Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Eat Mushrooms, Stay HEALTHY

Mushrooms are gaining importance as health food and source of valuable medicines. It is estimated that there are 100,000 different kinds of mushrooms, of which 700 can be used as food.

They are rich in minerals, vitamin D (ergosterol), thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), dietary fibre as well as all the essential amino acids and are low in fat and calories.

Approximately 200 species appear to have medicinal value, each with its own unique chemistry.

Extensive research on medicinal mushrooms has been going on since the past 20 years in many countries. There are many plants that act as adaptogens (also known as biological response modifiers) to assist the body in adapting to environmental and psychological stress. All the important systems of the body including the nervrous, endocrine, adrenal, and immune systems benefit from adaptogens by increasing or decreasing their function as needed.

Studies suggest that mushrooms are pro-biotic. They keep our body healthy and ward off diseases by maintaining physiological homeostasis. The compounds they contain have been classified as Host Defence Potentiators (HDP), which enhances the immune system. Researches also show that there are thousands of semi essential, non-vitamin factors in mushrooms that protect the body against many diseases including cancer.

Medicinal mushrooms such as Reishi, Shiitake and Maitake enhances immune function by stimulating cell-mediated immunity. Such mushrooms seem to turn on cells in the immune system called T-cells that appear to have significant cancer-fighting properties. Three different anticancer drugs extracted from mushrooms have been approved by the Japanese Health and Welfare Ministry. They are Lentinan, derived from Shiitake, Schizophyllan, derived from Suehirotake and PSK, derived from Kawaratake. PSK sold in Europe and Japan, is the best-selling cancer drug in the world. In Japan, only 30 percent of cancer treatment includes radiation, chemotherapy and surgery.

Maitake (Grifola frondosa) is a mushroom highly regarded in Japan for its medicinal and culinary properties. The studies show that the extracts from Maitake protect against hepatitis, tumours, and are effective in regulating blood presure, blood sugar, cholesterol and obesity. A polysaccharide known as beta-glucan, which activates immune cells, is believed to be largely responsible for Maitake's anti-tumour effects. Japanese physicians are using a Maitake extract for tumour inhibition, potentiating shark cartilage supplements, inhibition of cancer metastasis (cancer spreading), cancer prevention, and reversing HIV positive status to HIV negative. Cancer Treatment Centres of America, with hospitals in Chicago, Los Angeles and Tulsa, Okla, is now undertaking clinical double-blind placebo tests using Maitake D-fraction combined with chemotherapy in patients with advanced colorectal cancer. Data collected from 250 cancer patients indicate that side effects from chemotherapy, such as nausea and hair loss, are significantly reduced by it Maitake is also showing promising results with the HIV virus.

Reishi (ganoderma Lucidium) meets all the qualifications of being both a tonic and an adaptogen. A tonic strengthens and invigorates organs, and an adaptogen helps the body adapt to stress by readjusting to altered body conditions. In China, many pharmacological, chemical and biochemical studies have been conducted with Reishi. Reishi appears to strengthen the immune system and improve overall healthe. Specifically, it improves or prevents a variety of diseases and conditions including viral hepatitis, allergies, insomnia, neurasthenia (fatigue due to exhaustion of the nervous system) as well as some types of cancer. Reishi has also been clinically demonstrated to alleviate high blood pressure in humans. Reishi is rich in active organic compounds such as polysaccharides, amino acids, proteins, triterpenes, ascorbic acid, sterols, lipids, alkaloids, glucose, courmarine glycoside, volatile oil, riboflavin and more. These compounds are being studies for their positive effects on the immune system, including anti-tumor activity. Reishi is used as a daily tonic to maintain and improve good health increasing longevity, in the treatment of cancer and resistance to and recovery from diseases.

The shitake mushroom (Lentinus Edodes) is closely related to Reishi. Shitake is Japan's largest agricultural export and is now the most popular and most cultivated exotic mushroom in teh world. In China, Shitake has a history that dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D). The mushroom was used not only as a food but was taken as a remedy for upper respiratory diseases, poor blood circulation, liver trouble, exhaustion and weakness and to boost chi, or life energy. It was also believed to prevent premature aging.

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