There has been a new focus and attention placed on mushrooms in many arenas lately. They have a fascinating history and have proven to tantalize us with their multitude of faces, abilities, toxicities and healing qualities. If you forage for mushrooms, picking the wrong one could lead to your death, some are quite toxic.
Mushrooms have been used traditionally in most societies including China, Japan, Russia and Central America. They tend to like dark damp places and are a fungi that reproduce with spores. There are edible, toxic, medicinal and psychoactive mushrooms. On your table eaten as food they provide minerals, fiber and vitamins. In the fermented form they are full of probiotics. Antibiotic medications like penicillin and streptomycin are derived from fungal extracts. In the spirit world, they have been used by Shamans as sacrament in rituals aimed at mental and physical healing and to facilitate visionary states. In the cancer world, they are being researched for their immune modulation abilities and are becoming a common part of many cancer treatments.
For the anti-cancer effect, the most common mushrooms being used and researched include Reishi, Turkey tail, Cordiceps, agaricus and oyster. The active constituents identified to date seem to come from the polysaccharides, polysaccharide peptides, and proteins. PSK found in Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor formerly Coriolus versicolor) has been shown to have anti-cancer effects in breast, colon and gastric caner cell lines. Beta-glucans, a polysaccharide found in Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) and Agaracus (Agaricus blazei), have been shown to modulate and improve the immune system. The various cytokine patterns they affect slow tumor growth, regulate tumor genes, boost chemotherapeutic efficacy and protect against bone marrow suppression.
Because mushrooms are so efficient at absorbing minerals and nutrients out of the soil, it is important to eat organically grown mushrooms. Just as they concentrate minerals and other important metals they also concentrate toxic heavy metals.
So balance out your diet and improve your health by adding medicinal mushrooms to your meals on a regular basis. Shitake mushrooms make a wonderful gravy or addition to a stir-fry vegetable dish. Maitake mushrooms are a good source of dietary fiber, folate, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc making a nutritious addition to a soup. You can find mushrooms fresh or dried in your favorite grocery store. Pick a few up and try something new.