Medicinal mushrooms have been around for thousands of years yet very few people know just how powerful they can be for boosting the human immune system and fighting diseases from cancer to the common cold. In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss the top 7 most popular and effective medicinal mushrooms including their benefits, scientific studies, and suggested usage.
Over 4000 years ago, rulers of Asia would send out servants to find the Reishi mushroom, which would often grow from the trunks of old plum trees. Servants were often unsuccessful, as the mushroom was said to have occurred once among about 3000 trees. Because of its rarity, its benefits were reserved for emperors and rulers, and commoners could be put to death if they were found with the mushroom and consumed it themselves. In order to avoid this, commoners were encouraged to give their findings to the emperor.
The Reishi mushroom gained much respect across the globe for thousands of years, with Romans calling it “the food of the gods,” Koreans “the mushroom of immortality,” and the Japanese “the 10,000 year mushroom.” The Chinese called them the “elixir of life,” while Egyptians believed them to be gifts directly from the god Osiris.
Written documents from the Han Dynasty Era reveal that the Reishi mushroom was associated with immortality. The founding father of Chinese Medicine who lived through this time documented 365 plant species, placing this one at the top.
Though it was known to promote happiness and longevity, it was also thought to help one live among the immortals. Because the mushroom was so difficult to find, however, it remained largely out of the medical spotlight until the 1970s, when controlled studies could be done with commercial cultivation.
Even though there is an abundance of evidence for the existence of the Reishi mushroom 4000 years ago, archeologists actually believe it dates back even further, to about 7000 years ago. Today, as the Reishi mushroom has become more common, it is worn as a good luck charm in some cultures. The mushroom is native to Europe, Asia and the Americas, and though it is still somewhat rare in the wild, they may be found on oak trees, plum trees or even maple trees growing in moist, forest like areas.
Though one may find it difficult to spot one in the wild, it is a sure cause of delight if one is found. Look for a shiny, reddish-brown cap that can be up to 8 inches in diameter. The Reishi mushroom is kidney shaped, but if found, should not be consumed without the consultation of a professional who can insure its identity.
What Reishi Does
Some studies in mice have shown an increase in life equivalent to that of almost 15 years in humans, and it is unclear if prolonged life results from actual longevity promoted by the Reishi mushroom, or if it is related to its ability to assist with such a long list of ailments. Among the most hopeful claims is that Reishi can stimulate the neurons in the brain, and seek out cancer cells to destroy. These claims provide promise for those with Alzheimers or Parkinsons, who have seen positive effects in smaller studies.
It has also shown to be promising against fighting autoimmune diseases as well as allergies, signifying it has a positive effect on the body’s immune response. It has also been successful at treating asthma, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes and liver disease. For centuries, they have been thought to reduce the risk of cancers and heart disease.
Most researchers agree that the Reishi mushroom is able to fight so many ailments because of the hundreds of biologically active molecules. Put simply, the mushroom does not simply contain one molecule that addresses multiple ailments, but rather, it attacks ailments with a multifaceted approach. Some of these molecules protect DNA in many different ways, essentially slowing down the aging process itself. While this alone may explain the extended lives of mice studied with Reishi, it is important to note that specific molecules also protect particular areas, such as specifically protecting the kidneys from failure. This combined approach makes the mushroom quite effective, and it is no wonder that long before it was understood, it was considered a route to immortality.
The University of Michigan Health System cites several studies recently performed regarding effectiveness of Reishi mushrooms for a range of ailments. One double blind trial found the extract to improve urinary symptoms among benign prostatic hyperplasia. For altitude sickness, the university rated its effectiveness 1 of 3 stars, stating that although positive results have been reported, further research is needed among the human population.
It gave the same rating for the herbs effectiveness against HIV and AIDS related symptoms, as well as infections in general. Citing research with similar herbs, the university speculates that the mushroom would benefit immune system function and enhance the effectiveness of some anti-HIV drugs. Much like for altitude sickness, however, they concluded that further research was needed among humans consuming Reishi mushrooms.
