Fairfield County Edition

The Fungal Kingdom Has Much to Offer

Why Mushrooms are So Good for Us!

What is all around us and yet we do not notice it? What kingdom of species on Earth has 1.5 to 5.1 million species, yet we use less than 50? We eat bread, and drink wine and beer. Many of us also love sautéed mushrooms; however, most people never realize they are all related. There’s an invisible string uniting them together and it’s called the fungal kingdom.

What’s interesting is that they are all heterotrophic, which means they cannot make their own food like plants can. Plants need water, air and sunlight to grow. Mushrooms are more like us in the animal kingdom than plants in the vegetable kingdom. Like us, they must gain nutrition from other organisms. Think of mushrooms on a tree. They are extracting nutrients to live from that tree. Each tree is a mushroom’s version of our Ridgefield’s Farmers Market where the mushroom can get all their nutrients to live and they know where their food is coming from.

Science is discovering that most fungi are adaptogens, which are substances found in nature that help the body adapt to stress and balance it. Modern medicine has actually used some of fungi’s natural adaptogens and changed the course of human health. For example, from the fungi kingdom we have garnered many important drugs such as penicillin.

Since World War II, Americans have been eating more and more processed foods—and we are not healthier. If a person born before World War II survived childhood diseases, they had a greater chance of living to a ripe old age than we do now. Here’s another disturbing fact: for the first time in America’s history, children born after the year 2000 have a much less likely chance of living as long as their parents will.

Consider the prevalence of juvenile diabetes; there is simply too much sugar and processed food in the American diet. This is one way mushrooms can help all of us. Mushrooms have beta glucans, which are good sugars. Mushrooms are prebiotics, or food ingredients that promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines.

Mushrooms are shown in studies to be good for heart health, blood pressure lowering and blood sugar centering. Some can reverse plaque deposits in our veins. They are good for weight management and the ancient peoples knew this. Some mushrooms are said to destroy cancer cells and others facilitate nerve regeneration. Native American tribes revered the mushroom for good reason.

Mushrooms also have green applications. They eradicate carpenter ants by producing a pesticide that tricks the ants into eating it. They produce a low-carbon footprint type of ethanol and they can break down the neurotoxins in nerve gas. Mushrooms also produce a fully compostable fungal-based packing material that could potentially replace plastics and Styrofoam.

Since pathogens in the body can adapt to one type of mushroom, blends of mushrooms are more effective.

There are so many mushrooms; ones listed below are believed to have multiple health benefits.

Portobello mushrooms are said to be good for low white blood count, uneven heartbeat, anemia and osteoporosis.

Shiitakes are beneficial for the liver, stomach ailments—such as gallstones and ulcers—and anemia. They are also have antiviral—helpful for HIV and hepatitis—antibacterial and antifungal effects. Shiitakes are also good for blood sugar stabilization.

The Reishi is known in China as “the spirit plant” or “the mushroom of immortality”. They have powerful antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. They may act as anti-inflammatories and can be useful for reducing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Reishi is also effective in up-regulating the immune system, normalizing blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and reducing prostate-related urinary symptoms in men. It helps with allergy management, anti-fatigue and strength.

Cordyceps are a favorite amongst athletes as they increase the production of ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, which is the energy currency of life found in each cell. Cordyceps boost strength and endurance, and have anti-aging effects. They also have hypoglycemic and anti-depressant effects, protect the liver and kidneys, and increase blood flow. Cordyceps can help normalize cholesterol levels and have been used to treat hepatitis B. Like other mushrooms, they also have anti-tumor properties.

Another bright star in the mushroom constellation is Turkey Tail, also known as “the cloud mushroom”. It has an arsenal of cancer-blasting compounds. The National Institutes of Health did a seven-year study that showed women with stages I-III breast cancer who received a dose daily had improved immune function. Turkey Tails are also promising for use in treating stomach, colorectal, cervical and uterine cancers.

The Himematsutake, or “Royal Sun Agaricus”, is attracting scientists worldwide due to its remarkable anti-cancer properties. It can also protect from damaging effects of radiation and chemotherapy.

Lion’s Mane is a mushroom that treats digestive disorders, depression, insomnia and memory loss.

Connect with Eileen White at 203-558-1355 or EileenBWhite@gmail.com.

Edit ModuleShow Tags