Mushrooms have a long history of traditional nutritional and medicinal use.1,2 Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic healing systems use medicinal mushrooms to treat numerous disease states due to their unique and extraordinary health enhancing properties.1,3 While many people place mushrooms in the ‘vegetable’ category, they are actually classified in the kingdom of Fungi, and the structure called a mushroom is really only the fleshy, spore-bearing reproductive organ of a fungus4,5.
Mushrooms come in a variety of forms and contain a wide range of constituents of therapeutic significance.6 While much of the research to-date focuses on the various immunological and chemoprotective properties of certain mushrooms, we shouldn’t forget that they also offer other important health benefits including anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-hypertensive, anti-atherogenic, antioxidant, hepatoprotective, detoxifying, radio-protective, hypoglycaemic, cardioprotective, anti-hypercholesterolaemic, and anti-allergic properties.7-9
Whilst medicinal mushrooms are rich in a variety of compounds such as polysaccharides, peptides, terpenes, glycoproteins, vitamins, minerals, unsaturated fatty acids, dietary fibres and antioxidants;10 it is the mushroom glucans which are regarded as the key constituents beneficial for health.11
Glucans are ubiquitous and differ in type (alpha or beta), length and structure. Medicinal mushrooms differ in that they are typically high in branched beta-glucans and low in alpha-glucans (3-5%).12
|Medicinal mushroom beta-glucans have complex branches structures & are quite different to the more linear beta-glucans found in plants
It is these structural differences that give mushrooms their potent immunological activity
Quantifying these important mushroom beta-glucans in medicinal mushroom products poses a challenge. Modern testing methods of beta-glucans cannot distinguish the type of beta-glucan present in medicinal mushroom products, i.e. are they from a plant or a mushroom or both?
This becomes an issue when using medicinal mushroom products containing mycelium (root system) grown in a plant based growth media such as grain or wood. As the delicate mycelium cannot be separated from the growth media these products may contain beta-glucans from plants that may skew beta-glucan results. (Excipients in powders and tablets also skew results.) To alleviate this problem use medicinal mushroom products with the traditionally used fruiting body of the mushroom. Also if alpha-glucan levels are >10% this can indicate the presence of non-mushroom glucans.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
The reishi mushroom is one of the oldest medicinal mushrooms on record and is often referred to as the “mushroom of immortality” because of its beneficial effects on compromised immune conditions and life expectancy.19Reishi’s bioactive components include water-soluble polysaccharides and peptidoglycans, in addition to more than 100 triterpenes which increase immunity and show antitumour, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-aging, and acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activity.20-22
Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
Both strengthening and restorative, shiitake is recognised for improving diseases involving depressed immune function states, acute and chronic infections, cancer, allergies, hepatitis, and cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, hyperlipidaemia and diabetes.23 Shiitake mushrooms contain a number of constituents that can improve the efficiency of the immune system, the most well-known of these being lentinan, a beta-glucan polysaccharide that can significantly boost immune response by enhancing cytotoxic activity in order to defend against and eliminate pathogenic substances.23,24
Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
Maitake contains two unique active beta-glucan polysaccharides known as grifolan and D-fraction, which exhibit immune modulating and antitumour activities.4 Current research provides significant evidence that the D-fraction myco-nutrient functions as an anti-cancer agent by activating NK cells, thus helping to inhibit the progression of cancer cell growth.25,26 Other physiological benefits of maitake that have been demonstrated include treatment for hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterolaemia, obesity, and hepatitis B infection. It also has confirmed antiviral activity against human immunodeficiency virus.27
Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris)
Cordyceps is a fungi and has been used s a medicinal drug in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for over 300 years. Now it is widely used across the word for a wide range of disorders including respiratory, kidneys, liver and cardiovascular diseases, low libido and impotence, elevated sugar levels , as well as a tonic to increase energy, reduce fatigue, and strengthen the body after serious illness.
Source; Integria and Optimal Rx
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Danuta Hulajko is a holistic practitioner, international speaker and the founder & practitioner at the DH Natural Medicine Clinic and www.healingremedies.com.au in Sydney.
Danuta specialises in Allergies, Anti-Aging, Auto-Immune Conditions, Cardiovascular Conditions, Female Reproductive, Menopause, Mould Toxicity, Skin Conditions, Stress and Insomnia and Thyroid Dysfunction.
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- Valverde ME, Hernández-Pérez T, Paredes-López O. Edible Mushrooms: Improving Human Health and Promoting Quality Life. Int J Microbiol. 2015:Article ID: 376387.
