How is it that a fungus accused of having little nutritional value could harbor life improving and saving elements?The overlooked turns out to be a great source of vitamin B, niacin, riboflavin, selenium, and protein. Your nutritionist may not know that in the case of fungi, they should be cooked to make vitamins available to the body.
Throughout Asia, particularly China and Japan, mushrooms have been part of the culinary experience but most importantly, they’ve harnessed the biggest health benefits of mushroom extracts for thousands of years.
The western attitude and lack of nutritional information of mushrooms has landed our fungal friends in our salads and chopped up in our kitchens to be used in food dishes. The Asian culture however, has for a couple of thousand years, used specific mushrooms to improve and maintain better health. Many of these mushrooms have reputed health benefits to include anti-aging properties to attacking cancer cells and although relatively new to the Western world, continue to be used within the Asian culture for their medicinal properties.
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With advances in mushroom cultivation in just the last 20 years, increased availability, research, and affordability, use of mushrooms for their health benefits has increased. For example, the Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma Lucidum) was originally only available to Asian royalty and often referred to as mushroom of immortality. Reishi can suppress cell adhesion and migration of certain cancer cells, potentially reducing cancerous effects and certainly boosting immune systems.
The tumor inhibiting ability of specific mushrooms is created by the immune-stimulating polysaccharides. Medical practitioners in China and Japan have used mushrooms along with herbs in anti-aging and cancer medications. Certainly, the homeopathic community has expounded on the health benefits of using such extracts.
When selecting mushroom extract products for human consumption, it is important to select alcohol based extracts as they remove water-soluble components from the mushroom to maximize available triterpinoids. This is very important in accurate analysis of levels of Ganoderic acids to determine potency. Reishi is the only known source of a group of triterpenes known as ganoderic acids, which have a molecular structure similar to steroid hormones. It has the most active polysaccharides among medicinal plant sources. In addition to other curing qualities, some believe these Ganoderic acids may even lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Various mushrooms continue to be the focus of specialized research in cancer and immune dysfunction.
Nutr Cancer. 2005;53(1):11-7. Department of Health Technology and Informatics, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, SAR, China.
“Reishi a popular medicinal mushroom, has been used in China for longevity and health promotion since ancient times. Investigations into the anti cancer activity of reishi have been performed in both in vitro and in vivo studies, supporting its application for cancer treatment and prevention. The proposed anti cancer activity of reishi has prompted its usage by cancer patients. It remains debatable as to whether reishi is a food supplement for health maintenance or actually a therapeutic “drug” for medical proposes. Thus far there has been no report of human trials using reishi as a direct anti cancer agent, despite some evidence showing the usage of reishi as a potential supplement to cancer patients. Cellular immune responses and mitogenic reactivity of cancer patients have been enhanced by reshi, as reported in two randomized and one nonrandomized trials, and the quality of life of 65% of lung cancer patients improved in one study. The direct cytotoxic and anti-angiogenesis mechanisms of reishi have been established by in vitro studies; however, clinical studies should not be neglected to define the applicable dosage in vivo. At present, reishi is a health food supplement to support cancer patients, yet the evidence supporting the potential of direct in vivo anti cancer effects should not be underestimated.”