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                 What Are Medicinal Mushrooms?

   Until recent years, the mushrooms of North America have been largely ignored by the general public. Both the powerful fungal medicines and wild gourmet delicacies. Unknown to many, fungi have kept our species alive through all kinds of disease and biological pathogens. Probably the most significant was the discovery of PENICILLIN in 1928 by Alexander Fleming(derived from several common penicillium species), which has since saved millions of lives as our main defense against innumerable bacterial infections. Western doctors have been concentrating individual compounds from fungi, for many years(giving no credit to the fungi they are derived from), giving them attractive names.  Although this is true in the Western world; Asia, especially Japan, has been studying the effects of Reishi, Cordyceps, and Lions Mane for many years. These mushrooms were used traditionally in Asia, to heal ailments of all sorts. They didn't have internet or available peer reviewed studies to base their perception. The fact that these Fungi played an integral role in human medicine and are revered as extremely powerful natural medicines, lends support to the notion that they have some significant positive effects on human health. I mean, if something works, but you dont understand the mechanism, it still works. In North America, the pharmaceutical companies have reined supreme and people are accustomed to taking a pill to resolve a health issue. Don't get me wrong, if you have a serious health issue, sometimes you need to take pharmaceuticals to resolve the problem. 

    Here's the thing. Here's my issue with Western Medicine(not being a doctor of course): You have an issue, you go to the doctor and describe what's going on. The doctor prescribes some form of medication. You consume the pills and if they diagnosed you correctly, you may find some relief to whatever issue your suffering from. This relief is very often temporary, because the pills don't treat the disease, they mask the effects or dull the pain. The other problem is that almost all pharmaceuticals have a whole slew of Side-Effects, ranging from annoying to death. It has been described to me by several doctors, that these pharmaceuticals are either synthetically made or are derived from a natural source. They take one compound and concentrate it into pill or capsule form, because thats what Western medicine is all about, they want to see the effects of an individual compound. This is where side effects come from. By only taking 1 compound from a natural source, you lose the other natural enzymes and compounds that would be found in that naturally sourced medicine, which would help you digest the medicine properly and give you a broader spectrum of benefits. Essentially, they lose the Synergy that is found within natural sourced medicines, and this is where the side effects are coming from. By concentrating a single compound of interest, they can easily see how a particular pill will effect an individual, but they are not seeing the full picture. I believe that if people had these natural sourced medicines available, then they would digest the medicine much better, lose the side effects, and gain a broader spectrum of benefits.

Mushrooms have long been used not only as food but also for the treatment of various ailments. Although at its infancy, accumulated evidence suggested that culinary-medicinal mushrooms may play an important role in the prevention of many age-associated neurological dysfunctions, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. Therefore, efforts have been devoted to a search for more mushroom species that may improve memory and cognition functions. Such mushrooms include Hericium erinaceus, Ganoderma lucidum, Sarcodon spp., Antrodia camphorata, Pleurotus giganteus, Lignosus rhinocerotis, Grifola frondosa, and many more. Here, we review over 20 different brain-improving culinary-medicinal mushrooms and at least 80 different bioactive secondary metabolites isolated from them. The mushrooms (either extracts from basidiocarps/mycelia or isolated compounds) reduced beta amyloid-induced neurotoxicity and had anti-acetylcholinesterase, neurite outgrowth stimulation, nerve growth factor (NGF) synthesis, neuroprotective, antioxidant, and anti-(neuro)inflammatory effects. The in vitro and in vivo studies on the molecular mechanisms responsible for the bioactive effects of mushrooms are also discussed. Mushrooms can be considered as useful therapeutic agents in the management and/or treatment of neurodegeneration diseases. However, this review focuses on in vitro evidence and clinical trials with humans are needed.

Phan CW, et al. 2015. Therapeutic potential of culinary-medicinal mushrooms for the management of neurodegenerative diseases: diversity, metabolite, and mechanism. Institute of Biological Sciences, 35(3):355-68.