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Mushrooms are possibly the first true superfood known to man. They go back as far as Hippocrates using them to accelerate wound healing. To the 5th Century Chinese alchemists referred to the medicinal properties of mushrooms known as Zhu ling and Fu Ling mushrooms.

They have been used for thousands of years to alleviate a myriad of illnesses it just appears that modern science is a bit slower on understanding the healing properties of mushrooms.

The polysaccharides known as beta glucans in mushrooms have unique properties that support the immune system, and provide effective support in maintaining many modern day aliments.

Dry mushrooms are a rich vegan source of vitamin D. For many vegans they do not wish to take standard vitamin D supplements as they are derived from animal products. They should consider using a mushroom complex to increase their vitamin D.

Conditions that that benefit from medicinal mushrooms

Mushrooms have few contraindications with medications and are generally very well tolerated. In various studies mushrooms have been shown to be effective in supporting the following conditions:

  • Acute and chronic inflammation

  • Allergies

  • Antioxidant support

  • Asthma

  • Cancer

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Chronic bronchitis

  • Chronic immune dysfunction

  • Diabetes mellitus

  • Fatigue, including chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Fluid retention

  • Gut dysbiosis

  • Hyperlipidaemia

  • Liver disease

  • Lower urinary tract symptoms

  • Neurodegenerative diseases

It is worth noting that for people that avoid eating mushrooms due to candida (yeast overgrowth) the polysaccharides in medicinal mushroom species are different. Sufferers of candida usually can tolerate medicinal mushrooms as they do actually improve gut dysbiosis.

Types of medicinal mushrooms

Currently the species of medicinal mushrooms that are allowed for therapeutic purposes in Australia include the following:

  • Caterpillar Mushroom (cordyceps sinensis): improves stamina, reduces fatigue., anti-diabetic, anti-viral. Ideal for performance athletes and those recovering from long term illnesses.

  • Reiishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum): supports immune function, anti-inflammatory and decreases abnormal cell replication. Recommended for autoimmune conditions, low immune function and chronic inflammatory conditions.

  • Maitake mushroom (Grifola Frondosa): Immunomodulatory function, supports adrenal fatigue and recovery.

  • Shiitake mushroom (Lentinula edodes): supports the immune system by increasing T-cells and macrophage immune response.

  • Turkey tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor): Source of polyglucan P which provides antiviral, antibacterial properties and enhances immune function.

  • Zhu ling mushroom (Polyporus umbellatus) and Fu ling mushroom (Poria cocos): are used in mushroom complexes for their high source of Beta D glucans.

  • Lions Mane (Hericum erniacea): supports cognitive function and possibly may reduce the progression of dementia. Lions Mane is a worthy consideration in supporting all neurological and cognitive conditions.

  • Chaga (Inontus obiquus): is mushroom is often found in coffees in hipster cafes. It is high in antioxidants, possibly the highest of any known food.

In treating illnesses with medicinal mushrooms, it is best to use a complex as they can work synergistically to support the condition. A nutritionist or naturopath can advise you on the best prescription.

Mushrooms in cancer treatment

It is the research into mushrooms actions in cancer treatment that have really have to be taken seriously. In understanding how mushrooms may improve outcomes for cancer patients, we need to consider the role of immunotherapy in cancer treatment. This involves supporting the immune system to understand that it needs to switch itself on to destroy the cancer cells.

The B-Glucans in medicinal mushrooms support the immune system to stimulate lymphocytes, NK cells and macrophages to increase cytokines. This action reduces cancer cell aggregation and duplication which decreases cancer progression and metastasis.

Even for terminal diagnoses, mushroom complexes can reduce the risk of infection and support their ongoing wellbeing. My personal use of mushroom complexes in cancer clients have been given full support by oncologists. It is always advised to check first with the oncologist, to make sure there are no contraindications.

SUPER MUSHROOM PALEO CHOCOLATE AND TRUFFLES

This recipe came about as a client of mine was struggling to take the mushroom powders I had prescribed for her. Initially she didn’t complain about adding them to her vegetable juices and smoothies, but after 6 months or so they really started to make her gag. I could not let her abandon the mushroom powders as they were clearly supporting her ongoing battle with stage four breast cancer. I believe they were reducing her risk of infection and improving her energy levels. I had to give her creative ways of “enjoying her mushrooms”. Mushroom chocolates with a mushroom cappuccino became her special treat.

Please don’t think that it must be a serious condition to use medicinal mushrooms. These treats can be enjoyed by children to help restore their immune function, improve their concentration and boost their stamina.

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ cup of cocoa butter

  • ½ cup of extra virgin coconut oil

  • ¼ cup of pure maple syrup

  • 1 cup of raw cocoa

  • Pinch of sea salt

  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract of paste

  • 6 teaspoons of mushroom powder (I use a practitioner quality complex, you can use the ones you find in health food stores).

DIRECTIONS

Melt cocoa butter and coconut oil in a glass bowl over simmering pot of water. Once melted remove from heat and add the maple syrup, raw cocoa, sea salt, vanilla, mushroom powder. Mix until well combined and pour into either, mini cup wrappers or chocolate moulds. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until totally set.

To make truffles make the chocolate, then leave to set for an hour or two at room temperature. When the chocolate is firm enough to handle, roll it into balls and then into raw cocoa or coconut.

Poisonous Mushrooms

If reading about medicinal mushrooms has got you thinking about sourcing your own, please get ones that are approved by the TGA and FDA. It is not advised to go foraging for your own in the wild, they may look like the prescribed species but more than likely are not.

Consuming poisonous mushrooms can result in nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, and altered mental state. The toxicity is so strong in poisonous mushrooms that the kidneys and liver shut down in an effort to expel the toxin.

Some poisonous mushrooms have mind altering properties that have been touted by some to alleviate depression and other mental conditions. This is strongly discouraged as the user cannot predict how they will respond mentally and physically to the toxins.

REFERENCES:

  • Peter Amwoga Ayeka, “Potential of Mushroom Compounds as Immunomodulators in Cancer Immunotherapy: A Review,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2018, Article ID 7271509, 9 pages, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/7271509.

  • Stamets, P., & Zwickey, H. (2014). Medicinal Mushrooms: Ancient Remedies Meet Modern Science. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, 13(1), 46–47.

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