Medicinal mushrooms are one of the oldest, most traditional natural remedies that exist and have been used in Asia for thousands of years prophylactically and therapeutically with great success.
The term ‘edible mushroom’ may be a little confusing here, however, in principle it is a synonym for ‘medicinal mushrooms’ and which resulted not least from senseless legislation within the EU despite vast amounts of representative studies which have not only proven vitalisation but even healing in a number of still very serious diseases which have been classified as ‘incurable’ by conventional medicine (you can read more about this under ‘Studies’ for the respective sub-points of the individual mushrooms).
The most well-known representatives of edible and medicinal mushrooms include, without a doubt, Reishi, Shiitake and Maitake. Shiitake in particular is extremely well-known and popular thanks to its properties as a delicious delicacy.
Reishi, on the other hand, is rarely seen on a gourmet cook’s menu; it has a tougher, harder consistency. The Reishi Ling-Zhi on the other hand has really had to earn its fame and renown solely due to its excellent vitalising and healing properties.
Rightly idolised in Asia and honoured as a ‘divine mushroom of immortality’, ‘holy mushroom’, ‘fountain of youth’, ‘herb with spiritual power’, ‘phantom plant’ or ‘luck mushroom’, it has been hinted at in traditional Asian medicine for more than 4000 years for its great merits. Thus, the Reishi mushroom is ahead of Ginseng in herbal books, in 1st place among the 120 most popular medicinal herbs.
However, it would be unfair and contrary to the objective to simply give a brief nod to other medicinal mushrooms – quite the opposite, the traditional and extremely successful therapy with medicinal mushrooms thrives on the diversity of health benefits offered by different medicinal mushrooms.
Yet, what makes these medicinal and edible mushrooms so unique and at the same time valuable? It is the perfect combination of highly nutritionally valuable biological ingredients such as glucans, polysaccharides, vitamins, minerals and secondary plant substances which supply the body with energy, boost its self-healing powers and have even been proven in studies to have a positive effect on serious diseases such as cancer, AIDS, diabetes, arteriosclerosis (see respective sub-points under ‘Studies’). The following section concerns the properties and health benefits as well as the use of probably the six most important medicinal/edible mushrooms, and will introduce you in more detail to the highly interesting and optimistic topic of medicinal mushroom therapy in an understandable manner. Furthermore, diseases will be referred to where medicinal mushrooms have demonstrated an explicitly positive effect in studies.
Active agents and effects of medicinal and edible mushrooms:
In addition to vitamins, minerals and trace elements, medicinal mushrooms specifically contain the following active agents:
Medically active medicinal mushroom substances
- Polysaccharide (beta-glucan)
- Di- and triterpene
- Phenolic derivate
- Fatty acids
- Organic germanium
- Vanadium and other directly active antibiotic substances.
The general medically significant effect of medicinal mushrooms is described as
- an antioxidant
- platelet aggregation inhibiting
- thrombin inhibiting
- arteriosclerosis inhibiting
- liver protective
- and adaptogenic.
The use and consumption of edible and medicinal mushrooms
As you will find out in the following points regarding individual edible and medicinal mushrooms, all of the six medicinal mushrooms has its own focus where the prevention or treatment of diseases and medical conditions are concerned. Therefore, it is recommended in the event of disease that you select the mushroom which has proven itself where the respective disease is concerned (you can find the relevant studies on the following pages). For prophylaxis and disease prevention, a combination of the six mushrooms is ideal, unless they prevent a disease you have already overcome and which you wish to prevent from recurring with medicinal mushrooms. In this case you should use the medicinal mushroom proven in studies to have an effect on the respective disease.
Mushroom powder or mushroom extract?
As mushrooms are not only available in their whole form but also as powders and extracts, it seems pertinent to clarify this question next.
Whether loose or in a capsule, mushroom powder contains the entire dried mushroom in powder form. All the components and active agents are in effect here, just as with the entire mushroom. Many providers also mix several mushrooms together into a powder.
Mushroom extract is manufactured using expensive extraction techniques; all the non-water soluble components are washed out during this process in order to retain the effective polysaccharides in a highly concentrated form. Approximately 20 times the concentration of these active substances can be obtained in comparison to the entire mushroom or the powder. Accordingly, these extracts are more expensive but generally more effective.
In general, we can say that powder can be taken for preventative purposes, however, in order to combat a disease or a malicious disease it makes a lot of sense to choose mushroom extract, possibly in combination with mushroom powder.
Medicinal mushroom treatments
Regular treatments with medical mushrooms can strengthen the immune system, prevent diseases, detoxify and promote energy and well-being. All of the medicinal or edible mushrooms discussed hereafter are extremely well suited to being combined for this purpose!
Dr. Jürgen Weihofen, author of the book ‘Heilpilze – Ling Zhi, Shiitake & Co schützen das Immunsystem’ (‘Medicinal Mushrooms – Lingzhi, Shiitake & Co Protect the Immune System’) recommends, for example, starting every day with a level teaspoon of Reishi mushroom meal, regularly seasoning meals with Shiitake or adding them to the meal plan and ending the day with a capsule of Maitake and/or bearded tooth mushrooms. In addition to this, a one to six week intensive treatment is ideal during spring and autumn.