Although the university states that more research is also needed to test the efficacy of the mushroom on hepatitis, preliminary results were stated as looking promising among humans. A study cited for hypertension also concludes that reishi lowers blood pressure, although results remain unclear about the amount of time needed to allow for results. For diabetes, the University of Michigan rates the efficacy of Reishi mushrooms to be one out of three stars, citing animal studies for type 1 and type 2 diabetes that show benefits.
Reishi mushrooms no longer have to be directly consumed for their benefits, and they are no longer considered as rare. Today, powders, tablets and drops are available so that one can take advantage of Reishi without the inconveniences of ancient times. It is recommended to follow the manufacturer’s directions for dosage advice, as the concentration of active ingredients can vary among product choices. Regardless of how it is consumed, however, there are a few tips you can keep in mind when adding this supplement to your routine.
First, it is essential to understand the hallmarks of a high quality Reishi product. The ratio of extract should be clearly listed for consumers, and the country of origin should be clear as well. For those who would like to supplement with Reishi most closely resembling that of ancient Chinese medicine, it is worth noting that products from Japan typically cultivate the mushroom on wooden logs. This method has shown scientific evidence of growing more potent mushrooms with higher antioxidant levels, among other benefits.
It is also important to understand that Reishi works best when consumed on an empty stomach and when taken with vitamin C. Vitamin C actually helps break down the active ingredients for better intake and tolerance. In addition, drinking a healthy abundance of water will help the effects of Reishi, as it will help flush out toxins. It is also important to remember hydration with any supplement, particularly those known for detoxifying or providing energy boosts.
Thousands of years ago, when much of the world relied on concepts from Traditional Chinese Medicine, Chaga mushrooms were discovered as a way to end many ailments. In mountainous Siberia, the Khanty people would drink tea made from this mushroom, called “The Mushroom of immortality,” every day. The tea was thought to improve digestion and to detoxify the body. They also inhaled it and smoked it to support lung health, and they made topical forms of it for the skin, using Chaga soap to cleanse wounds. Its name originates from the Russian word mushroom, czaga, but as its popularly spread throughout the world, its name began to reflect the thoughts of those who used it.
For example, in Norway, Chaga is called kreftkjuke, which means “cancer polypore.” This name reflects its alleged abilities to treat cancer similarly to chemotherapy. For thousands of years, the mushroom’s benefits spread from Russia to Korea, Europe, the United States and even Canada. Because it thrives in cold climates, it is often found in mountainous regions with mature birch trees. It was often called “The Gift of God,” because of its helpful effects on many detrimental illnesses.
In its early days, the mushroom was known as the king of medicinal mushrooms, used to support life-energy balance, increase longevity and support the immune system. Hunters and gatherers used it to regulate their hunger and improve concentration and stamina. Even in its ancient beginnings, it was known to support immunity. Because we have evidence of its widespread use across the globe, it is difficult to pinpoint just exactly where the Chaga mushroom originated.
The oldest “in tact” human, Otzi the Iceman, is thought to have carried Chaga mushrooms in his leather pouch, although this has yet to be confirmed. Because Otzi is 5300 years old, it is highly probable that he used this mushroom for ailments. Documents from 100 B.C. seem to indicate the mushroom was not a new discovery during their time. Much later in history, in the 12th century, manuscripts suggest that the Russian ruler, Tsar Vladimir Monamah, used this for an ailment now thought to be cancer.
What Chaga Does
Chaga mushrooms can slow the effects of aging, and many claims state that the mushroom can protect DNA from damage. It is widely believed that Chaga mushrooms have anticancerous effects and can kill off tumors or slow their growth.
This mushroom is also known to give people a better sense of wellbeing and increase longevity. Of course, much like it was used in ancient times, it is still a great remedy for topical application on wounds or rashes, and tea is still promoted as a way to boost the immune system. Some even still smoke Chaga mushrooms for these effects. It is still used to treat digestive distress and ulcers, and recent claims state that it could be effective for treating tuberculosis.
