Health Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms

Author
Published:
October 22, 2020

Originally used in the East as both traditional medicine and food, the past few decades have seen many mushroom varieties receive intensive study for their therapeutic properties.

In fact, all edible mushrooms seem to contain both medicinal and nutritional benefits, although careful preparation is required to properly release their full advantages.

Modern scientific evidence shows that medicinal mushrooms typically act to help strengthen the immune system, lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, and help our bodies fight against free radicals, mutagens, and toxins.

The health benefits of medicinal mushrooms seem to exist mainly due to the presence of polysaccharides (complex sugar molecules) called beta-glucans in their cell walls. Beta-glucans are also present in cereal grains, algae, bacteria, fungi, and yeast.

Early human clinical trials with beta-glucans have confirmed that they have an immune-strengthening effect and are safe to consume, with minimal to no side effects for most people.

11 health benefits of medicinal mushrooms:

  1. Powerful anti-cancer effects
  2. Strengthening of the immune system
  3. Protection against heart disease and stroke
  4. Fighting free radicals
  5. Managing blood sugar
  6. Managing stress
  7. Enhancing libido
  8. Improving exercise performance
  9. Antihistamine properties
  10. Relieving inflammation and pain
  11. Improving memory, concentration, and focus

Medicinal mushrooms are useful in many ways, the most important is immune function support and may be used in the treatment of various diseases including cancer, prevention and treatment of allergies and may also inhibit certain viruses.

Medicinal Mushrooms

Maitake

Maitake glucan stimulates macrophages, increase NK cells against the cancer cells and advances the maturation of Natural Killer (T-cells) cells. It may decrease the side effects and increase the efficacy of chemotherapy.

Cancers these medicinal mushrooms are most effective for include breast, prostate and liver cancers. Maitake glucan is further used in the treatment or management of liver disease, anti-AIDS treatment, fatigue, diabetes and hypertension.

Shiitake

Shiitake medicinal mushrooms also have anti-tumour effects and increase immune markers including the Natural Killer cells / Tumour Necrosis Factor as well as the T-helper cells.

It can also be used in colds and flu, cardiovascular disease (it is anti-cholesterol and anti-hypertensive) and has anti-bacterial and antifungal properties. It also has uses in hepatitis treatement.

Shiitake medicinal mushrooms salad

Shiitake mushrooms
Shiitake Mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms are not only available in capsules! This delicious salad is great for immune health.

Ingredients:

  • 250 mg fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 4 chopped green onions
  • 2 cups salad greens
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh carrots
  • 1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds

Method:

  1. Place the mushrooms in a small bowl; drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat.
  2. Put them in on a baking tray and grill uncovered for six to eight minutes or until tender. Remember to stir frequently.
  3. In a large bowl, add the rest of the ingredients, keeping the pumpkin seeds for last. Cover with your favourite vinaigrette and toss to coat.
  4. Add the mushrooms on top with some more vinaigrette and finally top off with the toasted pumpkin seeds.
  5. Add a bit of the below kimchi for a spicy boost.

Reishi

Reishi, known to be an adaptogen, of which the red fungus is the most potent.  These medicinal mushrooms have an immune-modulating effect and increase certain interleukins (signalling factors) and can be used in the treatment of hypertension, allergy, dyslipidaemias, clotting tendency and inflammation.

Reishi has liver-protective properties and anti-bacterial properties, especially against Staphylococcus and Streptococcus. It can also treat altitude sickness.

Cordyceps

Cordyceps are medicinal mushrooms from the Caterpillar fungus an edible parasitic fungus. It is a stimulant of the caterpillar’s fungus. It enhances macrophages ability to act as phagocytes and inhibit the growth of some cancers.

Cordyceps prevents atherosclerosis, by inhibition of oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Cordyceps might improve immunity by stimulating cells and specific chemicals in the immune system and therefore, supports immune function significantly.

In Colorectal cancer it inhibits the cell cycle and arrest it and causes apoptosis. In other cancers through the induction of apoptosis, and these include bladder, renal, colorectal, breast, B-cell lymphoma, non-small cell lung, uterine, cervical, leukaemia’s, oral, Murine Leydig testicular cancers.

Lion’s mane

Is a large shaggy mushroom that looks like a lion’s mane. Also known as Yamabu-shiitake (Japanese) or Hou to go (Chinese). It contains inactive B12 and precursor Vitamin D. Its extracts consist of active beta-glucans, alpha-glucans and other glucan complexes.

It is known to help with brain health, cognition and nerve health. It protects against dementia and may help with mild symptoms of depression and anxiety. Most importantly is that it hastens the recovery from central nervous system injuries.

It can also reduce heart disease risk, maintain prevention of diabetes symptoms as well as help fight cancer. It is a good antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and may boost the immune system significantly.

In conclusion, we see that the various medicinal mushrooms support immune function, offer cardiovascular protection, speed up central nervous system repair, have anti-cancer properties, antioxidant properties and have anti-inflammatory properties.

Dr. Carel-Piet van Eeden
About The Author

Dr. Carel-Piet van Eeden

Dr van Eeden completed his Ph.D and qualified in Holistic Life Counselling in December 2012 through the University of Sedona.  He is currently pursuing an MBAM through the same University.

After experiencing the trauma of cancer first-hand, Carel-Piet decided to leave his corporate position as legal business analyst and focus on the field of integrative medicine.  Together with Dr. Craige Golding, he works in the Golding Institute to provide evidence based integrative solutions and training for healthcare providers and patients alike.

As a practitioner, Dr. van Eeden focuses on a wide array of challenges people face.  Because of his diverse training, the challenges addressed in sessions are many and include:

  • Lifestyle management
  • Genetic testing
  • Emotional counseling
  • Mindfulness
  • Life Coaching