Ali and Joe are the founders of the mushroom apothecary Forest Folk Fungi, where they cultivate medicinal and gourmet mushrooms from the biodiverse Southeastern Forests. Mushrooms are special, not quite plants nor animals, and Ali and Joe see them as intelligent entities that possess a spirit. Read on to find out why they work with fungi, the spiritual side of mushrooms, their sourcing process, and more.

What got you into fungi? What is it about its healing capacities on the mind, body and soul that find unique and exciting?

Ali: The very first tincture I ever crafted was an extract of reishi mushroom. I’d been living and working on a mushroom farm outside of Nashville, TN, and was just starting to wake up to the joys of making medicine with the plants and fungi that grow around us. There’s a felt sense in my life that reishi has acted as a gatekeeper of sorts, opening doorways at the right moment.

Have psychedelic mushrooms played a role in your interest in fungi?

We respect and revere medicinal mushrooms of all kinds. From traditional mushroom veladas in Mexico that keep ancient ceremonial ways alive to current research carried out by MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), mushrooms can heal and teach in profound ways.

Is there a spiritual side to fungi that you’ve experienced?

In our experience, all plants and fungi are beings that possess and are animated by spirit. The more quiet we can become, the more we can open ourselves to connection with these ancient, intelligent beings. Many mushrooms are considered “three treasure tonics” in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This means they nourish all three primordial energies of life – the jing, the chi, and the shen. Shen is the treasure of the mind and of the spirit – it is the equanimity of mood that allows us to live our best lives. When we work with mushrooms to balance all three of our primordial energies, and especially our shen, the life of our spirit can grow. In this way, mushrooms like reishi can help us as we walk our path – not by doing our work for us, but by nourishing the foundations of our ability to work on ourselves.

What’s special about the mushrooms in the Southeastern forests?

Our Southeastern forests are some of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. When we work with plants and fungi that grow around us, we are entering into a deep relationship with the ecology of our home. It is our heartfelt belief that the medicine we need grows at our feet. We wildcraft plants and fungi only when we have developed relationship with them – and developing relationship takes time and requires closeness. We hope that this integrity of spirit can be felt in the medicine offerings we carry into the world.

Can you share a little bit about your process sourcing and cultivating mushrooms?

 Cultivating medicinal and gourmet mushrooms for medicine and food is a total joy. The shapes, colors, textures, and scents are completely captivating and, for us, a gift straight from the Source of all creation. We recommend that anyone feeling called to experiment jump right in – from oysters to shiitake to reishi to cordyceps, there is so much beauty to explore. There’s nothing quite like a surprise flush of your shiitake logs to start your day off with an open-hearted bang!
Faye Sakellaridis

Faye Sakellaridis’s interest in psychedelics and consciousness led her to become an managing editor at The Alchemists Kitchen and Reality Sandwich, where she enjoys the scope of visionary thought that she regularly encounters from the site’s many contributors and the “rich spectrum of intellectual essays on consciousness through a diverse lens of art, culture, and science.” Faye recently earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens College in NYC, and her professional and academic life have been centered on journalism and creative writing. However, Faye—a classically trained improvisational pianist—says that spiritually, she identifies herself first and foremost identify as a musician. “Music is my most intuitive language,” she says. “If it weren't for music I'm not sure I'd truly understand the concept of the sublime. Writing and music are two are elemental parts of me, and communicating through them is what I do.”

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