthy weight. The center also gains advantages in funding and employment opportunities with the surplus of mushroom products that it makes and sells locally.

Anyone can easily realize and appreciate the benefits of mushrooms. However, the extent that they can make a difference for people in need around the world may go far beyond what most realize.

Amy Schlagel
Photo: Pixabay

The Power of Touch: New Method to Help End Poverty?
A simple, nonsexual, touch can make a huge difference in the people around us. Through our five senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch we perceive the world around us. In our current world, we rely mostly on our eyes and ears and we base our opinions and focus on the information we hear and the sights we see. However, touch is also as vital to our everyday lives because even the slightest touch can influence the way we think and act.

In a recent article by Spring, a Psychology blog, they discussed the different types of touch that can influence behavior. There is the money touch, such as a well-timed touch on a patron’s arm by a waitress, which has been shown to encourage a bigger tip. Another is the compliance touch, where a light touch on the upper arm extended a broader range of compliance out of the receiver.

The article discussed many different types, but one that needed closer examination was the touch for help. In a study, strangers who were touched lightly on the arm when asked for help were more likely to help with a variety of tasks than those who were not. In fact, the percentage of those who helped went from 63 percent when they were not touched on the arm to 90 percent when they were touched.

If something as simple as a light touch could provide such a drastic change in the results of individuals, think of the potential applications it could have with helping those in poverty.

Many poverty-stricken people within the United States beg on the streets, and organizations that try to help them usually have little success trying to make change, whether that be political, social or economic. If both could involve slight well-timed touches into their appeals to pedestrians, think of the amount of change that could potentially occur.

Although the direct causes of poverty have been generally seen as a topic of debate, it is a fact that those subjected to poverty have higher rates of depression and other illnesses. It has also been medically proven that the power of touch can help alleviate the stresses of depression and help show support to those in need.

If we were to focus some efforts on using the power of touch and spending time being a little more compassionate to those in need, it’s possible that change to the state of poverty could be made.

Alysha Biemolt

Sources: Spring, Nicolas Gueguen, Gallup, The Borgen Project, Fast Coexist, Prevention
Photo: Flickr

October 17 is celebrated throughout the world as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Extreme poverty has many causes and benefactors that have allowed it to become the expansive global issue it is today. Lack of food supply, insufficient amount of suitable water sources and deadly viruses all contribute to the extreme poverty epidemic. However, lack of education is often overlooked, yet it holds as much stock in healing poverty as any other way. Making education a major target is crucial, especially for the female children in these areas.

Children in impoverished areas are not receiving proper education. However, the children that are receiving any sort of education are predominately males, and females are simply left out of the education process. Only 43 percent of secondary-age girls are in school, and 1 in every 5 girls in the developing world do not complete any education beyond sixth grade.

There are several reasons why girls in developing countries do not make it past middle school education. These issues range from having to work to help support the family to being married off at a young age. More than 10,000 girls under the age of 15 are to be married each day in developing countries. However, girls that receive secondary education are six times less likely to marry before the age of eighteen. Additionally, girls who receive at least seven years of quality education tend to make better lifestyle decisions. They average a marriage age of at least four years later than girls who do not receive the same number of years in education, and average two fewer children.

In these impoverished areas, girls have also shown a better tendency to conserve their money and use it primarily or their family. A woman in a developing country who earns an income invests 90 percent of it into her family, a substantially higher percentage than the men boast. However, the money cannot be made without receiving an education. While girls have more obstacles to pass to obtain theirs, even one year of schooling can improve a girl’s individual earnings by 10-20 percent.

The value of an education can change several aspects of life. Studies show that youths in general who receive at least a primary education have as much as a 50 percent reduced rate to contract HIV and AIDS. If a child is taught at an early age ways to avoid these diseases and to treat them, the results could be staggering. Predictions show that up to 700,000 HIV cases could be potentially prevented if more children received a primary education.

Girls have several odds stacked against them. However, receiving an education can obviously impact the lives of young girls in developing countries. By obtaining this education, girls have a much better chance of improving their poverty situation. Programs such as Compassion (found here) allow people to sponsor a child, and through outside aid these children are able to obtain their education. The mission to institute education worldwide is a crucial one; without increased learning, the world will always have the lingering effects of extreme poverty. Fixing the education issue is a fine way to make a difference.

– Zachary Wright

Sources: Compassion Blog, Education Graphic, Compassion Website

Photo: World Literacy Initiative, Inc.