Agarikon As a Potential Smallpox Remedy - NPR Interview with Paul Stamets

By Dr. Markho Rafael

In an interview on National Public Radio, world-renown medicinal mushroom expert Paul Stamets recounts his discovery of the healing properties of agarikon, a mushroom growing on 500-year-old trees in the old growth rainforests of the northwestern United States.

Knowing that mushrooms are susceptible to many of the same microbes as humans, how could it be, he asked himself, that this perennial wood conk managed to stay healthy for 50 years in the dripping wet rain forest without rotting? It must have a powerful immune system, he concluded, with potentially powerful medicinal compounds that could benefit humans.

To find agarikon in the wild, look for something reminiscent of a beehive on the ancient tree trunks of an old-growth forest. (You may view a picture of agarikon through the agarikon-link on this page.) Please keep in mind that agarikon is a rare and threatened species. Do not harvest it unless there's a very good reason for doing so. But by all means, bring out your digital camera.

It should be noted that the agarikon Paul Stamets uses is not harvested in the wild. He grows his own, and uses it for the extract he produces. A sample of that extract was submitted to the Defense Department, to be tested at a top security laboratory in Fort Dietrich, Maryland. The Defense Department's BIO Shield Program at that location searches for cures to biological warfare agents such as smallpox and anthrax.

Reportedly, tens of thousands of natural as well as manmade remedies are tested through the BIO Shield Program. According to drug discovery supervisor John Seacrest, Paul Stamets agarikon extract scored one of the rare hits against viruses related to smallpox. In other words, it effectively inhibited smallpox related viruses under lab conditions.

Following this discovery, Paul Stamets now has a patent pending on a mushroom-derived anti-viral drug. One of his financial backers, Boston-based investor John Norris, bases his support in part on the fact that, as he says, not everyone is able or willing to be vaccinated against diseases such as smallpox.

As a former second at the FDA, John Norris should know enough about the field of medicine. And obviously, his belief in Paul Stamets agarikon extract is strong enough to put his money where his mouth is. His goal is that they may someday sell this agarikon extract for the defense stock-piles of NATO armies, with doses numbering in the hundreds of millions.

That may, however, still be a few years in the making. First the product needs to go through further exhaustive lab trials as well as gain FDA approval.

Note: The above article is intended for informational purposes only. Agarikon has not been approved by the FDA for use as a medicinal. Never use any herbal or mushroom-product for medicinal purposes unless advice to do so by a licensed medical practitioner.

Reference: Banse, T., NPR Morning Edition, Smallpox Defense May Be Found in Mushrooms, August 4, 2005. - 30540

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