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6 Anti-Inflammatory Mushrooms that Boost Your Immune System

Agaricus blazei

Mushrooms are rich sources of disease-fighting compounds. Here are some you can capitalize on to boost your immunity and stay strong

Men started to consume mushrooms as food and medicine more than 2,000 years ago. Besides being a potent anti-inflammatory food, we know that many of the fungi we use today contained active compounds that have anti-cancer, anti-hypertensive, blood sugar-lowering, and other potentially valuable therapeutic properties.

Edible mushrooms are also great sources of proteins, antioxidants, minerals, fibers and trace elements that are comparable to some leafy greens. But unlike other produce, fungi require much lesser water, soil and space to mass cultivate.

Not convinced? Below are highlights of some fascinating medicinal mushrooms to open your eyes to the kingdom of fungi!

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) Why this Medicinal Mushroom?
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum, or Lingzhi in Chinese) has been revered as the mushroom of immortality in many parts of Asia for centuries. Ancient people used it to enhance qi (life force), sharpen memory, calm the mind, and promote longevity. This kidney-shaped mushroom comes in a few different colors — green, purple, red, yellow and black — but red reishi is the most commonly used.

Health Benefits of Reishi:
Laboratory tests revealed that bioactive compounds derived from reishi have anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and immuno-modulatory properties. Several reishi-derived substances are also antibacterial and anti-viral, exerting direct inhibitory actions against human herpes viruses, influenza virus, vesicular stomatitis as well as HIV in the lab.

What’s interesting to note is that polysaccharides from reishi and other medicinal mushrooms, do not kill viruses and cancer cells directly. Instead they activate the body’s own immune cells to attack harmful cells (an action termed as immuno-modulation), thereby increasing the body’s defense against infections and cancer.

Reishi also contains ganoderic acid which could confer protective effects on the liver, and other yet-to-be-identified components that help to reduce radiation-induced damages and side effects caused by chemotherapy.

How to Get and Use Reishi:
Wild reishi mushrooms are rare, and when available, are costly. Thankfully, reishi mushroom has been successfully cultivated which helps to bring its prices down. Due to its bitter taste, reishi is seldom used in cuisines. It’s more commonly used in dried form as Chinese medicine, or in convenient reishi extract capsules which do not require lengthy preparation.

Caterpillar Fungus (Cordyceps Sinensis)

Caterpillar Fungus (Cordyceps Sinensis)Why this Medicinal Mushroom?
Unlike other fungi which grow in soil or on trees, caterpillar fungus grows out of the body of an underground moth larva. So the complete fungus actually consists of a dried caterpillar with the fruiting body of the mushroom protruding from its head. Caterpillar fungus is known by many names: Dong Chong Xia Cao (which literally means winter worm, summer grass in Chinese), Cordyceps sinensis, or more accurately, Ophiocordyceps sinensis.

Health Benefits of Cordyceps Sinensis:
Caterpillar fungus is a highly valued medicinal ‘mushroom’ in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine, though it is strictly speaking not a mushroom. It’s prescribed to “replenish the kidney and soothe the lung, and for the treatment of fatigue.” Traditional Chinese physicians use it to treat a broad range of conditions, including night sweating, sexual dysfunction, high blood sugar, respiratory disease, kidney dysfunction, irregular heartbeat and other heart and liver disease. (Source)

Several preliminary data also suggested that extracts of Cordyceps sinensis could be useful against cancerous tumor, chemical-induced kidney damages, diabetes, inflammation, radiation-induced bone marrow and intestinal injuries, high blood cholesterol, and oxidative damage. In addition, it may also help to boost exercise endurance, increase energy levels and even lift depressive moods. In Taiwan and China, Cordyceps sinensis is used to stimulate the immune system to fight cancer cells and to reduce kidney transplant complications.

How to Get and Use Cordyceps Sinensis:
Wild Cordyceps sinensis, consisting of the whole caterpillar and the attached fruiting body, cannot be grown artificially the way we can grow other medicinal mushrooms. That’s why the price of wild-harvested Cordyceps sinensis is prohibitively high and continues to go up.