Chaga mushrooms can also boost metabolism, assist with diabetes control and treat kidney stones. It is also commonly used to fight inflammation in those who have injuries, or illnesses such as arthritis. As an added bonus, the mushroom is a good source of Vitamin D, which has also been shown to help with fatigue, inflammation and poor immunity.
The effectiveness of Chaga mushrooms is known largely through observing the general population’s use, as no clinical scientific studies have been able to prove whether or not the mushroom can prevent illness and disease. Traditional legends, as well as personal testimonies, insist that the Chaga mushroom can prevent the onset of contracted illnesses, assist with healing cancer patients and even prevent cancer in those prone to the disease.
The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York claimed as recently as 2011 that the mushroom demonstrated anti-cancer properties when administered to mice, although they still cautioned against human consumption due to lack of scientific evidence for safety.
A more daring stance was taken by author Alexander Solzhenitsyn, author of “The Cancer Ward.” After the book’s release, some in the medical profession began to further investigate Chaga mushrooms and their effect on cancer. One such observation found that peasants in Russia who brewed the Chaga mushrooms, in place of more expensive coffee, seem to have much lower occurrences of cancer than their wealthier neighbors who brewed coffee instead.
At disabled-world.com, further medical research is discussed about a medical research team that found the birch tree forests in Siberia contain less pathogens than an operating room in modern day medicine. This is said to be blamed on the anti-microbial substances found in the bark of the trees hosting Chaga mushrooms. Perhaps most fascinating is the betulinic acid that have been shown to kill cancer cells without adverse side effects. These findings, however, have yet to be clinically verified.
Because Chaga is available in many forms, it is still advised that you consider the manufacturers’ recommendations for dosage based on the product. It is important, however, not to overindulge in this very potent supplement. With this in mind, dosages should vary based on weight. For example, when taking an extract, those weighing 150 pounds should consider a dosage of 45 drops normal, while those under 150 pounds should calculate their dosage based on their weight. For example, if someone weighed 100 pounds, they would need to only consume two thirds of the dosage, meaning the normal dose should be around 30 drops.
If nausea, headaches or other unusual symptoms present themselves, it is recommended to lower the dosage. Because the extracts are water soluble, one has very little reason to worry with overdose, as excess will simply be expelled from the body as waste.
Extracts can be placed in water, but warm water could neutralize some of the benefits, so it is best to use cold water. It is recommended to swish in the mouth for up to 60 seconds before swallowing. To prevent possible insomnia, try not to consume Chaga after 4 p.m., or when you would normally cut off caffeine for the day.
Teas, powders and capsules should all be consumed with manufacturers’ recommendation and the weight rule in mind, especially if you are trying the supplement for the first time. It is better to start with a smaller dose and increase to a comfortable dose than to experience unpleasant side effects from its potency.
Another ancient Chinese remedy, cordyceps are thought to originate in the Himalayan Mountains of Tibet. Over 2000 years ago, herdsmen stumbled upon this strange looking mushroom with no cap. In traditional Chinese Medicine, the mushroom quickly became a cure all, being used to treat ailments of the kidneys, heart, lungs and liver. It was also used for fatigue, fertility and sexual issues, pain relief, and of course, to promote longevity. The imperial Quing dynasty used it for virtually all of these remedies, and also to promote physical and sexual energy.
It is only in the last few decades that cultivation has allowed science to study this once rare mushroom, and it is now known to have up to 600 species. Written records of its effects on ailments exist from over one thousand years ago, first appearing in the year 1082. At one point, it was considered so rare and collection was so difficult due to its preference for growing at high altitudes, that it was the most expensive raw herbal material on the globe. In fact, it wasn’t even introduced to Europe until 1726, when it was introduced for purely scientific purposes in Paris. Its natural environment was so harsh, that collection was daunting. Growing at altitudes of over 13000 feet above sea level, temperatures were below freezing, with snow over 70% of the year.
It wasn’t until 1972 that the conditions for growing cordyceps could be reliably replicated. Also, it was not until we began to research DNA that we found these mushrooms to be significantly different from those grown in the wild, tossing in another research roadblock. Today, some manufacturers and growers boast cordyceps that are almost identical to their rare and wild ancestors, and research has begun to reflect this.
