Medicinal Mushrooms

      Satish K. Sharma and Anil Gupta
Mycelia, the fruiting bodies of the mushrooms commonly known as fungi, their extract can be used as medicines to cure diseases.  Mushrooms are rich in protein and other nutrients and one of the best sources to utilize agro -wastes into quality foodstuff. The Mexican Indians used some mushrooms as hallucinogens in religious ceremonies, in witchcraft and for therapeutic purpose. Recently several extracts of the medicinal mushrooms are in vogue specially in Japan , China and Korea, as adjuvant to radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Mushroom cultivation is eco-friendly where agricultural wastes are utilized and recycled. Mushrooms, with their great variety of species, constitute a cost effective means for supplementing the nutrition to humankind and even as pharmaceuticals.
There are more than 100 species of higher fungi that are commonly used in traditional medicines; some of them are as under
Cordyceps sinensis : This sps of mushroom is unique fungi, feed on insects .It is a parasitic on the larva of Lepidoptera, which is used as  a tonic and tranquilizing medicine , generally treating the diseases  like tuberculosis, chronic coughing  and asthma caused by senility and night sweating.
Lentinula edodes : A renowned edible mushroom  with high nutritive value,  that activates  blood   act as  a medicinal treatments of cold, measles in children, headache, smallpox and dropsy. It is also valuable   in stimulating the immune system to increase the ability to ward off cancerous  tumour and chronic fatigue syndrome. Oxalic acid is an agent responsible for antimicrobial effect of  Lentinula edodes.
Ganoderma lucidum: Commonly known as “ling zhi” in China and Reishi in Japan  a symbol of good health longevity and even immortality , particularly known for anti cancer due to presence of polysaccharides and related substances.
Grifola frondosa: The first rank edible mushroom have  a good taste ,crisp texture and an excellent aroma used as medicines for improving spleen and stomach ailments and treating haemorrhoids. It is also effective for treating breast and colorectal cancers. The lipid fraction of Grifola frondosa exhibited antioxidant activity and inhabit tumour development.
5.Tremella fuciformis: Believed to be sweet in taste, mild and non – toxic used in the cough syrup for treating chronic tracheitis, which help to strengthen the vital internal organs like  kidney, lungs and stomach.  It is also used as immune tonic.
Poria cocos: It is considered as mild sweet and blend, used to cure edema and clear febrile illness. The polysaccharides present in this fungus exhibits strong antitumor and immunomodulatory   and antiviral activities.
There is no doubt that mushroom-based products can serve as superior dietary supplements, particularly, the Ganoderma L. products, which have been used as a dietary supplement or medicinal food in world including India and China for more than 2000 years. Recently, the products of medicinal mushrooms have been demonstrated to enhance the immune system and promote the natural defense system. They are also good for patients who have received treatment with radiotherapy or chemotherapy, as they may help to reduce the side effects from such therapies. These include
Increasing the number of leucocytes in the blood, and enhancing the immune functions (it has been known that chemotherapy treatment can markedly deplete the number of platelets in the blood and put patients at risk of excessive bruising, internal bleeding and brain haemorrhage.
Increasing and improving appetite, anti-emetic properties and inducing tumour regression.
Reducing pain and stopping hair loss.
Potential antioxidant and genoprotective properties and general health-improving effects.
The research achievements in medicinal mushroom during last three decades give the idea and assurance that mushrooms have much to offer to health care system for humans in 21st century. The complementation by mushroom nutriceuticals may enhance the success of treatment against life cure diseases which is beneficial to everyone and deserve the attention giving to the curing of diseases. Efforts concentrating to disease prevention can have positive financial and social impact, even improve the quality of life and humankind.