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Fungus Around Us: Medicinal Mushrooms

2 weeks, 2 days ago

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Posted on Jun 27, 2024, 2 p.m.

Medicinal mushrooms (MMs) are believed to have many pharmacological properties, and they have been used to treat various conditions for hundreds of years, mostly in Asia. For over 30 years they have been approved as an addition to standard cancer treatments in Japan and China. Today, medicinal mushrooms are also used to help treat lung diseases and cancer.

The biological effects of medicinal mushrooms vary depending on the chemical nature of the bioactive metabolites within the fruiting body, and the mycelium of the mushroom as well as the fungal species. They are commonly thought to contain anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anticancer properties. 

There are around 14,000 different species of mushroom-producing fungi that have been described. This estimate is only likely a small fraction of existing species, some estimates suggest there could be more than 22,000 up to 140,000. However, many mushroom species are inedible, and only 10% of them are known. Of the 300 edible mushroom species only 30 have been domesticated and only 10 are commercially grown. 

Thought to be nutritional powerhouses containing a myriad of health benefits, cordyceps, reishi, chaga, shiitake, lion’s mane, turkey tail, maitake, oyster, Agaricus, white button, portabella, cremini, and tremella are the most popular medicinal mushrooms. These mushrooms are believed to provide immune support, support healthy inflammation response, support brain health, boost cognition, support the nervous system, increase energy and stamina, as well as being rich sources of potent anti-aging antioxidants. 

5 mushrooms considered to have the most health benefits:

Cordyceps are commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for their energizing effects. The mushroom contains beta-glucans which help to deliver oxygen to cells and increase both energy and stamina. They may also help to improve immunity, kidney function, and sexual dysfunction. Traditional healers use this mushroom to improve energy, appetite, stamina and endurance, revitalize fatigue, treat stress, support digestion, and promote lung health.

Reishi mushrooms have been used for thousands of years in Eastern medicine where royalty considered it to be the “mushroom of immortality” and they used it to promote longevity. This mushroom may help to boost the immune system, decrease the size of tumors in some cancers, and improve the quality of life for cancer patients. TCM uses these mushrooms to support sleep, reduce stress, encourage healthy aging, and support the urinary tract, as well as promote lung and respiratory health.

Chaga mushrooms are rich sources of potent antioxidants which help to protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals which can lead to chronic inflammation and increase the risk of heart disease. These mushrooms may help to lower cholesterol, slow cancer growth, support the immune system, and reduce blood pressure. This mushroom has over 200 pre-clinical studies showing promising benefits for modulating inflammation, supporting digestion, antioxidant activity, antimicrobial activity, and being adaptogenic. 

Shiitake mushrooms are great sources of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, beta-glucans, and anti-aging antioxidant compounds. They also contain B vitamins which may help to support skin and hair, as well as promote heart, and immune health. TCM uses this mushroom to support a long and healthy life and promote healthy circulation. Shiitake mushrooms may also help to maintain cholesterol levels, modulate blood sugar levels, and support healthy inflammation responses. 

Lion’s Mane mushrooms may support healthy brain function and neuron generation due to containing a multitude of important compounds like beta-glucans which are immunomodulating antioxidants and neuroprotective phytonutrients. This mushroom is used in TCM to help treat digestion issues, fatigue, water regulation, memory problems, and stress-related disorders. 

Take Away

Mushrooms may be a fungus around us but that is not deterring most people from adding them to their meals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that the average American consumes around three pounds of mushrooms annually. Mushrooms are functional foods that help us to decrease the risk of cancer, lower sodium intake, lower cholesterol, protect brain health, stimulate a healthy gut microbiome, fight inflammation, and support the immune system. 

Edible mushrooms are low in calories, low fat, and they contain no cholesterol.  Edible mushrooms are also nutritious, making them a great non-fattening snack choice to help support weight management goals. Mushrooms contain protein, fiber, vitamins (including vitamin D), minerals, and antioxidants to support healthy aging. Moreover, eating mushrooms has been linked to protecting against a number of conditions such as cognitive decline, diabetes, and high blood pressure. 

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. Additionally, it is not intended to malign any religion, ethic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

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References/Sources/Materials provided by:

T.W. at WHN

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