While the world is becoming more reliant on technology than ever before, health experts are taking a step back in time and revisiting the benefits of medicinal mushrooms. Used for centuries as a powerful natural medicine, mushroom nutrition can help alleviate a wide range of symptoms and minimize your risk of developing certain health conditions. Since prevention is far better than a cure, let’s take a look at six reasons why health experts are becoming slightly obsessed with medicinal mushrooms.

1: Mushroom Nutrition Can Supercharge The Body

Mushrooms such as Grifola frondosa and lion’s mane are rich in therapeutic compounds, including lipids, proteoglycans, polysaccharides, alkaloids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants. A natural superfood, medicinal mushrooms have the ability to boost the immune system, fight cancer, lower blood pressure and even protect against radiation damage. (1)

A study on the benefits of mushrooms found mycelia and Agaricus blazei, Cordyceps sinensis, Coriolus versicolor, Ganoderma lucidum, Grifola frondosa, and Polyporus umbellatus powerful against breast cancer cell cultures. (2)
Having been used as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries, health experts in the West are only now starting to pay closer attention to the remarkable health benefits fungi can offer.

2: A Plant Of Immortality

According to ancient Egypt, medicinal mushrooms were thought to help meer mortals avoid the afterlife. Said to have been given by the god Osiris due to their unique taste, mushrooms were reserved for Egyptian royalty. There are even hieroglyphics that date back to 4500 B.C, depicting medicinal mushrooms. Even in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, calls mushrooms ‘the food of the gods.’ (3) When you consider the health benefits of eating Grifola frondosa or Maitake, it’s clear that ancient Egyptians were certainly onto something! Ancient documents reveal that Grifola frondosa can help moisten the lungs, protect the liver and fortify the spleen. Today, thanks to scientific research, we now know and have evidence that supports this idea. This particular medicinal mushroom can be used to treat diabetes and combat a wide range of cancers. It has also been found to reduce tumors and effectively act on the skin and hematopoietic stem cells. (4)

3: A Solution For Future Pandemics

The COVID-19 global pandemic caught us all off-guard. But, medicinal mushrooms could be the answer to future epidemics and global pandemics. Paul Stamets, an American mycologist, highlighted the disease-fighting properties of a range of mushrooms in his Ted Talk, 6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save The World. Dr. Earl Ken, a smallpox expert of the U.S Defence Department, gave his analysis on mushroom strains provided by Paul Stamets and found all the plants were highly active against smallpox. Paul Stamets, encouraged by such promising results, took this medicinal mushroom experiment a step further to see how effective they would be against the flu virus. Three different strains of Agarikon mushroom were highly active against the flu virus. (5)

4: Mental Health & Shrooms

Psilocybin, a hallucinogen produced by over 100 species of mushrooms, is being considered for the treatment of a wide range of mental health conditions. From chronic depression to anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and substance abuse, health experts are carrying out in-depth research into the benefits of mushrooms for mental health. A case in 2014 found a 38-year-old male took magic mushrooms given to him by a friend, and found his symptoms of OCD, including intrusive thoughts, had significantly reduced the next day. He continued to take the mushrooms and found his symptoms eased for up to three weeks at a time. (6)

Scientists from Imperial College London Centre for Psychedelic Research carried out a study on the health benefits of mushrooms and measured participants’ mood and functioning, scoring people’s symptoms of depression based on their answers to questions about sleep, energy, appetite, mood, and suicidal thoughts. Participants given psychedelic drugs performed considerably better compared to those given an antidepressant. (7)

5: Transforming Our Ideas About Death

Healthcare is typically focused on prolonging life and preventing disease and illness, but mushrooms are helping to change our ideas about death, decay, and disease. Mushrooms naturally feed on dead leaves and plants. In fact, mushrooms can quickly destroy an entire tree. But after the tree has decomposed, it enhances the soil, helping new plants and flowers to blossom. The tree can’t move and resist this natural process, but there is no anxiety, stress, and trauma associated with this natural life cycle. So, surely our healthcare system should support patients in the same way by helping them to come to terms with their final stage in life and use mushrooms to reduce anxiety, depression, and fear.

There is growing scientific interest in the healing powers of psychedelics, and Michael Mithoefer has shown that MDMA is an effective treatment for severe P.T.S.D. Charles Grob, a psychiatrist, and researcher at Harbor-U.C.L.A Medical Center has also been administering psilocybin, an active component of magic mushrooms to end-stage cancer patients, to help reduce their fear of death. (8)

6: Fungi To Combat Climate Change

While we’ve discussed the astonishing health benefits of medicinal mushrooms, it’s also important to note how using natural medicine can help combat climate change. Fungi is an extremely valuable asset and, while tackling life-threatening diseases, could also help save the planet. Since mushrooms can break down plastic, manage wastewater and help create compost, there are clear environmental benefits to be gained too. Currently, plastic rubbish is burned, which releases dangerous substances into the atmosphere. These toxic chemicals are linked to the development of asthma, endocrine disruption, and cancer. (9)

By using mushrooms to improve air quality, we could help reduce the risk of air pollution as well as minimize plastic in the ocean. We still don’t fully understand how microplastics being consumed when eating fish and seafood can impact health. So by proactively reducing plastic pollution by using mushrooms, we can hopefully minimize or better still, prevent future health problems associated with plastic and waste. (10)

References:

1:https://holisticprimarycare.net/topics/traditions/medicinal-mushrooms-nature-s-original-smart-drugs/
2:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20926736/
3:https://fungiofegypt.com/history.html
4:https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0141813017305615
5:https://www.ted.com/talks/paul_stamets_6_ways_mushrooms_can_save_the_world?language=en#t-767896
6:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6007659/
7:https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-56745139
8. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/magazine/how-psychedelic-drugs-can-help-patients-face-death.html
9:https://repurpose.global/letstalktrash/how-does-plastic-cause-air-pollution/#:~:text=Burning%20plastic%20and%20other%20wastes,asthma%2C%20endocrine%20disruption%20and%20cancer.
10:https://stateoftheworldsfungi.org/2018/reports/SOTWFungi_2018_Full_Report.pdf