Medicinal mushrooms and their healing properties

As the name suggests, medicinal mushrooms are mushrooms that are used as medicines. Their names may seem somewhat strange, such as lion’s mane, chaga, turkey tail, reishi, oyster mushroom, among others. For thousands of years they were used in medicine to cure any type of illness, especially infections. Likewise, they are traditional in Asian medicine, more specifically in traditional Chinese medicine.

medicinal mushrooms
Medicinal mushrooms are used to treat a variety of diseases.

Currently, with the good habit of looking for alternatives for well-being and health, they appear massively in the West. Mushroom extracts are very popular for treating anxiety, depression, improving the immune system and cognitive functions.

Although they are also used in the treatment of lung diseases, reducing cholesterol, hypertension and in the recovery of cancer patients.

In fact, in China there are more than 100 mushrooms that are used for cancer treatment. Some mushrooms, such as turkey tail, contain polysaccharides that are capable of strengthening the immune system to treat this disease.

Science does not support the healing properties of mushrooms

Today, medicinal mushrooms have emerged as a thriving multibillion-dollar industry, valued at approximately $8 billion, according to marketing research firm Allied. This industry is experiencing an upward trend, standing out as a rapidly growing sector in the current market.

However, claims about the healing properties of these mushrooms still lack Western scientific support. For a long time, research has been carried out on these fungi, also known as functional ones. The studies have been carried out both in mice and in cell cultures; However, the results are not always extrapolated to human beings.

In the world, there are about 2,300 varieties of medicinal or edible mushrooms. However, according to Professor Nicholas Money of Miami University in Ohio, there are only a little more than a dozen that are used in medicine.

parasitic fungi

The best known are:

  • Ganoderma Licidum or Reishi, a brown mushroom that is very aromatic.
  • Colorius Versicolor or turkey tail, fan-shaped with stripes of various colors, which is widely used in China for the treatment of cancer.
  • Ophiocordyceps Unilateralos or cordyceps, which is a parasitic fungus.
  • Inonotus Oblicuus or chaga, is also a parasitic fungus that resembles a burnt charcoal and grows on dry birch trees.
  • Hericium Erinaceus or lion’s mane, which grows in round, filamentous groups like white beards.
Mushrooms are also appreciated in gastronomy

As gastronomic ingredients, they not only enrich the flavors of dishes, but also stand out as highly nutritious foods. They add delicious nuances to the palate, and are also recognized for their beneficial nutritional properties.

They are a notable source of vitamins B and D, provide valuable vegetable proteins, contain abundant fiber and essential amino acids. In addition, they include beta-glucans, a variety of complex carbohydrates that help reduce LDL cholesterol levels in the blood.

However, Western medicine has not yet paid the necessary attention to fungi. By researching more on the subject, they may discover its important properties for the pharmaceutical industry. For this reason, functional fungi can be great allies in the medicine of the future.

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