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Medicinal applications of (magic) mushrooms

Introduction 

 

Over the last decade, we have seen an increased interest by the public in the medicinal and therapeutic applications of mushrooms (magic mushrooms included). There is a large amount of information and research papers available where you can find all the details about mushroom applications, however this can be a bit overwhelming. To make it easier for our readers, we have compiled some brief explanations and general information about some of the favourite medicinal mushrooms. 

 

What are medicinal mushrooms?


Traditional medicinal applications of mushrooms (including magic mushrooms), have been popular for centuries and have been used by ancient civilisations such as the Incas, Native Americans, Siberian nomads, etc. However, it wasn’t until recently that the Western world has become exposed to the health benefits of multiple mushrooms. When we say medicinal, what we mean is that there is plenty therapeutic value for human health. What we mean by this is not that they will cure diseases, but that they can help in the process of recovering or staying healthy. Curiously enough, it is very common for pharmaceutical medicines and dietary supplements to contain mushrooms or some of its active compounds.

 

How do medicinal mushrooms help?

 

Well, that question is not as easy to answer as one may think. Medicinal mushrooms can help with a plethora of things. According to Dr Michele Ross, “medicinal mushrooms can act as a nootropics”. Nootropics are nutritional and medical compounds that can help enhance an individual’s cognitive function (mental processes within a person’s psyche).

Over the last decade, there has been several studies suggesting that mushrooms, like lion’s mane or reishi, have the capacity to stimulate nerve growth in the brain thanks to the compounds it contains. Nevertheless, these studies have only been carried out on rodents, so there is not enough evidence to say the same for human beings yet. Nonetheless, there are plenty of researchers/individuals that have experienced said benefits. 

You must still be wondering, what exactly makes mushrooms medicinal? Well, simply said, they contain an astounding number of nutritional and bioactive compounds: vitamins, antioxidants, aromatic terpenes, complex sugars (beta-glucans), etc. All these compounds are different and have therapeutic potential. 

 

Medicinal Mushrooms and their medical applications

 

Everyone is probably wondering, which mushrooms have medicinal properties? Well there are over 700 species that contain compounds that are beneficial to your health so it’s difficult to mention all. For this reason, we will go through the species that have the most research available.

  • Reishi

Reishi, also known as the mushroom of immortality, has been used for centuries. This species was very common in traditional Chinese medicine, due to its versatility and medicinal attributes. Reishi contains over 200 different polysaccharides, a carbohydrate that is an important source of energy in animal and human cells. Furthermore, they are rich in amino acids which help us break down food, repair body tissue and boost your immune system. It is common for contemporary doctors in China to recommend Reishi to cancer patients in order to improve immune system during radiation. In the Western world, this mushroom is being studied thoroughly for its ability to boost immune system, help with sleep and accompany cancer treatment. 

  • Lion’s Mane

This mushroom has been used for centuries in the northern hemisphere and is known for its neurological health benefits. They have two active compounds that are known to stimulate growth of new brain cells. These two compounds are known as hericenones and erinacines. Furthermore, Lion’s Mane can help improve mental endurance and focus, which can help with those suffering from chronic illness or depression.

  • Shiitake 

Historically, this mushroom was used a lot in traditional medicine in China and Japan. It was used to fight the common cold, and recent research shows that they may potentially have cholesterol suppressing potential, as well as anti-tumor potential. It contains a type of polysaccharide known as lentinan, which is already used in modern day China and Japan to help with immunotherapy. 

  • Psilocybe 

Psilocybe mushrooms are also commonly referred to as magic mushrooms. Due to its psychoactive nature, this mushroom may not have properties that stimulate immune system, heal body, etc. There is however proof of early clinical trials showing that small quantities has had success helping with depression and anxiety. This type of mushroom has less research available concerning its health benefits, but there is a clear increase in scientific research over the last decade.  

 

Summary 

 

It is clear to see that many  mushroom species have some sort of beneficial compound or active ingredient present. However, we are still in the early research phase with regards to their health benefits. Currently, most scientific research is carried out on mice/rats, and from the available studies, it is evident that many health benefits can be attributed to these mushrooms. At Mondo, we are very curious to see what kind of studies will be released over the coming decade about the health properties of mushrooms. 

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