Medicinal Value of Mushrooms *


During the past 50 years, several major advancements in medicine came from lower organisms such as molds, yeast, and mushrooms (fungi). The first antibiotics were extracted from fungi. Penicillin, tetracyclene and aureomycin, derived from molds, were hailed as a wonder drug for infections and communicable diseases. We have also seen a rapid pace of advancement in organ transplant due to Cyclosporin, a drug derived from a fungus that uses insects as its host. Cylcosporin suppresses the immune system of transplant patients hence lowering tissue rejection rates. These lower organisms are used to commercially produce bread, beer, wine, cheese, organic acids, and vitamins - including Vitamin C. The Vitamin C tablet you take may be a by product of fungal growth.

Mushrooms are valuable health food - low in calories, high in vegetable proteins, chitin, iron, zinc, fiber, essential amino acids, vitamins & minerals. Mushrooms also have a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine . Their legendary effects on promoting good health and vitality and increasing your body's adaptive abilities have been supported by recent studies. These studies suggest that Mushrooms are probiotic - they help our body strengthen itself and fight off illness by maintaining physiological homeostasis - restoring our bodies balance and natural resistance to disease. The compounds they contain have been classified as Host Defense Potentiators (HDP) which can have immune system enhancement properties. That is one of the reasons they are currently used as adjuncts to cancer treatments in Japan and China. "In Japan, Russia, China, and the U.S.A. several different polysaccharide antitumor agents have been developed from the fruiting body, mycelia, and culture medium of various medicinal mushrooms (Lentinus edodes, Ganoderma lucidum, Schizophyllum commune, Trametes versicolor, Inonotus obliquus, and Flammulina velutipes). Both cellular components and secondary metabolites of a large number of mushrooms have been shown to effect the immune system of the host and therefore could be used to treat a variety of disease states."
Many scientific studies performed in universities and medical facilities have produced volumes of studies on the medicinal effects of mushrooms on many different ailments affecting humans. Click Here for Medicinal Mushrooms - Readings and References. For example: Reishi has been called an “immune potentiator” and can increase the production of Interleukin-1 & 2. It has been reported that Reishi extracts “exerted an inhibition effect on tumor growth”. Recent studies have also indicated that Reishi can have a number of other effects: Analgesic, Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, Antiviral through inducing interferon production, Lowers blood pressure, Cardiotonic action through lowering serum cholesterol, Expectorant & Antitussive, Liver (Hepatitis)-protecting and detoxifying, Protection against ionizing radiation, Antibacterial, and Anti-HIV activity. Reishi contains calcium, iron and phosphorus as well as vitamins C, D, and B - including pantothenic acid, which is essential to nerve function and the adrenal glands. An extract (Lentinan) from Shiitake (for centuries called "Elixir of Life" ) has been licensed as a anti-cancer drug by the Japanese FDA. Lentinan has shown some effect on bowel cancer, liver cancer, stomach cancer, ovarian cancer and lung cancer. Lentinan stimulates the production of T lymphocytes and natural killer cells and can potentiate the effect of AZT in the anti-viral treatment of A.I.D.S. Shiitake is rich in several anti-oxidants (Selenium, Uric acid & Vitamin A, E, & C) as well as Vitamin D. Shiitake mushrooms may also lower blood pressure in those with hypertension, lower serum cholesterol levels, increase libido, stimulate the production of Interferon which has anti-viral effects, and has proven effective against Hepatitis in some cases. The right species of Cordyceps can be a powerful stimulant for macrophage activity, strengthening your immune system’s ability to fight against bacterial and viral infection. Human clinical studies indicate that Cordyceps can be effective for treatment of high cholesterol, poor libido/impotence, arrhythmia, lung cancer, and chronic kidney failure. It is also reported that Cordyceps causes smooth muscle relaxation. This can make it especially helpful for treating chronic coughs, asthma, and other bronchial conditions. Recent human clinical studies have indicated that Tremella fuciformis (Bai Mu Erh) stimulates the immune system. Other recent studies have indicated that Tremella fuciformis demonstrates anti-tumor activity, lowers LDL cholesterol, protects the liver and is anti-inflammatory and may slow the aging process. Grifola frondosa (Maitake) has also been shown to stimulate the immune system and to be effective against some tumors.

Many of the compounds found in Shiitake, Reishi, Cordyceps, and some other mushrooms are classified as Host Defense Potentiators (HDP). These compounds include: hemicellulose (AHCC), polysaccharides, polysaccharide -peptides, nucleosides, triterpeniods, complex starches, and other metabolites. It is believed that combinations of these products target the human immune system as well as aid in neuron transmission, metabolism, hormonal balance and the transport of nutrients and oxygen. Through a host-mediated (T cell) immune mechanism, they help the body regulate the development of lymphoid stem cells and other important defense responses.

It is important to maintain both your good health and your body's balance. Each time we get sick, a potential vulnerable spot may open in our body's defenses. Over time cell mediated immunity may become inadequate or malfunction. This could allow multiple genetic mutations in the same location (malignant transformations) to reach cell proportions resulting in abnormal or malignant growth. The process is generally quite slow and takes many years and may take many bouts of illness to manifest itself. The objective should to maintain a well-regulated body. If we can keep our immune system functioning efficiently, minimize the frequency and severity of all illnesses, and recover quickly, we are more likely to enjoy a healthy quality of life.

Most studies on the health benefits of mushrooms for humans have focused on immune enhancement properties. Complex sugars and their derivatives are able to stimulate a higher level of cytokine production in humans. Cytokines are proteins produced by the immune system to facilitate communication between cells. Complex cellular processes such as proliferation and differentiation are regulated in part by extracellular signaling molecules: for example, polypeptide growth factors, cytokines, and peptide hormones. Many exert their mitogenic effects by binding to specific cell surface receptor protein tyrosine kinases. This interaction triggers numerous biochemical responses, including changes in phospholipid metabolism, the activation of a protein phosphorylation cascade, and the enhanced expression of specific immediate-early, delayed-early, or late response genes. Some common cytokines include interleukins, interferon, natural killer cells (NK cells) activating factors and tumor necrosis factors.

Vitamin and mineral supplements should be taken on a regular basis to be most effective. A balanced diet, sufficient rest, a positive outlook, and regular consumption of nutrient supplements including nutraceutical mushroom products can increase the odds of obtaining and maintaining good health. Many times we get sick because of deficiencies or imbalances in our systems that allow pathogens to attack our bodies. Today, we live in artificial environments where air is filtered and food is processed. We frequently administer antibiotics and a variety of interventions to cure our ailments or mask their symptoms. Our immune systems are no longer being challenged as often as they would be in a more natural environment. A major function of our immune system works like a computer data file. Pathogens invading our systems are being monitored constantly. Information on new pathogens and other molecules is stored in our immune data base. When hostile pathogens attack our bodies, our immune systems are more capable of mounting fast immune responses if we have a substantive data base of foreign substances. However, with a meager data base in an under developed immune system, we are incapable of dealing with many pathogens. A slow immune response will not be able to cope with an onslaught of pathogens. Mushroom Nutraceuticals can provide a regular benign challenge to the immune system by presenting many different molecules to the data base in a non-hostile manner. It has been remarked that with mushrooms supplements we have a "24 hour Nautilus for our immune system".

*This is an informational summary of the health and medicinal benefits of mushrooms suggested by recent research; it does not constitute claims for any product. This information has not been evaluated by a Health Professional or Practitioner. A list of references can be found on:

Always consult a health care practitioner before taking any material or supplement for medicinal purposes.