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Medicinal Mushrooms

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Traditional Chinese Practitioners have used fungi or mushroom in their practice for centuries...

Mushroom species such as the ganoderma species (reishi), grifola (shiitake), cordyceps and lentinula (maitake) have been used and studied for their powerful medicinal properties and effectiveness against the treatment of a variety of disease. Perhaps most well-known and best studied for their use in cancer treatment, either alone or in combination with more conventional cancer treatments. Many fungi or medicinal mushrooms are powerful immune tonics, possessing anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic properties. Many are anti-inflammatory, as well as possessing specific action to support cardiovascular health.

These properties are also what make these powerful fungi so effective against cancer. Some medicinal mushrooms are known to be hepatoprotective, as well as glycemic herbs, helping to regulate blood sugar. No wonder they have such a long history of medicinal use!

Let's take a look at some of the more well-known and studied, as well as most effective medicinal mushrooms:

Reishi mushroom has a number of medicinal properties, perhaps none as well know or well studied as its immune enhancing properties. Reishi is known to be a potent anti-viral, protecting against and treating flu viruses, as well as showing promising results as an HIV treatment. The polysaccharide content of reishi mushroom is responsible for its immune-stimulatory effects, and also said to be responsible for its potential anti-cancer effects, as well. Reishi has also been used to improve quality of life during cancer, again, both alone and in combination with conventional cancer treatments. It has been used to reduce symptoms such as sweating, insomnia, nausea and vomiting. Reishi has also been shown to slow blood clotting, or inhibit the formation of blood platelets, as well as lowering blood pressure and possessing effective hepato-protective qualities. Reishi mushroom is to be used in short sessions, no longer than a 6 month period, as it could cause upset stomach, dry mouth, dizziness and nose bleeds.

Shiitake is also very well known for its effectiveness as an immune tonic. Again, a polysaccharide extract known as LEM, has been deemed responsible for its action against cancer and various viral infections. There is also evidence to suggest that shiitake extract can help to lower cholesterol. A compound called eritadenine has been shown to possess these cholesterol lowering properties. People taking blood thinners should only use Shiitake under medical supervision.

Cordyceps has an affinity for the lung and protecting/repairing lung function. This is why it is primarily indicated in cases of cough and phlegm, shortness of breath, COPD and asthma. It has also been used widely as an aphrodisiac for both men ad women. Cordyceps also has an affinity for the kidney, which according to Traditional Chinese Medicine gets depleted as we age. For this reason, cordyceps is widely used in the older population to combat fatigue, low back pain and reduced kidney function. Again, as with most medicinal mushrooms, there is promising research dedicated to the use of Cordyceps for the inhibition and even reversal of some tumour growth and as an adjunct to chemo and radiation. It has also been used to effectively treat high cholesterol, as well as Hepatitis B. Be cautious when taking anti-diabetic or anti-retroviral medications in combination with cordyceps.

In Japanese, maitake means "dancing mushroom". Another well -loved mushroom with a long history of use, maitake is also getting a lot of attention for it's anti-cancer effects. Studies have shown that maitake may be beneficial in the treatment of colo-rectal, liver, breast, lung and stomach cancers, as well as leukemia. Beta glucan extracts from Maitake mushrooms may help to support the body's ability to fight these cancers, according to some studies. Maitake is also considered to have properties similar to alpha glucosidase inhibitors, which impact how we digest carbohydrates and can help to lower blood sugar levels. It has also been shown to inhibit pro-inflammatory markers in the body.

Lion's Mane
Lion's mane or Hericium erinaceus is well known to both regulate blood sugar levels, as well as blood lipid levels. It is also a potent antioxidant. Animal studies have shown that it may also help to stimulate nerve cells in the brain, implicating it as an anti-dementia support. Further research is needed here. Again, this medicinal mushroom as also been studied for its potential anti-cancer effects, specifically in both gastric and esophageal carcinomas.

Unlike many of the other mushrooms mentioned to this point, chaga seems to have it's origins in Eastern Europe, as opposed to Asia. It has been found to grow, similar to a parasite, on the bark of birch trees. Chaga is high in both beta glucan, as well as betulinic acid. It is extremely high in antioxidants thanks, in part to its high content of super oxide dismutase (SOD). Again, it has been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory and immune modulating effects. It has been studied for it's effectiveness in fighting a number of autoimmune conditions, including psoriasis. It's ability to stimulate natural killer cells of the immune system also make it effective in tumour destruction. Chaga has been studied for its use in breast, uterine, liver and gastric cancers. Preliminary studies are finding results using chaga comparable to chemotherapy and radiation treatments, while also being much easier on the body. It has also been shown to lower cholesterol and improve insulin resistance. Use with caution in young children, pregnant or nursing women, and those with severe liver or kidney disease. Can lead to hypoglycemia in individuals already taking diabetic medications. Speak with your healthcare professional before taking.

Where do I find Medicinal Mushrooms?
These mushrooms can all be found in capsule/supplement form at your local health food store.. They can also be found in loose, dried form to be made into teas or added to soups and other dishes. There are a number of mushroom combination supplements on the market, as well, incorporating the various medicinal properties of each fungi into one combination.

Nutritional Information
medicinal mushrooms - quick facts
parts used
the whole mushrooms (or extracts of the whole mushroom).
applications· immune deficiency, viral infections (including hiv), cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, some autoimmune conditions, fatigue
optimum dosage
will depend on mushroom being used. usually prescribed in fairly high dosages of anywhere from 1-10 g/day.
works well with
· medicinal mushrooms work well in combination, echinacea, vitamin c, vitamin d
important information
click for products
see specific mushrooms for any known side effects or interactions.
for informational purposes only. please consult your health care practitioner before taking natural health care products. click here for full disclaimer.

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