Throughout history mushrooms have been used as food and medicine by nearly every culture. Modern science has conducted numerous studies on the efficacy of mushrooms when used in the treatment of various cancers and a myriad of other diseases with excellent results! The scope of this article could not even begin to approach the broad spectrum of mushrooms available for medicinal use (there are over 38,000 known species of mushrooms!), nor the range of their medicinal factors, so I will attempt to cover the basics of the medicinal mushrooms that are currently used in the treatment of cancer. There happen to be several of them, which I will list, but the focus of this article will be on the Big Three: Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and Maitake (Grifola frondosa).
|Mycelium under a log. photo by TheAlphaWolf|
Superficially speaking, the attributes of mushrooms could be considered clues to their benefits on human health. Their ability to transform organic matter hints at their ability to transform toxins in the body. The manner in which they appear to grow quickly and seem to materialize from nowhere suggests a similarity to the properties of cancer, for which mushrooms are famous for treating effectively.
Mushroom are cellulose based organisms that contain polysaccharides, terpines, steroids and other compounds, many of which show great promise in the treatment of cancer. Polysaccharides, shown in many studies to be anti-tumor, are large molecules with an above average molecular weight which resemble molecules found in bacterial cell membranes. Because of this, their presence in the body creates various immune responses like an increase in the production of killer T-cells and macrophages (specialized white blood cells with strong immune functions). The nutritional content of mushrooms is wide and variable, but most contain significant amounts of protein, essential amino acids, essential fatty acids (EFA’s), vitamins such as biotin, C, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine and occasionally beta carotene, as well as minerals like sodium and phosphorus and moderate amounts of iron and calcium.
|photo taken by Eric Steinert at Paussac, France|
|photo by frankenstoen from Portland, Oregon|
|I definitely danced with joy for this haul!|
|Porcini - photo by Strobilomyces|
|Oyster cluster - L. Huebner|
|Chanterelle - L.Huebner|
|Morel - L.Huebner|
The author can frequently be found with a flat-bottomed basket and a supply of paper bags in forests throughout the area gathering up her favorite wild gastronomic treats-some to enjoy right away sautéed in a little butter, more to dry for future food and medicine. Please don’t ask me where to find the Maitake or the Morels; it’s a secret I’ll never divulge!
Please call 8 6 0 - 4 8 0 - 0 1 1 5 or email HerbaLisl@hotmail.com if you have any questions, would like to schedule an appointment, attend meditations, weed walks, or are interested in taking classes.