What are the Health Benefits of Mushrooms? #MushroomMonday

by: EJ on 05/09/2016

By no means is the following an exhaustive list of the health benefits of mushrooms, but in this excerpt from Mycelial Mayhem: Growing Mushrooms for Fun, Profit and Companion Planting by David and Kristin Sewak, we share some of the major ways that mushrooms protect your immune and other systems, help to treat ailments , and have the potential to reduce or cure diseases like cancer, diabetes and other unfavorable conditions. 

Super Seven Medicinal Shrooms Infographic

1 Control Blood Pressure. Reishi, shiitake, cordyceps, and maitake mushrooms work to lower blood pressure, according to Stamets (2005). Shiitake and maitake are great fresh edibles, while reishi and cordyceps are normally consumed as a supplement or as an ingredient in tea or other infusion.

2 Lower Cholesterol. Reishi, cordyceps, and shiitake mushrooms have been found to lower cholesterol. Reishi works through steroid-like compounds to inhibit cholesterol development (Stamets, 2005), while shiitake reduces cholesterol through an amino acid, which helps the body more quickly metabolize ingested cholesterol and dispose more of it as waste (Mori, 1974).

3 Kill Bacteria. All of the mushrooms we call the Super Seven (see chart) work as natural antibacterial agents, and other mushrooms do as well. Unlike taking antibiotics, mushrooms work as natural antibacterial agents, and along with other nutritional elements, work to keep our systems in balance and prevent bacterial illnesses, such as digestive flora imbalances.

4 Strengthen the Immune System. Through a host of functions, such as immunomodulation, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and free radical scavenging, mushrooms help to regulate and protect immune function.

Reishi Antler Form

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum). Antler form.

5 Kick Cancer’s Ass. How? Let us count the ways: through detoxification, anti-tumor, immunomodulating, antioxidant, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, blood sugar regulation, alkalizing, and radical scavenging actions. You already know that antioxidants prevent free radicals from forming. And, you probably already know that inflammation can lead to cancer and other unwanted conditions. But, you might not know the myriad of ways mushrooms could play a role in preventing, treating, or even curing (at some point) certain cancers. How does a mushroom’s role in regulating blood sugar matter in cancer prevention? Well, cancer feeds on sugar. So, if too much sugar is regularly present in your system, your cancer risk is greater. How does a mushroom’s alkalizing effect prevent cancer? Well, in addition to feeding on sugar, cancer  prefers a low body pH. What does a mushroom’s antiviral properties have to do with cancer prevention? Well, some cancers are initiated by viruses. This is only the beginning of our exploration into the potential of mushrooms, both as prevention and treatment of cancer and other illnesses. Could mushrooms, somehow, help your body break down that protective barrier that some cancer cells have, allowing the immune system to identify the invasion and respond more quickly? Someone should research that potential because of the myriad of known anti-cancer functions of medicinal mushrooms, such as immunomodulation (moderating or achieving the proper immune response) and anti-tumor effects. And, who knows what mushrooms can do in conjunction with other natural nutritional and medicinal techniques? The research of treatment through healing foods and disease-curing lifestyles is exploding!

6 Strengthen Bones. According to FC&A Publishing (2004), mushrooms are the only non-animal whole food source of vitamin D for your body! This is a huge fact for all vegetarians out there, for postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, and people with lactose intolerance.

7 Stabilize Blood Sugar. Of the Super Seven mushrooms, the top five help with blood sugar: Reishi, cordyceps, shiitake, maitake, and chaga.

Lion's Mane

Lion’s mane, or hericium (Hericium erinaceus).

8 Protect the Brain and Nervous System. Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) not only can look like a brain, but it has been shown to protect the brain and larger nervous system. According to Stamets (2005), lion’s mane contains nerve growth stimulants, which promote neuron and myelin tissue regrowth. This could help to treat a wide range of nervous system problems, such as Alzheimer’s, muscular dystrophy, and neurological trauma. It could even increase cognitive ability.

9 Alkalize the Body. Though on the low end of the alkalizers, mushrooms have a mild alkalizing effect on the body, which is a good thing. An alkaline body is usually a healthy body because our cells function best when at a slightly alkaline pH. An acidic body, on the other hand, can produce numerous problems, from allergies to cancer, and many more issues in between. To alkalize your body, consume mushrooms and the much more powerful alkalizers, like spinach, broccoli, celery, green beans, zucchini, and garlic. See a pattern developing? Eat those low-carb veggies! Limit foods with an acid-producing impact on your body, such as refined sugars, beef, pork, wine, beer, and coffee. Are you thinking what we’re thinking, “Crap, I can’t have any of the good stuff!” Well, we can at least try to tip the scales in our favor, right?

garden veggies and mushrooms

Tasty - and good for you too.

10 Increase in Stamina and Recovery from Fatigue. According to Mori (1974), shiitake mushrooms help people recover from chronic fatigue and increase stamina, including sexual stamina. These two related effects are likely due to shiitake’s ability to lower cholesterol, improve circulation, and balance hormones due to their vitamin and mineral content. Removal of cholesterol from the blood, with enhanced circulation, translates to healthy body cells free of toxins, which means more energy, therefore, an increase in stamina and less tiredness.

11 Antiviral, Antifungal, and Antiparasitic. According to Stamets (2005), certain mushrooms hold promise in treating AIDS and other viral ailments because of their strong antiviral activity. Also, because cancer is sometimes caused by viruses, mushrooms’ antiviral function plays yet another role in fighting cancer. Candida, a fungal parasite of the gut, is very harmful to the digestive system, but can be stamped out by reishi, maitake, lion’s mane, and shiitake (Stamets, 2005). However, colon therapist Brenda Watson (2002) recommends avoiding mushrooms when trying to eliminate Candida. These contradictory recommendations demonstrate the importance of working with a natural health care professional, such as a naturopathic or integrative doctor when trying to prevent or manage specific conditions.

Reshii Tes

Reishi tea being made at the Sewaks.

Reishi Tea Recipe

Add two 3-inch antlers or one 4-inch conch of dried reishi to 32 oz of water, simmer for 2 hours. Add ginger slices or lemon, 3–4 flavored teabags and honey to counter the bitter taste. You can reuse the reishi for a second, milder batch.




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