Health Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms

Health Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms

Health Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms

Overview

Scientific research has proven many health benefits of mushrooms. More than 50,000 scientific studies have verified the millennial experiences of traditional medicine and found that medicinal mushrooms:

  • boost the immune system,
  • prevent and fight cancer,
  • prevent and fight viral infections,
  • regulate blood sugar and fat (cholesterol and triglycerides),
  • normalize blood pressure,
  • reduce atherosclerotic plaques and ischemia thus improving heart and brain health,
  • slow the development of neurodegenerative diseases
  • protect bone from degradation and osteoporosis
  • help manage healthy weight
  • improve strength and endurance
  • slow ageing
  • and many more.

Medicinal mushrooms are extremely safe to use; they cause no interactions, major side effects, tolerance or withdrawal.

Medicinal Value of Mushrooms

Eating mushrooms is not enough to get their full medicinal value. In serious cases, we must reach for high-quality extracts, which contain concentrated active ingredients. Some medicinal mushrooms affect multiple systems at once, helping with various health issues.

Image: Structure of Fungal Cell
Mushroom cell structure. Notice the thin cell wall (in red color); it contains almost all active ingredients.

Cancer

Agarikon.1 component strongly inhibits squamous cell carcinoma.
Some medicinal mushrooms directly kill cancer cells, others elicit antitumor activity by boosting the immune system.

The tradition of using medicinal mushrooms against malignant disease is thousands of years old. About 50,000 research papers and more than 400 clinical trials have proven that medicinal mushrooms can help patients with various types of cancer to:

  • fight cancer more effectively,
  • improve outcome and survival,
  • reduce the side effects of standard tumor therapy, especially chemotherapy and radiation,
  • help prevent recurrence,
  • and greatly increase quality of life.

High-quality mushroom extracts should be used alongside standard therapy.

Mushrooms boost the immune system. This is the main mechanism of anticancer activity of medicinal mushrooms. Mushroom beta glucans inhibit the proliferation of tumor cells, cause cancer regression in lab animals and humans. Japanese and Chinese scientists have developed official anti-tumor mushroom drugs.

Learn more: Traditional Use | Scientific Research | Active CompoundsRecommended product

Medicinal Mushrooms for Cancer (gallery)

Ganoderma lucidum reishi lingzhi medicinal mushroom
Ganoderma lucidum (reishi, ling zhi)
Ganoderma lucidum reishi lingzhi medicinal mushroom
Shiitake mushroom growing on a tree
Lentinus edodes (shiitake)
Shiitake mushroom growing on a tree
Large maitake mushroom
Grifola frondosa (maitake, hen of the woods)
Large maitake mushroom
medicinal mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus
Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster mushroom)
medicinal mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus
Agaricus blazei Murill, ABM, medicinal mushrooms
Agaricus blazei Murill (= brasiliensis = subrufescens; Royal Sun Agaricus)
Agaricus blazei Murill, ABM, medicinal mushrooms
Turkey tail medicinal mushroom on a tree stump
Trametes versicolor (= Coriolus versicolor, turkey tail mushroom)
Turkey tail medicinal mushroom on a tree stump
inonotus obliquus chaga
Inonotus obliquus (chaga)
inonotus obliquus chaga
Phellinus linteus Sang hwang
Phellinus linteus (sang hwang, mesima)
Phellinus linteus Sang hwang
fomes fomentarius medicinal mushroom growing on a tree (older specimen)
Fomes fomentarius (tinder mushroom)
fomes fomentarius medicinal mushroom growing on a tree (older specimen)
Schizophyllum commune, split gill mushroom
Schizophyllum commune (split gill mushroom)
Schizophyllum commune, split gill mushroom
Flammulina velutipes enoki medicinal mushrooms
Flammulina velutipes (enokitake)
Flammulina velutipes enoki medicinal mushrooms
Tricholoma matsutake
Tricholoma matsutake (matsutake mushrooms)
Tricholoma matsutake

Viral Infections

Since medicinal mushrooms effectively boost the immune system, they can help in various viral infections. Research has shown they help against:

lymphocytes protecting cell from HIV virus
Medicinal mushrooms compounds improve production of lymphocytes (red), a type of immune system cell, which protect the cell (blue) from viruses (green).
  • various flu strains,
  • HIV and AIDS,
  • viral hepatitis,
  • herpes (including genital herpes),
  • HPV,
  • Epstein-Barr virus (mononucleosis),
  • the common cold,
  • and other infections.