- Enzo T, Robin CH, Robert L, David N, R. CD. Enhanced repertoire of brain dynamical states during the psychedelic experience. Human Brain Mapping. 2014;35(11):5442-5456.
- Martel J, Ko YF, Ojcius DM, et al. Immunomodulatory Properties of Plants and Mushrooms. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2017;38(11):967-981.
- Guggenheim AG, Wright KM, Zwickey HL. Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal. 2014;13(1):32-44.
- Pohleven J, Korosec T, Gregori A. Medicinal Mushrooms. MycoMedica; 2016.
- Rahi D, Malik D. Diversity of Mushrooms and Their Metabolites of Nutraceutical and Therapeutic Significance. Journal of Mycology. 2016:Article ID: 7654123.
- He X, Liu X, Li, J., Xu S, Lu A. Immunomodulatory activities of five clinically used Chinese herbal polysaccharides. JEIM. 2012;2(1):15-27.
- Wasser SP. Medicinal mushroom science: Current perspectives, advances, evidences, and challenges. Biomed J. 2014;37(6):345-356.
- Lindequist U, Niedermeyer THJ, Julich WD. The Pharmacological Potential of Mushrooms. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2005;2(3):285-299.
- Zhang L, Li C, Liang H, Reddy N. Bioactive Mushroom Polysaccharides: Immunoceuticals to Anticancer Agents. J Nutraceuticals Food Sci. 2017;2(2):6.
- Friedman M. Mushroom Polysaccharides: Chemistry and Antiobesity, Antidiabetes, Anticancer, and Antibiotic Properties in Cells, Rodents, and Humans. In: Brennan C, ed. Foods. Vol 5.2016.
- Sari m, Prang A, Lelley JL et al. Food Chem 2017; 216: 45-51
- Kato J, Svensson, CI. Progress in Molecular Bioogy and Translational Science Vol 131.2015:251-279
- Camilli G, Tabouret, G, Quintin, J. The Complexity of Fungal beta-Glucan in Health and Disease: Effects on the Mononuclear Phagocyte System. Frontiers in Immunology2018;9:673
- Lull C, Wichers HJ, Savelkoul HFJ. Antiinflammatory and Immunomodulating Properties of Fungal Metabolites. Mediators Inflamm. 2005(2):63-80.
- Report on file. Integria Healthcare Research Laboratory, Brisbane
- Zhou X, Seto SW, Chang D, et al. Synergistic Effects of Chinese Herbal Medicine: A Comprehensive Review of Methodology and Current Research. Front Pharmacol.2016;7:201.
- Chan GC, Chan WK, Sze DM. The effects of beta-glucan on human immune and cancer cells. J Hematol Oncol. 2009;2:25.
- Cor D, Knez Z, Knez Hrncic M. Antitumour, Antimicrobial, Antioxidant and Antiacetylcholinesterase Effect of Ganoderma Lucidum Terpenoids and Polysaccharides: A Review. Molecules. 2018;23(3):649.
- Suarez-Arroyo IJ, Rosario-Acevedo R, Aguilar-Perez A, et al. Anti-Tumor Effects of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) in Inflammatory Breast Cancer in In Vivo and In Vitro Models. PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e57431.
- Yoon HM, Jang KJ, Han MS, et al. Ganoderma lucidum ethanol extract inhibits the inflammatory response by suppressing the NF-kappaB and toll-like receptor pathways in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated BV2 microglial cells. Exp Ther Med. 2013;5(3):957-963.
- Rahi D, Malik D. Diversity of Mushrooms and Their Metabolites of Nutraceutical and Therapeutic Significance. Journal of Mycology. 2016:Article ID 7654123.
- Bisen PS, Baghel RK, Sanodiya BS, Thakur GS, Prasad GB. Lentinus edodes: a macrofungus with pharmacological activities. Curr Med Chem. 2010;17(22):2419-2430.
- Ahn H, Jeon E, Kim J-C, et al. Lentinan from shiitake selectively attenuates AIM2 and non-canonical inflammasome activation while inducing pro-inflammatory cytokine production. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):1314.
- Kodama N, Komuta K, Nanba H. Effect of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) D-Fraction on the activation of NK cells in cancer patients. J Med Food. 2003;6(4):371-377.
- Kodama N, Murata Y, Nanba H. Administration of a polysaccharide from Grifola frondosa stimulates immune function of normal mice. J Med Food. 2004;7(2):141-145.
- Konno S. Synergistic potentiation of D-fraction with vitamin C as possible alternative approach for cancer therapy. Int J Gen Med. 2009;2:91-108.