What Cordyceps Does
While many claim that cordyceps are helpful in increasing athletic endurance, there is not sufficient evidence to substantiate this claim. It is encouraged that for this particular purpose, one should consult a physician or gradually increase supplement intake to see the personal effects.
Other ailments that have been shown to respond to cordyceps are asthma, kindey malfunction, intolerance to chemotherapy, decreased libido, hepatitis B, cough, bronchitis, ringing in the ears, decreasing fatigue, anemia, heart arrhythmias, high cholesterol and weakness. It has also been said to increase longevity, and many take it specifically for that purpose.
Ashok Kumar Panda and Kailash Chandra Swain wrote a study in 2011, published in the Journal of Ayurveda Integrative Medicine, noting that effects were initially noted by herders when their herds of goats, sheep and other animals consumed cordyceps while grazing and became much stronger and larger. Soon, locals were using it to increase milk production in cattle, as well as the cattle’s quality of life. These observations led to many practitioners to use cordyceps for a number of diseases that lead to wasting of muscle. The study found that local folk healers used the treatment for a total of 21 ailments, including bronchial asthma, bronchitis, tuberculosis, diabetes, common cold, cancer, erectile dysfunction and hepatitis, among others. The authors found a number of studies to support the positive reported effects. A lack of human study in clinically controlled environments was noted as a study limitation.
In 1999, the Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Seattle released findings of a double-blind placebo controlled study. Among 30 elderly volunteers, cordyceps improved the amount of oxygen the participants were able to assimilate, by a significant amount. This may explain, in part, why much success has been reported among respiratory ailments.
In addition, as early as 1995, the Journal of Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine found improvement among pulmonary ailments. Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases improved 40% after administration of cordyceps.
In pneumonia, effects were more pronounced and significant based on a study done in Beijing in 1985. In the Collection on the Basic Medicinal and Clinical Studies of Submerged Culture, researchers noted a 400% improvement in mortality rates among patients with pneumonia who were administered cordyceps.
As with most supplements, it is best to begin by consulting the manufacturers’ recommended dosage, as levels can vary among brands. It is recommended however, for cordyceps to be taken at a recommended dosage as high as 3 to 6 grams a day, as this dose has been used in patients with renal failure for long periods of time including several years. It is worth noting that most clinical trials using dosage of less than 4 grams did not appear to be as promising as those of higher dosages.
For those undergoing chemotherapy, the recommended dosage is 6 grams daily for approximately two months.
Should dry mouth, gastrointestinal discomfort or nausea occur, one should decrease the dosage or consult a naturopath. A lethal dose has not yet been established, and doses as high as 80 grams in mice did not cause death.
Turkey Tail Mushroom
This mushroom gets its name from its appearance, which resembles the colorful tail of a turkey. Often found colonizing along decomposing wood or tree stumps in moist weather, this mushroom is not as rare as many of the others used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Records of the mushroom in teas date back to the 1400s in China, under the Ming dynasty. Traditionally, the mushrooms would be boiled in the water to make a tea, quite unlike steeping done today. Boiling them, however, not only killed contaminants, but it also brought out qualities in the mushroom that treated many ailments by extracting the soluble polysaccharides.
Turkey Tail is one of the most researched medicinal mushrooms in the world, partially due to its easy accessibility. There are no mountains to climb or forests to search in order to find its natural habitat, and it can grow in both warm and cool climates, sometimes even in water. Its main purpose seemingly is to return nutrients to the soil when wood begins to rot, so it is easy to find in almost any area that isn’t overly dry. Simply because it is easy to find, however, doesn’t mean its effects should be disregarded.
In ancient times, it was used to boost the immune system, and as recent studies show, science has proven what the Chinese already knew. Today, it is considered a major cancer therapy in Asia, particularly in Japan.
Turkey tail is often seen growing among many microorganisms. Beetles, flies and even algae are attracted to this helpful organism, so the practice of boiling them remains a necessity unless grown under very controlled conditions.
