Mushrooms for Life
by Christine Cheng, R.Ph. and Frederick Cheng, R.Ph.
Growing up in an Asian household, we always thought that mushrooms were simply tasty foods, especially shiitake mushrooms which can add a savoury touch to so many dishes. Maitake mushrooms are particularly tasty when simmered in a hot-pot broth. But, I’m not here to give you a cooking lesson…at least not this month! For us, we realized the importance of mushrooms for their medicinal purposes when our uncle was diagnosed with 4th stage cancer and our father, Dr. Henry Cheng, put him on the Yunzhi mushroom (aka. Coriolus or Turkey Tail) as a part of the integrative approach he took to conquer his cancer.
There are many different types of mushrooms that all share one thing in common: the ability to modulate the immune system through their polysaccharides, beta-glucans, triterpenes, ganoderic acid, amino acids, and other phytonutrient content. Beyond that they have differing properties that make them powerful for differing applications.
RED REISHI is regarded amongst the Chinese and the Japanese as the “king of the mushrooms” and in fact is referred to as the “miraculous” or “heavenly herb”. In ancient China, Red Reishi was used by the royalty for longevity, vitality, fertility, and for any other stubborn illness. Modern medicine regards this mushroom as an adaptogen as it can normalize the body’s immunity and enhance the body’s ability to adapt to various external and internal stresses such as illness, anxiety, and fatigue. It can help give the immune system an overall boost and can even help promote healthy moods, memory, and concentration. Red Reishi may even help reduce high blood pressure. This is a good mushroom to try if you are experiencing health issues that are directly related to stress, such as chronic pain, fatigue, insomnia, irritability, headaches, or weight gain.
If you’re looking to boost your brain power, consider LION’S MANE, named for its resemblance to the mane of a lion. Legend says that those who consume Lion’s Mane would have “nerves of steel and the memory of a lion”. In a study against other mushrooms, Lion’s Mane was the only one shown to increase the production of enzymes that would signal release of NGF, a protein molecule that has neuroprotective and repair functions. Lion’s Mane may also help calm the nervous system, which can help improve focus, concentration and memory as well as reducing feelings of depression and anxiety.
CORDYCEPS is the mushroom to use if you are looking for an energy boost! It provides support for the adrenal glands and can enhance your energy by increasing ATP production, oxygen utilization, and blood flow. It can also help with libido in both men and women. Cordyceps may also used to help with male fertility as clinical studies have demonstrated its ability to increase sperm survival rates.
Perhaps the most potent of these medicinal mushrooms is the CORIOLUS versicolor mushroom, which is also known as the “Yunzhi” mushroom or cloud mushroom. Not only can it strengthen the immune system and help the body to fight infections, it can help prevent chronic fatigue by increasing energy and vitality. In fact, it is common practice in Asian cultures to give it to patients who are extremely fatigued and/or are so ill that they have lost their so-called “vital force” as Coriolus can be remarkable in increasing their vitality. Certain polysaccharides found in this mushroom are responsible for its anti-metastatic properties. Furthermore, Coriolus’ antioxidant properties may play a role in protecting normal tissues from the effects of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
Going back to those mushrooms that we previously only thought of as food, it turns out that MAITAKE mushrooms are good for increasing vitality and fighting fatigue as well as helping with weight control by contributing to healthy cholesterol levels and balancing blood sugar. As for SHIITAKE mushrooms, along with their general immune-stimulating properties, they may help the body fight upper respiratory tract diseases due to their anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
It is amazing how centuries before scientific techniques were applied to reveal how these medicinal mushrooms actually help improve our health, many cultures were already using mushrooms for their astounding benefits. There is a lot more we can tell you about mushrooms; come see us if you are curious. For now, suffice it to say that there definitely is truth behind the saying, “Food is Medicine”.
Christine and Fred Cheng are a passionate, charismatic sister-brother pharmacist team at their unique family-owned and operated Pharmasave in Cloverdale, BC. Their pharmacy celebrated its 30-Year Birthday this year. They specialize in natural remedies and compounding for both human and veterinarian use. They would love to hear from you! 604-576-2888; www.cloverdalepharmasave.com. Of course, before you begin any activity program or try any OTC supplementation, check with your physician and pharmacist.