Mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries but it is only in the last few decades that scientific studies have revealed some of their health benefits. There are over 100 types of mushrooms but some of the most studied for their health benefits are Shiitake, Cordyceps, Maitake, Oyster, Lion's Mane, Enoke, Reishi and Chaga.
Mushrooms contain important vitamins, minerals and enzymes that have been shown in numerous scientific studies to boost the immune system. They also contain bioactive molecules that have anti viral, anti inflammatory and antioxidant abilities.
Due to their immune boosting properties, there has been a lot of research into the effect of mushrooms in Cancer prevention. Some studies have suggested that mushrooms can inhibit tumor formation and stop cell mutation whilst protecting healthy cells and increasing the bodies capacity to detoxify itself from harmful substances. According to the medical journal 3 biotech , "mushrooms anti-cancer compounds play a crucial role as a reactive oxygen species inducer, mitotic kinase inhibitor, anti-mitotic, angiogenesis inhibitor and lead to apoptosis, and eventually checking cancer proliferation."
In 2000, a report published by Cancer Research UK and the University of Strathclyde looked at different types of mushroom and cancer. Pure extracts of exotic mushrooms such as shiitake, enoke, maitake and oyster were shown by researchers in China, Japan and Korea to have anti-tumour properties and be capable of stimulating the immune system to fight disease. In addition, the use of medicinal mushrooms was found to reduce the side effects of both chemotherapy and radiotherapy, including sickness and hair loss.
Another study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology looked at the effects of chaga mushroom on cancerous human liver cells. The research reveals that chaga extract may be able to prevent liver cancer cell growth, which it has been thought make it a potential treatment for cancer in the liver.
Medicinal mushrooms have also been shown to have special fighting abilities against deadly multi-resistant bacterial strains and microorganisms responsible for gut and skin problems. Interestingly, some substances present in antibiotics such as penicillin and tetracycline are derived from mushroom fungal extracts.
Many types of mushrooms help to lower cholestrol levels naturally, support energy and improve brain function. Mushrooms such as Reishi are also considered to be adaptogens that lower cortisol and help your body to deal with stress and anxiety. Reishi mushrooms have also been shown to improve memory and concentration and because they contain lanostan, an antihistamine, they can also be beneficial for arthritis and soothe muscle aches.
Cordyceps mushrooms can help to increase stamina and endurance due to their ability to help the body produce ATP. These mushrooms are also used as an adaptogen to increase energy and reduce fatigue. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine demonstrated that supplementation with Cs-4 (Cordyceps sinensis) improved exercise performance and contributed to overall markers of wellness in older adults.
The study into medicinal mushrooms is a vast subject and there are many other health benefits and ongoing studies and research in the area. If you would like to learn more about medicinal mushrooms, pop into the shop and ask to speak to our nutritional therapist at Nourishing Insights, 44 St Andrew Street, Aberdeen.
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