What Turkey Tail Does
We know from scientific studies that Turkey Tail shows promising results for cancer patients, those with compromised immunity, high pain levels, and even decrease muscle wasting. There are an abundance of benefits, however, that are still being researched.
Smaller, independent studies have shown Turkey Tail to regenerate bone marrow that has been damaged, and many veterinarians use it in cases of cancer for pets, since chemotherapy is often not preferred. It is known as a strong antioxidant, preventing illnesses such as cancer. It has been shown to strengthen the immune system, increase energy, aid digestion, assist healing from liver ailments and hepatitis B. It is also used to treat urinary tract infections and respiratory issues, even reducing phlegm production in those with colds.
In 2012, something quite unexpected happened when the FDA approved a trial for Turkey Tail mushrooms in cancer patients. Thanks to this approval, Bastyr University are now better at understanding how the mushroom, often brewed in a tea, can boost the immune systems of chemotherapy patients. Research by the University found that the supplement can strengthen a patient’s immune system and thereby support existing treatments for breast cancer.
Dr. Cynthia Wenner investigated more of the effects of this supplement for the National Institute of Health. Findings confirmed that the mushrooms stimulate the immune system, even correcting deficits in patient’s immune systems without patients undergoing traditional treatments.
In 2014, the Journal of Thermal Biology concluded that not only did Turkey Tail improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation, but it also improved quality of life among patients in a variety of ways. Firstly, it reduced pain levels, decreased muscle wasting, and decreased treatment side effects, such as nausea and vomiting.
Some products released from China and surrounding areas have tested with abnormally high levels of immune-compromising metals. To avoid purchasing products like this with potential adverse effects, particularly among those with immune system issues, it is important to find a certified organic mushroom product. This will help ensure that the product purchased has not accumulated heavy metals from air or soil pollution. Because the mushroom can rapidly accumulate metals, care should be taken in this area. Keep in mind that in the United States, a product that is actually organic will have a stamp with an agency, such as “USDA organic.” Faulty marketing, particularly outside of the country, can deceptively describe a product as organic that is not truly so. The only way to avoid this is to look for an agency stamp.
If making your own tea or simply consuming the mushroom, be sure to boil Turkey Tail mushrooms, as they often grow among an abundance of microorganisms, and even attract them after the mushroom dies.
Today, one can purchase supplements in the form of teas and extracts, and one can also find Turkey Tail quite easily in health food stores. For supplements, refer to the manufacturers’ direction, as concentration may vary from one company to another. When purchasing at markets, be sure to know the country of origin and the information discussed above. The mushrooms may be boiled and chewed as a gum, or made into a tea. They also may be boiled and added to other meals, particularly sushi and fish, which may have metal content. The mushroom is beneficial with these meals because of its ability to absorb metals, and can help reduce potentially harmful effects from fish who have been exposed to metals in their environment.
Shiitake mushrooms were used medicinally in China over 6000 years ago. According to legend, around 200 A.D., the emperor of Japan, Emperor Chuai, received Shiitake mushrooms from the indigenous people of Japan. It is widely thought that these mushrooms have been growing wildly since prehistoric times, although cultivation is estimated to have begun around 1100 A.D. during the Song Dynasty.
Once a symbol of longevity in Asia, it has always been promoted for its health redeeming qualities. The colors range from amber to brown, and their telling characteristic is their curled, umbrella-like rim. There are two types of this mushroom, however, and they are not quite created equally.
The donko Shiitake mushroom is more round with a thick flesh, while the koshin has an open cap and a thinner skin. Because the cap is not fully open and more of the spores are retained, the donko Shiitake mushroom is considered to have higher medicinal value. Second only to the button mushroom, Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most consumed mushrooms in the entire world.
While they have been cooked in meals for centuries, they have been used medicinally in both raw and dried forms. Their high levels of B vitamins and Vitamin D make it an ideal choice for the immune system, as well as for inflammation and stress. Donko Shiitake mushrooms in particular have high concentrations of the Lentinan compound, which is actually considered an anti-cancer drug.