Taken early, they act as a strong prevention. This is especially useful in winter or during viral outbreaks.

Myko San company offers high-quality mushroom extract Mykoprotect.1, which is suited for many viral infections, as well as for a general improvement of the immune system.

Most Important Antiviral Medicinal Mushrooms (gallery)

Shiitake mushroom growing on a tree
Lentinus edodes (shiitake)
Shiitake mushroom growing on a tree
Ganoderma lucidum reishi lingzhi medicinal mushroom
Ganoderma lucidum (reishi, ling zhi)
Ganoderma lucidum reishi lingzhi medicinal mushroom
Large maitake mushroom
Grifola frondosa (maitake, hen of the woods)
Large maitake mushroom
medicinal mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus
Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster mushroom)
medicinal mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus
Agaricus blazei Murill, ABM, medicinal mushrooms
Agaricus blazei Murill (= brasiliensis = subrufescens; Royal Sun Agaricus)
Agaricus blazei Murill, ABM, medicinal mushrooms
Turkey tail medicinal mushroom on a tree stump
Trametes versicolor (= Coriolus versicolor, turkey tail mushroom)
Turkey tail medicinal mushroom on a tree stump
fomes fomentarius medicinal mushroom growing on a tree (older specimen)
Fomes fomentarius (tinder mushroom)
fomes fomentarius medicinal mushroom growing on a tree (older specimen)
Flammulina velutipes enoki medicinal mushrooms
Flammulina velutipes (enokitake)
Flammulina velutipes enoki medicinal mushrooms
Phellinus linteus Sang hwang
Phellinus linteus (sang hwang, mesima)
Phellinus linteus Sang hwang
inonotus obliquus chaga
Inonotus obliquus (chaga)
inonotus obliquus chaga

High Cholesterol, Triglycerides, Blood Pressure and Sugar

image showing a normal artery and an artery narrowed by atherosclerotic plaque
Medicinal mushrooms contribute to keeping the heart and blood vessels healthy, as well as help in treatment and recovery from chronic cardiovascular diseases.

Medicinal mushrooms help in many cardiovascular disorders, the leading causes of death in the developed world.
Research has conclusively proven that medicinal mushrooms (like reishi and shiitake):

  • lower elevated cholesterol and triglycerides levels,
  • normalize blood pressure,
  • make blood vessels more flexible
  • remove atherosclerotic plaque
  • normalize blood sugar levels
  • help in cases of diabetes and borderline diabetes.

Mushrooms cannot treat acute cardiovascular conditions. However, in chronic cases, mushrooms can help in prevention, treatment and recovery.
Their influence is considerable and often lasts for 6-12 months after stopping their use.

Most Important Mushrooms for Cardiovascular Health (gallery)

Armillaria mellea (honey mushroom)
Shiitake mushroom growing on a tree
Lentinus edodes (shiitake)
Shiitake mushroom growing on a tree
Ganoderma lucidum reishi lingzhi medicinal mushroom
Ganoderma lucidum (reishi, ling zhi)
Ganoderma lucidum reishi lingzhi medicinal mushroom
Large maitake mushroom
Grifola frondosa (maitake, hen of the woods)
Large maitake mushroom
Auricularia auricula-judae (Jew's ear)
Agaricus blazei Murill, ABM, medicinal mushrooms
Agaricus blazei Murill (= brasiliensis = subrufescens; Royal Sun Agaricus)
Agaricus blazei Murill, ABM, medicinal mushrooms
Cordyceps sinensis medicinal mushroom
Cordyceps sinensis parasitizing on caterpillars.
Cordyceps sinensis medicinal mushroom

Nervous system and Neurodegenerative Diseases

synapse firing a signal
Synapse during signal transmission. Some medicinal mushrooms help improve brain health by improving blood circulation and modifying immunity; but also by stimulating the production of Nerve Growth Factor.
Image Credit: Graham Johnson, a winner for the best scientific illustration in 2005.

