The use of mushrooms for medicinal purposes has a long history in ancient medicine traditions, particularly in China, as well as other parts of Asia and the Americas. Because fungi are more closely related to us than plants, their physiology is particularly well suited to restoring our bodies.
As Alese Colehour from The Practical Herbalist explains, mushrooms are powerful immune modulators, which means that they improve our immune system's response by stimulating the production of immune cells that spread to other tissues.
There are over 270 species of medicinal fungi -- Colehour explains the multitude of health benefits provided by just 6 of them:
- Turkey tail’s (Trametes versicolor) immune modulatory effects improved a variety of cancer (stomach, colon, lung, breast, cervical/uterine), in addition to reducing the severity of HIV, herpes, chronic fatigue, and the common flu.
- Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) reduces allergy, protects the liver, reduces hormone driven cancer (breast and prostate), reduces high blood pressure and improves anxiety and insomnia.
- Cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) is also known as the caterpillar fungus since it resembles the shape of its favorite host. It contains a nucleoside derivative similar to adenosine, which our bodies use in DNA replication and to build energy reserves. It improves fertility and sexual function, increases energy, supports diabetic conditions as well as the lungs, kidney and liver. It can also block DNA replication in retrovirus and certain cancer lines (not recommended in hormone dependent cancers).
- Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) contain erinacines that stimulate the nerve growth factor. For this reason, this mushroom is effective in conditions or nerve damage such as dementia, Alzheimers, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain injuries.
- Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) grown on birch trees contains betulinic acid which inhibits DNA replication in cancer (melanoma, brain tumor, ovarian, and leukaemia) and viruses (HIV). Additionally, its anti-oxidant components give it a reputation for increasing longevity in good health.
- Shitake (Lentinus edodes) increases the effectiveness of cancer treatment, such as radiation and chemotherapy, and quickens recovery. It’s also effective for reducing cholesterol levels and can be used in combination with pharmaceutical statins.
It's enough to make you want to incorporate mushrooms into every meal! Find out more about mushroom's health benefits and the different ways you can prepare and consume them here.