Because its flavor is both earthy and pleasant to most, they can be boiled, grilled, skewered, sautéed or even roasted and enjoyed with a meal, often eliminating the need to purchase separate supplements. Because they are also very common in supermarkets, it is an easy supplemental choice to add to almost any diet.
It is interesting to note that to the United States, the Shiitake mushrooms are fairly new, as the result of a ban that was placed on importing live Shiitake cultures until 1972. Because they were not native to the United States, they were not grown in the area until this time.
What Shiitake Does
Shiitake mushrooms are known for their antiviral properties and their ability to boost the immune system. They can also be used to lower cholesterol, prevent thrombosis, treat and prevent genital warts, regulate blood pressure, treat AIDS, control diabetes, help heal fibrocystic breast disease, fight chronic fatigue and also cancer. They provide an excellent source of potassium, niacin, calcium, B vitamins, phosphorus, protein and magnesium.
As mentioned previously, the donko Shiitake mushroom provide the most medicinal effects, and raw mushrooms also are more effective than those that are cooked. Care should be taken with raw mushrooms, however, as contaminants may be present in the wild that need to be removed, sometimes by boiling. In addition, the method of growth has been scientifically shown to impact the performance of the mushroom. Log grown mushrooms are much harder to find and are often more expensive, but those grown in sawdust are dramatically cheaper with very comparable benefits. In the supermarket, one is likely to find sawdust grown Shiitake mushrooms, which often sell for more than $40 less per pound than those grown on logs. To test, those grown on logs will vibrate when shaken. If a mushroom does not vibrate and has a less meaty texture, it is likely sawdust grown.
Regardless of where they are grown, a hallmark to an excellent mushroom is having a gill that is not broken, and is pure white. One should stay away from any that appear yellow or have an ammonia like odor.
In 2011, the UF Food Science and Human Nutrition Professor, Sue Percival, studied a group of 52 adults with good health, between the ages of 21 and 41. Findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2011. Participants cleaned and cooked Shiitake mushrooms after undergoing a blood test. After consumption, the new blood tests revealed reductions in inflammatory proteins as well as healthier functioning gamma delta T-cells. This means not only was inflammation reduced, but the immune system was boosted as well.
Several years prior to these findings, David Brauer, an Agriculture Research Service agronomist, studied the mushroom’s production at Dale Bumpers Small Farm Research Center in Booneville, Arkansas, working with nearby mushroom producers in Shirley as well. This was in an effort to determine whether shiitake mushrooms grown on logs had higher levels of HMWP (higher molecular-weight polysaccharides) than those grown in commercial environments. HMWP has been shown to improve the immune system, so higher levels of this would indicate more potential for benefit. Brauer concluded that the shiitake mushrooms grown on logs showed up to 70% of HMWP than those commercially grown, reaffirming that not only did the mushroom improve immunity, but at different levels based on its growth environment. These findings were published with the help of the USDA/Agricultural Research Service on Science Daily’s website, in 2008.
Penn State researchers found even more fascinating results concerning mushrooms in general, back in 2005. Another antioxidant, ergothioneine, was found to be heavily concentrated in mushrooms, up to 12 times that found in wheat germ. Shiitake, however, was found to have some of the heaviest concentrations among mushrooms, with about 40 times the amount of ergothioneine found in wheat germ. Furthermore, the amounts did not decrease after cooking, meaning consumption of shiitake mushrooms in almost any fashion is a giant boost to the immune system.
If fighting serious ailments: If using a whole dried Shiitake mushroom, the recommended daily dose is 6-26 grams. If the mushroom is not dried, the recommendation is 90 grams. It is recommended that these suggestions be divided into two or three doses daily. These doses may be used in teas, meals or simply consumed.
For those looking for a maintenance regimen, a half or one gram a day is likely sufficient. If digestive upset occurs, lower the recommended dosage until side effects subside, or consult a physician or naturopath.
