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History of Medicinal Mushrooms

Mushrooms – something we have been consuming since we were kids. But did you know there is so much more to them than just the brilliant flavors of tandoori button mushrooms?

many medicinal mushrooms have been utilized as traditional medicine and are comparable to herbal medicine. It is also referred to as Herbalism, Botanical medicine, or Herbology.

Mushrooms produce and contain a variety of chemical bio-active compounds that act upon the body and are used to prevent or treat disease or promote health and well-being.

Numerous mushroom species have had various compounds that have been extracted that have been demonstrated to have curative properties.

Mushrooms have been utilized in folk medicine since ancient times. The species of mushrooms used varied in different cultures, i.e., more species have been used in China and Japan than in Western Cultures

Mushrooms are considered to be the elixir of life, mushrooms have played an important us in medicine for as far back as 7,000 years. Numerous species are recognized, including Lentinula edodes, Hericium Erinaceus, Flammulina velutipes, Auricularia polytricha, and Tremella fuciformis, to name a few, and these are species that are also prized for eating, as well

We will learn a little about the origin of all these mushrooms we call ‘medicinal mushrooms’

Cordyceps sinensis:

This species is commonly called the Caterpillar Fungus and has probably been the most extensively studied species. It is a parasitic species that has a caterpillar as its host. While it is mostly used medicinally, Cordyceps Sinensis is also included in some food recipes.

The first documented of its usage was in 620 AD, during the Tang Dynasty. It was used to strengthen the body after exhaustion or long term illness, impotence, backaches, and an antidote for opium poisoning.

A lot of claims made about this fungus. In traditional Chinese medicine, Cordyceps has been used to treat respiratory and pulmonary diseases, e.g. renal, liver, and cardiovascular diseases. It is also used in treating the immune disorder and has been used in association with cancer chemotherapy treatments and surgery. It is also believed to be a remedy for weakness and fatigue and often used as a “rejuvenator” for an increase in energy.

Successful treatment for impotence, acting as an aphrodisiac has also been demonstrated in clinical human testing. It is indeed a miracle mushroom.

cordyceps sinensis (caterpillar fungus)

Coriolus Versicolor: Commonly referred to as Turkey Tail. It is a common species found worldwide, mostly in temperate regions of the world. The fruiting body has had a number of medicinally useful compounds isolated from it, including the immunoactive PSK and most recently an antitumor polysaccharide that was named Coriolan.

The PSK has been administered intravenously and orally in human clinical studies of cancer patients and appears to be effective for many forms of cancer when combined with radiation treatment by enhancing the sensitivity of cancer cells to radiation. Survival with the treatment of PSK increase survival rate within 5 years was 21% and 52% without.

In traditional Chinese medicine, it is used to reduce phlegm, heal pulmonary disorder, increase energy and benefit people with chronic diseases. In Mexican folk medicine, it has been used to treat ringworm.

Coriolus versicolor (Turkey Tail mushroom )

Lentinula Edodes: The shiitake is a mushroom that has been utilized for thousands of years, in Japan and China, for its food value and also prized for its medicinal properties as well. It is also the world’s second most cultivated mushroom.

In folk medicine, it is said to shiitake is a well-studied medicinal mushroom that has undergone many clinical studies. It has the polysaccharide, lentinan, as well as other polysaccharides that have antitumor properties.

Other studies have demonstrated that the shiitake also wards off bacteria that have become resistant to bacteria. Shiitake helps in liver protection and produces antibodies to hepatitis B, lower blood levels of cholesterol and lipids, and blood pressure.

Lentinula Edodes ( shiitake mushroom )

Ganoderma lucidum: Commonly called Reishi, it is one of the medicinal mushroom that has gained the most popularity worldwide for its bioactive compounds. This species is one of the bracket fungi, but unlike most species, typically has a long slender stalk that attaches to the side of the “cap” of the fruiting body.

This species can be found in North and South America, Europe, Asia on hardwood, especially species of oaks. This species has been utilized in Chinese and Japanese folk medicine for approximately 4000 years, for liver problems, chronic hepatitis, hypertension, arthritis, insomnia, bronchitis, gastric ulcer, and asthma.

A number of anti-cancer constituents have been isolated from Ganoderma lucidum. These compounds have demonstrated antitumor and immunostimulant activities.

Laboratory studies have also shown that this species has anti-allergic activity, bronchitis preventive effect, acts as an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial activities against certain bacteria, lowers blood pressure, and has antioxidant activity.

Ganoderma lucidum ( Reishi mushroom )

These were some mushrooms that have been extensively studied and proven to be magical indeed. There are approximately 400 species that are said to have bioactive compounds that have provided help to our ancestors in treating a variety of illnesses. It’s fascinating and mind boggling to see that our ancestors knew about its medical properties that we are still researching with latest technologies and scientific advancements.