Mushrooms are more than an essential ingredient for spaghetti sauce. They contain some of the top nutrients that support the immune system. They have been used for everything from the common cold to cancer, HIV and tuberculosis. They can be eaten as a food, made into teas, capsules or tinctures and used to increase both health and nutrition.
Reishi (ray-shee) mushrooms are also known as Ling-Zhi, or plant of immortality. There are six types: blue, red, yellow, white, black and purple.
For more than 4,000 years Reishi has been used in both China and Japan, especially in the treatment of hepatitis, nephritis, hypertension, arthritis, insomnia, bronchitis, asthma and ulcers. Many sources also list reishi for weight loss, increasing longevity, heart problems and for degenerative diseases like cancer. It is still used in the same ways, but today it is most valued for its benefits to the immune system.
Reishi is rich in nutrients. It contains carbohydrates, amino acids, protein, riboflavin, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, manganese, copper and many other vitamins and minerals. A number of its polysaccharides (complex sugars) have demonstrated anti-tumor and immuno-stimulating activities.
The sterols in reishi act as hormone precursors and the adenosine, another of reishi’s active ingredients, has been found to inhibit platelet aggregation, making it useful for anyone who suffers from heart disease. Another set of compounds in reishi, the triterpenes, have been found to have adaptogenic, anti-hypertensive and anti-allergy effects. Reishi seems to have the ability to stop the release of histamine, thereby stopping allergy reactions before they start.
This incredible mushroom has also been shown to be a pain killer, an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. This makes it a good treatment for arthritis. It’s known as an expectorant, detoxifyer and liver protector; it even helps to reduce the side effects of caffeine. It increases natural killer cells, helps HIV patients and improves adrenal function, making it useful for anyone suffering from stress, insomnia or depression. It also increases white blood cells and has anti-ulcer effects.
Numerous studies have demonstrated reishi’s benefits. For example, in 1970, more than 2,000 patients with bronchitis were given reishi. In only two weeks, 60 to 90 per cent of the patients were better or improved, especially the elderly patients and those with bronchial asthma.
A clinical report from China shows that reishi was given to 70,000 patients with hepatitis. Ninety per cent were cured. Reishi can even be used as an antidote for poisonous mushrooms and as a lotion to protect against harmful ultraviolet rays.
Maitake (my-ta-kee) means dancing mushroom in Japanese, probably because it was so valued in ancient times that those who found the mushroom danced for joy. It was worth its weight in silver!
Maitake, used consistently in the diet as food, tea or as a supplement, has many benefits. It helps prevent cancer and stimulates the immune system in people with leukemia or breast, colon, lung or stomach cancer. It even strengthens the resistance of those undergoing chemotherapy and people infected with HIV. Maitake has also been found to help diabetics lower blood glucose levels and to help those with hypertension.
Beta glucan, a complex carbohydrate, is believed to be the secret to maitake’s immunologic action. Large white blood cells that devour pathogens and tumor cells have receptors for beta glucan, hence maitake’s connection to immunity.
At least 30 studies have looked at maitake’s anti-tumor action. In one study, maitake extract injected into tumor-bearing mice produced an 87-per-cent tumor shrinkage. One study compared maitake with a widely-used chemo- therapeutic drug. With just a small dose, the maitake extract produced an 85-per-cent tumor shrinkage in mice, compared to 30 per cent with the chemotherapy.
Shiitake (shi-ta-kee) has been highly valued in Japan and China for thousands of years as both food and medicine. It is high in proteins; lipids; carbohydrates; both kinds of fibre; minerals, especially calcium; and vitamins B2 and C. It can even be used to increase vitamin D, since it contains a nutrient, ergosterol, that converts into vitamin D, making it especially valuable to those living in northern climates.
Shiitake is often made into two pharmaceutical extracts, LEM and lentinan, and much of the research on shiitake has been done on these two extracts. They have anti-tumor and immune-stimulating effects. Even oral use of regular shiitake seems to provide this. Shiitake is anti-viral, anti-bacterial and antiparasitic; it increases natural killer cells, activates helper T cells and killer T cells and activates macrophage activity. This mushroom can be of value in HIV, environmental allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome, candida, flus and colds. According to cancer expert Ralph Moss, PhD, it is one of the best-documented cancer fighters. It can also be used for bronchial troubles, reducing high bad cholesterol and for urinary incontinence.
Another much-discussed mushroom isn’t actually a mushroom at all. Kombucha is actually a symbiosis of yeast and bacteria which is made into a tea.
There are a huge number of claims made about kombucha’s healing abilities, although according to herbalist Christopher Hobbs, LAc, there is very little scientific evidence yet to support these claims.
The tea is said to have some mild detoxifying effects. It has been used for helping digestion and there are reports that it reduces the number of colds. Klaus Kaufmann reports success using the tea for dysentery, high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis and elevated cholesterol. He also refers to a study that found kombucha to have antibiotic properties.
Take any of these mushrooms home and learn new ways to incorporate medicinal miracles into your diet.
Yunzhi Finds its Place
The Yunzhi (yoon-jee), or Coriolus versicolor, is one of the most researched, but least known, mushrooms.
Yunzhi is found in the wooded temperate zones of Asia and Europe. It is also found in North America, where it is known as Trametes versicolor.
More than 400 studies have confirmed the immune modulating action of this mushroom. Cultivated extracts have been used as a cancer treatment in Japan for more than 20 years. In China, it has been used for the same amount of time as a treatment for chronic active hepatitis. In fact, Yunzhi is actually classified as a Category 4 drug in China and used as a secondary treatment for cancer.
Yunzhi, because it stimulates the body’s own healing response, can also help relieve herpes, the flu, colds or pneumonia, among many other conditions. As 70 percent of yunzhi is excreted by the lungs, it is ideal when kidney or liver function is impaired.
Yunzhi is often overlooked because a natural source is difficult to obtain. There are good natural sources available, however, for those who can’t ignore the evidence!