In the northeastern woods of Japan and the United States grows a ruffly-looking, exotic fungus with exciting possibilities, both culinary and nutritional. Called maitake or hen of the woods mushrooms, their woodsy aroma, meaty texture, and rich flavor have long given them special status in Japanese cuisine. Now, research is showing that maitake have potential that goes far beyond the kitchen.
Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis) a rare Chinese mushroom that grows naturally on certain species of caterpillars that live on the Tibetan Plain. For centuries it has been used as a traditional Chinese medicine in the treatment of several health conditions including fatigue, renal failure and respiratory disease.
Recent studies have shown that Reishi mushrooms and other exotic mushrooms like Maitake and Cordyceps, are not only delicious, but also offer health benefits and help people lose weight. The mushrooms can be added to your favorite recipes and even be a substitute for beef. Other mushrooms can be consumed in tea form or taken as a daily capsule. These mushrooms offer such benefits as increased metabolism, a lower fat and calorie alternative in meals, reduced blood sugar levels, and even increased stamina and endurance to help you get the most from your workout.
While most doctors believe that immune decline is irreversible, traditional Chinese medicine has long used Reishi mushrooms to promote longevity and a vigorous immune system.
Now, remarkable scientific studies have found that the unique mix of compounds in this medicinal mushroom fights immuno-senescence and increases life span.3-5
The impressive results of a 2011 animal study suggest that Reishi may, by restoring youthful immune strength and balance, add as many as 7 to 16 years to the human life span!4
As we age, our immune system’s protective function dramatically declines, reducing our ability to fight off disease and infection. This process—known as immunosenescence—also causes a marked acceleration of the aging process itself!
Mushrooms have been valued throughout the world as both food and medicine for thousands of years. In virtually every culture people enjoy hunting for wild mushrooms. Europeans have always appreciated their gastronomic value. In Japan, pushcart vendors on the streets still sell medicinal mushrooms to the average citizen who uses them to maintain health and promote longevity.
In this study, the researchers aimed to see if reishi was effective in preventing obesity. They gave mice different amounts of reishi or placebo and either a normal diet or a high-fat diet for eight weeks. All mice on the high-fat diet gained a lot of weight and body fat, but those given reishi did not gain as much weight or body fat. The reishi supplement did not have an effect on mice fed a normal diet. The supplement appeared to work by improving the number of “good” bacteria in the gut and through reducing inflammation. Some studies have suggested that chronic inflammation and an increased number of “bad” bacteria in the gut are linked to obesity in humans.
Common dietary advice almost always includes some variation of the phrase, “Eat more fruits and vegetables for good health.” Pick up most diet books, talk to the health professionals, and look at the research: fruits and vegetables are nutritional superstars.
Less often do we hear the phrase, “Eat more mushrooms for good health,” and if we look at the research, one may wonder why we neglect to include our fungal friends in the dietary limelight.
At TEDMED, TEDTalks favorite Paul Stamets gave an emotional talk about new medical uses for mushrooms — including a variety that, he says, helped treat his mother’s cancer. Stamets spoke about powerful medical uses for mushrooms and their extracts, from anti-tuberculosis effects (Agarikon) to Cordyceps, a treasure trove of potential medicines, such as cyclosporine, which prevents organ rejection in transplant patients, and the recently FDA-approved drug Gilenya, from Novartis, for treating multiple sclerosis (MS).