Mycelium in Modern Media

By Melanie Castaneda


Are mushrooms showing up more and more in our everyday lives? Whether we are looking for them or not, mushrooms, mycelium and scientific exploration are becoming mainstream due to an increase in interest. This creates leverage for modern media and entertainment companies to incorporate this hot topic into their content and storytelling. Picture yourself scrolling on TikTok and you’ll see mushroom influencers and artisans. Turn on your TV and you’ll see Zac Efron’s latest season of Down To Earth: Down Under where there is an entire episode dedicated to regenerative agriculture featuring mycelium a.k.a. mushrooms! Now let’s add some other cool modern finds to this list because you know we got ‘em.

You’re walking down the street and pop into a local Urban Outfitters, tell me you’ve seen their beautiful mushroom throw pillows and funky mushroom rugs. Hello home decor! Say you like to shop small and you’re on Etsy checking the latest deals. You’ll find mushroom candles, mushroom journals, mushroom coffees, trinkets, you’ll even see mushroom sunglasses and neon accessories to sport at the next pop concert or EDM fest. 

The more you begin to accept mushrooms, the more they will show up in your daily life. Have you seen Fantastic Fungi? A major Netflix documentary that took part in bringing the knowledge of mushrooms and mycelium into the mainstream media and entertainment — where the likes of Joe Rogan began talking about mushrooms in his podcast — I mean the snowball effect of conversation unlocked a widespread interest in mushrooms worldwide. 

So where does Divana Mushrooms come into this? Divana is a wellness brand that was founded by Greg Chapman who truly believes in the divine forest. Divana Mushrooms was derived from the “Di” which translates to divine and “Vana” meaning forest (Sanskrit). 

We as a brand fully understand that forests around the planet provide life for all. Fungus play an important role in the soil’s flourishing ecosystem of the forest. We not only understand this about mushrooms, mycelium and fungus, but we also encourage our community to understand the many ways mushrooms can benefit their life and the life of our planet. The balance between regenerative agriculture and the network communication of mycelium within the earth’s soil is the basis of our brand message: 

Divana cares about bringing balance back into the world and educating others about living a healthy and soulful life. 

When we say healthy, we don’t mean Keto/Organic/Plant-based living coupled with rigorous workout plans and a biodegradable material lifestyle. What we mean by health goes much further than any product or fad. Health as in a full cycle understanding of the uses of microbial fungi and how it directly relates to the health of our bodies.

Microbial fungi play an essential role in nutrient uptake, metabolism, growth, energy and disease resistance. Fungi live in our gut just as they live in the soil. In the human gut, fungi take the food we eat and break it down into nutrients our bodies can absorb and use. In the soil fungi works in a similar way, digesting organic material that other organisms can’t break down to turn soil into food and nutrients that plants can use to make it rich and healthy, which promotes robust plants and crops. 

You see where we are going here? Human bodies can and do benefit from digesting mushrooms while the soil benefits from networking with mushrooms. This gives our species a life cycle of healthy animals, plants, water life and earth’s soil to regenerate. This is optimal health. This is why we take part in starting the conversation around mushrooms. It’s not the singular healthy lifestyle of a single person who can afford to purchase a Divana Mushrooms product, but a whole planet that can — and does — work in tandem to create a balance of healthy opportunities to further the health of our planet which starts with ourselves.

Now, if you’ve seen the HBO series The Last of US, you know a bit about cordyceps mushrooms. The Zombie mushroom as Zac Efron likes to call it in his Netflix series Down to Earth: Down Under. If you haven’t seen the HBO series, then maybe you’ve heard all the hype! Don’t worry, I’m only 2 episodes in and I already feel more dialed in on mycelium and its massive network than ever before. HBO has a great way of developing some of the world’s best content and its storytelling will aid the mushroom community in its expansion by simply telling this story for all to be entertained. Before I go spoiling The Last of Us series for all of you that still want to watch it but haven’t found the time yet, let me start by quoting some of the information we learned from Zac Efron’s Down to Earth, Season 2, Episode 1: Regenerative Agriculture.

