There are thousands of plant species growing throughout the world containing active ingredients that direct healing and well-being. Often times, herbs provide benefits conventional medications may lack. In years past, herbs were our go-to option. We relied on them to treat all kinds of health challenges, from the common cold to malaria and tuberculosis.
In war-torn Sarajevo, Bosnia in 1993, a hospital with no access to medications was forced to use valerian (Valeriana officinalis) as a painkiller and anesthetic for wounded soldiers and citizens. In parts of the world that are no longer responding to conventional treatment, the active ingredients of qing hao (Artemesia annua) are able to treat malaria. And in modern times, as our super bugs become antibiotic resistant, we must rely on nature’s miraculous herbs and medicinal plants for recovery and survival. With no harsh side effects, they prove a welcome choice, as 10-20% of hospital patients are suffering from the side effects of modern drugs.
Herbs are God’s miracles and contain many healing attributes, but here I’ll to focus on a few medicinal mushrooms. There are 140,000 species of mushrooms (fungi) growing throughout our planet. These fungi are unparrelled in their ability to boost the immune system and direct serious recovery from illness. And although science has thus far focused on a mere 10% of their kingdom, fungi extracts have provided the basis for some very potent antibiotics such as tetracycline, penicillin and streptomycin.
What Can Mushrooms Do For You?
Nine studies on mushrooms were published in the FASEB Journal that were presented at Experimental Biology in 2013, and those studies illustrated many interesting facts.
*According to a study done by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, mushroom consumption can lead to a better quality of life and increase the absorption of key nutrients. (NHANES 2001-2010).2 (Carol O’Neil, Ph.D., R.D., Louisiana State University, Agricultural Center, Baton Rouge, LA),
*A study conducted by Michael F. Holick PhD., M.D. Department of Medicine, Section Endocrinology, Nutrition And Diabetes, Boston University Medical Center, concluded that eating dried white button mushrooms increased Vitamin D levels as efficiently as taking a Vitamin D2 or D3 supplement.
*Another study revealed that one to two servings of dried shiitake mushrooms improved the immune system. (Susan Percival, Ph.D., Food Science & Human Nutrition Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL)
Over thousands of years, fungi have been used for their properties such as improving quality of life and fighting cancer. In this article I want to share my top 3 favorite medicinal mushrooms: cordyceps, reishi, and shiitake because they are so extraordinary.
ALSO REFERRED TO AS: Caterpillar Fungus, Caterpillar Mushroom, Cs-4, Champignon Chenille, Chinese Caterpillar Fungus, Cordyceps sinensis, Dong Chong Xia Cao, Dong Chong Zia Cao, Hsia Ts’Ao Tung Ch’Ung, Ophiocordyceps sinensis, Tochukaso, Vegetable Caterpillar.
According to WebMD, “Cordyceps is a fungus that lives on certain caterpillars in the high mountain regions of China. It is used to treat coughs, chronic bronchitis, respiratory disorders, kidney disorders, strengthening the immune system, improving athletic performance, reducing the effects of aging, promoting longer life and improving liver function in people with Hepatitis B.” Now that is a heavy-duty list of functions! But the list doesn’t stop there.
In the 1950’s, cordyceps was formulated as a cancer drug called cordyceptin. Why was the focus on cordyceps? Because according to ancient Chinese texts, this caterpillar fungi is able to inhibit the growth, division and proliferation of certain cancer cells. Unfortunately, when cordyceps was taken out of its natural state and the active ingredients were manipulated, it rapidly degraded and was ineffective in its drug form. However, in its natural form the power remains.
Published research in the November 30th edition of the journal Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy cited a study performed by scientists at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, indicated that ingesting Cordyceps can reduce the incidence of cancer spreading to the lungs in metastatic breast cancer. Moreover, a study with cordyceps published on PubMed showed that a species of cordyceps called Cordyceps Militaris could inhibit mitochondria (DEF) injury by scavenging reactive oxygen species (ROS) and increasing anti-aging activity in the cells. (Am J Chin Med. 2010:38(6):1093-106. “Protective effects on mitochondria and anti-aging activity of polysaccharides from cultivated fruiting bodies of Cordyceps militaris”)
(Also referred to as ganoderma: other Chinese names include ruizhi 瑞芝 “auspicious mushroom”,shenzhi 神芝 “divine mushroom” (with shen “spirit; god’ supernatural; divine”), mulingzhi 木灵芝 (with “tree; wood”), xiancao仙草 “immortality plant” (with xian “(Daoism) transcendent; immortal; wizard”), and lingzhicao 灵芝草 or zhicao 芝草 “mushroom plant”)
Reishi has been widely used as a medicinal mushroom for thousands of years. Referred to as ling zhi in China, they call it the “Mushroom of Immortality” because it has the ability to harmonize energy and our life force.
