Mushroom Magic

Mushroom Magic

Bev Dunne

I’m sure most of us love the earthy flavour of mushrooms added to a savoury dish. However, most are not aware just how beneficial mushrooms can be for our health? Mushrooms have been found to contain some amazing therapeutic benefits and have been used for centuries in Chinese medicine.

There’s estimated to be around 140,000 species of mushroom-forming fungi found in the world, although there’s only about 100 species being studied for their possible health benefits. The list of health benefits is quite astounding. For instance -

Reishi Mushrooms grow on the base of deciduous trees in tropical and temperate climates across Asia. Ancient Chinese writings describe the Reishi Mushroom as the elixir of immortality.

Reishi Mushroom is one of the better known therapeutic mushrooms. It is often included in Traditional Chinese Medicine formulas, particularly immune formulas because it has been found to be helpful in boosting white blood cells, and in turn boosting the immune system. This means it can be helpful in fighting viruses and other infections. I have often written about one of my favourite immune formulas which includes Reishi Mushroom together with Astragalus and Siberian Ginseng – a great formula to be taking at this time of the year!

Just as importantly, Reishi Mushroom is known as an immune modulator, which means it can not only boost the immune system, when necessary, it can also reduce an overactive immune system. This means it may be helpful in treating autoimmune diseases, allergies and asthma. It is also thought to be helpful in reducing fatigue and is also being acclaimed for its potential for cancer prevention and treatment.

Another important benefit of Reishi Mushroom is its ability to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression because of its calming properties. This contains a compound known as triterpene which is known to be a mood boosting compound. It is also beneficial in helping improve our ability to focus. Interestingly this compound is also understood to aid wound healing by accelerating the process of tissue repair.

Chaga Mushroom by contrast is grown in cold climates often on birch trees and have this rock like appearance. Interestingly they don’t have that usual mushroom taste. They have an unusual taste combining bitterness with vanilla!

Chaga Mushroom is packed with antioxidants helping to fight free radicals as well as inflammation. It is believed to reduce oxidative stress which we know can accelerate skin ageing. Because of its high volume of antioxidants may assist in reducing cholesterol. It is also thought Chaga Mushroom may reduce the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and overall cholesterol as well as increase the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.

There are several early studies which indicate Chaga Mushroom may help decrease blood sugar levels, improving insulin resistance which is good news for those suffering from Type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome and insulin resistance.

Shitake Mushrooms are native to Japan, China, and Korea. It was first cultivated in China between 1000 and 1100 AD and the second most cultivated mushroom in the world.

Shitake Mushroom is another well-known mushroom once again believed to contain antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties as well as immune boosting properties. This mushroom contains a variety of chemical compounds. These compounds are considered to prevent our DNA from undergoing oxidative damage which is obviously extremely beneficial for our health. One of these chemical compounds known as Lentinan may help heal damage created by anti-cancer treatment. There is also some belief Shitake Mushroom may help fight cancer cells.

Shitake Mushrooms are also thought to be beneficial for our heart. Once again, as with Chaga Mushrooms, Shitake Mushrooms are believed to lower LDL ‘bad cholesterol’ because of their ability to inhibit the absorption and cholesterol in the liver. As well Shitake Mushrooms contain phytonutrients which are able to stop plaque build-up in our arteries, helping to support healthy blood pressure and of course a healthy heart.

Next week I will write about Lions Mane, Turkey Tail and Cordyceps.

Medicinal mushrooms come in several forms – powder, drops or honey pearls. With powder and drops they can simply be added to beverages or food.

Honey pearls are a more recent addition to medicinal mushroom range. They are raw, unique and based on 2000-year-old preparation method that optimises the absorption of mushrooms. By making mushrooms into Honey Pearls the active ingredients of the mushrooms are absorbed slowly and gradually over time, making them highly bioavailable and slow to release.