Medicinal mushrooms offer more health-promoting and disease-fighting benefits than almost any other natural medicine or food. These special fungi are some of the richest sources of therapeutic compounds, including lipids, proteoglycans (combinations of proteins and sugars), polysaccharides (including beta glucans), alkaloids, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and more. Certain varieties of medicinal mushrooms have been prominent in traditional Asian formulas for millennia because of their numerous health benefits on multiple organ systems. Today, modern science continues to validate these remarkable benefits, specifically in the treatment of cancer, immune function, and environmental toxicity, but also for cardiovascular disease, organ failure, respiratory problems, digestive issues, diabetes, neurodegenerative conditions—and more.
Train Your System
Research demonstrates how medicinal mushrooms act with the body on a fundamental level to restore optimal function and balance. For example, our bodies tend to build up a tolerance to most natural medicines, including vitamins, nutrients, and some herbs. Over time, we require higher dosages to achieve therapeutic results. With medicinal mushrooms, the opposite is true. One of the most unique features of medicinal mushrooms is that they can be used on a long-term basis to “train” your system to function at optimal levels. This means that the longer you take medicinal mushrooms, the greater the benefits and the lower the dosage needed to maintain health and vitality.
This is a concept drawn from Traditional Chinese Medicine, as these ancient practices are energetic medicines. What does this mean? It means that they are based on the understanding, exploration, and utilization of time and space. When used properly, these medical systems can transform issues from our past, as well as helping with present and future health function. Medicinal mushrooms can play a role in this process.
From a Western medical perspective, the body system that can most easily demonstrate this concept of time is the immune system. There can be damages from the past that impair immune function, such as exposure to heavy metals and environmental toxins, trauma, infection, and surgery. There can also be numerous issues from the present, such as stress, poor diet, and other factors that create an immediate negative impact on the immune system and impair the ability of natural killer (NK) cells and other first-line defenses to combat disease. And finally, the immune system needs to be trained to function better in the future, and can be negatively affected into the future when it is not trained well during childhood through exposure to common childhood illnesses.
Healing Issues from the Past
Mushrooms are very soft, spongy, and porous, and they have the dramatic ability to absorb all types of substances from the environment in which they are grown. This is why mushrooms can easily accumulate heavy metals and pesticides if not grown under carefully controlled conditions.
Such high absorbency, however, is also part of why medicinal mushrooms are so effective in helping to remove toxins from the body. One of the most interesting actions of medicinal mushrooms is their tendency to travel to stagnant areas of the body that are damaged. They have a specific affinity for places where there is an accumulation of heavy metals and toxins, as well as to areas of inflammation and damage, where they can help detoxify, repair, and strengthen tissues.
The lipids and phospholipids found within medicinal mushrooms allow their other active compounds to penetrate into fatty tissues, cell membranes, and even into the cell itself, where toxins are usually stored. These active constituents can exchange with and effectively expel toxins that may have accumulated in unhealthy tissues for years. This is one way that medicinal mushrooms can counteract the long- term side effects of heavy metals, pesticides, medications, and other environmental toxins.
Healing Issues of the Present
Certain mushrooms can stimulate an immediate effect on the immune system. This is why they have such powerful anticancer abilities as demonstrated in scientific literature. The leading variety is Coriolus versicolor—specifically its active ingredients PSP and PSK, two anticancer compounds often used as natural chemotherapeutic agents. Beta-glucans found in mushrooms can also stimulate an immediate effect on the immune system.
By improving the profiles of T lymphocyte immune cells, medicinal mushrooms enhance the frontline responses of the immune system, providing powerful protection against infections, cancer, and harmful invaders. In addition, they have also been shown to enhance the effects of other compounds, such as different chemotherapy agents, other medicinal mushrooms, and herbs, while also protecting multiple organs from the damaging effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
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Healing Issues of the Future
Medicinal mushrooms have the unique ability to train the immune system, offering greater protection against future illnesses. If the immune system doesn’t have the opportunity to fully develop during childhood, it becomes compromised throughout life. Medicinal mushrooms help to overcome this deficiency by training the immune system, supporting T lymphocyte immune cells and NK cells, and improving overall immune function.
In addition, certain medicinal mushrooms have particular affinities for different organs, such as the lungs, digestive tract, and kidneys. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, these organs are said to have different relationships to time. For example, the lungs relate to the past—as we exhale to release CO2—and on a psychological level, old issues. The digestive system relates to the present and the immediate assimilation of nutrients into energy. The kidney system relates to the future, as this system is the last to filter circulating blood, differentiate what to keep for the future, and release the rest as waste. Though this is a simplified overview, it’s important to note that many medicinal mushrooms have affinities to certain organs and therefore offer specific time-related effects on the body. In many cases, this translates into cleaning up damages from the past and providing adaptogenic-like effects for optimal functioning in the present and future.
Medicinal Mushrooms on the Shelf
Cognitive, respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, kidney, liver, and immune function can all be improved by a proper supplement that acts to repair damages from the past and train for the future. One way to reap this wide range of benefits is to use a comprehensive mushroom formula as a daily mushroom multinutrient.
When purchasing mushrooms, make sure they were grown in controlled environments free of harmful contaminants. In certain advanced medicinal mushroom formulas, mushrooms are grown on blends of immune-enhancing, anticancer herbs. The results are botanically enhanced mushrooms that absorb many of the health-promoting properties of the herbs.
When used daily, medicinal mushrooms provide unparalleled support for all of our bodies’ systems, and they make up an important part of any health program.
Of the thousands of varieties of mushrooms growing throughout the world, several types possess specific medicinal properties. Here is a brief description of six widely studied mushrooms.
Wood Ear Fungus (Auricularia auriculai) increases activity of the antioxidant SOD in key organs such as the brain and liver.
Good for: heart health, healthy cholesterol, immune enhancement, wound healing, and digestive health.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) has the longest historical use of all the mushrooms.
Good for: heart disease, inflammation, cancer prevention, ulcers, and immune strength.
Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) is packed with important vitamins and minerals, as well as essential amino acids.
Good for: Treating/preventing cancer, lowering high blood pressure, reducing high cholesterol, and healing infections.
Turkey Tail (Coriolus versicolor) may be the most studied medicinal mushroom of all. In the 1970s, Japan approved PSK (found in turkey tail) to treat several types of cancers, and it remains a best-selling cancer drug in that country.
Good for: treating/preventing cancer and bolstering immunity.
Maitake (Grifola frondosa) is known as the "King of the Mushrooms" in Japan for both its taste and its health-promoting benefits.
Good for: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, cancer treatment/
Tremella (Tremella fuciformis) is used to make a cough syrup for treating chronic bronchitis and a number of other cough-related conditions (such as asthma and dry cough) in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Good for: Fighting tumors, lowering blood glucose, combating high cholesterol, protecting against radiation, and increasing skin hydration when applied topically.
Econugenics ten mushroom was developed from research and clinical studies. It is potent enough to offer whole body benefits and has a strong element of digestive support.
Fungi perfecti Host defense my community features a synergistic blend of 17 mushrooms. Each one is picked by hand in the Pacific Northwest and is sustainably harvested.
Mushroom science coriolus pSP is made using a unique hot water extraction process—this ensures a higher beta glucan content for the supplement. You can take 1—3 capsules daily.
Mushroom wisdom maitake D Fraction Pro 4x Ultimate Immune Enhancer boasts extra amounts of maitake extract and powder for potent immune protection.
New Chapter organics lifeshield reishi helps to promote longevity. LifeShield signifies that each stage of the mushroom's life cycle is incorporated for optimal nutrition.