Mushrooms have long been used for medicinal and food purposes for over a thousand years dating back to the ancient Egyptians and Chinese to promote health and longevity. They are mostly composed of bioactive polysaccharides, some essential amino acids, and minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. They contain a notable amount of vitamin D2 or ergocalciferol and a variety of phenolic acids offering substantial antioxidant activity.
Classified as a non caloric carbohydrate, polysaccharide fibers constitute almost one half of mushroom composition. Mushrooms contain varying amounts of polysaccharides depending on the species of fungi and method of cultivation. Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) mushrooms typically contain higher amounts of polysaccharides between 20-40%. It is these polysaccharides that play a big role in the medicinal power of mushrooms. Their main function is to act as a prebiotic, nurturing the growth of beneficial bacteria and contributing to the well-being of their host. You.
FOR ENHANCING THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
With nearly half its composition from polysaccharides, mushrooms are attracting growing scientific interest for their ability to exert marked effects on immune system function, inflammation, and even cancers. In controlled human trials, polysaccharide intake stimulated the immune system of healthy adults, dampened the allergic response to a respiratory inflammatory agent, and improved survival in cancer patients.
In fact, polysaccharides are discovered to be potent immunomodulators, a compound capable of interacting with the immune system to up regulate or down regulate aspects to the host response, aka your immune function. In various studies, the polysaccharide beta glucan is particularly shown to stimulate the host immune response against bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic infections by activating macrophages and natural killer cell function while down regulating pro inflammatory cytokine production and oxidative stress.
FOR NERVE & BRAIN HEALTH
Discovered as a nootropic to enhance memory, focus, and mood, mushrooms continue to be investigated for their neuroplastic effect. In addition to the prebiotic effect they hold, Lion's Mane (Hericium Erinaceus), has demonstrated to also be effective at regenerating the nervous system. Studies have identified two special compounds called hericenones and erinacines in this particular mushroom capable at stimulating new growth of brain cells. Hericenones help your brain produce more nerve growth factor while erinacines crosses the blood brain barrier to boost the production of neurons. Oh such exciting news, indeed!
Nerve regeneration relieves neurodegenerative disease symptoms seen in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia by boosting neurotransmitters associated with memory, learning, and recall. Similarly research has also indicated its use to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. For all these reasons and more, medicinal mushrooms could be considered a functional food for neurodegenerative and psychiatric conditions.
CULINARY & SUPPLEMENT APPROACHES
Culinary mushrooms with medicinal properties can become incredible components to our daily diet. Integrating any available mushroom will not only confer some benefits but also bring a dimension of flavor and texture to any dish. Availability of certain types of mushrooms may be difficult but use what is available to you. Mushroom brings savory umami flavor and is always a star of any bone broth soup. Try my Roasted Cauliflower & Mushroom Soup from my article on the Immune Boosting Power of Prebiotics.
Medicinal mushroom powders are out on the market as additions to soups, beverages, smoothies, coffee alternatives, and hot cocoa mixes. Here you are more likely to find medicinal grade mushrooms with higher amounts and varieties of polysaccharides like beta gluten and other powerful bioactive properties.
My Mushroom Mocha is a creamy, dreamy, and chocolatey hot cocoa I love making mainly because it is so calming but also because I take such pleasure in knowing of its healing power. While I am sipping and soothing, I am actively restoring my immune defenses and enhancing my mind. Pretty groovy!
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tsp Four Sigmatic 10 mushroom blend
2 tbsp raw cacao
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground clove
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
In a small saucepan, whisk together to combine ingredients and heat thoroughly. Serve hot and enjoy!!