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Mushrooms: Beyond the Folklore

When you think of mushrooms, does your mind wander to fairy rings and mystical tales promoted through books and movies? Such mythical wonders may be popular entertainment, but did you know that mushrooms have been used for medicinal purposes for many centuries in China, Europe, and even North America? However, only recently has modern medicine begun to realize the amazing health benefits that are derived from these mysterious fungi.

Over 2000 species of edible mushrooms exist today. Recent research suggests that well over 200 species may contain therapeutic properties for a variety of conditions such as autoimmune diseases, liver conditions, and digestive health issues.

Medicinal mushrooms produce compounds that prohibit the growth of competitive organisms. This defensive mechanism can be beneficial to the human body in warding off viruses, bacterial infections, and candida. These compounds – polysaccharides – help to regulate the inflammatory immune response for individuals with a compromised immune system. Many medicinal mushrooms contain powerful antioxidants that have been found to neutralize free radicals in the body. In addition, certain mushrooms boost the immune system by increasing white blood cell and killer T cell production.

Mushrooms may also be beneficial in managing blood sugar levels. A study published in the journal Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin found that a Cordyceps polysaccharide showed “potent hypoglycemic activity in genetic diabetic mice,” while “plasma glucose level was quickly reduced in normal and diabetic mice.” The study also found that this same polysaccharide also contributed to lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels. In another study, Cordyceps was shown to significantly reduce blood glucose levels, lower kidney breakdown markers, and preserve renal function in mice.

Cordyceps has also been shown to dilate the aorta, which is the main artery in the circulatory system that supplies oxygenated blood to your body. Why is this important? Increasing blood flow can greatly increase endurance during exercise. In addition, Cordyceps can stimulate the production of ATP, which is one of the main sources of energy in your body. A Japanese study has shown that supplementation with Cordyceps improved stamina in athletic performance of long-distance runners.

One mushroom that has a long history of medicinal use is Lion’s Mane. It has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Compounds in Lion’s Mane have been shown to activate a very important peptide known as “nerve growth factor”, which is necessary for growth, maintenance, and survival of the neurons in your brain. These compounds stimulate the neurons to regrow, which helps to keep your neurons healthy and maintain electrical impulses across the synapses of the central nervous system.

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and short-term memory loss are all too common conditions that affect the elderly. And both appear to be supported by consuming Lion’s Mane, which has been shown to help prevent the breakdown of spatial short-term and visual recognition memory, as well as delay the onset of cognitive dysfunction.

Now that you know that medicinal mushrooms provide health benefits in multiple ways, you may be wondering if and how they might benefit you or your loved ones. If you plan to take a mushroom supplement, it is important to look for a manufacturer that offers 100% natural organic extracts and supplements.

Craig Tyndall is father of 9 and grandfather to 5. He holds a BS degree in Environmental Science and minor in Chemistry. He is also co-founder and owner of Old Paths Natural Market in Central, LA.

The statements presented in this article should not be considered medical advice or a way to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of a medical professional before adding a dietary supplement (or removing one from) your daily regimen.

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