medicinal mushrooms

Medicinal Mushrooms: Past, Present, and Future

18 minutos

Medicinal mushrooms are one of the most popular natural remedies in the world. More than just an ancient solution to common ailments, the benefits of medicinal mushrooms have become increasingly evident throughout the years. What started as an option for traditional medicine transformed into a superfood solution for wellness, valuable supplementation, and therapeutic care.

The field of mycotherapy and further study into the activities and benefits of medicinal mushrooms has opened the door to new understandings. Researchers and scientists are beginning to see the true power of these natural tools for healthcare. 

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Long before the pandemic of 2020, which increased the demand for immunity and organic health solutions, experts were already discovering the impact of mushrooms in health. After all, mushrooms contain more than 150 bioactive compounds, and offer some of the best bioavailable alpha and beta glucan around. On top of that, the right combination of mushrooms can deliver natural antibiotics, b vitamins, minerals, and ergosterol, among others. 

Let’s explore the past, present and future of medicinal mushrooms.

Medicinal Mushrooms: The Past

These mushrooms have been a critical component of traditional medicine for centuries. Eastern cultures in particular have maintained the belief that mushrooms are essential for good health, immune support and weight management. 

In western cultures, mushrooms have been more commonly prized for their ability to add unique flavours and textures to food. However, the serious study of mushrooms through mycotherapy reveal how valuable fungi can really be. The medicinal use of mushrooms actually dates to Neolithic history. With the oldest human mummy (over 4,000 years old) having the mushroom Piptoporus Betulinus in his medical kit – a mushroom used for antibiotic properties. 

Egyptian hieroglyphics depict mushrooms as the lifeform of immortality. Similar to those in the Eastern parts of the world, many Egyptians believed that mushrooms were delivered by the gods. Even the Aztecs referred to the mushrooms they discovered as the “flesh of the gods”. 

In ancient China, special mushrooms like the Reishi fungi were valued as a crucial tonic herb, designed for the treatment of various ailments. Romans and those from Ancient Greece believed that mushrooms could be a critical tool in medicine too. 

It’s easy to forget in today’s modern world that mushrooms were responsible for giving us some of the most valuable gifts we have today. This includes penicillin, cyclosporine, and also Krestin for cancer therapy. 

Medicinal Mushrooms and Mycotherapy Today

While the western world hasn’t been as keen to embrace medicinal mushrooms over the years, that is beginning to change. The practice of mycotherapy is evolving, helping us to discover new ways that mushrooms can make our lives better. Mycologist Paul Samets even published a TED talk in 2014 about the way’s mushrooms could save the world

The right medicinal mushroom supplements have a unique ability to remove waste and toxins from the body’s cells. Various forms of mushroom have been discovered to be valuable for health issues  like fighting off long-term ailments and inflammation. 

In the natural environment, fungi are natural recyclers, responsible for breaking down organic matter for growth. As a mushroom breaks down decay, a fungus develops complex and valuable compounds for the nourishment of plants and trees. Fungi can even live in very hostile environments and eat away decay layer by layer in that ecosystem. 

By exploring the genuine benefits of mushrooms as unique organisms, we’re beginning to unlock endless insights into what these substances are capable of. For instance, beta-glucans are rapidly emerging as one of the most valuable components of the average mushroom. Beta glucans in mushrooms enhance the immune system and allow it to work more effectively. The molecules of beta glucans resemble the molecules that appear on bacterial cell walls, supporting a better line of defence for humans taking supplementation. 

What Kind of Mushrooms are Most Effective?

In general, mushrooms are an appealing super food in the present world, offering excellent combinations of nutrition, minerals, and vitamins. Mushrooms are great sources of nutrients like vitamin D, which can be hard to get in other parts of our diet, they’re also excellent  for promoting skin and gut health. 

Some of the most valuable forms of medicinal mushrooms include:

Reishi

Otherwise known as the mushroom of immortality, this mushroom is a king among natural medicines, rich in terpenoids that support anti-inflammatory action and strong antioxidant performance. Reishi polysaccharides also increase the production of substances that can control the growth of various dangerous cells. Reishi can also help with emotion control and mood balancing. 

Cordyceps Sinensis

Recognised throughout China as a valuable tool for medical support, Cordyceps is extremely valuable as both an anti-fatigue substance, and a solution for kidney support and disease prevention. 