Fortunately, we can fall back on cultivated Cordyceps sinensis which is mainly sold as cordyceps dietary supplement rather than as a form of food. Although cultured cordyceps fungi are reproduced without the use of any larva as host, they appear to have similar potency as wild-harvested ones according to this study as well as most of the research hyperlinked here.

Bamboo Fungus (Phallus Indusiatus)

Bamboo Fungus (Phallus Indusiatus) Why this Medicinal Mushroom?
Bamboo fungus (Phallus indusiatus) is a tropical mushroom belonging to the stinkhorn family that sports a bell-shaped cap and a long, elaborate net-like skirt.

Also called veiled lady mushroom, Zhu Sun or Dictyophora indusiata, it contains seven essential amino acids and 12 metallic ions, and is rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, calcium and phosphate.

Health Benefits of Bamboo Fungus:
Early studies found that it may help to reduce low-density lipoprotein (‘bad’ chlesterol) and excessive acid in the body fluids, while increasing high-density lipoprotein (‘good’ cholesterol) and overall immunity. (Source)

Research also found that bamboo fungus shares some of the therapeutic properties as other medicinal mushrooms, including anti-cancer, anti-inflammation, anti-hyperglycemic and antimicrobial.

How to Get and Use Bamboo Fungus:
Bamboo fungus used to be a delicacy prized by the Chinese. Before mass cultivation of the fungus is possible, it used to occur only in the wild and thus, is hard to come by.

But now, dried cultivated bamboo fungus can easily be found in many Asian stores. To use it, simply soak it in water until it’s soft and then wash it thoroughly to remove grit and dirt.

By itself, bamboo fungus is tasteless but has an almost crunchy and tender texture. Its long, sponge-like stalk (stipe to be exact) means it can readily soaks up any flavoring or gravy that you dip it in, making the fungus a versatile ingredient to use. The Chinese also believe that adding Zhu Sun in their cooking can help to prevent food from spoiling easily.

To date, capsule or powder form of phallus indusiatus is not common.

Maitake (Grifola Frondosa)

Maitake (Grifola Frondosa) Why this Medicinal Mushroom?
Maitake (Grifola frondosa, or hen of the woods) is a culinary as well as medicinal mushroom widely used in Japan and increasingly, in other parts of the world. Literally called ‘dancing mushroom’, maitake grows in clusters and can grow to a large size, reaching 20 inches in diameter and weighing up to 100 pounds.

Health Benefits of Maitake:
A bioactive extract derived from maitake’s beta-glucan known as maitake D-fraction has been a subject of many research studies. The interest comes mainly from the extract’s ability to modulate the immune system and inhibit tumor cell growth.

Several improved maitake extracts were later developed. One of them, maitake MD-fraction, has reportedly received positive results in the treatment of a few cases of leukemia, liver and lung cancer.

How to Get and Use Maitake:
Fresh, and sometimes dried, maitake can be bought from large supermarkets and Asian stores.

But if the idea of eating fungi every day is hard to stomach, there is always maitake capsules to make the swallowing easier.

Almond Mushroom (Agaricus Subrufescens)

Almond Mushroom (Agaricus Subrufescens) Why this Medicinal Mushroom?
Almond mushroom (Agaricus Subrufescens) is a famous fungus with a big identity crisis. According to Wikipedia, several popular fungi and their derivatives that were marketed under the names like Agaricus blazei murrill and Agaricus brasiliensis in the last few decades should really have been Agaricus subrufescens instead.

Health Benefits of Almond Mushroom:
Almond mushroom has attracted the attention of scientists and consumers alike due to its potential anti-cancer, immuno-regulating, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic effects. Based on a 2005 survey, it was reportedly the most popular complementary and alternative medicine used by cancer patients in Japan.

How to Get and Use Almond Mushroom:
Fresh and dried Agaricus subrufescens are available in well-stocked supermarkets and Asian stores. The fresh mushroom has a delicate almond-like aroma and taste, while the dried version acquired a stronger fragrance and a chewier texture.

However, note that mushrooms from the Agaricus family, including Agaricus subrufescens, do contain a tiny amount of natural occurring carcinogen agaritine. Cooking usually destroys most of the agaritine in the mushroom and should not be a concern. But if you’re planning to take raw, powder form of the fungus for long-term, choose one that has agaritine removed.

