Magic and other medicinal mushrooms for longevity

Oct 6, 2022Heal Your Organs

Medicinal mushrooms have helped us to fight various diseases, including cancer, for thousands of years. They also can help you to stay healthy and extend longevity!

Mushrooms are very popular around the world for their culinary uses. In general, they are a great anti-aging food. In a study conducted in 2017, a team of Penn State researchers found that mushrooms have high amounts of two antioxidants, ergothioneine and glutathione, which are both linked to containing anti-aging properties. Most foods do not contain both in high amounts, making mushrooms one of the highest dietary sources of anti-aging compounds.

There are many ways to incorporate mushrooms into your diet, including delicious dishes that you can make yourself. And while different species contain different levels of benefits, they are all pretty darn good for you.

“Magic” of magic mushrooms

Whenever we talk to someone about mushrooms as a medicine, everyone immediately names magic mushrooms. Many people’s knowledge of these mushrooms is limited to their use as a recreational drug and perhaps their association with 1960s counterculture.

Health benefits of magic mushrooms

The ancient origin of psychedelic mushrooms (known as psilocybin or magic mushrooms) also goes back thousands of years. Artists from that time documented their world on rock walls in Algeria, which looks like ritual use of hallucinogens. Obviously, humans have been using psychedelics for recreational and religious purposes for thousands of years. However, the first written record of their use was documented in the Florentine Codex, compiled between 1529 and 1579. This manuscript of ethnographical research on Mesoamerica mainly focused on Mexico and the Aztecs, where magical mushrooms are endemic.

 

Medicinal mushrooms have helped us to fight various diseases, including cancer, for thousands of years. They also can help you to stay healthy and extend longevity!

Mushrooms are very popular around the world for their culinary uses. In general, they are a great anti-aging food. In a study conducted in 2017, a team of Penn State researchers found that mushrooms have high amounts of two antioxidants, ergothioneine and glutathione, which are both linked to containing anti-aging properties. Most foods do not contain both in high amounts, making mushrooms one of the highest dietary sources of anti-aging compounds.

There are many ways to incorporate mushrooms into your diet, including delicious dishes that you can make yourself. And while different species contain different levels of benefits, they are all pretty darn good for you.

“Magic” of magic mushrooms

Whenever we talk to someone about mushrooms as a medicine, everyone immediately names magic mushrooms. Many people’s knowledge of these mushrooms is limited to their use as a recreational drug and perhaps their association with 1960s counterculture.

Health benefits of magic mushrooms

The ancient origin of psychedelic mushrooms (known as psilocybin or magic mushrooms) also goes back thousands of years. Artists from that time documented their world on rock walls in Algeria, which looks like ritual use of hallucinogens. Obviously, humans have been using psychedelics for recreational and religious purposes for thousands of years. However, the first written record of their use was documented in the Florentine Codex, compiled between 1529 and 1579. This manuscript of ethnographical research on Mesoamerica mainly focused on Mexico and the Aztecs, where magical mushrooms are endemic.

 

Psilocybe semilanceata - magic mushrooms

Psilocybe semilanceata

Magic mushrooms get their “magic” from a compound known as psilocybin. This compound is responsible for providing that euphoric and trip effect. Despite being about 100 times less potent than LSD, it is capable of altering the perception of space and time, causing visual distortions, euphoria, and mystical experiences.

So far, the majority of the evidence that psilocybin microdosing offers benefits – increased creativity, less anxiety, decreased need for caffeine, and reduced depression – has been anecdotal. But researchers are starting to get curious…. and finding some truth.

If you are interested in the latest YouTube videos, publications, and events related to longevity, just click on the corresponding words, and you will be redirected to the associated web pages.

 

Scientists and mental health professionals consider psychedelics like psilocybin to be promising treatments as an aid to therapy for a broad range of psychiatric diagnoses. Over the past 20 years, a growing body of research has shown that psilocybin has significant potential in the treatment of a number of mental and behavioral health disorders.

A study published in 2016 revealed that the brains of people who had ingested small doses of psilocybin (a psychedelic drug) were less likely to show signs of anxiety.

One dose of psychedelic drug shows a positive long-term effect in people with advanced cancer-related psychiatric and existential distress.

Moreover, the magic mushroom drug has an ‘anti-aging effect’ on personality. A new study shows that people become more open, creative, and curious after they take a single high dose.

How it works

Exactly what psilocybin does to the brain to trigger changes in mood and behavior is still a big mystery. What we know is that, acutely, when someone is on a psychedelic drug, the brain communicates in a much different way than it was “programmed”.