Shiitake mushroom is also found as an ingredient in many supplements, and the manufacturer’s directions should be followed in these cases.
The maitake mushroom grows in clusters, most often at the base of oak trees, commonly found in North America. Its name, maitake, means dancing mushroom. It is native to Japan and North America, and is said to help assist with altered body systems, helping the body achieve and maintain homeostasis.
The mushroom was traditionally used in both Chinese and Japanese medicine. Mainly used to boost the immune system, it boasts similar qualities to many other mushrooms in Traditional Chinese Medicine, though perhaps more easily obtained. It is actually a source of amino acids, potassium, magnesium, calcium, fiber, vitamins B2 and D2 and niacin.
The maitake mushroom is one of the most commonly used mushrooms in the culinary realm, often as a major ingredient in Japanese nabemono. It is also commonly cooked simply with only butter, so it is an easy addition to almost any diet.
In Japan, this “King of Mushrooms,” can grow up to 100 pounds, and is sometimes even consumed raw.
What Maitake Does
The maitake mushroom has been shown to induce ovulation when the body does not naturally cause it to occur. It has been shown in studies to help manage diabetes, and can even interact with some medication due to its effectiveness. In addition, it has been shown to boost the immune system, and help fight and prevent cancers. It also contains antioxidants, which provide an endless number of benefits such as increase immunity, although studies are not agreeable concerning this claim. The mushroom has also been shown to help treat polycystic ovarian syndrome, particularly when there are issues with ovulation.
In 2010, The Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine published a study on Maitake mushrooms. The study followed progress within a group of women who had polycystic ovarian syndrome. During the study, they found that patients who ingested Maitake mushroom extract ovulated in a more regular fashion, suggesting that the mushroom could induce ovulation when the body prevents it.
As early as 2001, however, the Diabetes Medicine journal published findings that suggested Maitake mushrooms had hypoglycemic effects, meaning it lowered the blood sugar of diabetic patients. The Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology followed up with similar findings in 2007, when they found that the fruit body of the mushroom to have antidiabetic properties as well.
In 2009, its anti-cancerous effects were published in Oncology Reports, a peer reviewed medical journal, when findings suggested that a water soluble extract had a positive effect on human gastric cancer cells. This led researchers to conclude that the Maitake mushroom had properties that could inhibit the growth of tumors.
Maitake mushroom can be added to one’s regimen in a number of ways. Extract is commonly sold in liquid form, as well as capsules. For best results, consult the manufacturer’s directions based on the concentration produced. Those wilth ailments will likely take a larger dose, although it is recommended to graduate up in order to improve tolerance and decrease the likelihood of any side effects. For those with ailments, it is recommended to begin with 35 to 75 milligrams, although this could vary greatly among suppliers. For maintaining health, a low dose of only about 15 milligrams is suggested.
For best results, consume on an empty stomach, or at least half an hour prior to a meal. As a precaution, one should consult a doctor before beginning this regimen while taking medication for diabetes, as some reactions may occur.
In addition to supplements that are available, maitake mushrooms are actually quite easy to find due to their popularity in cooking. Great with stir fries, rice, and even served plain with butter, these mushrooms are an easy way to add a healthy supplement to your regimen by just adding an extra ingredient while cooking. It can also be boiled to make a tea, or dried. Because they can often be large in size, people often freeze them, breaking off portions each time they cook a dish to which they wish to add maitake mushrooms. Though studies do not show whether this decreases the medicinal effects of the mushroom, there is so far no indication that this method would be any less helpful than taking supplements that have likely been processed and frozen at some point during the process.
In the year 65 A.D., Dioscorides, a Greek physician, first described Agarikon in the Materia Medica, the first known medical book with disease remedies. Dioscorides recorded the effectiveness of this mushroom on what we call tuberculosis today. Ancient Greeks used this to treat respiratory illnesses, what we now know as tuberculosis, and even night sweats.
Pliny the Elder, an ancient Roman philosopher, wrote about it as well. Like many mushrooms in ancient times, it was considered an “elixir of life” or an “elixir of long life.” It was thought to prolong one’s life, and its most famous “success story” is one about warding off poisons.
