There has never been a more important time to take proper care of your health than now. There are so many foods, herbs, minerals, and nutritional supplements that are vital to the human body to stay healthy and strong. The health benefits of mushrooms and what they can do in the body to support human health is so exciting. There are many stories from the US NIH on the benefits of mushrooms. The following text from a US NIH story summarizes mushroom benefits.
Edible Mushrooms: Improving Human Health and Promoting Quality Life
“Mushrooms have been consumed since earliest history; ancient Greeks believed that mushrooms provided strength for warriors in battle, and the Romans perceived them as the ‘Food of the Gods.’ For centuries, the Chinese culture has treasured mushrooms as a health food, an ‘elixir of life.’ They have been part of the human culture for thousands of years and have considerable interest in the most important civilizations in history because of their sensory characteristics; they have been recognized for their attractive culinary attributes. Nowadays, mushrooms are popular valuable foods because they are low in calories, carbohydrates, fat, and sodium: also, they are cholesterol-free. Besides, mushrooms provide important nutrients, including selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D, proteins, and fiber. All together with a long history as food source, mushrooms are important for their healing capacities and properties in traditional medicine. It has reported beneficial effects for health and treatment of some diseases. Many nutraceutical properties are described in mushrooms, such as prevention or treatment of Parkinson, Alzheimer, hypertension, and high risk of stroke. They are also utilized to reduce the likelihood of cancer invasion and metastasis due to antitumoral attributes. Mushrooms act as antibacterial, immune system enhancer and cholesterol lowering agents; additionally, they are important sources of bioactive compounds. As a result of these properties, some mushroom extracts are used to promote human health and are found as dietary supplements.” [i]
Mycelia are an extensive mass of branched, tubular filaments of fungi cells. So vast, in fact, that they are the largest biological entity on our planet and can live tens or even hundreds of years. It can be a struggle for these cells to survive against various invaders and so they evolve and adjust to the environment and available nutrients. How has the mycelium done this? They have done this by developing highly efficient and proactive immune systems. A mushroom's rapid growth rate of one quarter to two inches per day to become a fully formed mushroom helps to ensure the survival of its species. Once fully fruited, it will then release its spores from the gills back into the air and ground. Thousands of species of fungi can be found in every inch of soil.
One of the compounds produced in this process of growth is beta-glucans. The human body does not produce beta-glucans on its own, but many studies have shown their positive benefits. Beta-glucans act as immunomodulator agents by helping to regulate the immune system, therefore, making it more efficient. They do this by stimulating the activity of macrophages. Macrophages are immune cells in the human body that consume and demolish pathogen invaders and in turn, stimulate attacks on these pathogens by other immune cells in the body.
Beta-glucans are complex long-chain molecules with unique side-branching patterns to their shape. These different patterns fit immune cell receptor sites in the immune system much, in the same way, that a key fits its lock. Since different mushroom species have an assortment of beta-glucan patterns, combining multiple species will up the number of immune cell receptor sites being influenced.
Though it has been the most studied one so far, Beta-glucans are just one of the many other compounds found in mushrooms that boost the immune system. Some of the others, including some proteins, are lectins, peptides, pectin’s, enzymes, antioxidants, alpha glucans, ubiquitin-like proteins, and ribonucleases. It is also thought that mushrooms aid in a variety of other ways in the human body such as with digestive health, preserving cellular structure while promoting cellular growth, supporting the body's detoxification process, and protecting against environmental stressors.
It has been estimated that there are over 300 kinds of mushrooms that have medicinal potentiality. Mushrooms have been used in natural medicine for thousands of years in eastern cultures and continue to be studied under extensive research especially for their abilities to help the body fight cancer cells. In Japan and Brazil, the Agaricus Blazei mushroom is used in oncological therapy. Both in China and the U.S. extensive research has been done on the Turkey Tail mushroom for boosting the immune system, particularly with prostate and breast cancer.
There is the Chaga mushroom which grows on birch trees in cold environments that is almost as hard as a tree in texture. The Russians refer to it as "Gift of the Gods" and the Japanese call it "Diamond of the Forests." Chaga mushrooms take on the nutrients of the trees in concentrated form making them a rich source of vitamins, pantothenic acid, special phenols, wild source minerals, and its most potent enzyme, superoxide dismutase (SOD) for anti-aging benefits.
As one can now see, mushrooms are a fantastic source for boosting the immune system and overall body health. The fact that mushrooms grow in different places and in different ways gives each mushroom species a different edge on medicinal offerings. In this way, taking a combo of mushrooms is going to give one's body the best treatment. So, mushroom it up!
Maitake and Shiitake mushrooms have powerful health benefits. There are some great articles from the US NIH that cover the health benefits. In one study, they found significant stimulation of defense reaction. In all cases, the most active was the Maitake-Shiitake combination, with Maitake alone being the second strongest, followed by Shiitake on its own. Maitake and Shiitake mushrooms strongly stimulated both the cellular and humoral branch of immune reactions. [ii]