About 23 minutes into the 37 minute episode, Zac Efron and his co-host Darin Olien, head an hour north of Melbourne for their last trip in the episode to learn about a different kingdom. The mushroom kingdom. They learn and share a chemical process that not only enriches the soil, but helps the planet by absorbing carbon and locking it into the ground. MOLD. Mold that feeds off decayed material in the forest and then in turn provides nutrients to the soil. Fungus are known for their fruiting bodies as mushrooms.

Like we said before, and from what we learned from Efron and Olien, Microbial fungi keep the system strong and healthy. Due to those essential roles microbial fungi play in nutrient uptake, metabolism, growth, energy and disease resistance. We will come back to disease resistance and energy, but for now let’s focus on what we can learn by watching TV. So we know that bacteria and fungi live in the soil. They live in our gut just as they live in the soil. Think farmers, sustainable farming and organic production of food from farmers. This system reduces CO2 in the process which reduces your carbon footprint, improves air quality and saves lives.

A quote I love from Down to Earth: Down Under, when the mushroom illustration pops out of the ground to talk to an illustration of Zac Efron:

“If you give me enough time, I’ll grow on you…like a fungus”

Down To Earth, Fun-guy.

Over time, we as a society begin to accept the world of mushrooms. Just as we had mentioned in the beginning, about how mushrooms start showing up more and more in your life. You begin to develop a healthy appetite for the alchemy of mushrooms. The guys over at Fable Food in Melbourne show Efron and Olien how they turn any meat based dish into a plant based meal made of mushrooms. But before they can cook any meals, they start with a mushroom forage to show Efron and Olien the fun in foraging for mushrooms. Fable Foods Co-Founders,  Jim Fuller and Chris McLoghlin, teach them (and us) about the nutritional and medicinal benefits of mushrooms and how mycelium networks created by fungi are the earth’s life support system. Now this was a highlight for those guys over at Fable Foods. Not every day do you get to forage and cook for the famous Zac Efron. Just as our mushroom community is raving about the media coverage of mushrooms and how we did not anticipate seeing cordyceps take the big screen in HBO’s The Last of Us.

On their foraging adventure the Fable Foods guys highlight an important fact about soil that you may not realize. They say, “The soil with chemicals decreases our ability to farm because the chemicals are damaged and stripped of nutrients. It’s all about topsoil, regenerating healthy soil for more farming to produce nutritious foods. Another 30 years of chemical farming will not be sustainable and can hurt the future of our food supply. Ha Good luck!” This is a TERRIFYING piece of info because a lot of big corp farmers use pesticides, herbicides and fungicides to keep weeds, pests and mold from destroying their crops and to add more nutrients to the soil. Most chemicals are helpful in the short term, but what the Fable Foods guys are saying is that if we continue to generate our crops in this way, we will not have much topsoil to work with. The chemicals are damaging the soil at a long term level. 

Ultimately, we should consciously be allying and partnering with these species (fungi) to in turn be reintroducing them into the environments that we damaged and stripped them from. Additionally, learn from them and learn to amplify and advocate for them and push them into environments where they can help us grow more food in sustainable ways. Every single nutrient that we eat comes out of that top layer of the topsoil. Mycelium lives in that top layer as well. Let me tell you a little bit of what Zac Efron and the boys said about mycelium. 

They say, “our ability to live on the earth, depends on how we treat the earth. I mean the dirt of the earth. Mushrooms are a huge part of creating that diet, the diet the topsoil gets from eating microorganisms. Not only that, but Mushrooms help prevent erosion, increase water supply into the ground, and help keep carbon in the soil versus adding it to the atmosphere.” 

It all starts with Mycelium.

What is mycelium you may still be asking? Mycelium is a massive underground network of nerves. 1 fruiting body of a mushroom can be linked to living with the trees around it and providing those trees the nutrients they are looking for through that network. Organic matter is now in the soil, the mycelium is in the soil and it’s giving the trees their expansion. Mushrooms are like little eco warriors, feeding the plants and protecting the air. Be warned, mushrooms can be deadly and delicious so leave the mushroom picking to the experts! 

Now let’s talk about Cordyceps! Because cordyceps are the basis of HBO’s The Last of Us and because Divana offers cordyceps in an array of our wellness products. 

