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Mushrooms are as mysterious as they are interesting. Mycology seems to have an enormous quantity of knowledge to study, numerous side paths to take, and more unsolved issues than there are ones that have been addressed.

Although the study of fungi has been labeled as one of the "final frontiers" of biology by the scientific world, we do know that mushrooms can be a useful addition to our home apothecaries and wellness regimens.

You may already be familiar with some of these crucial mushrooms, but we hope that after reading this article you will feel more prepared and secure using them in your cooking, home apothecary, and herbal medicines.

In the modern world, mushrooms are used for a variety of purposes, including providing our bodies with nutrition and wellness support. We'll go over 5 key mushrooms that are perfect for the home pharmacy in the paragraphs below.

1. Fruiting body of maitake (Grifola frondosa)

The common name of the maitake mushroom, the dancing mushroom, is derived from the Japanese words for "dance" (mai) and "mushroom" (take). There are contrasting explanations for the name's origin, but one claims that people who discovered this fungus in the wild would spontaneously dance for delight. This could be because this mushroom was so highly valued that it was worth its own weight in silver coins!

Like other immune-stimulating mushrooms, maitake excels at controlling immunological response. Maitake contains beta-glucan polysaccharides, often known as "D-fraction," which have been the subject of substantial investigation for use in a variety of immunological diseases.

Although these effects have not been proven through clinical research, maitake is also of importance for cardiovascular and metabolic health since it may have hypoglycemic and hypotensive activity, help regulate blood cholesterol levels, and aid in weight loss. In one clinical trial, maitake polysaccharide extract was discovered to improve insulin sensitivity and induce ovulation in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome, and preclinical studies have suggested that it may be especially helpful to restore insulin sensitivity and regulate blood glucose in people with type 2 diabetes (Chen et al., 2010).

Maitake may reduce blood sugar levels and may work in conjunction with oral hypoglycemic medications (Brinker, 2010). Three to seven grams of the dried mushroom can be used each day when making a decoction of maitake. It is also possible to utilize fresh or dried mushrooms in cooking; they are regarded as great culinary mushrooms due to their rich, buttery flavor and meaty texture. The best method to take advantage of maitake's qualities is to include it in your diet!

2. The fruiting body of Lion's Mane (Hericium erinaceus).

The name "lion's mane" and other names like "satyr's beard" and "pom pom mushroom" are among the easily recognizable toothed mushrooms. Although none of the Hericium species are particularly widespread in the US, there are a handful with a similar look. The most popular and extensively researched species, H. erinaceus, is used most frequently in herbalism.

The primary use of lion's mane is as a trophorestative or tonic for the neurological system. Its usage in neurodegenerative diseases with an inflammatory component, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, may be due in part to the fact that it shares the immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties of other mushrooms used in herbal medicine.

In Chinese medicine, lion's mane is used to help the digestive system and is thought to enhance the stomach and spleen. According to laboratory research, polysaccharide-rich extracts like those from lion's mane protect against gastric ulcers, maintain the health of the gastrointestinal mucosa, and may even help eradicate the Helicobacter pylori bacterium (He et al., 2017).

Last but not least, it is customary to pacify the shen, or spirit, with lion's mane. Shen-calming herbs often aid with anxiety, sadness, and other similar mood disorders and have a subtly uplifting quality. This is consistent with clinical data suggesting lion's mane can improve mental focus and reduce depression and anxiety without having an overstimulating effect (Nagano et al., 2010).

Use 3–5 grams of the dried fruiting body to produce a lion's mane decoction. Moreover, it is a delectable food that is frequently called "crabmeat of the woods"

3. The fruiting body of the turkey tail (Trametes versicolor).

Turkey tail is a widespread and practical mushroom that is rather simple to locate and identify. All you need to do is keep an eye out for fan-shaped clusters with concentric bands of various colors that are frequently discovered on dying or dead hardwood trees, logs, and stumps throughout the wet season. Turkey tail can easily be processed into a decoction with a neutral flavor or used to nutritious broths and flavorful soups because it dries up nicely.

The immunomodulatory polysaccharides found in turkey tail are best known for their ability to stimulate innate immune response. It has been demonstrated to be especially beneficial for cancer patients, helping to protect against the negative effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, as well as for those with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)/myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), by improving quality of life (Powell, 2014).

When infections and inflammation are prevalent in the digestive, urinary, and respiratory systems, Chinese medicine practitioners occasionally employ turkey tail (Rogers, 2011). Herpes simplex virus outbreaks may also be prevented by it by enhancing immune response and preventing viral activity (Powell, 2014).

The prebiotic action of turkey tail mushrooms, which has positive effects on metabolism, immunity, digestive function, and cardiovascular health, is also utilized to support gut health (Pallav et al., 2014).

As a general precaution, people using immunosuppressive medications ought to take turkey tail under the direction of a skilled medical professional (Brinker, 2010).

Turkey tail can be used to treat acute conditions by making a decoction from 3-6 g of dried mushrooms each day, and to treat tonic or chronic disorders by using 1-2 g each day (Powell, 2014).

4. Fruiting body of Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)

Richly colored Reishi mushrooms have a glossy, lacquered appearance when they're moist. Seeing these gleaming shelf mushrooms while walking through a foggy woodland on a rainy autumn afternoon may certainly cheer you up!

In its purest definition, the term "reishi" solely refers to red reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), a single species of mushroom that is unique to Northern Europe and some regions of China. However, there are a number of Ganoderma species that are collectively referred to as "reishi," and which are used interchangeably in both Chinese and Western herbal practices as well as in commerce.