A study published in Phytomedicine (May 2009) by researchers from the Institute of Vascular Medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong showed that reishi can lower blood sugar levels in laboratory animals, by inhibiting an enzyme used by the liver to produce glucose. Researchers at the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Peking in Beijing (Journal of Asian Products Research: Dec. 2006) concluded that reishi has the potential to stop the progression of diabetic kidney disease.
Reishi supports normal cell growth, improves immune system function, potentiates detoxification, normalizes blood sugar levels and reduces inflammation, including inflammation that drives the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, reishi proves to be anti-bacterial, is effective against herpes and Epstein Barr, and is anti-fungal.
Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, considered one of the premiere cancer institutes, published this information about the effects of reishi and cancer: “Reishi mushroom contains complex sugars known as beta-glucans that may stop the growth and prevent spread of cancer cells. When animals were fed beta-glucans, some cells of their immune system became more active. Limited data from clinical studies suggest reishi can strengthen immune response in humans. In addition, reishi mushrooms contain sterols that can act as precursors to hormones in the body, along with substances called triterpenes that may have blood pressure-lowering and antiallergy/antihistamine effects. Reishi mushrooms have also been shown to slow the process of blood clotting.” An article in Life Sciences stated that reishi contains a potent compound call ganoderic acid, which is used to treat lung cancer, leukemia and other cancers.
Champignon Noir, Champignon Parfumé, Champignon Shiitake, Champignons Shiitake, Forest Mushroom, Hongos Shiitake, Hua Gu, Lenticus edodes, Lentin, Lentin des Chênes, Lentin du Chêne, Lentinan edodes, Lentinula, Lentinula edodes, Lentinus edodes,
Shiitake mushrooms, used in Chinese medicine for over 6,000 years, are considered one of the healthiest foods available, and the second most edible mushroom. They contain lentinan, an intravenous anti-tumor polysaccharide isolated from the fruit body of shiitake (Lentinula edodes mycelium), which has anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties, including inhibition of colon cancer. (Inhibition of human colon carcinoma development by lentinan from shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes), Sept. 2012)
Shiitake also has the potential to protect the liver. In an article published in Molecules, it states that shiitake mushrooms have a protective liver effect from paracetamol (painkillers) used to treat headache, toothache, back and menstrual pain, and cold or flu symptoms. (Molecules. 2010 Jun;15(6):4478-89)
Shiitake mushrooms can also help to protect us against cardiovascular disease, such as atherosclerosis (DEF) by blocking adhesion molecule production, thus protecting our blood vessels. Shitake is also a very good source of iron (especially promising for vegans). They are also a good source of B vitamins and minerals such as copper, manganese, zinc and selenium.—link liquid minerals
Shiitake also has a supportive effect on macrophage (immune) cells. When activated, the primary job of the macrophage is to clear cancer cells from the body. Its activation is enhanced by shiitake’s higher level of interleukin 1-beta and tumor necrosis factor alpha, and a lower level of interleukin 10. Shitake’s immune modulating qualities have been well-studied, as they contain a variety of polysaccharide glucans (including alpha-1,6 glucan, alpha-1,4 glucan, beta-1,3 glucan, beta-1,6 glucan, 1,4-D-glucans, 1,6-D-glucans, glucan phosphate and laminarin). These polysaccharides have also been reported to naturally lower cholesterol along with a substance called eritadenine. Journal of Nutrition 1995 Aug;125(8):2134-44
However, shiitake mushrooms are sometimes mass cultivated on sawdust blocks, so when purchasing please look for the certified organic logo. Purchase shiitake that are firm, and refrigerate in a paper bag up to a week’s time or they can be kept in the freezer for over a year.
Medicinal Mushrooms as Daily Support
In general, medicinal mushrooms are an excellent source of antioxidants, one of which is ergothioneine, considered to be one of the master antioxidants, protecting us from DNA damage from oxidative stress. And as mushrooms are filled with power-packed nutrition, I advise adding them to your diet. You can add them raw to salads, make mini pizzas on larger portobello shrooms, or sauté with onions in grass-fed butter to top your grass-fed steak.
Also consider using medicinal mushrooms in capsule form, but must chose wisely, making sure the company has solid research behind their products and is certified organic. Jordan Rubin, founder of Garden of Life and dear friend, has launched a new brand called Get Real Nutrition. A company dedicated to restoring real food nutrition to people and vitality to the planet with a regenerative approach featuring organic, non GMO, vegan, gluten free, sprouted and fermented dietary supplements delivered in eco-regenerative packaging. Jordan’s innovative supplements, specifically his Real Omega product line, are infused with fermented medicinal mushrooms, which enhance the high quality organic foods contained in his products. To learn more about Get Real product, please watch CHTV episode 96.
We are blessed to have access to the above-mentioned medicinal mushrooms to help protect us from our toxin-laden world. I heartily suggest introducing them into your daily regimen to increase cellular health.