Ten Things You Probably Don’t Know About Medicinal Mushrooms
1. Not all mushrooms are cultivated equal. While it’s wise to consider the provenance of all produce you are purchasing and ingesting – knowing where your mushrooms come from is extremely important. Mushrooms not only absorb whatever they are grown in, they also concentrate the contents of that matter. The negative effects of pesticides, chemicals, heavy metals (i), stagnant water and polluted air become even more potent and are absorbed into your body if you ingest poorly grown mushrooms.
2. The WHOLE mushroom is medicinal. Mushrooms are composed of three parts. The mycelium are the thread like strands that the you see on the underside of the fruit body which is the final stage of growth and what is most recognizable as a mushroom. And at this final stage of grown reproduction occurs and it releases spores, which are the third part of the mushroom (ii). Each of the three parts have different medicinal benefits which vary according to the varietal.
3. Medicinal mushrooms are immunity boosters. Research has consistently proven that medicinal fungi support the immune system (iii). Polysaccharides found in mushrooms signal the body to boost its defences at a cellular level. Medicinal mushrooms also increase the body’s production of antiviral proteins (v).
4. Mushrooms are high in Vitamin B-complex. Mushrooms contain riboflavin, niacin, B6, B12 and B2. B vitamins as a whole aid in the conversion of calories into energy. Niacin specifically supports the digestive system and riboflavin is good for red blood cells (iv).
5. Mushrooms are not vegetables. We may treat them as vegetables when cooking but their true classification is fungi (v). That means they need a cool dark environment to grow and do not require sunlight to produce energy. They are similar to vegetables, however, in that they provide us with a wide array of nutrients – antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
6. Using mushrooms medicinally is not a new trend. Mushrooms have been used medicinally for centuries and the earliest known uses were in China. There are also records of medicinal application in ancient Japan, Russia and in Native American cultures (vi). Presently medicinal mushroom use is still prevalent in China, Korea and Japan. Western researchers have been exploring medicinal use since the 1960s.
7. Medicinal mushrooms are stress relievers and energy boosters. Because they support the immune system, all mushrooms are inherently helpful for balancing cortisol and combating fatigue. Certain varietals are also beneficial for specific issues. Reishi is especially helpful in fighting the negative effects of stress and can also reduce chronic fatigue syndrome (vii).
8. Mushrooms deliver antioxidants and antibiotics. Fungi defend themselves against harmful microorganisms with their own native antibiotics. Penicillin was derived from a species of fungi! (viii) Mushrooms are also high in antioxidants (ix) that defend against free radicals.
9. Not just anyone can harvest mushrooms. While it may seem like fun to go on a foraging adventure in the woods, there are numerous varietals of fungi and many of them are not at all healthy and some are poisonous. Expertise and experience are very important when selecting mushrooms for consumption. By the same token, one should be sure to always buy from reputable sources.
10. Mushrooms are high in vitamin D. Mushrooms are the only plant-based food that provides vitamin D – which is an essential nutrient for human health.
The magic of medicinal mushrooms is unparalleled. When we look at this incredible fungus that grows naturally and quietly on forest floors, under dead trees, near tree stumps, one cannot be left without an air of awe. The health benefits of wild mushrooms are as powerful immune boosters, and powerful antioxidants, and they have been shown to boost our immune system as a result. The mushroom is beautiful, diverse, and proves to be a powerhouse of medicinal benefits!