Mushrooms have a long history that is intricately connected with herbal folklore and culinary arts. In Asia, species of mushrooms, such as Shiitake, Reishi, Maitake, Zhu Ling, Chaga and Mu-er, are powerful fungi, that fight disease, cancer, infections, and other illnesses. What’s more, they are able to do this while containing the virus and destroying them with their anti-viral compounds.
Mushrooms are also regarded as delicacies and are familiar sights in most Asian cuisine. They can be savored alone or together in any recipe. They are easy to cook and are healthful to boot.
A mushroom is an aboveground, spore-producing body of fungus, composed of a shaft and a cap. It has a mycelium or hyphae, a network of filaments that form its shaft. The mushroom is actually a broad term that is used to refer to the any visible fungus, or especially its fruiting body.
There are several types of mushrooms. The main types are agarics, boletes, chanterelles, tooth fungi, polypores, puffballs, jelly fungi, coral fungi, bracket fungi, stinkhorns, and cup fungi. Morel and truffles are excellent examples of cup fungi, which some mycologists call “Ascomycota.”
Not all mushrooms are safe to eat. In fact, quite a number of species are poisonous. These mushrooms are what we commonly refer to as “toadstools.” Poisonous mushrooms are almost indistinguishable from the edible varieties so that it is considered extremely risky to gather them in the wild.
Today’s science is focusing more on rekindling the interest in preventive and alternative medicine. This in turn led to the rediscovery of herbs tested through time for their medicinal purposes. Among those that are slowly being rediscovered are mushrooms.
Mushrooms are considered remarkable for their natural powers. They are the perfect alternative to meat not only because of their rich and succulent taste, but also because they are low in calories, fat- and cholesterol-free. With their rich stores of vitamins, minerals, and fibers, combined with their powerful healing powers, they may be unmatched by any drug produced by modern science.
The Grifola forndosa, or commonly known as maitake mushroom, is believed to boost the immune system. According to Andrew Weil’s Healthy Menu in the May 1997 issue of Time magazine, maitake is thought to “increase resistance to disease, promote longevity and help treat cancer, AIDS, hepatitis, and chronic fatigue syndrome.”
Another important mushroom is the Shiitake, or Lentinus edodes. The shiitake has been used for many centuries in China and Japan chiefly for its therapeutic properties. A Japanese research confirms that the shiitake mushroom contains eritadenine, which are compounds that can lower serum cholesterol. The shiitake is found to be rich in vitamins B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B12, D, and pantothenic acid.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the ling zhi mushroom (also known as reishi or ganoderma) is considered as the highest ranked herb. It was considered divine and was said to bestow longevity to whoever uses it. Originally, ling zhi was an herbal medicine in China but lately, it has began to spread its influence in many countries across the Pacific, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the United States. Modern research has found that this mushroom variety contains several active ingredients, including polysaccharides, organic germanium, triterpenoids, adenosine, LZ-8, and an array of amino acids besides numerous mineral types.