It’s the beginning of mushroom season, when wild mushrooms like morels and field mushrooms make a bold appearance in markets, and you may be wondering how to make the most of them. The topic of mushrooms can be mysterious, so I’ll shed some light on this shade-loving fungus and clue you in on three anti-aging mushrooms that will boost your health and longevity!
Plant? Animal? Neither! Mushrooms are the fleshy, fruiting body of a fungus. They often live on or around dead trees and help decompose plant matter. There are over 700 edible mushrooms in the world right now, out of an astounding 100,000 varieties. Mushrooms have been used for thousands of years in traditional Asian medicine, and were even mentioned in some of the original herbal medicine books. In China, this flowering fungus is a respected symbol of longevity and wisdom, and scientists today are beginning to find out why: many edible mushrooms are potent disease fighters that target malignant or cancerous cells while protecting and even supporting the healthy cells that are already in your body. Quite a friend to have on your side! Want to know more? Check out the mushrooms entry in The Natural Health Dictionary.
Remember: Have fungi, but be safe. When trying a new mushroom, it best to eat only a bite or two the first time, as even commonly cultivated mushrooms may adversely affect some people. Do not go hunting for wild mushrooms without an experienced mushroom expert, because there are many more poisonous varieties than edible ones.
These are some of the most commonly found mushrooms, as scientists and ancient agriculturalists have learned how to cultivate them on their own. This little mushroom is packed with coumarin (a naturally occurring chemical compound), and sterols (a group of chemical compounds like cholesterol), in addition to essential vitamins and minerals that enhance immune functions. Shiitake has been used in traditional medicines for thousands of years, and is often prescribed to prevent tumor development and the growth of cancer cells, to treat chronic fatigue syndrome, as an antiviral, as an antibacterial that combats candida yeast and many strep and staph bacteria, and more generally as an overall health tonic.
Immunity Soup Bonus: An easy way to eat this mushroom year-round is to cook up a broth of cabbage, carrots, fresh ginger, onion, oregano, shiitake mushrooms (if dried, they must be soaked first), any kind of seaweed, and any type of squash in chicken or vegetable stock and simmer for 30 minutes.
Also known as ganoderma, these have been a staple in Chinese herbal medicine for at least 4,000 years. Their name in Chinese literally translates to “spiritual potency” and they are frequently referred to as the “herb of immortality.” Some ancient Chinese even believed that reishi could bring the dead back to life.
Reishi have a number of health benefits, which explains why they are often used as a general health tonic. Specifically, reishi are known to be antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antiparasitic, and anti-tumor. Reishi stabilizes blood pressure, protects the liver, and supports general immune resistance. This means that reishi is particularly useful for individuals with compromised immune systems—like chemotherapy and HIV patients. This type of mushroom is also beneficial for people with cardiovascular disease because it inhibits platelet aggregation. Learn more about this age-old mushroom in a video!
These mushrooms are commonly referred to as “Hen of the Woods” because of their resemblance to the tail feathers of a nesting hen. Although few Westerners beyond serious mushroom connoisseurs are familiar with this fungus, it has a potent reputation in the East. In fact, those seeking to balance their bodies and super-charge their immunity often consume maitake on a daily basis; it may provide the greatest immune-boost of all mushroom!
In addition to being known to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke, maitake is often used in immunotherapy to complement surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy, where patient response rates have been seen to improve up to 28 percent. Clinical research has shown that compounds found within maitake benefit people with a multitude of cancers—including brain, lung, and liver—and have shown particular promise as a supplement to HIV therapy.
Mushrooms like these often make an appearance in soups, stews, sautés, and stir-frys. They also make a flavorful immunity-enhancing tea. Simmer maitake, reishi, and shiitake together and drink to your health! Fresh shiitake is fairly easy to come by in most health food markets. You can sometimes find fresh maitake mushrooms from gourmet food sellers and some outdoor markets in season. All three of these mushrooms can also be purchased dried from Asian markets, specialty and gourmet food stores, and health food stores. When you buy dried, all you have to do is rehydrate in water.
Much of this mushroom info comes from The Natural Health Dictionary, a comprehensive guide that answers all your questions about natural remedies, healing herbs, longevity foods, vitamins, and supplements. Also, you can find more ways to live a long and healthy life in Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to Be 100, which is now available on Kindle.
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May you live long, live strong, and live happy all year long!
This blog is meant to educate, but it should not be used as a substitute for personal medical advice. The reader should consult his or her physician or clinician for specific information concerning specific medical conditions. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that all information presented is accurate, as research and development in the medical field is ongoing, it is possible that new findings may supersede some data presented.
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