Health and Healing Benefits of Mushrooms

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Mushrooms might be used to combat extreme tiredness caused by viral infections such as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), hepatitis C, and even HIV. Scientists at the Second Annual Congress on Mushroom Nutrition at Middlesex University found that mushrooms could open new possibilities for the treatment of viral infections that are difficult to treat.

“A lot of the components that are found in mushrooms and plants, many of them are anti-viral,” said Dr Wilkinson, senior lecturer on phytochemistry and pharmacognosy at the university. “You’ve not just got one anti-viral compound, but you’ve actually got a whole complement that are all battling against viruses at the same time.”

Mushrooms have long been used in herbal medicines in China and Japan for thousands of years, and Asian mushrooms are commonly used for pain relief and in treating diseases like arthritis. Most studies on the health benefits of mushrooms for humans have focused on their immune enhancement properties. Three varieties of mushrooms are well known for their medicinal properties: Reishi, Shiitake, and Cordyceps.

Many of the compounds found in Shiitake, Reishi, Cordyceps, and some other mushrooms are classified as Host Defense Potentiators (HDP). It is believed that combinations of these products target the human immune system as well as aid in neuron transmission, metabolism, hormonal balance, and the transport of nutrients and oxygen. Through a host-mediated (T cell) immune mechanism, they help the body regulate the development of lymphoid stem cells and other important defense responses.

Reishi has also been used for thousands of years to treat allergies, arthritis, back pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, influenza, and stress. The Japanese FDA has licensed an extract from Shiitake (Lentinan) as an anti-cancer drug. Lentinan stimulates the production of T lymphocytes and natural killer cells and can potentiate the effect of AZT in the anti-viral treatment of AIDS.

Sources:

Report by Middlesex University, “Discussion on How Mushrooms Can Treat HIV.”

“Mushrooms and Health,” http://www.health.pon.net/nmh.html.

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