Updated: Aug 15, 2020
I recently read a book written by author Merlin Sheldrake, followed by listening to an interview on mushrooms and was fascinated by how 'fungi' has evolved and become associated with health. Did you ever think that fungi could be extraordinarily medicinal? An amazing fact is that mushrooms survive based on serving a purpose…and that is to be consumed by animals. Most fungi form tiny filaments of mycelium, so that water and nutrients can flow through these networks, forming fruiting bodies known as mushrooms. Fungi can be as old as 10,000 years, grow underground, on trees and wood, and even on animal bodies. They can also grow as small as the size of a pin head to as large as 10 square km/6.2 miles!
Known for their medicinal properties, mushrooms have been used for these purposes for thousands of years, they were even found on Otzi the Ice Man, who lived 5300 years ago as recorded upon finding his mummified body in an obscure location in the Alps. I was always interested in archaeology so I thought that whatever was found on the 'Ice man', it would have provided some insight as to what our ancestors were procuring and using to thrive in such extreme conditions.
So being that the fungi kingdom has been around for so long serving its purpose, it's time that they are taken seriously. There are more and more people becoming knowledgeable on the topic of mushrooms and how they can benefit health. We have heard about the benefits of penicillin or polysporin, but there are other benefits that fungi can provide. Numerous studies show that various mushrooms are capable of strengthening the immune system, regulating blood sugar, improving PCOS and preventing cancer.
Mushrooms like Reishi, Maitake and particularly Lion’s mane, help to improve blood sugar, but it's specifically the Lion's mane that helps the pancreas to produce beta cells, which are responsible for producing insulin. Aside from improving blood sugar, Maitake is known for cancer prevention. Shiitake, Reishi, Chaga and Cordyceps are also known for their cancer prevention benefits. According to a study, the oyster mushroom showed to have the most antioxidant effects, therefore it's considered a functional food . In other words, it is considered a neutraceutical meaning it is a natural food that is higher in phytochemicals. Cordyceps has anti-cancer benefits while it lowers blood sugar and is kidney protective. A study showed that as a supplement, it improves recovery from leukopenia, a common side affect of chemotherapy, depleting white blood cells which would increase the potential risk of infection. These are just a few examples of how mushrooms can promote health and as a complimentary addition to conventional medicine and supplements. Mushrooms can be consumed as a functional food and taken as a supplement for disease prevention by strengthening the immune system as well as help those living with certain health conditions.