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Medicinal Mushrooms

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By Dr Eunice Green

The most well-known medicinal mushrooms are
maitake, shiitake and reishi; in the past few years these mushrooms
have taken a role in healing in North America.

Whether the condition is high cholesterol, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders or viruses, medicinal mushrooms can play a role in natural therapy.
The most well-known medicinal mushrooms are maitake, shiitake and reishi; in the past few years these mushrooms have taken a role in healing in North America. But using mushrooms for healing and to promote longevity is not new. They have been used for thousands of years in many cultures and there is more and more research being done on how beneficial medicinal mushrooms are. There are even several FDA-approved prescription drugs that are derived from medicinal mushrooms.

Although medicinal mushrooms contain thousands of compounds, constituents and nutrients that are beneficial to our health, there is one in particular that is present in most mushroom species. Inside the cell walls of mushrooms there are polysaccharides, or more specifically, beta glucans, which have been widely studied and tested and are believed to stimulate the immune system. They do not just supercharge our immunity, though. The interaction between mushrooms and our immune system is a bit more complex. Mushrooms optimize our immune system by helping to organize, activate and educate specific immune cells. Thus, they can be helpful to people with autoimmune disorders as well. In addition to maitake, shiitake and reishi mushrooms, there are many other medicinal mushrooms that have been studied with promising results. Agaircus blazei, chaga, cordyceps, lion’s mane and turkey tail are all becoming more readily available.

Medicinal mushrooms can be taken as food, as a tea or as supplements. The supplements can be in powder form, liquid extracts or in capsules. How the mushrooms are processed can be crucial in their bioavailability. From much research, hot water extraction seems to produce the best results.

Although it is wonderful to have medicinal mushrooms as a part of the diet, you are not going to be able to find many of these in your local grocery store, and the benefits of supplementation are much higher. Different medicinal mushrooms have been identified as having specific benefits for specific diseases. For example, lion’s mane has produced good results with Alzheimer’s patients; shitake is well-known for its effect on cancer; maitake, shitake and reishi all boost the immune system, support cardiovascular health and show promise in lowering the risk of cancer. Maitake is specifically recommended for the stomach and intestines, as well as blood sugar levels; shitake treats nutritional deficiencies and liver ailments as well as blood sugar levels; and reishi promotes respiratory health. But all medicinal mushrooms will have a positive effect on your immune system.

Medicinal mushrooms can not only work on treating a health challenge; they can be a wonderful preventative. Enhancing your immune system can ward off serious diseases and also prevent colds and flu. When taken daily, mushrooms can help you to achieve a greater level of wellness by offering critical support for your well being, naturally.