Classic psychedelics such as psilocybin and LSD enter the brain via the same receptors as serotonin, the body’s “feel good” hormone. Serotonin helps control body functions such as sleep, sexual desire, and psychological states such as satisfaction, happiness, and optimism.

People with depression or anxiety often have low levels of serotonin, as do people with post-traumatic stress disorder, cluster headaches, anorexia, smoking addiction, and substance abuse. Treatment typically involves selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, which boost levels of serotonin available to brain cells. Yet it can take weeks for improvement to occur, experts say, if the drugs even work at all.

With psychedelics such as psilocybin and LSD, however, scientists can see changes in brain neuron connectivity in the lab within 30 minutes.

There’s more. Researchers say psychedelic drugs actually help neurons in the brain sprout new dendrites, which look like branches on a tree, to increase communication between cells. Studies have shown not only a 10% increase in the number of neuronal connections but also that they were, on average, about 10% larger. Thus, the brain connections were stronger as well.

What do magic mushrooms do?

Here’s a breakdown of the common effects of magic mushrooms.

  • Increased energy. Boundless good vibes.
  • Feelings of euphoria. An overwhelming feeling of well-being and contentment.
  • Distortion of reality. A new perception of the existing world. A peek behind the curtain.
  • Altered perception of space and time. Time and space become distorted. Close distances can feel like miles away.
  • Feelings of extreme excitement. Everything is new and wonderful. Time to explore that creepy cupboard under the sink!
  • A sense of oneness or unity with the universe. This kind of spiritual experience is kind of the platonic ideal of tripping. You feel at one with every other living being.
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations. Things become unnaturally small or large, or they bend and ripple. Sounds become distorted and music becomes unbearably beautiful. 

A psilocybin therapy

Interest in psychedelic-assisted therapy, sometimes referred to as psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy or PAP, continues to grow. Many people investigate a variety of psychedelics as they think about their own healing. This inspires research activities to identify the most potent magic mushrooms from around the world in the hope that their healing powers bring life-changing benefits. 

There are about 200 species of psychedelic mushrooms that are distributed around the world. These species have different names and are often classified according to their biological genera. The most common are Psilocybe, Gymnopilus, Panaeolus, and Copelandia.

What makes mushrooms “magic” is the content of the active substances. One of them, as we mentioned above, is psilocybin. Others are psilocin and, to a lesser extent, baeocystin and norbaeocystinThe ratio of these three substances is not the same across species, subspecies, or even within groups of the same mushroom. 

Of particular interest are psilocybin-containing fungi represented by the most potent magic mushrooms. Keep in mind that not all species have been analyzed. Scientific knowledge about psilocybin-containing mushrooms is limited due to legal restrictions in many parts of the world. Researchers are required permits and/or licenses to be able to work with specimens.

Psilocybin therapy is an approach being investigated for the treatment of mental health challenges. It is practiced under the careful guidance of a trained clinician, who administers a controlled amount of a psychoactive substance to induce a person into an altered state of consciousness. 

Due to the illegal status of most psychedelics, clinical trials might be your only legal option for psilocybin therapy. However, being accepted into one of these clinical trials is not as easy as simply signing up. You have to meet strict criteria to be considered as a trial participant. Each trial has its own requirements. 

Other options are expanded access treatment and integration therapy.

Expanded access means that a person has a serious or life-threatening condition and has not responded to other effective therapies. In this case, psilocybin therapy could be approved to try if the potential benefits to the person’s quality of life outweigh the risks. Unfortunately, the process of getting approval is quite complicated.

Integration therapy might be available if, let’s say, you have already tried psychedelics on your own and got feelings about it. There are therapists who specifically work with people who have tried these drugs to study the experience and the emotions it uncovered

The legal status of magic mushrooms

The legal status of psilocybin mushrooms varies worldwide. In the USA, despite the long history and ongoing research into the therapeutic and medical benefits of magic mushrooms, since 1970, psilocybin and psilocin (another psychedelic substance present in most magic mushrooms) have been listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. It is the most heavily criminalized category for drugs considered to have a “high potential for abuse” and no currently accepted medical use; that is not true when it comes to psilocybin. There is significant evidence to the contrary on both counts. Other Schedule I drugs include marijuana, MDMA, and LSD.

 

The movement to decriminalize psilocybin in the United States began in the late 2010s. Denver, Colorado, became the first city to decriminalize psilocybin in May 2019. The cities of Oakland and Santa Cruz, California, followed suit and decriminalized psilocybin in June 2019 and January 2020, respectively. Since then, it was decriminalized in Washington, D.C., Somerville, Massachusetts, in neighboring Bay State town Cambridge, near Boston, and Northampton, in western Massachusetts. Seattle, Washington, became the largest U.S. city on the growing list in October 2021.

