Focusing on fungi for holistic health
Americans love their mushrooms: The average individual eats nearly 3 pounds of fresh mushrooms each year. But did you know these beloved fungi can be used for medical purposes as well? As more Americans turn to holistic health practices, they’re also finding out that, beyond just a food source, mushrooms can be used for numerous naturopathic purposes.
The use of mushrooms and fungi for medicinal purposes goes back millennia. According to an article published in Integrative Medicine, ancient Greek physician Hippocrates used the amadou mushroom as an anti-inflammatory and for cauterizing wounds, fifth century Chinese philosopher Tao Hongjing classified several medicinal mushrooms, and Ötzi the Iceman—whose frozen, 5,300-year-old body was found in the Alps in 1991—was carrying amadou mushrooms and birch polypore fungus, a wound cleanser. In addition, Indigenous North Americans used puffball fungi to help heal wounds.
So why don’t we use fungi today for medicinal purposes? Occasionally we do, but we just might not be aware of it: Penicillin, Alexander Fleming’s famous by-chance antibacterial discovery, credited with saving tens and even hundreds of millions of lives since its 1928 introduction, is derived from fungus mold.
While they’ve received the occasional (and, in the case of penicillin, accidental) spotlight in Western medicine, mushrooms and fungi always have played a starring role in traditional and naturopathic medicine. Now scientific research is finally focusing on these natural remedies to see why they’ve been successful through the centuries. Here are six examples of mushrooms and fungi whose traditionally valued efficacy is being scientifically studied, as outlined in the Elsevier Journal of Traditional and Complimentary Medicine:
- Agaricus blazei—This edible “almond mushroom” from Brazil has confirmed studies of its antitumor, anticarcinogenic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, hypocholesterolemic, and antihypertensive effects.
- Coriolus versicolor—Commonly called “turkey tail”, this fungus has long been used in China and Japan. Clinical studies have found fungus properties that stimulate the immune system plus antitumor and antiviral activity.
- Ganoderma—This “shelf mushroom” or “bracket fungi” has been found to inhibit histamine release and cholesterol synthesis, as well as shown to have antihypertensive, antitumor, and anti-HIV effects.
- Lentinus—The gourmet “shiitake” mushroom isn’t just tasty: It also has antitumor, antibacterial, antiviral, and antiparasitic properties.
- Taiwanofungus camphoratus—Found in Taiwan, this mushroom is reported to include anticancer, antihepatotoxic, antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and neuroprotective substances.
- Ophiocordyceps sinensis—“Caterpillar fungus” has been found to contain at least two chemical substances, cordycepin and cordycepic acid, that may be toxic to cancer cells.
Mushrooms and fungi like these are just a few of the natural healing tools used in both longtime traditional and today’s holistic health care. California’s professionally educated and licensed naturopathic doctors (NDs) are trained to safely treat patients by using natural methods and substances to support and stimulate the body’s self-healing process, while also utilizing conventional medicine in conjunction with naturopathic medicine when appropriate. This truly makes NDs a valuable asset to Californians who are interested in natural and conventional medicine and treatments, since NDs are trained in both.
To find out more about California’s licensed NDs and their distinct and comprehensive system of primary health-care services, visit the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Naturopathic Medicine Committee at https://naturopathic.ca.gov; to check a professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov.
Related Reading: #TBT with DCA: Naturopathic Medicine Committee