The Ancient Superfood
When we hear the word “mushroom” we mostly think of three things; poisonous forest-floor fungi, portobellos, and psychedelics. But now, we have a fourth thing to think about when we hear “mushroom”, superfood. As with any living being, the directive of mushrooms has always been to survive; and as the lifeblood of many ecosystems -essential to the breaking down of biomatter- mushrooms are forced to survive in the harshest and least “sanitary” of environments. As a result, mushrooms have developed a rigorous immune system, amazingly effective at fighting off bacteria.
- Although we identify mushrooms often through their above ground blooms, the majority of the “mushroom” grows underground. This large underground growth is also referred to as mycelium.
- The small holes in compact soil allow the hyphae of mycelium to extract oxygen and nutrients from the soil by growing through the small openings.
- There are two different types of mycelium
- Septate have dividers between cells called septa, and septa has openings between its cells called pores.
- These pores allow cytoplasm and nutrients to flow throughout the cells and nourish the mycelium.
- Coenocytic mycelium forms one long uninterrupted cell with many nuclei.
- As one long cell, absorbed nutrients transfer easily throughout the entire mycelium.
- When the above ground mushrooms appear, these function more like traditional plants, exchanging gasses with the atmosphere.
- In Indonesia, mycelium is sometimes used as a meat substitute. By controlling the fermentation of soybeans, mycelium binds the beans, making what is commonly known as Tempeh.
- The usage of Reishi mushroom can be traced back 2000 years to China’s Eastern Han Dynasty. Included in the ‘Classic of Materia Medica’, the almost supernatural powers of the Reishi mushroom have been known/ speculated upon for millenia.
- An extremely rare mushroom in the wild, Reishi was initially only affordable for the Nobility, possibly aiding in its sacred and revered position in chinese medicine and culture.
- It’s “scientific” name G. Lucidum, Reishi is thought to strengthen one's heart, enhance memory, and have anti-aging effects. The State Pharmacopeia of the People's Republic of China, states that Reishi should be used to replenish Qi, soothe the effects of asthma and unpleasant coughs, and to ease one’s mind.
- Modern in-vitro studies have yielded supportive data concerning Reishi’s anti-cancer, anti-viral, antioxidant, and antibacterial reputation. Some studies have also shown Reishi to protect against gastric and liver injury.
- Reishi is best in water-based extracts such as soup, tea, and broths, in order to obtain the full medical benefits. Some even simmer Reishi and include it in large, flavor-diverse dishes.
- The name “Chaga” originates from the Ural mountains region in what is modern day Russia.
- Chaga grows on the side of birch trees in the cold Taiga forests of the northern United States., Scandinavia, Korea, Japan, Russia, and Canada.
- A staple in Russian culture for centuries, it is rumored that Tsar Vladimir Monomakh used the mystical mushroom to cure his lip cancer in the 12th century.
- Although just a rumor at the time, even modern studies have shown Chaga to battle tumor growths through its cell-toxic and Quorum sensing capabilities. These “quorum sensing” capabilities mean that the mushroom is able to effectively sense pathogens, an integral first step in the fighting of tumors.
- A study that analyzed Chaga’s possible effects on Lung Cancer identified the MeOH compound present in Chaga as the molecular basis for Chaga’s cell-toxic activity. These cell-toxic properties made Chaga capable of combating lung cancer cells in the study, leading to the belief that this compound present in Chaga may also fight other cancer types as well.
- As these anti-cancer studies were in-vitro studies, the cells were isolated then tested. These differ from human studies, as eating and digesting Chaga is different from isolating cells of chaga and “inserting” them into cancer cells.
- Since Chaga is exceptionally high in antioxidants, this high concentration is maintained even in a Chaga tea. Most, but not all, of Chaga’s nutrients can be absorbed through tea.
- A Chaga tincture, as opposed to just a tea, will retain any nutrients not retained in a tea. Using 100% alcohol as a base is the best option, while using vodka and gin are acceptable alternatives.
- Known as Yamabushitake in Japan, and Hou Tou Gu in China, Lion's Mane is typically found in the mountainous regions of Asia.
- Unlike other mushrooms, the chemical makeup of Lions Mane allows it to pass the Blood-Brain Barrier, therefore allowing it to directly affect the Central Nervous System. More specifically, Lion's Mane is shown to stimulate nerve growth in the brain, thereby increasing “brain power”.
- With this association, studies conducted on this premise have shown Lions Mane to have a preventive role against neurodegeneration.
- By passing the Blood-Brain Barrier, the nerve growth factor counteracts the neurodegeneration that causes Alzheimers.
- Lion’s Mane has also shown anti-cancer capabilities. Its effects on the immune system caused by its complex carbohydrates and proteins, gives it a natural disposition towards incorporation into cancer treatments.
- Fry with butter, roast in oil, toss it in your tea; essentially, whatever you do with regular store bought mushrooms, you can do with Lion's Mane.
- With a tough and leathery surface rendering it inedible when raw, Turkey Tail has been in the Chinese Materia Medica since 200 B.C.
- An extremely versatile mushroom, Turkey Tail grows everywhere from the cold Taiga to tropical and temperate forests.
- Interestingly, Turkey Tail has 15 known sister species, yet none of these are known to be poisonous (to humans at least).
- Just like Lions Mane, Turkey Tail exhibits a natural inclination to be incorporated into cancer treatments due to its complex carbohydrates and proteins. These complex carbohydrates and proteins contribute to the mushroom's ability to pass the blood-brain barrier and directly affect the Central Nervous System.
- Turkey Tail also has immunostimulatory effects to go along with its shown effectiveness against lung and gastro-intestenal cancer.
- Turkey Tail is best in broths or soups and removed before serving or eating. It is also often used in teas or made into a powder.
So if you've been looking for that next nutritional powerhouse to include in your diet, look no further than theses species of mushroom. Packed with immunostimulatory properties, these mushrooms provide an amazing breadth of versatility and nutritional benefit, making them the perfect additions to your diet.