Oregon voters passed the 2020 Oregon Ballot Measure 109, making it the first state to both decriminalize psilocybin and also legalize it for therapeutic use. Practically, that means the Oregon Health Authority will be responsible for licensing and regulating the manufacturing and sales of psilocybin products, as well as creating the country’s “first regulatory framework for psilocybin services” by January 2023.

The state of Colorado is scheduled to vote on legalizing psychedelic mushrooms in November 2022.

Nevertheless, the use, sale, and possession of psilocybin in the United States are illegal under federal law, despite state laws.

President Joe Biden’s administration is looking to explore the emerging research of psilocybin to treat a variety of mental health illnesses as states decriminalize and legalize the substance for medical use. 

The administration anticipates the FDA will approve psilocybin as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression within the next two years. It is also “exploring the prospect of establishing a Federal Task Force” to monitor the drugs.

Amanita Muscaria

Amanita Muscaria

The bright red and white mushrooms from Super Mario Bros that cause you to grow in size throughout the game are real. They’re called Fly Agaric (Amanita Muscaria), and not only do they look just like the ones in the game, but they’re also slightly poisonous. Not enough to shut down vital organs, but enough to cause loss of equilibrium.

If you eat the skin, it can make you feel larger or make the world feel larger. Which is pretty much what they do in the game.

Many people believe that Amanita Muscaria is what created the story of Santa Claus.

What about other mushrooms?

While many mushrooms are not of the hallucinogenic variety, they almost feel like “magic mushrooms” on their own. Various types have been touted for boosting immunity, fighting cancer, and containing high amounts of antioxidants (anti-aging).

The history of medicinal mushrooms directly correlates with human evolution and culture. We have much evidence that in the past, mushrooms were used by many ancient civilizations for ritual and medicinal purposes.

In 1991 hikers found a 5,300-year-old mummified body in a melting glacier in the Italian Alps. Researchers named the iceman Otzi, and he has provided useful insights into how people lived. Interestingly he carried two different types of mushrooms with him, indicating that humans have known how to use mushrooms for thousands of years. He had two pieces of Birch Polypore (Fomitopsis betulina) separately on leather thongs. And several pieces of Tinder Polypore (Fomes fomentarius) in a leather bag. Historically humans have used tinder polypores to start fires and to create a felt-like fabric. But, it’s believed that he was using the birch polypore for medicinal purposes to remove intestinal parasites.

Ancient Egyptians referred to mushrooms as the plant of immortality in hieroglyphics more than 4,600 years ago. Mushrooms were so revered in Egyptian society that commoners were forbidden from touching them. They were food exclusively for royalty.

The Greek physician Hippocrates identified the amadou, a spongy material derived from Tinder Polypore (Fomes fomentarius) and similar fungi, as good for reducing inflammation and cauterizing wounds around 450 BC.

Chinese medical texts dating back to as early as 206 BC describe Reishi mushrooms as a tonic against aging. Widespread use of medicinal mushrooms continues in Asia today, with more than 100 varieties used just to treat cancer. 

Recent studies have revealed the numerous benefits of mushrooms in anti-aging.

Did you know that about mushrooms?

  • Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies or reproductive structures of a much larger underground fungus. The largest part of the fungus is the underground network of mycelium, made up of millions of threads. To reproduce, it needs to produce mushrooms that need specific temperatures and humidity levels. Some mushrooms can stay dormant underground for many years or even decades until weather conditions are right to produce mushrooms and distribute spores. The primary role of mycelium is to reproduce and ensure the survival of its species.
  • According to a recent evidence-based mushroom classification system, there are 2189 edible mushrooms. Of these, 2006 are safe to eat, and 183 need pre-treatment to make them safe to eat.  Approximately 50 percent of all known mushrooms are inedible but harmless, 20 percent can make you sick, and one percent could kill you.
  • More than 350 million years ago, when all land plants were only a few feet high, towering mushrooms 24 ft (7.3 m) tall and 3 ft (90 cm) wide dotted the landscape. Chemical analysis of a fossil found in Saudi Arabia shows that the 20 ft (6 m) tall organism was a fungus. Fossils of these organisms, known as Prototaxites, were first discovered by a Canadian, John William Dawson, in 1859. But no one could figure out what the giant spires were. Until 2007 when a study concluded the spires were a fungus, some type of gigantic mushroom. But not everyone is convinced, as scientists still find it difficult to imagine such an enormous mushroom.
  • Mushrooms are, in fact, the largest living thing on earth! Yep – there’s a type of honey fungus (Armillaria solidipes) that sprawls for 3.4 square miles – that’s 2,200 acres – across the Blue Mountains in Oregon. And if that doesn’t make your spine tingle, then consider the fact that this mushroom is mostly underground. In addition to being the largest living organism, it is also thought to be the oldest organism as well, and is estimated to be over 8000 years old!
  • Technically, mushrooms are neither plant nor animal. They are a third category: fungi. Some people think our food classifications should reflect this third category as well.
  • Mushrooms are more closely related to humans than to plants.
  • Salty, sweet, bitter, sour. Most know that those are the four primary tastes. But there’s actually a fifth: umami. Mushrooms possess this fifth, almost meat-like flavor.
  • Portabello mushrooms, button mushrooms, and white mushrooms are all the same mushrooms at different levels of maturity.
  • There are a few species of mushroom that retail for thousands of dollars per pound. One of those mushrooms is the matsutake. The matsutake is an exceedingly rare Japanese mushroom that yields less than a thousand tons. Another, the Alba White mushroom, is a truffle that only grows from September to January in Italy.
  • More and more species of mushrooms that glow in the dark are being discovered all the time. As it stands now, there are more than 75 species that are bioluminescent! If you go to Brasil or Japan, you could be lucky enough to see the famous Chlorophos Mycena, fluorescent mushrooms that release luminous spores and look astonishing!
  • Mushroom spores repel more than 200,000 species of insect. That’s a huge chunk of the “pest” problem with no harm to humans or the environment via any manmade chemical pesticides.
  • Oyster mushrooms are carnivorous! You read right – the mycelia in Oyster mushrooms release a unique chemical that attracts nematodes (also known as roundworms). Once they’ve lured in the nematodes, they capture and digest them. It’s no wonder there’s a debate over whether vegans can eat Oyster mushrooms!
  • For thousands of years, Japanese farmers have believed that lightning strikes made mushrooms more plentiful, and recent research has proved they’re correct. Researchers have bombarded several species of mushrooms with artificial lightning strikes and found it effective in several species. But it has the biggest effect on shiitake mushrooms. Exposure to indirect lightning strikes makes mushrooms multiply and can double a shiitake crop.
  • When exposed to ultraviolet light from sunlight or an ultraviolet lamp, nearly all edible mushrooms produce significant amounts of Vitamin D. Some create as nearly as much as over-the-counter Vitamin D supplements. Like humans, mushrooms contain a pro-vitamin called ergosterol that they convert into vitamin D in the presence of ultraviolet light.
  • In 2006, the American company Ecovative developed a packaging material made of mycelium (the “root” part of mushrooms). This material, which is being used by such companies as IKEA and Dell, can simply be thrown in your backyard, where it will biodegrade within weeks.
  • Mushroom mycelium can be used to make biodegradable clothing. Mushroom fabric is durable, versatile, and antimicrobial. And the best part? You can throw your clothes in the compost once you are done!
  • Mycophobia is the fear of mushrooms. People who suffer from mycophobia will fear eating them or even touching them.
Amanita Muscaria

Amanita phalloides

The Death Cap Mushroom, as the name suggests, can be quite dangerous! Not only it looks innocuous, but also it tastes rather nice. You wouldn’t even have time to realize you’ve been poisoned until it is too late for your liver and kidneys to survive.

The death cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides) is a deadly fungus commonly mistaken for edible mushrooms. Ingesting one death cap mushroom is enough to kill a healthy adult.

All parts of the mushroom are poisonous; cooking or peeling does not make the mushroom safe to eat.

There is no way to remove the poison from the mushroom.

Mushrooms that fight cancer

In our previous post, we stated that cancer is not a sentence. You can prevent it by decreasing your risk factors, and you can fight it. Mushrooms can definitely help in this battle.

Watch our Youtube video!

Medicinal mushrooms, also known as mycomedicinals,  have been studied as immune modulators and adjuvant agents in cancer treatment for decades. Nowadays, they have been intensively studied in order to reveal the chemical nature and mechanisms of action of their biomedical capacity. Targeted treatment of cancer, non-harmful for healthy tissues, has become a desired goal in recent decades.

Mushrooms have a cell wall made of chitin, which is the same fiber contained in the shell of a lobster. Chitin is indigestible by humans but contains bioactive glucans and polysaccharides. Different extraction methods result in varied antitumor properties exhibited by the mushroom.

Some aspects of fungotherapy of tumors are studied relatively well, while others are still waiting to be fully unraveled. Special attention is to the cancer types that are especially susceptible to fungal treatments.

When we talk about the best anti-cancer mushrooms, the Ganoderma species, known as “Reishi” in Japanese and as “Lingzhi” in Chinese, are number one. They also nicknamed the “mushroom of immortality” in English. These mushrooms have been used for centuries in Asia to cure infection and fight cancer (when used with standard cancer treatments).

