What is most fascinating in the exploration of the healing benefits of medicinal mushrooms is that they are in fact closely related to human beings. When human beings consume these mushrooms, they are ingesting highly absorbable medicinal constituents that are recognized by the human body. Human use of medicinal mushrooms has a long history, and the valuable medicines of mushrooms are a vital element in protecting our health. Fungi have developed incredible properties to ward off bacteria and mold that would compete with them. When humans consume these fungi, most of all they are bestowed with a strong immunity. This will be an important theme throughout the discussion, and of vital importance in our day and a
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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.
In Europe and the United States, this mushroom (Grifola frondosa) is commonly called “hen of the woods,” since its frond-like growths resemble the feathers of a fluffed chicken. Maitake is the name I prefer, in a bow to the Japanese who pioneered its cultivation. Maitake mushrooms are known in Japan as “the dancing mushroom.” According to a Japanese legend, a group of Buddhist nuns and woodcutters met on a mountain trail, where they discovered a fruiting of maitake mushrooms emerging from the forest floor. Rejoicing at their discovery of this delicious mushroom, they danced to celebrate. In Italy, this species is known as signorina, or “the unmarried woman.” Today these two common names, bestowed long ago on the opposite sides of the planet, seem especially deserving and perhaps foretelling recent research findings.