Medicinal Mushrooms – What Are Those?

Chaga mushroomsWhen old bread grows fungus on it, many of us have laughingly said that a bit of penicillin isn’t going to harm us; and chopping off the offending portion we have proceeded to make toast and eat it! Now we hear a lot about medicinal mushrooms and their curative properties that can assist in a lot of different ailments.

Medicinal mushrooms are those mushrooms that are used for medical practice as, or in a number of different palliatives. While in traditional forms of medicine, different varieties of mushrooms have long held pride of place, medical researchers and ethnobotanists have now an increased interest it the curative properties of mushrooms.

In fact the properties that make mushrooms inhibit growth of certain tumors and enhance immunity have fascinated researchers for the past 50 years now.

Enoki, King Oyster mushrooms, and Shiitake are just some of the varieties of mushrooms that are said to have medicinal properties. Chaga mushrooms have long been used in places such as Russia for their therapeutic properties.

In fact it is thought that as many as 200 varieties of mushrooms could have their anti tumor properties, though their direct effect on humans is not fully understood particularly with regard to toxic aspects of certain mushrooms and the dosage in which they should be administered for optimum medical use.

What specific variety will cure what specific ailment is not yet established, however medicinal mushrooms and their possible use in pharmaceuticals is significant for the following reasons:

  • Apart from penicillin, research with fungi of different kinds has led to the development of pharmaceuticals such as cyclosporin, griseofulvin, cephalosporin, and ergometrine.
  • Statins, which are a class of drugs that lower cholesterol levels in people, were developed due to research that was done in the field of fungi and mushrooms. Lovastatin, which is one kind of drug from this group of statin drugs, is something that occurs naturally in Oyster mushrooms.
  • It is also known that mushrooms, when exposed to sunlight are able to produce significant amounts of Vitamin D.
  • Some types of mushrooms could possibly a source of taxol, which is a mitotic inhibitor used in cancer chemotherapy.
  • Certain compounds found in medicinal mushrooms are seen to improve the immune system.
  • Mushrooms have also been seen to help in the production of certain human hormones.
  • Certain mushrooms are also seen to have anti fungal, anti bacterial and anti viral properties.