Multiple clinical studies showed the anti-cancer potential of Reishi supplementation in various patients. Beta-glucans present in these mushrooms demonstrated antitumor and immunostimulating activities. Also, Reishi induces natural killer (NK) cells that are toxic to various cancer cells.

Enoki mushrooms (Flammulina velutipes), also known as enokitake, velvet shank, golden needle mushroom, or winter mushroom, a tasty variety commonly sold in grocery stores, were one of the first mushrooms studied for preventing cancer. Credit for discovering this medical benefit goes in large part to Dr. Tetsuro Ikekawa, a former epidemiologist at the Research Institute of the National Cancer Center in Tokyo, Japan. Enoki mushrooms also contain an immunity-regulating protein called FVE. An animal study showed that FVE triggers the immune system and has anti-cancer activity.

Brewed for thousands of years as a medicinal tea in China, Turkey Tail mushroom (known scientifically as Trametes Versicolor or Coriolus Versicolor) is also used extensively in Asia to fight cancer.

One notable use is a Turkey Tail mushroom extract known as PSK (protein-bound Polysaccharide Krestin) that is widely used to boost the immune system when treating many types of cancer.

For instance, PSK has been shown to act powerfully against lung cancer and strengthen the immune systems of lung cancer patients, helping them to cope better with the consequences of toxic and invasive anti-cancer treatment.

Chaga mushrooms (Inonotus obliquus) may not look appetizing (they look just like charcoal or burnt wood), but they are certainly worth eating. There is a whole world of benefits to this mushroom. Chaga is extremely high in antioxidants and contains betulinic acid, the natural compound showing potent anticancer activity in multiple studies.

Maitake (Grifola frondosa) is often used to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and make it more effective. It is most effective against breast, prostate, and liver cancer. In a small case series, tumor regression or significant improvements in symptoms were observed in some subjects who took Maitake extract.

Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) is the second-largest cultivated and the most popular edible mushroom in the world. Lentinan (1,3 beta-D-glucan), isolated from shiitake, has been shown to have anticancer effects. However, lentinan is considered a biological response modifier, rather than having a direct cytotoxic effect causing them to die) on tumor cells. In Japan, a study found that the presence of the sugar molecule suppressed stomach cancer. The compound does not kill cancer cells directly, but it does boost the immune system, which aids in providing the body with a stronger defense line against cancer.

Lion’s Mane (Hericium Erinaceus) extracts have shown growth-inhibitory effects on gastric, liver, and colon cancer cells. The study revealed 22 different phytocompounds (chemical compounds of plant origin) found in the active cancer cell–killing Lion’s Mane extract. 

In addition to those listed above, two more mushrooms showed a potential for anticancer immunological mechanisms, which makes them a promising adjunct therapy to optimize overall treatment outcomes. These two are Agaricus mushroom (Agaricus blazei) and Semitake (Cordyceps Sinensis). Much more are studied with promising results.

The decision whether to use medicinal mushrooms as an add-on treatment in cancer care should remain the patients’ preferences, for now (assisted by evidence-informed physicians). Please keep in mind that different types of mushrooms are effective against different types of cancer.

Medicinal mushrooms with anti-cancer potential

Medicinal mushrooms with anti-cancer potential.

Cellular and molecular mechanisms of immuno-modulation by Ganoderma lucidum

Identifying the “Mushroom of Immortality”: Assessing the Ganoderma Species Composition in Commercial Reishi Products

Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for cancer treatment

Significance of Medicinal Mushrooms in Integrative Oncology: A Narrative Review

Chemical characterization and biological activity of Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), a medicinal “mushroom”

Anticancer effects of fraction isolated from fruiting bodies of Chaga medicinal mushroom, Inonotus obliquus (Pers.:Fr.) Pilát (Aphyllophoromycetideae): in vitro studies

Maitake (D fraction) mushroom extract induces apoptosis in breast cancer cells by BAK-1 gene activation

Can maitake MD-fraction aid cancer patients?

 

Inhibition of human colon carcinoma development by lentinan from shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes)

Efficacy of oral administered superfine dispersed lentinan for advanced pancreatic cancer

Structures, biological activities, and industrial applications of the polysaccharides from Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) mushroom: A review

Isolation and identification of aromatic compounds in Lion’s Mane Mushroom and their anticancer activities

Other health benefits of mushrooms

You may have heard the Greek myth of the daughter of Zeus, Hebe, with the ability to restore youth to aging mortals. Unfortunately, it is just a myth for those of us who wish to turn back the clock to our younger days. But… it does not mean we are powerless against the effects of time.

