The greatest attribute of mushrooms, besides their taste, is their peculiar healing properties. An old peasant cure for many ills was to scrape the mold off leather shoes or fruit, the forerunner of penicillin and other antibiotics.
Mushrooms contain bioactive metabolites capable of helping revitalize and modulate our immune systems. These biological response modifiers help activate macrophages and T cells, and produce cytokines, interleukins and tumour necrosis factors. Medicinal mushrooms may hold the key to much disease and chronic illness on our planet.
Some substances from mushrooms are pleurotin, lepiochlorin, clavicin, sparassol, gandoderols, armillarin, dictyophorin, cylindan, and adenosine. Common to every medicinal mushroom is beta D glucan, a polysaccharide. These are poorly digested and may be acted upon by intestinal bacteria, to release oligosaccharides. The main immunological activity is believed due to interaction with gut associated lymphoid tissue. Immune cells associated with GALT, activated by beta glucans in the gut, may migrate to other tissue and thereby exert immune modulating activity.
Beta glucans stimulate interferon, interleukins, TNF, NK, B and T lymphocytes, tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes; lymphokine activated killer cells, macrophages, granulocytes in bone marrow and production of platelets in bone marrow.
Beta glucans also attach themselves to the receptor sites on the immune cells and activate them, allowing them to recognize cancer cells as "foreign" and create a higher level of response.
We know that dectin-1, on macrophages, is a receptor that mediates beta glucan activation of phagocytosis and production of cytokines, an action co-ordinated by the toll-like receptor-2.
Activated complement receptors on natural killer cells, neutrophils and lymphocytes are associated with tumor cytotoxicity. Scavenger and lactosyl-ceramide bind beta glucans and mediate a sequence of pathways leading to immune activation. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is a pro-inflammatory cytokine that activates nuclear factor-kB and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK). NFkappaB is anti-apoptotic, and JNK contributes to cell death.
In cancer, TNF is a double-edged sword. It can be either an endogenous tumor promoter because TNF stimulates growth, proliferation, invasion and metastasis, and tumor angiogenesis of cancer cells. On the other hand, TNF is a cancer killer, and mushrooms appear to sensitize cancer cells to TNF induced apoptosis by inhibiting NFkappaB, etc.
Other substances such as heteroglycans, chitinous substance, peptidoglycans, proteoglycans, lectins, terpenoids, steroids, gamma-pyrones and phenols all have their own contribution to the healing properties of mushrooms.
Parris M. Kidd writes. "With their capacity to mobilize the immune system against formed tumors as well as metastases, while lessening the adverse side-effects of conventional therapies, mushroom immunoceuticals should offer clinically-attractive options to the thinking oncologist."
Eating mushrooms, considered low energy density foods, may be useful in helping people switch from high animal protein diets to more healthful food.
Today, there are over 270 identified fungal species with known therapeutic properties. These include anti-oxidants, hypotensives, hypocholesterolemics, liver protectants, anti-fibrotics, as well as anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-viral and anti-microbial properties. Other medicinal properties derived from fungi include immune suppressants used in organ transplants and as adjuncts to cancer chemotherapy and radiation.
In one interview, Paul Stamets explained it this way. "Mushrooms don’t like to rot, so they produce natural antibiotics. The mycelium produces these sweats of enzymes, and in these sweats are very potent antibiotics that are antiviral, antibacterial, anti-protozoal and antifungal."
Suzanne McNeary, director of marketing for Tradeworks explains further. "The mushroom acquires food outside its cells. During the…mycelial stage…digestive enzymes are excreted to digest the food outside the cells. Since the mushroom needs to absorb the digested food, it must first deactivate any natural pathogens. The mushroom is also uniquely proficient at expelling undesirable chemicals and contaminants absorbed during the ingestion. Hence, in order for the mushroom to survive and thrive it must possess a remarkably aggressive, proactive and protective immune system."
~Above excerpt from The Fungal Pharmacy, courtesy of Robert Rogers
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