Kawagishi made a fascinating discovery in 1990 when he found very strong stimulators of nerve growth factors in Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s mane mushroom). Traditional medicine used mushrooms for depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, epilepsy, “nervousness and brain disorders that accompany old age”.

Neurodegenerative diseases are common. Various dementias (Alzheimer’s, etc.), Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, etc. disturb the functioning of the brain and radically reduce the patients’ quality of life. For many of these diseases, the diagnosis is still neither reliable nor timely, and the existing treatments only aim to slow the damage and ease symptoms, often causing side effects in the process.

Clinical research in Japan has shown that using Hericium erinaceus extracts containing active ingredients (erinacines and hericenones) helps patients improve their functional status.

Microbes (Bacteria and Pathological Fungi)

Many valuable antibiotics (like penicillin and cephalosporin) come from molds, which are fungi (mostly Ascomycota phylum). Overuse of antibiotics has led to antibiotic resistant microbes. Researchers are looking for new ways of fighting bacterial and fungal infections. More than 100 species of higher mushrooms (especially Basidiomycota) contain strong antibacterial and antifungal compounds.

Important Antibacterial and Antifungal Mushrooms (gallery)

piptoporus betulinus growing on a tree
Piptoporus betulinus (birch polypore)
piptoporus betulinus growing on a tree
Shiitake mushroom growing on a tree
Lentinus edodes (shiitake)
Shiitake mushroom growing on a tree
Lepista nuda medicinal mushroom
Lepista nuda (wood blewit, blue stalk mushroom)
Lepista nuda medicinal mushroom
Ganoderma lucidum reishi lingzhi medicinal mushroom
Ganoderma lucidum (reishi, ling zhi)
Ganoderma lucidum reishi lingzhi medicinal mushroom
Oudemansiella mucida medicinal mushooms
Oudemansiella mucida (porcelain mushroom)
Oudemansiella mucida medicinal mushooms
Armillaria mellea (honey mushroom)
Meripilus giganteus medicinal mushrooms
Meripilus giganteus (giant polypore)
Meripilus giganteus medicinal mushrooms

Bone Protection and Osteoporosis

normal bone vs osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a progressive bone disease, where bone mass and density significantly decreases.

The researchers from Dr Myko San company followed the pioneering research of Saif, Wende and Lindequist in 2008, who have shown that several mushrooms species have bone-maintaining properties.

Our test extracts positively influence bone remodeling: they increase the activity of osteoblasts (bone synthesizing cells) and simultaneously reduce osteoclasts (bone resorbing cells). As a result, the bone density increases and the bones become stronger, less prone to fractures.

This is especially important for older people, especially postmenopausal women. With age, the bone remodeling balance naturally becomes more negative. This imbalance results in osteoporosis, loss of bone mass and density. Osteoporosis increases bone fragility, often leading to fractures and deformations.

Mushrooms for Bone Health (gallery)

Large maitake mushroom
Grifola frondosa (maitake)
Large maitake mushroom
Shiitake mushroom growing on a tree
Lentinus edodes (shiitake)
Shiitake mushroom growing on a tree
Ganoderma lucidum reishi lingzhi medicinal mushroom
Ganoderma lucidum (reishi, ling zhi)
Ganoderma lucidum reishi lingzhi medicinal mushroom
piptoporus betulinus growing on a tree
Piptoporus betulinus (birch polypore)
piptoporus betulinus growing on a tree
Agaricus bisporus button mushroom
Agaricus bisporus (common button mushroom)
Agaricus bisporus button mushroom

Tonic, Adaptogen and Immune Boosting Effects

Using medicinal mushrooms as tonics and adaptogens is a tradition spanning thousands of years. Some mushrooms can boost energy levels, strength and endurance, reduce fatigue, alleviate pain, improve stress resistance and sleep, and improve immunity.

