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2. Agaricus blazei

Stengler ND, Mark Basic Health Publications ePub

2

Agaricus blazei

Unlike the other mushrooms covered in this book, A. blazei was never used in East Asian herbalism. Instead, it has an extensive history of use as a folk remedy in Brazil. Because this mushroom was heralded by villagers as a longevity tonic, researchers were spurred to take a closer look. This species contains a unique beta-glucan complex that appears to activate many components of the immune system including T lymphocytes, granulocytes, and C3 complement. Animal studies have demonstrated anticancer and antitumor properties. One study also found that A. blazei induced apoptosis (self destruction) of malignant cells.

A. blazei has also generated considerable excitement, as some scientists believe it contains the highest levels of beta-glucans among medicinal mushrooms. Although animal and in vitro studies are quite positive, there is a need for more human data.

Minimum potency to look for in Agaricus blazei.

Known active constituents: polysaccharides, ergosterols

Clinical Use: Immune modulation, especially in regards to cancer.

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5. Maitake

Stengler ND, Mark Basic Health Publications ePub

5

Maitake

Maitake is one of the best studied mushroom extracts. Indigenous to Northern Japan, maitake has a long history as a valued mushroom, both as a food and as a medicine. Maitake is translated in Japanese as “dancing mushroom.” Historical accounts explain the origin of the name, as people would dance with joy when they found maitake because it was so valuable and costly or because maitake is so delicious and healthful. Another explanation is that the fruiting bodies of clustered maitake overlap one another and resemble butterflies in a wild dance.

The Japanese have long used maitake as an adaptogen, a nutrient that helps to balance the various systems and functions of the body.

Evolution of Maitake

In the early 1980s, Dr. Hiroaki Nanba, a professor of microbiology and an expert mycologist at Kobe Pharmaceutical University, was intensively studying the medicinal properties of various mushrooms. During this time, much of his attention was devoted to the popular shiitake mushroom. However, his research showed him that maitake had a unique molecular structure that exhibited greater antitumor activity than other mushroom extracts he had been working with. Maitake, he discovered, also was unique when given orally. In 1984, Dr. Nanba discovered an important maitake fraction (or specialized component) that stimulated macrophages. Through a special extraction method, these maitake fractions were isolated. It was now possible to produce a standardized form of specific beta-glucan polysaccharides—beta-1,6 glucan and beta-1,3 glucan. Later in his research, Dr. Nanba patented what is known as MaitakeGold 404®.

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6. Reishi

Stengler ND, Mark Basic Health Publications ePub

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Reishi

The reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is one of the most revered herbs in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine, with a documented history of over 2,000 years. Known as Ling Zhi in China, there are references to its use in that country as far back as 100 B.C. where it was referred to as the “Herb of Spiritual Potency” and the “Ten-Thousand-Year Mushroom.”

Reishi is one of the most highly regarded medicinal mushrooms and is probably the best choice when looking for a general health tonic to improve overall health and increase longevity. It is considered an adaptogen.

Modern clinical research also supports many of the uses for this mushroom as described in traditional medicine. It benefits immune health, cardiovascular health, and liver function. Reishi is also frequently used by mountain climbers to combat altitude sickness and is contained in many of the performance-enhancing herbal formulas used by Chinese athletes.

The fruiting bodies of reishi range from a reddish-orange to an almost black color. The fruiting body also has a shiny look to it (lucidum translates to “shiny”). Reishi is extremely difficult to find in the wild but is successfully cultivated for commercial purposes.

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1. The Nature of Mushrooms

Stengler ND, Mark Basic Health Publications ePub

1

The Nature of Mushrooms

Fungi are an essential part of a sustainable world. They are involved in the decaying and recycling of matter into the nutrients that animals and plants feed on. Medicinal mushrooms in particular help to purify the environment by decomposing dead trees and plants. For humans, there are approximately 700 species that can be eaten as a nutritious food. And, of course, medicinal mushrooms provide a wide variety of health benefits that can contribute to the prevention and treatment of disease.

What is commonly referred to as a “mushroom” is also called the fruit body. This is the part of the fungus that grows above ground, with the sole purpose of releasing spores (seeds) as part of the reproduction cycle. Some fungi do not produce mushrooms and release their spores without a fruiting body.

The spores of fungi are transported by wind and water to a favorable environment where the spores can germinate and generate a new colony. The new colony begins with the thread-like filaments called “hyphae” that emerge from the germinated spores. The original hyphae continue to grow, seeking another compatible hyphae to mate with. After mating, the hyphae branch out in all directions, colonizing the surrounding soil or decaying tree. This weblike collection of interconnected hyphae is then referred to as the “mycelium.”

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7. Shiitake

Stengler ND, Mark Basic Health Publications ePub

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Shiitake

Shiitake (Lentinula Edodes) is regarded as a gourmet food in the West, while in Japan and China shiitake is known to be a valuable food and medicinal agent. Its name comes from the Japanese chestnut tree, shiia, and the Japanese word for mushroom, take. It is also referred to as the “fragrant mushroom” or the “forest mushroom.”

This mushroom is indigenous to Japan, China, and other areas of Asia. It is not found in the wild in America but is cultivated for commercial use. Shiitake is the second most common edible mushroom in the world. The fungi is found on dead and injured hardwood trees, including the chestnut tree, hence the prefix shiia. Shiitake has a medicinal history of more than 1,000 years and was revered by Japanese emperors. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat colds, flu, and cardiovascular disease.

Shiitake is used medicinally in two forms in Asia and around the world. This includes lentinan, a purified polysaccharide extracted from the cell wall of the Shiitake fruiting body. The second extract is known as Lentinula edodes mycelium extract, better known as LEM. Both extracts have been shown to enhance immune activity. Both forms have been shown to have a beneficial effect orally but the majority of published data on lentinan has been with the injectable or intravenous forms.

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