Medicine Mushrooms – Mushrooms as medicine

It is important for herbalists to keep on top of new research and developments in the field of herbal medicine as our learning and development never ends! I was fortunate enough to secure a place on a recent seminar given by the wonderful Martin Powell, the leading expert on medicinal mushrooms and author of Medicinal Mushrooms – A Clinical Guide. The sharing of clinical practice and experience in seminars is both useful and interesting, for example the reported benefits of Lions Mane (Hericium erinaceus) for menopausal hot flushes amongst menopausal patients seeking treatment for other ailments. It seems that the cessation of hot flashes was a welcome effect of taking this mushroom, although not the intention of treatment. I am keen to experiment with this with my patients seeking herbal support for hot flashes! It should come as no surprise that mushrooms have amazing medicinal properties when you consider that we are closely related to fungi in evolutionary terms! Some pharmaceutical drugs have their origins in fungi, such as anti-microbial Penicillins, some Statins and immune suppressants. In addition to their own chemical compounds, fungi competes with other fungi and in this way they can be used to treat conditions such as candida. Further, mushrooms do not contain sugars or starches that stimulate the growth of candida. Coriolus is a good mushroom to treat candida, especially combined with other herbal remedies. Lentinula and Trametes versicolor have also been shown to be effective. Mushrooms have a range of beneficial effects and significant research suggests effectiveness support of cancer treatment. Mushrooms contain polysaccharides which prevent oncogenesis or the formation of cancer; prevent tumour metastasis and display anti-tumour activity. Whilst herbalists cannot treat cancer, herbs and medicinal mushrooms can help the patient pre, during and post treatment. Research suggests that side effects of chemotherapy can be mitigated by the use of some mushrooms, and efficacy of chemotherapy increased. Indeed, one mushroom, Chaga, is credited with curing Solzhenitzen of cancer. Chaga has also proved effective in the treatment of psoriasis. This may be due to the high content of Betulinic acid, amongst other active chemical compounds. Betulinic acid also has anti-malarial and anti-inflammatory properties. The anti-inflammatory properties of mushrooms, for example Phellinus linteus and Ganoderma lucidum may help in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. For gut health, mushrooms also display prebiotic effects. Trametes versicolor is particularly indicated for this use and also to correct auto-immune imbalances. Mushrooms also display hepatoprotective effects, or protection of the liver. Thus, hepatitis may respond to the use of mushrooms as medicine, including Cordyceps, Maitake, Shiitake and Reishi. There is evidence to suggest effectiveness of mushrooms in boosting immunity, fertility and energy levels. For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Trametes versicolor is well used. The above is a very brief outline of just a few medicinal uses of mushrooms. Mushrooms can be included easily in diet, but for medicinal use it is worth consulting a qualified medical herbalist who can advise upon dosage and any potential drug/herb interactions. MycoNutri provide a range of medicinal mushrooms in supplement form available from Consult a Medical Herbalist prior to taking supplements. For fresh or dried mushrooms, The Mushroom Table: and Livesey Brothers are great supplies.