A trip to the pharmacy gives you that upbeat feeling of knowing you have your medication in hand, or at least it used to. Now with the cost of medication increasing, people experience severe stress when picking up their prescriptions. Thus, more and more people are turning to natural remedies – many searching for products with the word ‘organic’ on the label.

Many herbs and spices are said to have significant health benefits. Beware of what you eat though, maybe even research before you chew. Many plants produce offensive chemicals, such as hemlock, which will kill you. Others can make you feel so sick that you wish you were dead.

Natural, or alternative, products I include in my diet fill me with vivacity, including cinnamon (decreases blood sugar), cranberry (supports kidney health), fenugreek (decreases blood sugar), flax (decreases incidence of certain cancers and heart disease), saw palmetto (increases prostate health), and turmeric (supports brain health, decreases risk of heart disease and provides antioxidants). I also use stevia as it is a 0-calorie natural sweetener, and it does not raise blood sugar levels.

But watch out for inflated prices on ‘organic’ items. I have read about research reports finding that ‘organic’ products have extraordinarily little to no difference from normal products. You may feel the word ‘organic’ on the label is worth the increased price, but you may be essentially throwing your money away.

I have had friends who would chew on myrtle and willow to ease headaches and gastric pain. A natural chemical these plants produce is salicylic acid – a.k.a., aspirin. And guess what teenagers, this plant also manufactures acne treatment!

A most-recent natural product to hit the market is medical marijuana. Marijuana has been legalized at the state-level, in many states. This reprieve from the law has been beneficial to many: helping with seizures, stopping or easing chronic pain, and providing a host of other health benefits. Herbs and spices, medical marijuana, and now – medical mushrooms.

According to the National Cancer Institute (https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/mushrooms-pdq ), more than 100 species of medical mushrooms have been used in Asia for hundreds of years, with one of the more recent uses being the treatment of pulmonary disease and cancer by strengthening the immune system. Polysaccharides, essentially molecular sugar cubes, stimulate “ innate immune cells, such as monocytes, natural killer cells, and dendritic cells.”

An article in The Manual, which offers a suite of expert guides on a wide range of topics, lists some of the main types of mushrooms that have medicinal properties and are safe to take:

  • Maitake – “In Japan, they call it the “dancing mushroom,” since foragers who came upon this clustering fungus would get jiggy with glee. Known in English as “hen of the woods,” the maitake is making a name for itself as degenerative disease’s worst nightmare. Thanks to its powerful antioxidant punch, maitake is currently being researched as a treatment of diabetes, tumors and even cancer.”
  • Lion’s Mane – “This pale branched fungus has an ethereal beauty when you come upon it in the woods — it looks like something out of Lord of the Rings and its brain-boosting powers are about as close to magic as you can get. Consuming Lion’s mane encourages your body to produce two important bioproteins (nerve growth factor, or NFG, and myelin) that not only improve clarity, cognition, and memory but also inhibit degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.”
  • Cordyceps – “When you’re looking to enhance your performance, be it in the gym, the boardroom, or the bedroom, cordyceps is the mushroom you should reach for. The special bioactive compounds in cordyceps help improve circulation, allowing the body to utilize oxygen more efficiently. That means sustained energy, improved stamina (and libido), and quicker recovery from whatever you might have been doing, not to mention better sleep afterwards.”
  • Reishi – ”With its cute knobby profile and a color pattern that looks like your grandma’s favorite set of soup bowls, reishi looks as friendly as it is. It is sought after for a mood-boosting compound called triterpene, which is said to alleviate anxiety, ease depression, and encourage better sleep. No wonder people call this cute little shroom “nature’s Xanax.””
  • Chaga – “While it is indeed medicinal, chaga is not a true mushroom, but a sclerotic fungus — a variety that hardens upon contact with the air. It looks more like a burned stump than anything you’d want to eat, but trust us, you want to eat it. Used for centuries among the indigenous people of northern latitudes, chaga has exploded out of obscurity in recent years. It can be found in everything from tea to chocolate to cosmetic products, thanks to its ability to fight off oxidative stress (the kind that contributes to aging, haggard skin) as well as lower cholesterol and even prevent cancer.”
  • Shiitake – “You know it for the creamy umami flavor it adds to your favorite Asian dishes, but did you know shiitake is also good for your ticker? The phytonutrients in this tasty mushroom help maintain healthy blood pressure and circulation by preventing the buildup of plaque within your arteries.”
  • Turkey Tail – “The aptly named turkey tail mushroom, with its fan-shaped body and variegated bands of brown, is the best friend your immune system ever had. It brings something called polysaccharide-K (PSK) to the party, a compound so effective that it’s actually prescribed for cancer patients in some countries and an approved anticancer prescription drug in Japan. Using turkey tail has proven to be effective in fighting off leukemia and other cancers — imagine what it could do for your winter cold.”

Gary Kracoff, a registered pharmacist with a degree in naturopathic medicine, advises you to do your homework before buying:

“If you’re looking online, you want to look at whose site is it? Are they an independent person but they’re getting funded by a company? Anything you put in your mouth and you’re going to swallow, you should know why you’re taking it, what is it going to do, is it OK with your health conditions and the medicines you’re taking,”

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2 thoughts on “Mushrooms in Your Medicine Cabinet”
  1. Anyone seeking wild mushrooms for food, medicine, or entheogenic experiences should seek help and experience from their local mycological society. Foraging with a group of more experienced and/or expert mycophiles is the best way to build knowledge and skills in finding and accurately identifying wild mushrooms. Just ‘google mycological societies and your state to find a convenient group near you. You will find that these mycophiles are friendly and eager to educate beginners.

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