Medicinal mushrooms have hit the mainstream health, wellness and culinary spheres.
This diverse group of plants – there are more than fourteen thousand varieties, of which only about three thousand are edible – are rich in a multitude of nutrients and are now accessible to us around the world.
As a whole family, mushrooms:
- Contain anti-cancer properties.
- Have immune-boosting and modulating polysaccharides called beta glucans.
- Are rich in vitamins and minerals, such as energy-enhancing B vitamins, Vitamin D, iron, copper and selenium.
- High in antioxidants, which help to combat free radical damage in the body.
- Contain additional polysaccharides that have anti-viral, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties, plus they can help to balance blood sugar levels.
- Are a source of fibre, which is beneficial to the gut, weight management and cardiovascular health.
The Long History
Our ancestors have used mushrooms as medicine for thousands of years.
Mushrooms have been used as food, medicine, poison, and spiritual mushroom practices in religious rituals across the world since at least 5,000 BC.
It’s believed that the Soma plant used in religious ceremonies, over 4,000 years ago, before the beginning of the Christian era, by the people who called themselves “Aryans” was a mushroom.
The oldest official list of 365 Chinese medicinal substances, Shennong Bencao Jing, contains the Materia Medica of TCM, dating from the 29th century BC.
The list contains several mushroom species used for medicinal purposes; especially revered was the famous Ganoderma mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum, Lingzhi, or Reishi.Ötzi, the Ice Man, who lived nearly 5,300 years ago, carried Amadou and a birch polypore tethered in a pouch to help him survive in the Alps of northern Italy.
The Greek physician Hippocrates, ca 450 BC, classified the Amadou mushroom (Fomes fomentarius) as a potent anti-inflammatory and for cauterizing wounds.
The alchemist Tao Hongjing, from the 5th century, described several medicinal mushrooms, including Ling Zhi (Ganoderma lucidum) and Zhu Ling (Dendropolyporus umbellatus), some in use reportedly by Shennong many centuries before.
First peoples of North America used puffball mushrooms (Calvatia genus) as wound healers.
Although mushrooms have long been used by various cultures, only recently has modern science rediscovered what the ancients knew long ago; that mushrooms can be deep reservoirs of powerful medicines.It wasn’t until relatively recently that medicinal mushrooms became mainstream in the West.