The power of mushrooms
So, this is autumn
and winter is coming
Our forests are populated with multiple varieties of mushrooms.
Mushrooms and plants have inhabited the planet from more than 450 million years, to the point that scientists wonder if the life of the trees would be possible without fungi. Their roots and the Rhizomes of fungi live in symbiosis; this is called mycorrhiza.
There are more than 3 million species if we include microscopic fungi like molds and yeast. Only about 25000 have been studied.
Many species of fungi have the ability to kill, others to nourish and others to heal.
To survive all this time they have developed powerful chemical defenses to protect themselves from viruses, bacteria, microbes, other fungi and insects.
Some of these compounds help us to fight several diseases.
They are rich in vitamins, minerals, digestive enzymes and amino acids.
Also, they have the ability to solve many of the problems caused by humans; decontaminating water and land.
We know that many of their benefits were known in ancient times.
The man of Ötzi, frozen in the Alps for 5300years, had in his bag two different types of fungi with anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial properties. Even it could be used as tinder to start a fire.
They have been consumed as food and medicine throughout human history until now days.
The protagonists of this blog are three fungi that have had great reputation in China and Japan for centuries. Now they are used in the whole planet.
They are Shitake, Maitake and Reishi.
In ancient times it was observed that those who ate these mushrooms lived longer and were more resilient to disease.
In traditional Chinese medicine they have been used as medicine and food for thousands of years.
Today in China, Japan and Korea these three mushrooms are used to alleviate the effects of chemotherapy and as coadjuvant therapy.
Also they can help us to increase immunity, to reduce high levels of cholesterol, gout, atheroma, arteriosclerosis, circulatory problems, varicose veins, convalescence, anaemia, infections...
They are also considered an adaptogenic food or remedy because they increase our capacity to resist stress, fatigue and tiredness.
“The term adaptogenic was first defined by Lazarev in 1947: “...substances that normalize body functions, strengthen systems and functions compromised by stress and have a protective effect against a wide variety of environmental and emotional stress...”
In this blog we would like to explain some of the benefits of these three mushrooms and how the work in our body.
But before we talk about their benefits and how they work it is very important to know when NOT to use them; "should not take fresh Shitake, Maitake and Reishi or in supplements; those people suffering autoimmune diseases, people in treatment of immunosuppression (transplants), pregnant women or people who are on medication with anticoagulants. Always consult your doctor if you are under medical treatments."
Three of them boost our natural defenses.
The main active compounds responsible for these benefits are the beta-glucans.
In 1980 Dr. Joyce Czop discovered at Harvard University that macrophages have specific receptors for 1.3-beta-glucans and when inserted; it starts a cascade of reactions that allows to capture pathogens and antigens. Also, they stimulate the bone marrow with other supporting molecules.
In a study conducted by the G.C.Chan: "The effects of beta-glucans on human immune and cancer cells 2009 Journal Hematology Oncology." is said: "The beta-glucans activate the production by the body of macrophages, neutrophils, monocytes, killer cells and dendritic cells by modulating the immune response and enhancing phagocytosis of foreign substances, including cancerous cells."
Beta-glucans are polysaccharides present in algae, yeast of beer, bran, oats, barley and mushrooms such as Shitake, Reishi and Maitake.
According to Dr. Vaclav Vetvicka; "Glucan-inmunostimulant adjuvant
potential drug in 2010 World journal Clinical Oncology " "they are components of the fungal cell membrane whose exact mechanisms remain unknown."
Research is still going on and can explain why these mushrooms can help to to alleviate the effects of chemotherapy as a coadjuvant therapy and prevent infections such as colds and flu.
Shitake (Lentinula edodes or Lentinus edodesus)
It means the tree mushroom;
Shii: Tree and Take: Mushroom
We use the mycelium or mushroom and we can find it fresh, dried or in supplements.
Including Shitake in our diet is an excellent and delicious way of keeping our health at its optimum.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is considered that Shiitake has an upward movement on the yang energy and helps with unbalances in the lower body region. Also it activates the blood and neutralizes toxic influences. It has been used as a remedy for many ailments from common cold to inflammatory conditions.
In the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) physicians refer to this mushroom as a food and ideal medicine for the liver, circulatory, respiratory ailments and to increase strength and combat fatigue.
It can help us in cases of high levels of cholesterol, gout, atheroma, arteriosclerosis, circulatory problems, varicose veins, convalescence, anaemia, decreased immunity, infections of all kinds and tumors.
How does Shitake work?
Boosts our natural defenses as we have explained.
Reduces cholesterol levels: Due to the presence of Lentinacin and Chitin. Studies in animals showed that they kept very low triglycerides and cholesterol levels even eating food high in fat.
Lowers levels of uric acid due to the presence of eritadenine: A hipolypidemic substance that is also a regulator of uric acid in the kidney. It was isolated from Shitake by the Japanese of the Research Laboratories, Fujisawa Pharmaceutical Co., Osaka.
