Digging into the Science About Fungi
Is the hype around mushrooms warranted? The answer may surprise you.
More people are starting to lichen medicinal mushrooms because they are fungi. Studies on medicinal mushrooms are germinating interest in this herbal medicine which has a long-term history of use as a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Medicinal mushrooms and fungi are thought to possess over 100 medicinal functions. Are they growing on you yet? Perhaps that’s enough fun with the words – let’s dig into the science on medicinal mushrooms.
Are Medicinal Mushrooms Safe?
Considering mushrooms are a source of protein, fiber, B vitamins, selenium, potassium, copper and vitamin D, the short answer is they are good for you! Particularly since many of these nutrients are lacking in the typical North American diet. Yet, the hype around medicinal mushrooms is more than being a nourishing and tasty culinary addition to your meals. They contain some really fascinating nutrients with potentially life changing benefits to the liver, heart, spleen, kidneys, lungs and immune system. As for the treatment of disease, there is no scientific evidence showing the use of medicinal mushrooms is an effective cure.
What are Medicinal Mushrooms?
Reishi, Chaga, Shiitake, Maitake, Cordyceps and Lions Mane are all examples of medicinal mushrooms. For thousands of years mushrooms have been recognized for their nutritional value and medicinal properties. About 2000 species of mushrooms are edible, yet only 200 types are collected for food and medicine. It is estimated that there are 140,000 types of mushrooms but only 10 percent of species are known and have been taxonomically classified. There is enormous potential in fungi!
Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms
What’s cultivating a lot of the excitement? Let’s look under the microscope and check out what researchers know about medicinal mushrooms. Extensive clinical trials have been done, many in China and Japan where they have been used in traditional medicine for centuries. They have found numerous polysaccharides and polysaccharide-protein complexes in medicinal mushrooms that appear to enhance both the innate (short term) and adaptive (longer term) immune response.
The most interesting type of polysaccharide is beta-glucan. Beta-glucans appear to aid the immune system in a manner that studies suggest it could have potential to be an anticancer agent. When beta-glucans from Reishi mushrooms were used in combination with radiation on mice with lung cancer, there was significant inhibition of tumor metastasis (growth of the cancer mass). While the mechanism of their antitumor actions is still not completely understood, it appears a major factor is how medicinal mushrooms stimulate and modulate the immune response. In fact, this has spurred a promising area of cancer research, called cancer fungotherapy. Many mushrooms have shown the ability to inhibit the enzyme aromatase that produces estrogen and thus may protect against breast and other hormone-related cancers. Even the common white button mushroom has some aromatase inhibiting abilities.
Some Potential Benefits of Mushrooms and Fungi:
- Immune modulating
- Prevent tumor growth
- Cardiovascular health
- Lower cholesterol
- Liver protection
Medicinal mushrooms are also host to lectins. Lectins are a carbohydrate-binding protein. Studies suggest lectins may prevent cancer cells from growing and dividing. It’s proposed that they do this by linking to glycoconjugates (carbohydrates on the outside of tumor cells that are different than those found on healthy cells), and through their ability to beneficially effect the immune system’s responses.
Before you go running off, you may want to know this: mushrooms are helpful for athletes too! When a combination of Reishi and Cordycep mushrooms were given to a group of adult athletes (cyclists), it appeared to prevent them from suffering from overtraining syndrome. The antioxidant and perhaps immune benefits of the mushrooms may be to thank.
CanPrev’s Myco10 Powder is an immunomodulating mushroom complex consisting of 7 unique medicinal mushrooms, 3 whole food antioxidants, and a functional prebiotic base. It is 100% plant-based, certified organic, natural and GMO-free, in which the ingredients are solvent-free and sustainably grown.
Medicinal Mushrooms Health Benefits (as per Health Canada):
- Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) – source of fungal polysaccharides with
- Cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps sinesis): source of antioxidants, immunomodulating properties, used in TCM to help tonify and replenish the lungs and kidneys and resolve phlegm.
- Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus): source of antioxidants.
- Maitake (Grifola frondosa): supports the immune system, with immunomodulating properties.
- Poria (Wolfiporia extensa): supports the immune system, immunomodulating properties, a TCM to promote urination and strengthen spleen.
- Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum): immunomodulating, antioxidant, adaptogen to help increase energy and resistance to stress, used in TCM to dispel phlegm, stop cough and arrest wheezing.
- Shiitake (Lentinula edodes): used in Herbal Medicine to support the immune system.
Now that you know how much there is to lichen about them, is the idea of eating more mushrooms growing on you? With so many species of medicinal mushrooms yet to be studied, there is much spore to be discovered.