The Many Health Benefits of Mushrooms

The Many Health Benefits of Mushrooms

Mushrooms have been used by the Chinese, Japanese, Greeks, Romans, Vikings, and indigenous Americans for thousands of years for their medicinal and healing benefits.1 Dating as far back as the Qin dynasty in 221-206BC, Reishi mushrooms (G. lucidum) were used to treat neurasthenia, insomnia, anorexia, dizziness, chronic hepatitis, hypercholesterolemia, coronary heart disease, hypertension, altitude sickness, carcinoma, and bronchitis in the elderly. They were also reflected in the artwork and local culture.1,2 The last 30 years have provided new research on the mushroom’s biological properties in the pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, and cosmetic industries.1 They are produced around the world. However, China is the primary producer and exporter.1 Recent research into the mushrooms’ biologic activities has unlocked Reishi mushroom’s nutritional and therapeutic benefits, including the prevention of diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and cancer, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antitumor, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, and immunomodulator.1 From the nutritionist’s point of view, generally, fresh mushrooms contain both soluble and insoluble fibers; the soluble fiber is mainly β-glucanpolysaccharides and chitosans. quantities of crude protein, carbohydrates, and crude fiber were more significant in the artificially grown variety.1,3,4 Roy et al. analyzed the mushroom’s nutritional profile and concluded that G. lucidum contains large quantities of water- soluble proteins, 18 types of amino acids, 3.5 g of dietary fiber per 100 g of mushroom, significant amounts of phosphorus, sulfur, and other trace minerals, and is a rich source of riboflavin, niacin, and thiamin.1,3 In addition, G. lucidum is a good source of vitamins B1, B2, B6, β-carotene, C, D, and E.1,3,4 Little research has been conducted on the toxic effects of G. lucidum in humans, however, there is some evidence of the hepatoxic effects of G. lucidum spore powder.5 Loyd et a.; purported that manufactured G. lucidum products state they are derived from G. lucidum, also containing multiple Ganoderma species.6 Because not all Ganoderma species produce the same benefits, more research is warranted on the traceability and authenticity of the species.1

Lion’s mane (hou tou gu or yamabushitake) has both culinary and medicinal uses in China, India, Japan, and Korea.7 Lion’s mane mushrooms contain hericenones and erinacines that can stimulate the growth of brain cells and may protect against Alzheimer’s disease.8 By helping to regenerate brain cells and improve hippocampus function, Lion’s mane extract can also help with the processing of memories and emotional responses.9 Lion’s mane may help speed the recovery of injuries to the brain and spinal cord and reduce the severity of brain damage after a stroke, by stimulating the growth and repair of nerve cells.10 Lion’s mane extract may protect against the development of stomach ulcers by inhibiting the growth of H. pylori and protecting the stomach lining from damage and may reduce inflammation and prevent tissue damage in the intestines and help treat inflammatory bowel diseases.9 However, more research is warranted in this area.11,12 Several animal studies have demonstrated that Lion’s mane extract may improve fat metabolism, lowers triglyceride levels, and prevents the oxidation of cholesterol in the bloodstream, minimizing cardiovascular risk factors and diabetes risk.13,14,16 Lion’s mane contains hericenone B, which may decrease the rate of blood clotting and lower one’s risk of

heart attack or stroke.15 The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds found in Lion’s mane may improve immune function and minimize the overall risk for disease.1,17 There are documented cases of people having breathing difficulty or skin rashes that are likely related to mushroom allergies.1,18

Chaga mushrooms (Inonotus obliquus) have been used as a traditional medicine in Northern European countries to boost immunity and overall health and treat diabetes, cancer, and heart disease20 Drinking Chaga with water releases its medicinal properties. Therefore it is often grated into a fine powder and used as an herbal tea.20 It is purported to be low in calories, extremely high in fiber, and full of antioxidants.19,20 Chaga may prevent the production of harmful cytokines, reducing inflammation and disease risk.20 In a test-tube study, Chaga extract with the antioxidant triterpene, prevented the growth of cancer in the human liver, lung, breast, prostate, and colon cells.20,22 Chaga may lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease.23,24 Few, if any, studies have been conducted to determine the mushrooms’ safety as well as appropriate dosage. It may interact with other medications and cause potentially harmful side effects; insulin and blood-thinning medications are prime examples.20,25 Chaga should be avoided by pregnant or lactating women, and those with autoimmune disorders should consult with their physician before taking it.20

Shitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine.26 They are low in calories and have a comparable amino acid profile to that of red meat, making them an excellent vegetable protein source.26,27 These mushrooms are high in fiber and provide a source of polysaccharides, copper, B5, selenium, zinc, and vitamin D.26 They may be taken in a pill or capsule form, used in smoothies and soups or eaten like a steak.26 Shitake mushrooms activate the immune system, reduce inflammation, and can reduce the risk of disease and illness; those with autoimmune disorders should consult their physician before consuming them.26,27 Shitake mushrooms help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, may slow cancer growth and keep it from spreading, improve energy, may keep hair from thinning, and improve skin health.26,28,29,30 Shitake mushrooms are very safe at a dose of 3-8 mushrooms per day, and while eating higher amounts can increase health benefits, it can also increase the risks.26 Consuming large quantities can increase white blood cell count and increase skin sensitivity in the sun.26,31 This may cause a condition known as shitake dermatitis that can also be avoided by cooking the mushrooms rather than eating them raw.26,31 Anyone with a high white blood cell count or eosinophilia should avoid consuming these mushrooms.26 Shitake mushrooms do not have any known reactions with other prescription or over-the-counter medications.26


Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) is known worldwide for its’ medicinal benefits, including their ability to enhance the immune system.32 It is loaded with antioxidants and promotes the release of immunoprotective proteins such as interferon-y while inhibiting the release of pro- inflammatory enzymes cyclooxygenase (COX) and lipoxygenase (LOX).32,33 A study by

Janjušević L. et al. detected over 35 different phenolic compounds and antioxidants – quercetin and baicalein.32,34 Krestin (PSK) and Polysaccharide Peptide (PSP) are two types of polysaccharopeptides found in turkey tail that promote immune response by both activating and inhibiting specific types of immune cells and by suppressing inflammation.32,36 Due to their ability to naturally strengthen the immune system, PSP and PSK are commonly used as anticancer agents in conjunction with surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation to enhance treatment efficacy in countries like Japan and China.32,35 Turkey tail contains prebiotics that helps to balance the healthy bacteria in the gut and maintain a healthy immune system. 32,37 A study by in patients with HPV found that 88% of participants treated with turkey tail experienced clearance of HPV.32,38 Turkey tail has antibacterial qualities that may inhibit the growth of Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella enterica.31 It has been shown to increase energy/decrease fatigue, lower blood sugar levels, and improve insulin resistance.32,39 Some may have gas, abdominal bloating, and dark stools when consuming turkey tail.32 When used as an adjuvant cancer treatment alongside chemotherapy, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite have been reported. 32,40


Cordyceps has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese Medicine to treat fatigue, kidney disease, and low sex drive.41 There are more than 400 species of Cordyceps; however, Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris have become the focus of recent health research.41Because Cordyceps increases the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), it may improve VO2 max during exercise in non-athletes, but is not effective in improving exercise performance in athletes.41,42 The antioxidants found in Cordyceps have been shown to improve memory and sexual function, fight cell damage and neutralize free radicals, and have anti-aging benefits.41,43,47 Cordyceps have been shown to prevent and slow the growth of many types of human cancer cells, including the lung, colon, skin, liver, and lymphatic system.41,45,47 One of the side effects of cancer therapy, leukopenia (low white blood cell count), has been reversed with Cordyceps when performed on animals.42,47 Cordyceps can mimic the action of insulin and keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range.42,48 It has also been shown to protect against kidney disease and improve kidney function.42,49 Cordyceps is approved in China to treat heart arrhythmia and reduce the risk of heart injuries in rats with chronic kidney disease.42,50 Animal research on Cordyceps has shown that there were decreases in LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. However, there is insufficient evidence on humans.42,51 Cordyceps has been shown to have anti- inflammatory benefits internally and topically when used on mice; however, there is insufficient evidence in humans.42,52 Because Cordyceps is extremely expensive, most supplements contain a synthetic version called Cordyceps CS-4. When purchasing these supplements, it is essential to look for brands containing the USP or NSF seal.42,53 The range of 1,000-3,000 mg per day is not associated with any side-effects and has been shown to have various health benefits.42 While there is little research to examine the safety of Cordyceps in humans, the long history of use in Chinese Medicine and the fact that Cordyceps CS-4 has been approved by the Chinese government for use in hospitals assumes it is a safe, natural drug.42,54


Myco-Immune is a blend of seven mushroom extracts that are well-researched and have been shown in numerous studies to provide significant benefits to immune function.* Research has determined that the mushroom extracts in Myco-Immune can increase macrophage and NK-cell activity, phagocytosis, interferon-gamma, and interleukin-1 and -2 production, all of which promote healthy immune function.* Cordyceps, reishi, maitake, Schizophyllum, and Tremella stimulate B-lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes, while Cordyceps, shiitake, and Coriolus possess protective activity against harmful microorganisms.*



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