Lion’s Mane (Hericium Erinaceus)

Lion’s Mane (Hericium Erinaceus)Why this Medicinal Mushroom?
Also known as monkey’s head mushroom, lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is a unique looking fungus that has hair-like ‘teeth’ and some serious brain-boosting compounds.

Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane:
Other than enhancing the immune system and zapping cancer cells like other medicinal fungi, extract of yamabushitake (the Japanese name for lion’s mane mushroom) appears to have some beneficial effects on brain functions and autonomic nervous system.

A research conducted in Japan found that subjects who took cookies containing yamabushitake powder for four weeks were less depressed and anxious than those who took placebo cookies. An animal test also showed that Hericium erinaceus extract slowed cognitive impairment in mice which had chemically-induced dementia, while an in vitro experiment found it stimulated nerve growth factor (NGF). Inadequate NGF is believed to play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition, lion’s mane extract may also improve lipid metabolism, cut blood lipid levels, reduce cell mutation and protect nerve tissue according to some preliminary reports.

How to Get and Use Lion’s Mane:
Like the bamboo fungus, monkey’s head mushroom used to be one of the eight fungus delicacies enjoyed by the ancient Chinese. Nowadays, it’s still a popular choice for important Chinese dinners.

Dried monkey’s head mushrooms are more common than fresh ones, and they can often be found in Asian specialty stores.

Extracts of Hericium erinaceus can also be found at the click of the mouse and in brick-and-mortar health stores.

Source:

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The Power Within the Reishi Mushroom

The Power Within the Reishi Mushroom

Reishi mushroom is arguably the most revered herbal substance in Asia. certainly ranking with Ginseng as the elite substance for attainment of radiant health, longevity and spiritual attainment. It has maintained that position for at least 2000 years, and its reputation and value are only increasing. Since Reishi mushroom has been known to have many functions, it has been the subject of a great deal of research in recent years. It is safe, being non-toxic.

Anti-Aging Effects of Reishi

Reishi mushroom has traditionally been used as an anti-aging herb and has been used for many diseases and disorders a well. Daoists have continuously claimed that Reishi mushroom promotes calmness, centeredness, balance, inner awareness and inner strength. They have used it to improve meditative practices and to protect the body, mind and spirit so that the adept could attain both long and healthy life and spiritual immortality.

Anti-Stress Effects of Reishi

Reishi is s superb ant-stress herb. Throughout history it has been used to bring balance into the lives of people who needed it the most in that department, and that means mostly everyone. Deep in antiquity, it was routinely used by mountain hermits, monks, Daoist adepts and spiritual seekers throughout Asia because it was and is believed to help calm the mind, ease tension, strengthen the nerves, strengthen memory, sharpen concentration, improve focus, build will power and, as a result help build wisdom. That is why it was called “Mushroom Spiritual Potency” by these seekers. The people of Asia have never lost their faith in Reishi Mushroom.

The Immune Building Effects of Reishi

Reishi is a profound immune potentator. It has been found to significantly improve the functioning of the immune system whether the immune system is deficient or excessive. In this sense, it is an immune “moleculator” – that is, it helps to modulate, or regulate, and fine-tune the immune system. Our immune system is virtually miraculous network of activates designed over millions of years to protect us from viruses, bacteria, parasites, molds, dust, pollen and malignant cells. It is the responsibly of the immune system to detect the intrusion, or invasion, of these entities and to mount a defense in order to eliminate them. A healthy immune system is capable of resisting most such intruders and a very hardy system may be able to resist invasions that many other people cannot. If the immune system is weakened or malfunctioning, the invading microbes can easily establish a foothold in our body and disease sets in. Antibiotics can often be used to stop the invasion at this time, but chronic use of antibiotics further weakens the immune response.

As we have seen very briefly the qualities of Reishi mushroom, but we could never know all of them. Thus, before leaving you to read on about other mushrooms, I just want to point another good quality of Reishi mushroom that is beneficial to us. Reishi mushroom has also been known in recent studies to help with reduce the side effects of many kinds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment and simultaneously contribute to the rebuilding of the immune system – an essential part of recovery from cancer. This process is triggered by stimulating the production of interferon and interleukins I and II, all being potent natural anticancer substances produced in our own bodies.

