Medicinal Mushrooms

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In this blog I am going to discuss the numerous health benefits of medicinal mushrooms. Mushrooms have been used by humans since thousands of years as food and/or as medicine and have been used for treating simple and common diseases, like skin diseases and pandemic diseases like AIDS (2).

Mushrooms are proven to possess anti-allergic, anti-cholesterol, anti-tumor, and anti-cancer properties (2).

More than 14,000 species of mushrooms are recognised, and among them, approximately 2000 are identified as edible. Of the 2000 edible mushrooms in 30 genera, 270 species are now considered as potential therapeutic or preventative agents that may ensure wellness of humans.

‘Without leaves, without buds, without flowers; Yet they form fruit. As a Food, as a tonic, as a medicine; The entire creation is precious.’ Yang

Medicinal Mushrooms And Brain Health

The studies done by many researchers as well as on-going studies show that selected mushrooms do have neurotrophic properties that can be beneficial to humans.

Regular consumption may promote nerve and brain health.

This is particularly useful during injury (as in an accidents) or as we age. This far, only H. erinaceus has been extensively studied.

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Medicinal Mushrooms And Gut Health

In the present review, we have summarised the beneficial activities of various mushrooms on gut microbiota via the inhibition of exogenous pathogens and, thus, improving the host health (2).

The constituents of the reishi mushrooms make it one of the important prebiotics used to increase the bacterial flora. In particular it is rich in polysaccharides, terpenoids, and total phenols. The prebiotic action of G. lucidum should be due to the presence of several polysaccharides; a recent study has isolated the high and intermediate polysaccharides and shown to be responsible for its prebiotic action.

In a recent study, researchers have found that white button mushrooms (WB mushrooms) increase microbial diversity and accelerate the resolution of Citrobacter rodentium infection in mice. Specifically, WB mushrooms were reported to stimulate a local inflammatory response, the production of catecholamines, and their metabolites, and changed the composition of the gut flora. The results of their study provide information on biological changes that occur upon WB ingestion are likely to include direct stimulation of the innate immune systems that produce inflammation and affect the composition of the gut flora which improves GI health by limiting the damage that occurs following injury or infection.

Mushrooms offer significant vital health benefits, including antioxidants, cholesterol-lowering properties, anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory, liver protection, as well as anti-diabetic, anti-viral, and anti-microbial properties (2).

Medicinal Mushrooms And Cancer

Several of the mushroom compounds have proceeded through phase I, II, and III clinical studies and are used extensively and successfully in Asia to treat various cancers and other diseases (4).

Medicinal mushrooms have been proposed as a novel therapy that may improve cancer treatment and patients’ survival. They have been used medicinally since at least 3000 BCE.

Mushrooms are reported to have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular-protective, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, and anticancer properties. (3)

It is well-established that mushrooms are adept at immune modulation and affect various cells (3) including:

  • Hematopoietic stem cells
  • Lymphocytes
  • Macrophages
  • T cells
  • Dendritic cells (DCs)
  • Natural killer (NK) cells.

Extensive research over the last 40 years has demonstrated that mushrooms have potent antineoplastic properties that slow growth of tumors, regulate tumor genes, decrease tumoral angioneogenesis, and increase malignant-cell phagocytosis. Additionally, evidence suggests that medicinal mushrooms may safely boost chemotherapeutic efficacy and simultaneously protect against bone marrow suppression.

Medicinal Mushrooms And Neurodegenerative Diseases

Mushrooms can be considered as useful therapeutic agents in the management and/or treatment of neurodegeneration diseases. (5)

Although at its infancy, accumulated evidence suggested that culinary-medicinal mushrooms may play an important role in the prevention of many age-associated neurological dysfunctions, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Therefore, efforts have been devoted to a search for more mushroom species that may improve memory and cognition functions.

