In Eastern Medicine, mushrooms have been used medicinally for thousands of years. In the western world of medicine, recent studies have shown that there is indeed good medicinal uses for mushrooms. During the 2008 Food Expo in New Orleans, mushrooms were a hot topic due to their high nutritional profile and therapeutic properties.
Nutritionally, mushrooms are low in calories, carbs, cholesterol, sodium and they are fat free. Mushrooms are an excellent source of potassium, fiber and they are rich in B vitamins. But the big news during the expo, was that they are high in anti-oxidants (particularly selenium and vitamin E). This helps protect cells against the damaging affects of free-radicals.
Medicinally, mushrooms have been linked to positive impacts on eyesight, circulation, hearing, male impotency, tumors, headaches, influenza and even cancer! Dr. Shiuan Chen Ph.D. (director of surgical research at the Beckman Research Institute in Duarte, CA) conducted lab experiments that show mushrooms possess properties that suppress prostate and breast cancer cells. Mushrooms also contain high levels of anti-oxidants (like selenium and riboflavin) that help boost our immunity and ability to fight internal infections. Mushrooms also seem to possess the anti-oxidant ergothioneine, which is known to support liver and kidney functions, as well as supporting the immune system.
However, as you know there are many kinds of mushrooms and their composition is not the same. For example, "White button mushrooms have more protein, potassium, copper and selenium than oyster or shiitake mushrooms", said Robert Beelman, Ph.D., at Pennsylvania State University's Department of Food Science. Whether mushrooms will be consumed more as foods or in supplements and extractions is yet to be seen. "But a rich opportunity exists in the marketplace", said Zivanovic.
Here is a breakdown of some common types of Mushrooms and their specific medicinal uses:
Oyster Mushrooms: These are great at both improving blood circulation (they are high in iron which also makes them good blood builders) and relaxing tendons. If you have discomfort in your tendons and/or blood vessels, these mushrooms might be great for you!
Portabella Mushrooms: These mushrooms contain a wide variety of B-complex vitamins. They are loaded with minerals such as zinc, copper, manganese, iron and other nutrients such as protein, folate, selenium, lysine, pantothenic acid and niacin.
Morel Mushrooms: These mushrooms are high in protein, riboflavin, thiamine, copper, selenium, potassium and vitamins D and B. They are low in sodium, carbs, and calories.
Maitake Mushrooms: These mushrooms may be the best for cancer prevention. In lab rats and mice, evidence shows that maitake extract can block or inhibit tumor growth and boost immune functions. In Japan, these mushrooms are also used to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Porcini Mushrooms: These are high in copper, selenium, potassium and various proteins.
Shiitake Mushrooms: These have been shown to lower cholesterol levels. They have also shown positive results in fighting severe infections such as HIV and Hepatitis B (though further research needs to be conducted).
Reishi Mushrooms: These mushrooms have been used by individuals with asthma and other respiratory issues with positive results. At least one scientific study in the 1970’s on over 2,000 Chinese individuals with bronchitis confirmed that within 2 weeks 60-90% reported improvements and better appetites (according to Christopher Hobbs in his published article Herbs for Health.