Priti Singh, Dr. J. S. Manhas
The history of human use of plants, mushrooms and animals for their psychedelic effects is far older than written history and probably predates the appearance of the modern human species – Rick Strassman.
Mushrooms have been considered as ingredient of haute cuisine with distinctive flavor across the world and have been valued by humankind as culinary wonder. They are considered as subtle with high nutritional values and medicinal uses as antioxidant, anticancer, antidiabetic, antiallergic, immunodulating, cardiovascular protector, anticholesterolemic, antiviral, antibacterial, antiparasitic, antifungal, detoxification and hepatoprotectic effects; they also protect against tumor development and inflammatory processes.
Oxidation is essential in many living organisms for the production of energy to fuel biological processes. However, uncontrolled production of oxygen- derived free radicals results in the onset of many diseases such as cancer, rhematiod arthritis and atherosclerosis, as well as in degenerative processes associated with aging. Mushrooms contain high levels of two antioxidants- ergothioneine and glutathione that could promote good health and also lead to anti- ageing benefits.
Specific biochemical compounds in mushrooms are responsible for improving human health in many ways. These bioactive compounds include polysaccharides, tri- terpenoids, low molecular weight proteins, glycoproteins and immune modular compounds. Hence mushrooms have been shown to help balancing blood sugar, ward off viruses, bacteria and fungi and support the body’s detoxification mechanisms. Among the antioxidant agents in mushroom are selenium, vitamin C and choline. According to the National Cancer Institute, the antioxidant such as choline in mushrooms may help prevent lung, prostate, breast and other types of cancer. Though some studies suggested that consuming choline can reduce the risk of some types of cancer but other studies have indicated that it may increase the risk of prostate cancer.
Mushrooms are a great food for diabetics; they are loaded with essential nutrients, which are low on calories. Moreover, consumption of mushrooms can very well fit into a low- sugar diet without adding on to the calories. Dietary fibre may help manage a number of health conditions, including type-2 diabetes. A cup of sliced, raw mushrooms, weighing 70 grams (g), provides almost 1g of fibre. The dietary guidelines for Americans recommend that adults consume 22.4-33.6g of dietary fibre each day depending on gender and age. Also that consuming a type of fibre called beta- glucans may lower blood cholesterol levels. Beta- glucans occur in the cell walls of many types of mushrooms. The stem of the shiitake mushrooms is a good source of beta- glucans. Mushrooms are also a good source of potassium which helps regulate blood pressure, and this may decrease the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.
Moving over to the question that, can mushrooms be consumed by pregnant women? The answer is Yes! As discussed earlier, mushrooms are rich source of vitamins, fibers, protein, potassium, wide range of antioxidants and folates. Many women often take folic acid or folate supplements during pregnancy to boost fatal health. However, a pregnant woman should avoid consuming raw, uncooked mushrooms as they have carcinogens in them and avoid consuming magic mushrooms as it has chemical called psilocybin that alters brain activity.
The anti- inflammatory compounds indentified in mushrooms include polysaccardies, terpenes, phenolic acids, steroids, fatty acids and other metabolites. The concentration and efficacy of bioactive compounds are varied and depends on the type of mushroom, substrate applied, cultivation and fruiting conditions, stage of development, age of the fresh mushroom, storage conditions and processing and cooking procedures. For people suffering from arthritis or gout, Reishi mushroom extracts can be very helpful. It has also been relied on for relieving headaches. Choloform that can be extracted from G. lucidum shows significant anti- inflammatory activity. A number of studies showed that mushrooms extracts express a higher antimicrobial activity against gram positive bacteria.
The four major medicinal mushrooms are Reishi, Turkey Tail, Chaga and Lion’s Mane. Reishi mushroom carries a powerful array of immune boosting properties like many medicinal mushrooms. However what make Reishi unique are its calming properties which are caused by the compound triterpene. This amazing compound alleviates anxiety eases depression and encourages sleep. It also lowers blood pressure and encourages heart health. Turkey Tail is quickly becoming known for its anti- cancer compound known as PSK (polysaccharides-K) which has increased the survival rates of people with certain cancers and improved the immune system of people receiving chemotherapy. Chaga has the highest rate of antioxidants in nature; this makes it a powerhouse in fighting against free radicals which speed the aging process. It also provides long lasting mental clarity similar to coffee. Lion’s Mane is a powerful brain food; it actually helps the growth of bioprotein NGF (never growth factor) and mycelin which are both crucial to brain health. In fact studies have shown daily consumption of Lion’s Mane can help regenerate brain cells and improve the functioning of the hippocampus which is the region of the brain responsible for processing memories and emotional responses.
Mushrooms have a long association with humankind and provide profound biological and economic impact. From ancient times man has consumed wild mushrooms with delicacy probably for their taste and pleasing flavor. So, if you feel damp and lonely like a mushroom, find the thick, creamy soup of joyfulness and just drive into it in order to make life tastier.
Priti Singh, Dr. J. S. Manhas