Shitake can help our circulatory system; It can prevent thrombosis due to the present of lecithin, lignin EP3, peptides KS-2 KS-2B, ribonucleotides, protein FBP which have platelet aggregation inhibitory properties.
It is very rich in nutrients such as: Enzymes, all essential amino acids, lipids, Butyric acid, Eritadenine, carbohydrates, minerals: K, P, Si, Mg, Al, Ca, S, Fe, and vitamins B1, B2, B12, D2 and niacin.
For example a single serving of 100 g of Shitake contains 96IU or 24% of you required daily intake of Vitamin D.
Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
We use the mycelium or mushroom.
It means dancing mushroom, we do not know why. Some say that it is due to its resemblance to the skirt of a dancer, others to a butterfly dance.
In catalan it is known as Girgola de castanyer, and in English as Hen of the Woods.
In china, during the 14th-16th centuries, it was considered a food that increased the vital energy. To such an extent; that it was included in the diet of the warrior monks.
Maitake can be found as a dried mushroom; it can be soaked and cooked like a fresh mushroom in cooking recipes.
How does Maitake work?
Maitake can help us with conditions such as; high blood pressure, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, prevention and coadjuvant in the treatment of cancer; it reduces the side effects of chemotherapy, fights infections and enhances immunity.
It is a immunomodulator: It contains a compound; 1.6 beta-glucan (Grifolan) that has been shown to provide immune modulating effects and triggering white blood cell macrophages to produce the tumor necrosis factor, a group of cytokines that can cause tumour cell death “apoptosis”
It also contains active compounds such as 1'3 beta-D-glucans, Hetero-Beta-Glucan, Acid Beta-Glucan, Lectina N-acetylgalactosamine-specifies (GFL) that as we explained before increase our natural defenses preventing infections.
Respiratory diseases: Maitake has acetic and malic acid which along with terpenes and quinones have an antibacterial and bacteriostatic action. It kills and stops the growth of bacteria. It can help in the treatment of bronchitis and sinusitis.
Circulatory problems: Maitake may help lower blood pressure; according to animal-based research it helps to thin the blood, prevent the onset of thrombi, reduce blood pressure and balance blood glucose levels.
Potentially beneficial for type 2 diabetes: It seems that Maitake supports the appropriate production of insulin, via an alpha-glucosidase inhibitor that helps to reduce blood glucose levels. Further research is required.
Chronic fatigue: Its ability to regulate blood glucose and its tonic properties make it valuable to combat chronic fatigue.
It is very rich in nutrients such as: phosphorus, potassium and selenium. It is, also, rich in vitamins of the Group B, especially riboflavin and niacin.
Precautions and side effects
The intake of Maitake supplements for more than three months can produce gastritis, itching and rashes on the skin, dry mouth, nosebleeds or bowel movements. The use of fresh Maitake can lead to diarrhea. During the first days of the administration the levels of glucose in blood can be destabilized, this is solved after a few weeks of administration.
Reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum Ganos)
In Chinese, it is called Lingzhi and in Chinese culture is a symbol of immortality.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is believed that nourishes the heart, tonifies the Qi and Blood, calms the Shen and tonifies the Lungs Qi.
Taoists used to believe that it could induce meditative states and encourage spiritual awareness.
It can be used daily boiled in water as teas or in soups, but it is mostly used as a supplement.
It can be used in cases of: Adjuvant in the treatment of cancer, allergies, asthma, bronchitis, colds, eczema, infections, hepatic problems, any pathology due to suppressed immunity...
How does Reishi work?
As Shitake and Maitake increases our natural defences. This is due to an active ingredient present in the mushroom:
Beta-d - glucan a polysaccharide lentinan, which raises the level of interferon; a protein that inhibits the growth of viruses and tumours.
Also stimulates the action of macrophages, T lymphocytes and NK cells.
This explains why it is useful to combat respiratory colds and flues.
Many authors refer to Reishi as an immune modulator tonic. This means that it regulates our immune response when it is deficient or excessive.
It is antioxidant: Reishi contains triterpenes called ganoderic acids. We know that they improve functions of the liver, have antihistamine effect and they increase the utilization of oxygen.
Liver tonic: Compounds like ganoderic acid A and B help to protect and detoxify the liver.
Very nourishing: Rich in minerals such as Ca, Cu, K, Fe, Na, Mg, Sel, Zn...
It is very important to keep our immune system in an optimum condition throughout the year. Autumn and winter are very special seasons to focus on it.
We must be prepared to fight colds and flues.
Shiitake mushroom is very easy to find in supermarkets and is a very healthy and delicious way to help our immune system.
We only need to introduce it in our recipes.
Also boosting our immune system could be a good idea in this season; we can always seek advice from a professional if we want to take these mushrooms as supplements.
So, be healthy.
You deserve it.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should consult your doctor or a qualified nutritionist before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regime.