The Power Within the Mushroom
By Omid Jaffari

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The Power Within the Mushroom

Improving Well-Being with Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

Lion’s Mane Mushrooms are fantastic immune system boosters. Those who take Lion’s Mane claim that within a week they are able to notice a difference in memory after building up within the immune system. How people take Lion’s Mane varies. People may find that a regular intake of juices with the mushrooms can significantly influence the immune system. Some individuals with arthritis even notice a difference in their joint movement after taking Lion’s Mane for a while. This could be because the body is able to better fight any toxicity within the body and protect the joints from inflammation and infection.

Lion’s Mane and the Mind

Lion’s Mane is certainly gaining more attention than what it used to because of its ability to ward off dementia. Perhaps this is why it has been used as a treatment for some of the world’s most difficult diseases for centuries. At one time, Chinese tradition only allowed Lion’s Mane to be eaten by Emperors. This shows how the effect of the mushroom was already known by Chinese doctors. They used Lion’s Mane to help relieve issues involving the digestive tract such as duodenal ulcers and stomach ulcers. The mushrooms were also given to those with cancers of the esophagus, the duodenum, and of the stomach.

These effects are due to the beta glucan polysaccharides, or complex sugars, along with fatty acids and polypeptides. All of these have a lot to do with the curative effects. Also contained within Lion’s Mane is oleanolic acids and adenosine. These stimulate the modulation of the immune system and the induction of interferons. These processes boost the number of white blood cells to help in healing processes. The healing of ulcers is accelerated, gastric mucus barrier function is enhanced, and anti-inflammatory effects are exhibited.

One of the most significant effects of Lion’s Mane is that it has a positive effect on dementia. A study conducted by Shizoka University Japan showed that Lion’s Mane stimulates Nerve Growth Factor. A lack of Nerve Growth Factor is what contributes to such conditions as Alzheimer’s Disease. Unfortunately, Nerve Growth Factor is something that diminishes and it can be difficult to replenish because it is too large and significant to pass through the membrane that protects it. The study conducted at Shizoka showed that Lion’s Mane can replenish Nerve Growth Factor, therefore reducing the effects that dementia can have on a person’s life. This significantly improves the quality of life.

This is basically a prevention of the breakdown of healthy neurological function. If there is a breakdown, that breakdown can be stopped and further breakdown prevented. This is not a cure for dementia, but the benefits are significant in slowing down the effects and possibly halting any further damage. To get optimum effects, it is important to add Lion’s Mane to an existing supplement schedule. Do not change the intake of vitamins and minerals. Simply add Lion’s Mane to the routine to reap the benefits of all the things you are doing to improve your health.

Right now, the most conventional method to treat Alzheimer’s Disease is to treat those symptoms that are the result of dying neurons. With Lion’s Mane, the cause is treated. The mushroom actually has an influence on what the cause is. It is not completely understood what leads to the loss of Nerve Growth Factor, but replenishing the Nerve Growth Factor through a natural remedy makes a significant difference.

A person can also add Lion’s Mane to their diet to simply work on preventing dementia. Keeping Nerve Growth Factor fed will help it remain intact as you age. You can also reap the other health benefits that Lion’s Mane has to offer.

Other Health Benefits

Other health benefits that are exhibited by Lion’s Mane include regulating cholesterol levels and blood sugar. These are very important for healthy lifestyles. What is even better is that Lion’s Mane is deemed completely safe. There are no signs of toxicity since the mushroom itself promotes the expulsion of toxins within the body. Scientific research has shown that there are no known side effects, which may have something to do with the fact that Lion’s Mane is completely natural and edible. Throughout recorded history, there have not been any side effects recorded. If there have been any, they have not been significant enough to mention.

It is clear to see that the benefits are many. Lion’s Mane may seem somewhat complicated, but it is that complicity that makes it so effective. It works on bodily processes to ensure they continue to function the way that they’re supposed to. This provides a degree of equilibrium in your life that you need to function properly. You’ll feel better and you’ll even live longer when you take care of yourself. The benefits can’t be denied, so it is ideal to start your intake of Lion’s Mane as soon as you can.

The Power Within the Mushroom
By Omid Jaffari