Do mush­rooms re­ally have heal­ing prop­er­ties?

Clean Eating - - RECIPES -

They cer­tainly do. East­ern medicine has been us­ing mush­rooms medic­i­nally for thou­sands of years. The ones that have the most re­search be­hind them are maitake, shi­itake and reishi; all pow­er­ful stim­u­la­tors of the im­mune sys­tem.

Maitake mush­rooms con­tain a com­pound known as beta 1,6 glu­can. One par­tic­u­lar com­bi­na­tion of glu­cans from maitake mush­rooms known as D-frac­tion has been found to have an­ti­tu­moral ef­fects on breast can­cer, one rea­son why Maitake D-Frac­tion is such a pop­u­lar sup­ple­ment in the in­te­gra­tive treat­ment of can­cer. Mush­rooms such as maitake, with their im­mune-en­hanc­ing com­pounds, are fre­quently used as an ad­junct to tra­di­tional can­cer treat­ments be­cause they help the body fight off the side ef­fects of chemo and ra­di­a­tion.

Reishi mush­rooms were dis­cov­ered in the third cen­tury BC, when they were re­ferred to as the “Elixir of Im­mor­tal­ity.” They were best known as a “tonic” and con­sid­ered es­sen­tial for a lengthy and vi­tal life. To this day, Tra­di­tional Chi­nese Medicine (TCM) prizes the reishi mush­room and con­sid­ers it among the most po­tent of ton­ics.

The tra­di­tional rep­u­ta­tion of reishi as a kind of su­per-tonic is turn­ing out to be based on some­thing that science can ac­tu­ally con­firm.

Memo­rial Sloan Ket­ter­ing Can­cer Cen­ter lists reishi on its web­site, not­ing the mush­room’s abil­ity to stim­u­late im­mu­nity. Com­pounds in reishi such as gan­o­der­mic acids are ben­e­fi­cial for many things from liver detox­i­fi­ca­tion to blood pres­sure to adrenal func­tion. There is some re­search sug­gest­ing that reishi helps with the side ef­fects of chemo­ther­apy, im­prov­ing qual­ity of life for can­cer pa­tients on con­ven­tional treat­ment pro­to­cols.

Shi­itake mush­rooms con­tain a par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing chem­i­cal com­po­nent called lenti­nan, which has been the sub­ject of a fair amount of re­search. It’s usu­ally used as an ad­junct to con­ven­tional ther­apy, and some re­search sug­gests it may pro­long sur­vival of can­cer pa­tients (are you be­gin­ning to de­tect a theme here?). And, like all medic­i­nal mush­rooms, shi­itake mush­rooms stim­u­late the im­mune sys­tem, thus mak­ing them ben­e­fi­cial for every­body. Lenti­nan is a pow­er­ful im­munomod­u­la­tor (mean­ing it turns im­mune cells on) as well as an anti-in­flam­ma­tory. Lenti­nan is ac­tu­ally a par­tic­u­lar form of beta 1,3 glu­can, a close rel­a­tive of the glu­can found in maitake, beta 1,6 glu­can. The take­away here is that when beta-glu­cans bind to im­mune cells, the ac­tiv­ity of these cells in in­creased.

Although maitake, reishi and shi­itake mush­rooms are the most fa­mous of the medic­i­nal mush­rooms, they’re not the only ones with health-giv­ing prop­er­ties. In 2011, re­searchers re­viewed the ef­fects of di­etary sup­ple­men­ta­tion with Agar­i­cales mush­rooms – a large order of fungi in the Agari­comycetes class that in­cludes 33 fam­i­lies and thou­sands of species, many of them fa­mil­iar to all of us. The study found that ad­ding Agar­i­cales mush­rooms to can­cer ther­apy was as­so­ci­ated with im­prove­ment in im­muno­log­i­cal pa­ram­e­ters of breast can­cer as well as over­all qual­ity of life.

And while these su­per­star mush­rooms get the lion’s share of at­ten­tion, let’s not ne­glect the com­mon white but­ton mush­room we’re so fa­mil­iar with from omelettes and pizza. Five ounces of crem­ini mush­rooms pro­vides 50% of your daily value (DV) of se­le­nium and 30% DV of vi­ta­min B3 plus a smat­ter­ing of zinc, man­ganese and vi­ta­min B1. Not bad for a pizza gar­nish!

JONNY BOW­DEN, PhD, CNS Board-cer­ti­fied nu­tri­tion spe­cial­ist, mo­ti­va­tional speaker, au­thor and ex­pert in the ar­eas of weight loss and health.

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