Cordyceps, explained by our very own Zac “heartthrob” Efron, are the most notorious mushrooms of them all — the zombie mushroom. Cordyceps is a parasitic fungus that hijacks the bodies and brains of living organisms, usually insects, feeding off the host and eventually killing it. *Cue* The Last of Us plot line. When hunting cordyceps in Australia, Efron and Olien literally see how cordyceps follow the natural cycle of the insect it infects. Such as an ant. It grows in it, like water filling it from the ground. 

Now, to be fair, we learned this detail from Down to Earth: Down Under, BUT we see this play out in real time in The Last of Us where this info is more mysterious until you begin to put the pieces together. There is a cordyceps for almost every insect. In this case, ever human body that cordyceps infects in the show, The Last of Us. Cordyceps are species specific. So the cordyceps species matches with an insect (or human) and they evolve together. They take over the brain, like a literal zombie fungus. It follows the natural cycle of the species it infects. For example, an ant — the ant will have an infected brain and will crawl up a blade of grass, a fern, whatever the fungus tells it to do. Once the insect in in place, the cordyceps will stop driving it, get it to clamp down and will fill it like water filling a glass. Cordyceps will then take the shape of it and digest it. Except the cottonized eye. The only thing non-vegan in cordyceps is the eyeball of the insect it took over. Cordyceps consume the remains of a “caterpillar” and an “ant”…anything. Cordyceps looks for a host.

Now if you didn’t know, allow me to put you on to some interesting info. The mushroom kingdom is bigger than a vegetable kingdom. It has taken 12 years of a great mushroom scientist (aka Fable Foods Co-Founders Jim Fuller and Chris McLoghlin), to give mushrooms the same edible experience as meat. Turning mushrooms into chicken fried steak, texan brisket sandwiches and burgers…

When looking to replace meat, one of the most popular things people want is a burger. Mushrooms are far more sustainable, much easier on the planet and so much better for our bodies. Just saying! Although, not to confuse us with the information we share, we at Divana are yes — carnivores! We call it balance.

What we can learn after watching Season 2, Episode 1 of Down to Earth: Down Under, is that we are at a jumping off point with our planet. Historic levels of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere are changing the climate. But it’s not too late to slow down and reverse the damage that was done. It just depends on how we choose to move forward. Regenerative Agro can play a key role, these practices can go beyond reducing the harm we inflict upon the earth. And can actually work to heal the planet and our bodies into a healthier condition, until it’s too late. Whether it’s big changes or lots of small ones. Every little bit helps. Because the real bad trip would be losing this place we call home (aka earth) for good.

We love that sentiment from Zac Efron and the writers on the series. Whether you care a lot or a little, this overview can really put into perspective the role of mushroom, mycelium and fungi as well as our individual impact on this planet.

Season 1 of Down to Earth with Zac Efron aired in 2020. A groundbreaking year for streaming and also the year Divana Mushrooms rebranded itself from Mother Earth Mushrooms. Just 2 years later, in 2023 we see a whole episode dedicated to regenerative agriculture where mushrooms have taken 1/3 of the storytelling. That’s a huge piece of the media and entertainment pie. Back in 2019, Fantastic Fungi was released on Netflix, giving mycelium and the world of mushrooms a platform to spark interest. Now in 2023, a non-documentary piece of content comes to life in the form of an HBO series, The Last of Us. There is no telling the impact mushrooms will have in storytelling for years to come, but one thing we can say is that the historic remedies of the mushroom kingdom is the reason why Divana Mushrooms has flourished as a brand and will continue to bring mushroom wellness products to the market as more people get curious about trying them.

If you’re looking for a way to introduce medicinal mushroom to your life — or are all of a sudden super curious about cordyceps after reading this and watching The Last of Us — allow us to provide for you a mushroom tincture, mushroom powder or our HOT and NEW Flowstate Nootropic. We believe that mushrooms can benefit everyone, no matter your health goals. Mushrooms have the ability to regenerate cells, prevent us from disease, restore energy in a natural way and give our bodies the nutrients it needs to live a healthy and soulful life.

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