For six years, Jessika Gauvin used alcohol and drugs as a way to escape life and ignore past trauma. But in April 2018, she wandered into her local forest in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada and found being around nature gave her a “new perspective” on life.
Gauvin is now five years sober and dedicates her time to finding natural ways to reduce stress and trauma through mushrooms and other wild edibles. The full-time forager even uses blended-down black trumpet mushroom as a spice for all of her dishes due to its high levels of nutrients such as protein and potassium, as well as a unique kind of fibre called beta-glucan.
Part of her full-time occupation is teaching other adults and children how to pick mushrooms safely. “Mushrooms saved my life,” she says. “I used to spend every paycheck on getting wasted. Now I’m debt-free and have discovered what mother nature can offer. I now use fungi to treat my trauma.”
Gauvin began drinking at an early age with friends, but the dependence grew as she started a family. In March 2012, her first son Noah, now 11, was born, with a second son Jasper just a year later.
She suffered post-natal depression, which left her “incredibly tired and lonely” trying to raise both children, and turned to drugs and alcohol to relieve stress. As the children grew up, Gauvin noticed her dependency on alcohol left her sad and anxious “every hour of every day”.
After finally becoming sick of her own behaviour, Jessika took herself to Moncton forest for guidance and dug her bare feet into the soil to connect with nature. On that day, she recalls, she decided to tackle her problems head-on with nature as a guide.
It’s not a new idea; the Japanese have been ‘forest bathing’ for many years as a way to reduce anxiety, and ‘nature prescriptions’ have become a very common recommendation from physicians seeing depressed individuals.
She educated herself on fungi such as Reishi mushrooms, which contain a high concentration of naturally sedative compounds that she says helped induce calmness. “Reishi mushrooms are incredibly beneficial to those with anxiety,” says Gauvin, and in fact, they are often sold as a nootropic, or neurocognitive enhancing nutriceutical. “My anxiety drastically reduced and it was all free. I was saving so much money every month,” she recalls.
Gauvin soon fell “completely in love” with mushrooms and spent day and night educating herself on how to safely pick and identify them. She now spends three hours in the forest every day and offers multiple classes on folklore medicine, herbal remedies, and mushroom identification.
She even takes out of her two boys into the forest and they are now able to identify more than 100 mushrooms at just a glance.
“If I had kept going with my hedonism, I would be dead,” she says. “Mushrooms offered me a way to face my problems and overcome them. I wish I had listened to the earth sooner.”