Mithridates, according to legend, consumed Agarikon regularly in case he were to be poisoned by an enemy. Later in life, he became so depressed that he attempted suicide by poison. According to legend, he was unable to do so because the Agarikon he had consumed for so long was still protecting him.
The indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest were also known to use this mushroom for spiritual purposes. Agarikon was used by local healers and spiritual leaders. The mushroom was often used for spiritual purposes after the death of a Shaman, or religious leader, and placed at the head of his grave. It is said to have protected the leader during his “long sleep of death.” It was also carved and hung from the ceilings of houses during spiritual dance ceremonies as well. They were believed to serve as “spirit catchers” protecting those around them from evils. In addition to serving spiritual purposes, it was also boiled into a tea the indigenous people called “ghost bread,” that helped with breathing ailments. Sadly, when the British brought smallpox to the region in the 1700s, locals were unaware that this mushroom had the ability to protect them against smallpox, and the population greatly suffered as a result.
It was noted early on to have properties of an antimicrobial, and modern research confirms this was indeed the case. Modern evidence also suggests that Agarikon played a role in the survival of our species, as it likely protected them from infectious diseases long before antibiotics were a thought. Throughout the ages, it was used for illnesses with cough, infected wounds and even bleeding.
Sadly, however, this once revered mushroom is almost extinct in some areas of the world, such as Europe and Asia. It can still be found in the Pacific Northwest, and if one is lucky enough to stumble upon one, he can identify it by its beehive like shape, and can tell its age by counting the layers, similar to the way one counts the rings on a tree trunk. It is the longest living mushroom in the world, so the science community has great hopes of maintaining it outside of extinction. Pharmaceutical companies, however, can now produce synthetic Agarikon.
What Agarikon Does
Some studies, though not scientifically verified, have provided promising results for preventing tumor growth. It is also an anti-inflammatory and an antibacterial. Smaller studies have also shown an ability to fight cowpox, swine and bird flus, as well as herpes viruses.
Its extracts have also been shown to have antiviral properties, which may help explain why it is often beneficial for flus and herpes viruses. It is still accepted as an alternative treatment to tuberculosis, and is still thought to boost the immune system.
Most health professionals state that little clinical evidence has been produced to substantiate the claims made by many about the cancer fighting properties of Agarikon. In other areas across the globe, however, personal testimonies and small studies are enough to convince some patients. For example, the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms reported in 2011 that in Croatia, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare registered tablet preparations for Agarikon. Marketed as immunity strengthening, the tablet is modeled after a formulation that achieved above 90% growth inhibition rates in mice.
Small studies and personal testimonies reflect that patients with breast, lung and colorectal cancers had increased survival rates, improved quality of life and less side effects from modern treatments. Paul Stamets, an advisor for the Program of Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona Medical School, studied Agarikon for many years and released his findings to the Huffington Post. Working with the University of Illinois for the Institute for Tuberculosis Research, Stamets submitted specimens of the mushroom for “testing against tuberculosis bacteria.” The result was that not only did the mushrooms exhibit antitubercular activity, but they were only about one magnitude away from being potent enough to be considered a drug.
He had previously studied Agarikon, however, and found its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties to be almost ground breaking. After testing 11 North American strains, some samples were concluded to have properties that fight cowpox, swine and bird flus, as well as herpes viruses. Since this time, Russia researchers have further studied Agarikon’s effect on the flu, with positive results which are non-toxic to human cells. Hopefully, future clinical trials across the globe will mimic these findings.
Research so far has shown very little to no indication of toxicity, although it is always important to follow guidelines when adding a supplement to your routine. Because Agarikon is extinct in some areas, one should take care when selecting a supplement. First, ensure that the company is reputable and that you can trust their statements about origin. Second, because supplements are often a combination of mushroom extracts, dosages may differ from one supplement to another. Care should be taken to ensure that all ingredients listed are compatible with current ailments, lifestyle and medications. If in doubt, consult a naturopath or a physician.