It has been discovered that a number of Ganoderma species, including Oregon reishi (G. oregonense), artist's conk or white reishi (G. applanatum), and hemlock reishi (G. tsugae), contain ganoderic acids, other significant terpenoids, immune-active polysaccharides, glucans, and other branched-chain polysaccharides very similar to those found in Ganoderma (Sitkoff, 2015). Reishi is often utilized in both Chinese and Western herbalism as an auxiliary support during cancer therapy because of the vast research on its effects on cancer. Compounds in reishi may directly kill cancer cells and stop tumor development and spread in addition to promoting the innate immune response.

In Chinese medicine, red reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is traditionally used as a longevity tonic; among other benefits, it is used to uplift the spirit, strengthen the Heart, tonify qi, and nourish the Blood (Powell, 2014). Many Western herbalists associate these benefits with boosting mood, vigor, and immune system performance. The use of reishi as an adaptogen in Western herbalism to support the neurological and endocrine systems' functionality and control the body's reaction to stress is consistent with these activities.

Also utilized as a lungs tonic, reishi (Ganoderma spp.) may provide support for people suffering from bronchitis, asthma, and other respiratory illnesses. It contains terpenoid compounds that inhibit histamine release, and immune-modulating polysaccharides can help to rebalance the underlying immune reactivity that causes mast cell activation and promotes allergic response. As a result, it is frequently recommended for use in managing allergies and allergy-induced asthma. White reishi (Ganoderma applanatum), commonly known as artist's conk, is believed to have the most specialized impact on the Lung in Chinese medicine (Hobbs, 1996; Sitkoff, 2015).

Although this may fluctuate significantly between various species, reishi is generally thought to be energetically drying and neutral in temperature (neither warm nor chilly).

Those who take immunosuppressive, anticoagulant, or antiplatelet drugs should use reishi with caution (Gardner & McGuffin, 2013). You can use a daily decoction made from 3–12 g of dried mushrooms. While using reishi tincture, use 4-8 mL (1:5, 30%) three times a day (Winston & Kuhn, 2008).

Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris) (Cordyceps militaris). David Evans' photograph "Scarlet Caterpillarclub - Fungi" is available at - Scarlet Caterpillarclub - Fungi.jpg. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 (CC BY 2.0)

5. Fruiting body of Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris)

The entomopathogenic fungus cordyceps, sometimes humorously referred to as "ant zombie fungus," lives by parasitizing the bodies of insects. Mycelia eventually fill the insect's body when cordyceps spores settle in their caterpillar host, and the club-shaped mushroom eventually emerges from the head to release spores and complete its life cycle. wonderful, isn't it?

The Cordyceps and Ophiocordyceps families have hundreds of species; Ophiocordyceps sinensis, formerly known as Cordyceps sinensis, is the species listed in the official Chinese pharmacopeia, however Cordyceps militaris is sometimes used interchangeably. Both species have been successfully farmed and bred for use in industrial-scale mushroom extracts.

Cordyceps are considered to have neutral energetics and a sweet flavor in Chinese medicine. It is utilized to stop bleeding, replenish the kidney, calm the lung, and get rid of phlegm. In addition to being utilized as an immunomodulator, cordyceps is frequently used to treat chronic fatigue, speed up the healing process after sickness, and enhance respiratory, kidney, and sexual health (Hobbs, 1996; Lin & Li, 2011).

The effects that Western herbalism associates with sexual function, energy, or vitality are related to the usage of cordyceps in Chinese medicine as a kidney tonic. Although cordyceps is occasionally praised as a "aphrodisiac" or sexual tonic and can be effective in treating low libido and other sexual dysfunction concerns, its benefits may actually have more to do with boosting energy and vitality than with actual changes in sex hormones.

It has been shown that cordyceps increases cellular energy generation, fatigue resistance, and aerobic capacity. It also lowers the quantity of oxygen required to power the heart (Winston & Maimes, 2007). In cases of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it has been utilized to support respiratory function. The use of cordyceps extracts in the treatment of COPD has shown promise in numerous clinical studies, with improvements in lung function, arterial oxygen saturation, exercise tolerance, and quality of life (Yu et al., 2019).

The kidneys are supported and safeguarded by the usage of cordyceps. The use of cordyceps for people with chronic renal disease, kidney failure, and kidney transplant has been studied in a number of clinical trials. Studies showed that using cordyceps improved renal function, decreased liver damage, decreased nephrotoxicity, and decreased organ rejection in patients (Ong & Aziz, 2017). Likewise, a meta-analysis discovered numerous controlled trials in which cordyceps treatment enhanced kidney function markers in patients with chronic renal disease (Zhang et al., 2014).

Since there isn't a DIY alternative for cordyceps, you'll need to buy cordyceps or cordyceps extract, therefore you should exercise extra caution. Any natural cordyceps product has serious quality control problems since, in addition to being extremely pricey, parasitized caterpillar bodies may also contain less desirable fungi (Winston & Maimes, 2007), including the kind we often refer to as "mold" and shouldn't eat! As an alternative to wild cordyceps, commercially grown cordyceps mycelial extract is available and does not pose the same risks of contamination.

Decoctions of cordyceps can be savored; the recommended daily dosage ranges from 1 to 10 grams of dry mushroom (Winston & Maimes, 2007; Wu, 2005). 20–40 drops (1:4 or 1:5, 40%) of cordyceps tincture can be taken three times each day (Winston & Maimes, 2007).

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