For hundreds of years, mushrooms have been used for their anti-aging capabilities, and just recently, we are starting to see some evidence that there really is something to this ancient wisdom.

The list of health benefits medicinal mushrooms provide is lengthy (boost of the brain and immune system, fight disease-causing free radicals, manage stress and blood sugar levels, enhance libido, improve exercise performance, support a healthy digestive tract, and many more).

Moreover, some mushrooms contain unusually high amounts of ergothioneine and glutathione, both important antioxidants, that some scientists suggest could help fight aging and bolster health. The amounts of the two compounds varied greatly between mushroom species. A study from the Penn State Center for Plant and Mushroom Products reports that Porcini mushrooms (Boletus edulis) have the highest concentrations of both ergothioneine and glutathione among the 13 species tested. Common mushrooms, like button or white mushrooms, have less of these antioxidants. But they still have higher amounts than most other foods.

While mushrooms have been the subject of numerous studies in recent years, few studies have explored their potential in combatting atherogenesis. This process is essentially the formation on artery walls of fatty plaques called atheromas. Eventually, these plaques can cause complications such as obstruction of the artery or lesions on the artery wall – this is known as atherosclerosis. We have a special post dedicated to this health issue. Scientific research has identified a number of therapeutic solutions, including the usage of portobello and shiitake mushrooms, to help combat the such deterioration of the arteries. And mycotherapy offers a promising solution by utilizing several evidence-based treatments. 

According to a recent study, using Reishi mushrooms helped reverse injury and damage in a case of kidney failure. The scientists suspected this was due to antioxidant activity in one of its active compounds (called lingzhilactone B).

In traditional Chinese medicine, Poria mushroom (Wolfiporia cocos) is often used for kidney stones prevention. The results of one in vitro study showed that a classical Chinese formula called Wu-Ling-San, which includes significant amounts of Poria, effectively inhibited the formation and aggregation of calcium oxalate (CaOx). CaOx aggregations are the most common type of kidney stones. By the way, these mushrooms also have anti-cancer properties along with multiple other health benefits.

In one of our posts, we introduced blue onions and their healing effect on the liverThere is also a number of great anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and liver-protecting mushrooms for supporting this life-sustaining organ.

Among the more than 2,000 species of mushroom, Lion’s Mane mushroom (Hericium Erinaceus) is the only one that helps improve cognitive function. Experts credit its two active compounds (hericenones and erinacines) for its brain-boosting prowess.

Several clinical studies showed the antiviral properties of mushrooms containing beta-D-glucans and even claimed to fight Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).  

It is worth to mention that each mushroom is unique and provides its own distinct health advantages.

 

The list of 14 most popular medicinal mushrooms

What makes Reishi mushrooms unique is their calming properties — all of which are thanks to the compound triterpene. These mood-boosting compounds may alleviate anxiety, ease depression, and encourage better sleep. But triterpenes’ positive effect on the nervous system doesn’t stop there. Reishi can promote healing and sharpen focus, too.

Lion’s Mane fosters the production of the bioprotein nerve growth factor (NFG) and myelin (insulation around nerve fibers). Both NFG and myelin are absolutely crucial to brain health. An imbalance in them can contribute to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. 

Chaga mushrooms are an antioxidant powerhouse, making them excellent contenders for fighting free radicals and inflammation. This dark black mushroom combats oxidative stress (which is linked to skin aging), and has been found to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol.

You can learn more about the healing potential of mushrooms from many books and encyclopedias such as “Medicinal Mushrooms: A Practical Guide to Healing Mushrooms” by Richard Bray, “The Fungal Pharmacy: The Complete Guide to Medicinal Mushrooms and Lichens of North America” by Robert Rogers and Solomon P. Wasser, and many others.

Medicinal mushrooms supplementation

Traditionally, the most popular way to consume fungi has been in teas. However, many lipids (mushrooms contain essential fatty acids such as linoleic, oleic, and linolenic in their lipid profiles), phenolic compounds (as well as flavonoids, they are considered the most common phenolics occurring in mushroom species), and terpenoid compounds (the most abundant group of anti-inflammatory molecules found in mushrooms) are better extracted with less polar solvents (water is highly polar) like, for example, its mixture with acetic acid.

Before purchasing any mushroom supplement, be sure to look at the supplement facts section of the label, which will indicate the type of mushrooms used and if they are in an extract or powder form. Look for a mushroom supplement that uses extracts and not powders to have higher potency and deliver better results.

Another advantage that extracts have over powders is that the body more readily absorbs extracts. Powders contain an indigestible fiber called chitin, which gets passed through the body as waste, taking with it much of the vital beta-glucans.

