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Natural Healing

 Biologist George Oxley has a unique obsession with mushrooms, which he sees as the conductor of all living things.

George Oxley

An independent biologist, George Oxley is a soil expert: foraging, understanding plant life and protecting biodiversity are part of his daily practice. But without mushrooms, he says, it all falls apart, for they are responsible for the health of our ecosystems, soils and bodies. Oxley explains why.

You have a unique obsession.

Yes, I am obsessed with the first forms of life, meaning mushrooms tied to viruses and bacteria. I try to bring them back everywhere. As humans, we are thinking upside down: we depend on the health of viruses and bacteria, which we try to eradicate at all times.

How important are mushrooms?

As a species, it acts as the conductor to all living things: all bacteria thrive around it. It is the one element that connects everything: if mushrooms are 0.1 percent in quantity of our biome, they are 200 times bigger than the bacteria in terms of diversity. They are essential to plants as they have a direct effect on the soil, which, in turn, the human body depends on.

You use mushrooms to heal.

Yes, I started with Aga Khan’s studs in Chantilly: racing horses are prone to fatigue fracture, tiny fractures in their bones, which have them resting in the fields for at least two weeks before they can race again. If they come back to the racetracks. But the racing season is short and, before you know it, your stud can lose a year of competition. By analysing the food of the horse, I mixed mushrooms and food supplements, basically plants and fermented mushrooms in vinegar, to repair horse fractures in four days.

Food is your other passion.

I love food. And, as a biologist, loving food means you need to make good food, which always starts from the soil up. For the past 30 years, I’ve been trying to understand why a seed wants to grow and what makes it start the process. Once you know the conditions of growing of a seed, you immediately know the qualities of a soil. I use plants as bioindicators of the quality of the soil, which leads to finding symbiotic worlds that live in contact to it. This is what we call the plant biome.

How is it all linked to the human body?

Before we are born, we have no bacteria, fungi nor virus. Our health comes from an average 4kg of bacteria and fungi. We get it through our food, which, in turn, comes from a quality of soil. From this understanding, you can make great food and create all kinds of remedies to depollute and support health, for example. Nature is the mother of all inventions: understanding the soil is the key to understanding life and find solutions to cure, feed, regenerate life, rethink agriculture and textiles.

What can we use mushrooms for?

Mushrooms are the only being on this planet that can eat metals and rocks, transform them and sequester them in plants; very difficult for a human being! There isn’t a single solution: the solution is in understanding the system. The mushroom depends on bacteria and viruses on the one hand and on plants on the other. It is part of a chain.

In Parma, I have been working on a project called Kilometre Verde using mushrooms to regenerate both sides of the motorway. Thirty metres of land will be turned into a conservatory of ancient species used in Italian food such as old varieties of wheat or fruit trees. To depollute the soils, I sow seeds mixed with a powder composed of fungi, virus and bacteria. It is also a way for plants to adapt to climate change and the scorching heat next to the asphalt.

We are also looking into finding a cure for the plane trees that are prone to a disease that is accelerating due to climate change and dryer seasons. I cured 200 plane trees ten years ago in Provence, and we are now in the process of making scientific tests.

You also believe in foraging.

Being in contact with the wild is very important. Man has lived for eight million years: if we were to compare man’s journey on Earth to 24 hours, man would been eating wild plants for the whole day. A minute before the end of the day, he would start cultivating and destroying wild plants. Every plant grows in a specific ecosystem and nurtures the soil, which is the skin of the Earth. For example, the more animals, the more plantain grows; as a plant it brings back air into the soil and allows mushrooms to grow in a very compacted soil. To humans, plantain is the highest antihistaminic remedy on the planet, it stops all allergies.

Believing in foraging is believing that plants are the language of the soil: a box filled with surprises and solutions. We depend on this soil: we need the soil to be healthy to be healthy.

This article originally appeared in Billionaire's Health Issue, December 2019. To subscribe contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.