In a recent review (5) over 20 different brain-improving culinary-medicinal mushrooms and at least 80 different bioactive secondary metabolites isolated from them were discussed. The mushrooms (either extracts from basidiocarps/mycelia or isolated compounds):

  • Reduced beta amyloid-induced neurotoxicity
  • Had anti-acetylcholinesterase
  • Neurite outgrowth stimulation
  • Nerve growth factor (NGF) synthesis
  • Neuroprotective
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-(neuro)inflammatory effects

Medicinal Mushrooms And Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular diseases are one of the most prevalent causes of morbidity and mortality in the Western world. Several investigations have shown the influence of mushrooms intake on some metabolic markers (total, LDL, HDL cholesterol, fasting triacylglycerol, homocysteine, blood pressure, homeostatic function and oxidative and inflammatory damage), which potentially may reduce the risk of suffering cardiovascular diseases. Relevant nutritional aspects of mushrooms include a high fiber supply, a low fat content with low trans isomers of unsaturated fatty acids and a low concentration of sodium as well as the occurrence of components such as eritadenine, phenolic compounds, sterols (such as ergosterol), chitosan, triterpenes, etc., which are considered as important responsible agents for some hitherto healthy properties.

Medicinal Mushrooms And Energy

Many studies have demonstrated the antifatigue effects of edible and medicinal mushrooms. These mushrooms probably mitigate human fatigue through effects on the functional systems, including the muscular, cardiovascular, hormone, and immune system. The bioactive constituents that contribute to the anti-fatigue effects of mushrooms may include polysaccharides, peptides, nucleosides, phenolic compounds, and triterpenoids (9).

Medicinal Mushrooms and Inflammation

Inflammation is a natural response of the immune system to damaging factors, e.g. physical, chemical and pathogenic. Deficiencies of antioxidants, vitamins, and microelements, as well as physiological processes, such as aging, can affect the body’s ability to resolve inflammation.

Mushrooms are rich in anti-inflammatory components, such as polysaccharides, phenolic and indolic compounds, mycosteroids, fatty acids, carotenoids, vitamins, and biometals.

In all certainty, edible mushrooms can be referred to as a “superfood” and are recommended as a valuable constituent of the daily diet.

Medicinal Mushrooms and Glutathione

A recent study demonstrated that certain mushroom species are high in glutathione and ergothioneine and should be considered an excellent dietary source of these important antioxidants.

Medicinal Mushrooms And Anxiety

One study showed that Lion’s Mane intake has the possibility to reduce depression and anxiety.

Medicinal Mushrooms And The Environment

Mushrooms are part of fungal biota characterized by wonder. They rise up from lignocellulosic wastes: yet they become so bountiful and nourishing. Mushrooms are environmentally friendly. They biosynthesise their own food from agricultural crop residues, which would otherwise cause health hazards (7).

Conclusion

Anti-tumor, immuno-modulating, antioxidant, radical scavenging, cardiovascular, anti-hypercholesterolemia, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-fungal, detoxification, hepatoprotective, and anti-diabetic effects.

References

  1. Neuronal Health – Can Culinary and Medicinal Mushrooms Help? Click here.
  2. A Critical Review on Health Promoting Benefits of Edible Mushrooms through Gut Microbiota: click here.
  3. Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology: click here.
  4. Medicinal Mushrooms in Human Clinical Studies. Part I. Anticancer, Oncoimmunological, and Immunomodulatory Activities: A Review: click here.
  5. Therapeutic potential of culinary-medicinal mushrooms for the management of neurodegenerative diseases: diversity, metabolite, and mechanism: click here.
  6. An Overview of Culinary and Medicinal Mushrooms in Neurodegeneration and Neurotrauma Research: click here.
  7. The role of culinary-medicinal mushrooms on human welfare with a pyramid model for human health: click here.
  8. Edible mushrooms: role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases: click here.
  9. Anti-fatigue Functions and Mechanisms of Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms: click here.
  10. Anti-inflammatory properties of edible mushrooms: A review: click here.
  11. Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms: Emerging Brain Food for the Mitigation of Neurodegenerative Diseases: click here.
  12. Mushrooms: A rich source of the antioxidants ergothioneine and glutathione: click here.
  13. Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake: click here.
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