Most labels will indicate how potent an extract is by displaying the concentration in the form of a ratio, such as “4:1 Extract 100 mg,” which is equivalent to 400 mg (4 x 100 mg) of dried mushroom powder.

Always choose a supplement that has next to each mushroom’s name, the words “fruiting body.” Avoid mushroom supplements with “myceliated grain” in the ingredients or some variation of the word “mycelium.”

Manufacturers who use mycelium will grow these roots on top of a grain substrate, mostly rice or oats. Once mycelium roots grow, the roots and substrate become intertwined and are impossible to separate. Formulas containing mycelium consist of about half roots and half filler in rice or oats. Some manufacturers choose to use mycelium because they can mass produce it, as it only takes one week to mature.

However, some people prefer taking their supplements in capsule form. It is very important to buy from trusted sources only. The problem is that there are thousands of supplements on the market today. Some of them work as claimed, while others have no scientific claims to back up their health benefits.

Since wild mushrooms are fungi that grow in nature, they may be affected by the environment in which they are grown. As bioaccumulators, they may collect and accumulate toxins, heavy metals, and pesticides from their growth environment over time

Look for a source of functional mushroom supplements that are cultivated and processed under controlled conditions that eliminate dangerous toxins, heavy metals, and pesticides from their products. This will help protect you from the side effects of these dangerous substances. 

Though mushrooms are a natural food product, it is important to know the recommended daily dosage to optimize benefits. Too much of a good thing may cause side effects, while too little may result in a failure to achieve the desired response. Even overeating certain foods may cause temporary side effects, especially digestive upsets.

As you see, homework is needed before buying and using mushroom supplements. RollingStones magazine published its own list of recommended mushroom supplements. We, personally, prefer to buy from LifeExtension. Their supplements are aimed to support healthy aging and longevity.

You also can make your own extract, or tincture, from desired medicinal mushrooms. A few drops of concentrated tincture contain all the benefits of a handful of dried mushrooms.

Cooking with mushrooms

Many people consider mushrooms a superfood, and it’s not surprising as they’re nutrient-packed and offer numerous health benefits. In addition to the compounds and antioxidants listed above, they are an excellent source of dietary vitamin D if they’re grown and dried in the right way, rich in protein, fiber, vitamin C, B vitamins, and various minerals.

A simple way to take advantage of the many health benefits of mushrooms is to include them in your daily diet. We advise you to consult with your healthcare provider, especially if you are already on medications for various health conditions or tend to have allergic reactions.

Nutritional benefits of mushrooms

There are many cooking recipes with mushrooms that can be found online, including those with Shiitake, Maitake, Lion’s Main, and other medicinal mushrooms.

Some of these mushrooms you can find in local grocery stores, health food stores, or local farmers’ markets.  Some might take effort to find.

You can include Reishi mushroom in your diet by using its extract (tincture) or powder. The same is true for Chaga mushrooms.

Here are three recipes that can help you to tap into the health benefits of Reishi, Lion’s Main, and Enoki mushrooms. These dishes are quite tasty as well!

Best recipes with medicinal mushrooms

Roasted Lion’s Mane 

Ingredients

  • 2 Lion’s Mane mushrooms, shredded
  • 2 bunches carrots
  • 1/2 bunch of green onions, tops separated from the bulb
  • 1 shallot (chopped in cubes of less than 3mm on each side)
  • 1 tbsp of honey
  • 1/2 bunch of raab greens
  • 2  garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese or another aged nutty cheese
  • 1/2 cup of sherry vinegar
  • 1.5 cups of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup of organic canola oil
  • 1 oz butter
  • 1 cup radish pods
  • Salt, black pepper

    Instructions

    1. Spring Raab Pesto

    • Remove the stems and rough chop the raab greens. Place them in a high-powered blender along with minced garlic cloves, toasted walnuts, grated parmesan cheese, 1 tbsp of sherry vinegar, and 1 1/2 tsp of salt.
    • Pulse the blender and slowly add the 1 cup of olive oil and canola oil blend (1:1) until it reaches a chunky pesto consistency.  Taste and add more salt if needed.  Makes 2 cups of pesto.

    2. Sherry Vinaigrette

    • Combine the 1/2 cup sherry vinegar, chopped shallot, and honey in a small mixing bowl.  Slowly whisk in the 1 cup of olive oil and 0.5 cups of the organic canola oil blend, and season with salt and pepper as needed. Makes 2 cups.