Tonic and Adaptogenic Medicinal Mushrooms (gallery)

Cordyceps sinensis medicinal mushroom
Cordyceps sinensis parasitizing on caterpillars.
Cordyceps sinensis medicinal mushroom
Ganoderma lucidum reishi lingzhi medicinal mushroom
Ganoderma lucidum (reishi, ling zhi)
Ganoderma lucidum reishi lingzhi medicinal mushroom
Shiitake mushroom growing on a tree
Lentinus edodes (shiitake)
Shiitake mushroom growing on a tree
Large maitake mushroom
Grifola frondosa (maitake, hen of the woods)
Large maitake mushroom
medicinal mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus
Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster mushroom)
medicinal mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus
Armillaria mellea (honey mushroom)

Weight Management and Obesity

Obesity is reaching epidemic proportions in many parts of the world, with serious consequences. Substituting calorie-rich foods with edible mushrooms makes perfect sense.

Edible mushrooms are an excellent food for weight loss. They are a very healthy, nutritious and balanced food low in calories. Good mushroom dishes are often hearty, full of flavor and filling, reducing the craving for more caloric foods.

Eating mushrooms releases energy slowly and keeps you full longer, which helps you lose weight and exercise longer. Research has found that they stabilize blood glucose levels and influence the hormones that regulate appetite.

The best edible mushrooms are also medicinal: shiitake, maitake (hen of the woods), oyster mushrooms and enoki.

Mushrooms are not just another “magic” fad diet – they are a healthier substitute for foods we often eat too much.

Mushrooms Are Superfoods

While”superfood” is purely a marketing term, the name fits mushrooms quite well. French physician Bruno Donatini claims that the average human lifespan can be extended by about 10 years, if we consume mushrooms several times a week. Mushrooms are a very healthy and nutritious food indeed.

Mushrooms belong to the kingdom of Fungi; they are neither plants nor animals. As such, they have unique nutritional characteristics.

Mushrooms are low in calories and fat, and very low in sodium (Na). They are a good source of healthy complex carbohydrates (including beta glucans and dietary fiber), protein, and many nutrients:

  • antioxidants:
    • polyphenols (especially flavonoids),
    • ergothioneine (“the master antioxidant”),
    • selenium,
    • and vitamin E
  • vitamins, especially:
    • vitamins B
    • vitamin D (the only non-animal dietary source),
    • vitamin E
  • minerals, especially:
    • potassium (K),
    • selenium (Se),
    • copper (Cu),
    • phosphorus (P),
    • iron (Fe), and
    • chromium (Cr).

We should eat mushrooms more often. Many Far Eastern people eat them daily. In some regions in China and Japan people consume more than 15 kilograms of mushrooms a year, compared to just 2 kg in the USA. The variety is also much larger; the Chinese commonly eat more than 25 mushroom species, compared to just 3-4 in the West. Unfortunate and completely irrational aversion and fear of mushrooms is a major cause.

As one mycologist, David Arora, notes in his book Mushrooms Demystified:  “Bring home what looks like a wild onion for dinner, and no one gives it a second thought – despite the fact it might be death camas you have, especially if you didn’t bother to smell it. But bring home a wild mushroom for dinner, and watch the faces of your friends crawl with various combinations of fear, anxiety, loathing, and distrust!

… Like snakes, slugs, worms, and spiders, they’re regarded as unearthly and unworthy, despicable and inexplicable–the vermin of the vegetable world. And yet, consider this: out of several thousand different kinds of wild mushrooms in North America, only five or six are deadly poisonous! And once you know what to look for, it’s about as difficult to tell a deadly Amanita from a savory chanterelle as it is a lima bean from an artichoke.”

Since mushrooms easily accumulate heavy metals and pesticides, organically grown are the best choice. Mushroom hunters must correctly identify the species, since there are no universal rules. A few mushroom species are deadly, but many are mildly poisonous or inedible. Others may simply spoil the taste of the dish.

beautiful mushroom dish

Prepared correctly, some mushroom species make fabulous dishes, rich in umami (pleasant savory taste). Umami is a basic taste, distinct from sweet, sour, bitter and salty.