Maitake

Otherwise known as Grifola Frondosa, Maitake mushrooms are fantastic for supporting the immune system and fighting against tumours. It inhibits the spread of cancer through anti-metastasis effects, and reduces plasma cholesterol levels in the blood, reducing cardiovascular risk. Maitake dietary supplements are also proven to increase metabolic activity and reduce fatty acid synthesis as a response to glucose. 

Shitake

The Shitake mushroom is common throughout the world, not just for its medicinal properties, but for its appeal in taste too. This substance can reduce total levels of cholesterol, while increasing HDL levels, improving cardiovascular performance. 

Coprinus

The Coprinus fungus species is made of scales similar to wool. This highly perishable item has a lot of fantastic benefits to offer, including metabolism support, thanks to a high content of vanadium – an agent which supports lower blood glucose and the recovery of damaged beta-pancreatic cells.

Polyporus

This mushroom can assist with all kinds of medical conditions, including respiratory conditions, as it’s excellent for draining mucus. Polyporus is valuable for the immune system, and the genitourinary system, where it can reinforce the immune system and eliminate bacteria responsible for cystitis. 

Agaricus Blazei

This mushroom shows significant promise as a defence against tumours and an immunomodulator. The fungi, which grows in a hot and humid environment contains high levels of beta glucan, with a low molecular weight. This makes it excellent for supplementation purposes. The mushroom can also activate a series of proteins that supports the better performance of the immune system.

Coriolus Veriscolor

Named for its wide selection of interesting colors, this mushroom, otherwise known as turkey tail, contains an active called Krestin – a common anti cancer drug. The substance is also extremely valuable for metabolic support and immune system management. 

Lion’s Mane Mushroom

The polysaccharides in lions made mushrooms are excellent for reducing tumour growth and improving various other conditions within the body. This natural prebiotic is excellent for handling digestive disorders, and it can also be very valuable in cognition too. Lion’s mane supplementation can assist with fighting against memory loss and improving focus. 

Oyster mushroom

Oyster mushroom is a valuable form of prebiotic, intended to assist with the way that the gut microbiota works to handle illness and support immunity. It could work alongside other prebiotic mushrooms, such as lion’s mane. 

The Future of Medicinal Mushrooms

Already, throughout the world, medicinal mushrooms are proving themselves to be a powerful tool for treatment therapies but also for prevention. Although there are many ways to consume mushrooms, studies frequently indicate that proper supplementation with natural extracts is the best way to leverage the most significant results. 

Organic extracts allow patients to access the highest levels of bioavailability, ensuring that the beta- glucans and other valuable products within the mushroom can have the maximum impact on the cells. Using mushroom extracts also ensures that professionals can deliver the perfect formula for various conditions and ailments by choosing extracts with great care. The perfect ratio of products could be an easy supplemental solution to a host of ailments. 

medicinal mushrooms

Lion’s mane mushroom

Studies indicate that not only could medicinal mushrooms be valuable for long-term ailments and conditions affecting the body. For conditions that harm the mind and brain too. Already, the Lion’s mane mushroom appears to have a positive impact on the cognition of people with high risk of memory loss. Elsewhere, Reishi mushrooms are quickly becoming an effective solution for problems with delta wave sleep and insomnia. 

It won’t take long to see how mushrooms become one of the main health tools that professionals use to all forms of medical concerns. Ranging from high levels of stress to ongoing inflammation and infections. What’s more, unlike other treatment options, mushrooms are widely regarded to be a safe and risk-free solution for the treatment of various conditions. You can even use these substances alongside other medical therapy options to have a more rapid impact. Also to have a reduction in side effects derived from conventional treatments or the own medical condition of the patient. 

The key to success for the future of medicinal mushrooms will make the professional choose between high quality mushroom nutraceuticals for prevention and myco-pharmaceuticals based on fungal bioactive molecules for treatment. 

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Martin Auerswald is a Biochemist, molecular Biotechnologist and Mycotherapist. He has also gained experience in clinical research (University Hospital Erlangen). Martin reaches hundreds of thousands of people every month by developing new content through Germany's largest online health congress (Immunabwehr-Kongress) and his work as editor-in-chief in various online magazines.

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