    3. Roasted Lion’s Mane mushrooms

    • In a hot pan, sauté the Lion’s Mane mushrooms in butter and oil. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
    • Preheat the oven to 425 F.
    • Quarter half of the carrots.  Toss with oil and salt.
    • Quarter spring onion bulbs and toss in oil and salt.
    • Roast the onions and carrots in the oven until cooked through but still retain texture, approximately 20 minutes.
    • When the onion bulbs have cooled, rough chop them and marinate them in the sherry vinaigrette.  Set aside.
    • On a sharp mandoline, shave the remaining carrots (not roasted) on a long bias.
    • Mix the marinated onions, radish pods, and shaved raw carrots.  Adjust seasonings as needed or add more dressing.

    Serving

    • Start with adding a spoonful of pesto on the plate, then add the carrots and mushrooms. Garnish with the onion/carrot/radish pod salad.
    • The roasted carrots and mushrooms can be served at room temperature or warm.

    Tip

    Before cooking, Lion’s Main mushrooms need to be boiled in salted water for several minutes. If you skip this stage in the cooking process, the dish will be significantly inferior in taste characteristics.

     

    Reishi mushroom soup

    Reishi mushroom soup with ginger and kale

    Reishi Mushroom has the least appealing taste compared to other mushrooms, which explains why they are not selected for their culinary benefits. “Earthy bitterness” is the right phrase for describing it. However, they can be quite flavorful if prepared right.

    Here is a simple recipe for a tasty soup that, in addition to reishi mushrooms, includes shiitake mushrooms, ginger, and kale, providing their own health benefits.

    Ingredients

    • 1/4 cup dried ground reishi mushroom
    • 4 cups sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms (or 1 cup dried)
    • 1 medium yellow onion (diced)
    • 4 cloves garlic (diced)
    • 2 tbsp fresh ginger (peeled and grated)
    • 2 carrots (sliced 1/2″ thick)
    • 3 cups kale (chopped)
    • cilantro (chopped)
    • 1/4 cup miso paste
    • 1 tbsp allspice
    • 1/2 tbsp thyme
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

    Instructions

    • Separate the white textural part of the reishi mushroom from the yellow zone when preparing soup or any form of delicacy. The bitterness of the yellow part is easily noticed, no matter the amount of spice used.
    • Ground dry reishi into powder.
    • In a large soup pot, heat up the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 2 minutes.
    • Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.
    • Add the ginger and the remaining vegetables (except the reishi powder) and saute for another 5 minutes or until golden brown.
    • Add 6 cups of water, 1/4 cup of reishi powder, miso paste, and spices. Bring your soup to a boil and then reduce the heat to bring it to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1 hour.
    • Stir the kale into the hot soup to wilt. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    • Top with fresh cilantro.

      Enoki salad

      Enoki salad

      In the wild, enoki mushrooms grow quite large with dark caps. Cultivated varieties are grown in complete darkness, unlike the wild form. They have a light yellow or white tint, reach a length of 12 cm, and have tiny sticky caps, the size of no more than a button – up to 1 cm.

      In general, these mushrooms are used as an additional component to an already finished dish.

      Here is a recipe for a tasty salad that can be added to your diet for multiple health benefits.

      Ingredients

      • 0.5 lb of enoki mushrooms
      • 2 fresh cucumbers
      • 100 g of rice noodles
      • 5 pcs of black peppercorn
      • 100 ml of sunflower oil

      For marinade

      • 2 clove buds
      • 2 bay leaves
      • Salt, vinegar, and sugar to taste

      For dressing

      • 2 tbsp of ginger juice
      • 4 tbsp of lemon juice
      • 6 tbsp of soy sauce
      • Salt, sugar, and black pepper to taste

      Instructions

      • Cut the base off the mushrooms, then rinse them well in running water.
      • While excess moisture drains from the mushrooms, combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
      • Put the mushrooms in a bowl, pour them with the marinade mixture, and put them in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
      • Next day place the rice noodles in a bowl, pour boiling water over them, leave for 5 minutes, and then drain the liquid.
      • Combine all the ingredients for dressing in a separate bowl, add seasonings to taste and mix well.
      • Cut the cucumbers into thin slices and add to the cooled rice noodles.
      • Add mushrooms taken out of the marinade.
      • Add dressing and season to taste.
      • Let the finished dish rest for 30 minutes, then serve.

      Tips

      • The main requirement for the perfect preparation of enoki mushrooms is that they need to be cooked quickly and almost immediately. It does not depend on the specific dish. Before enoki is added, the dish should be near ready.
      • Fry or cook enoki for no more than 7-10 minutes. If they are overcooked, they acquire a “rubbery” taste.
      • Raw foodists can afford to eat them without cooking.

      What is next?

      In our upcoming posts, we are planning to publish new information on the health benefits and usage of mushrooms to cure various diseases.

      Be sure to check back!

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