There is currently a lot of hype surrounding medicinal mushrooms (and rightfully so). Lucky for us there is a myriad of available powders and concoctions to allow us to easily access the array of benefits these little beauties offer. Here is a breakdown of some mushroom history and some of the many effects that are currently being recognised.
Mushrooms have been utilized for their medicinal attributes in traditional medicines for as long as we can look back. Reference has been made to mushrooms healing abilities by Hippocrates (approx. 450 BC), Tao Hongjing (5th century), Otzi (‘The ice man’- 5300 years ago)… to name a few.
‘Mycelium’ is the bacterial colony of fungi that can reproduce and form fruit bodies (mushrooms). Fungi plays an important role in maintaining the balance within ecosystems, it has the ability to decompose and filter chemicals and micro-organisms from the soil.
The largest organism on earth is a mycelial mat of mushroom (the honey mushroom) reaching 890 hectares with an approximated age of 2000years, (found in Oregon, USA).
One of the discussed sources of mushrooms medicinal actions are the beta-glucan polysaccharides. Beta-glucans have been observed to influence our immune system in several ways:
- Activating immune cells
- Enhancing antibody production
- Increasing immune activity
- Inhibiting tumour metastasis
- Reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins
- Increasing lymphocytes that improve resistance to allergies
Thus, showing immune activation and modulation. This is observed to be due to interaction with immune cell receptors.
Additionally, beta-glucans are observed to:
- Reduce LDL cholesterol and increase good cholesterols (HDL), assisting if fat metabolism
- Display anti-cancer activities by regulating tumour genes
- Protect our liver
Other general nutrients provided by mushrooms:
- Fibres, proteins, B vitamins, vitamin D, magnesium and potassium
Here is a breakdown of some different mushrooms and their medicinal effects:
- Oyster mushrooms: Enhance intestinal mucosal defence to inflammation.
- Shiitake mushrooms: Enhance intestinal mucosal defence to inflammation, assists in adequate peristalsis (intestinal movement/digestion), immune enhancement, blood cholesterol management and liver health. Shiitake also contains high levels of vitamin D (IMMUNE)
- Maitake: Increases insulin production (enhanced when supported with vitamin C)
- Turkey tail: Cancer management, pain relief, enhanced immunity, protection against immunosuppressive drugs
- Reiishi: Neuroprotection and anti-inflammatory effects
- Lions main: Neuroprotection, immune modulation
- Chaga: Immune boosting, anti-inflammatory properties, lowering blood suger
- Cordyceps: Immune modulating and cancer management
I hope that this has given you a better understanding of the medicinal powers of mushrooms. As always start with dietary inclusions and consult with a nutritionist for further advise specific to your body.
(references available upon request)