Six Mushroom-Health-Benefits to Change Your Life

Eastern cultures have been aware of mushroom-health-benefits for thousands of years. Western cultures have been slow to accept medicinal mushrooms as a viable natural option to prevent or aid in the cure of disease. Mushroom-health-benefits don’t cure disease but provide a powerful stimulus to the immune system. Mushrooms are a food and not a drug.

Mushrooms are fungi and there are over 1,500,000 species of fungi on Earth. Of this number up to 22,000 are thought to be mushrooms. Some 700 species are eaten as food. About fifty species are known to be poisonous. It is important that every mushroom intended for eating be accurately identified.

Mushroom-health-benefits exist in all dietary mushrooms. Common dietary mushrooms such as the button mushroom and the oyster mushroom are healthy foods. A culinary favorite is the portobello such as the baby portobello mushrooms shown here. All of these are a source of B vitamins and contain small amounts of essential amino acids. They are also free of cholesterol.

The common commercially grown mushroom is more than 90 percent water, less than 3 percent protein, less than 5 percent carbohydrate, less than 1 percent fat, and about 1 percent mineral salts and vitamins. The health impact of dietary mushrooms is “minor league” compared to the healing power of the so called medicinal mushrooms.

Medicinal mushrooms have the ability to modulate the immune system and have curative properties. They contain beta-glucans that act to normalize the immune system and organ function. These beta-glucans stimulate an immune response boosting the body’s existing defense system to prevent and fight disease. Each medicinal mushroom contains a unique beta-glucan.  

Mushroom-health-benefits include:

  1. Immune modulation is the most significant benefit of medicinal mushrooms. They work to normalize or balance the immune system. If the immune system is overactive they lower it and if it is underactive they improve it. An overactive immune system can cause auto immune diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, lymphoma and Lupus. An underactive, weak immune system cannot prevent infections and ailments such as colds or influenza. There is evidence that reishi, maitake, and shiitake mushrooms are powerful anti-cancer foods because they boost the immune system.
  2. They are anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is the core cause of most of the ailments and chronic diseases that we suffer.
  3. They are anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal. They are a natural anti-bacterial without the nasty side effects. They do not alter the good bile flora that are essential to our health but actually act to improve it.
  4. Healing mushrooms act to normalize organ function. Studies have demonstrated that they can be used effectively to support liver and kidney function and have been used to treat Cirrhosis of the liver.
  5. Mushroom-health-benefits include enabling the body to cope during times of stress and even lower blood pressure.
  6. Clinical studies have demonstrated that the medicinal mushroom “Cordyceps” can increase HDL (good cholesterol) and reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) and with exercise can be a big help managing atherosclerosis.

The mycelium (root system) of the mushroom is often used in making mushroom supplements because it is richer in important nutrients than the mushroom fruit-body. There are also good supplements on the market that take advantage of the synergistic effect of combining extracts from three or more of these medicinal mushrooms.

The top five healing mushrooms are thought to be the maitake, reishi, shiitake, agaricus blazei (ABM), and the cordyceps sinensis. All of these mushrooms are edible but the reishi is bitter to the taste. It is sometimes used as a tea like beverage.

While medicinal mushrooms are a food they can lower blood pressure and blood sugar, which is good unless you already have low blood pressure and/or are hypoglycemic.

You should always discuss all supplements with your physician before taking them. Nutritional supplements do not cure or prevent illness and disease.  They only give the body the extra nutrition it needs to take care of itself!  A healthy lifestyle starts with good nutrition.

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References and suggested reading:

  • "mushroom." Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite.  Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 2011.
  • William Sears, M.D., Prime Time Health, Little, Brown & Company.
  • Patrick Quillin, PhD, RD, CNS, Beating Cancer with Nutrition, Nutrition Times Press, Inc.
  • George M. Halpern, MD, PhD, Healing Mushrooms, Square One Publishers, Garden City Park, NY

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