We usually think of fungi as things to avoid. We don’t think of them as potentially having health benefits. Mushrooms are fungi and some of them have medicinal benefits. Mushrooms help decay and recycle matter into nutrients that plants and animals feed on, and in the process purify the environment. Medicinal mushrooms have longed been used in Chinese medicine. Beta-glucan is the key compound found in medicinal mushrooms. Beta-glucan is found in the hard fiber (chitin) of mushrooms and has potent immune system stimulating properties, and thus used frequently in the management of cancer patients.
Medicinal mushrooms are also used for general health and well-being, treat infections, diabetes, and improve cardiovascular health.
Below are the top seven medicinal mushroom extracts and their proven clinical uses.
Agaricus blazei: Agaricus blazei have anticancer properties. This mushroom activates T lymphocytes, granulocytes, and C3 complement and is used in modulation of the immune response in cancer.
Cordyceps sinensis: Cordyceps sinensis increases stamina, energy, and endurance. It’s been used by athletes to improve performance. In placebo-controlled studies it has been shown to improve fatigue in the elderly. In animal studies Cordyceps has been shown to increase production of ATP, the energy compound utilized by the body. It balances adrenal hormones which include DHEA and cortisol, the stress hormone.
Cordyceps is used in Chinese medicine to treat male impotence. It also lowers total and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. It is also used to treat asthma and chronic bronchitis.
Coriolus versicolor: Coriolus versicolor contains PSK, short for Polysaccharide-K. PSK is also known as Krestin, an anticancer drug. Over studies have been published showing immune modulating properties of this mushroom. It is used in the treatment of esophageal, lung, stomach, breast, and colon cancer. It helps to prevent side effects from chemotherapy and radiation treatments and has been used in the treatment of hepatitis B and HIV.
Maitake: Maitake reduces side effects from chemotherapy and diminish pain in terminally ill cancer patients and in the treatment of breast, lung, and liver cancer. It also reduces blood pressure.
Reishi: Reishi is used to lower cholesterol and diabetes. It increases insulin levels, enhances the use of glucose by the tissues, and enhances the breakdown of glucose in the liver. The net effect is better blood sugar control. It improves oxygenation of the blood at high altitudes and used to treat altitude sickness.
Shiitake: Shiitake fights infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites. It is used to treat cholesterol, HIV, and hepatitis, and as adjuvant cancer treatment.
Hericium erinaceus: Hericium erinaceus is used to treat gastrointestinal complaints including ulcers and stomach cancers. It may stimulate production of nerve growth factor (NGF). NGF plays a role in sensory nerve growth. This mushroom may prove beneficial in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
What to Look For in Mushroom Extracts?
Mushroom extracts are available, but like other nutritional supplements it is important to find high quality products. First, the name of the mushroom should be listed on the label.
Secondly, scientific studies done on medicinal mushrooms use hot-water extracts. There is little published data on non-hot-water extracts which are commonly found in health food stores. These include liquid alcohol tinctures and unextracted forms of mushrooms.
Finally, the amount or percentage of the mushroom extract should be listed on the label.
One place you can go to and be assured that you are getting high quality mushroom extracts is Mushroom Science.