This publication supports our mission to inform and educate society about the health benefits provided by Chinese traditional medicine. We focus specifically on Chinese medicinal mushrooms, a natural intelligence and creativity enhancer.
In Chinese culture Mushrooms are often referred to as an ‘Elixir of Life’. Traditionally Chinese used mushrooms as medicinal food and tea, for thousands of years. Chinese consumed mushrooms for medicines as well as nutritive supplements. Some mushrooms like Turkey tail are best if consumed in the form of capsules. The Chinese recognize six basic types of medicinal mushrooms, according to color – namely, white, red, purple, black, blue, and green.
These colors fit into the TCM (Traditional Chinese medicine) system of natural
correspondences, which resonate with various diseases. For example, red is for the heart, black is for the kidneys, and green is for the liver. Chinese consume mushrooms perennially for a healthy and long life. Many different varieties of mushrooms are found in China but here I’ve listed two of them, their benefits, uses and side-effects.
Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) also known as bearded tooth mushroom grows in shaggy clumps on the side of trees and can look a bit like stalactite formations that hang inside of caves. Lion’s mane is actually edible, unlike most medicinal mushrooms. It has a stringy meat texture and a sweet flavor that’s compared to lobster’s meat. Lion’s mane has been in use for approximately 1000+ years in traditional chinese medicines. It prescribed lion’s mane for stomach problems and cancer of the digestive organs. As per Chinese medicine, lion’s mane is nutritive to five internal organs, including the liver, heart, lungs, kidneys and spleen.
Lion’s mane mushroom contains over 70 potential bioactive compounds, some of them including resorcinols, steroids, etc. The polysaccharide component of the mushroom has 68% of glucose, 11% of arabinose and 7.8% of xylose. There are over 7000 Lion’s mane related products available online, which may be consumed by you to enjoy its health benefits.
Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane
Lion’s mane is rich in proteins, fibres, carbs, minerals and vitamins and like any other mushroom, it is low in calories and unhealthy fats so including it in your daily diet would be great. Lion’s mane contains polysaccharides called beta-glucans, which support immune health and overall wellness. In addition, lion’s mane also contains alpha-glucans and glucan-protein complexes which show positive effects on the immune system.
Lion’s mane is purported to boost concentration and mood, keep the brain healthy and decrease inflammation in the body. Many researches proclaims that Lion’s mane could help you to deal with many diseases, including:
In addition, lion’s mane also stimulates digestion, protects against cancer and studies have also shown a possible neuro-protective effect against ischemic stroke.
A small study published in Phytotherapy research in 2009 says that lion’s mane may benefit adults with mild cognitive impairment. The researchers assigned 30 older adults with mild cognitive impairment and divided them into two groups. Members of group ‘A’ were given lion’s mane extracts while the members of group ‘B’ were treated with placebo. Weeks later, it was found that the members of group ‘A’ showed significantly greater improvement as compared with the members of group ‘B’.
Reduces Depression and Anxiety
As per another study published in Biomedical Research in 2010, 30 menopausal women consumed cookies containing lion’s mane or placebo. It was found that women who took lion’s mane were less irritable and anxious than ones who took placebo. This clearly explains us that lion’s mane would also help against depression and anxiety.
Also the lion’s mane could benefit us in fighting cancer. As per a study conducted in 2011, it was found that lion’s mane extracts helped in reducing the size of cancerous colon tumors in mice. This study was published in the Journal of Food and Agricultural Chemistry.
However, it’s too soon to say whether lion’s mane can help prevent or reduce cancer in humans as some studies proclaim that lion’s mane extract may help reduce the spread of colon cancer cells while other studies suggested that lion’s mane could help fight off colon cancer by increasing the activity of some cells involved in the immune system.
Using Lion’s mane
Modern research proved that both fruiting body and mycelium provide these health benefits while traditional chinese medications prefer only fruiting body. Lion’s mane may be consumed in the form of food as well as supplements (Lion’s mane extracts). Benefits may be gained from eating well cooked mushroom while consuming it as prepared extracts will deliver even more concentrated therapeutic effects. In both scenarios, you’ll get enough nutrients to gain the following benefits but if you’re not comfortable eating cooked mushrooms then look for water-alcohol extract of both fruiting body and mycelium. Ideally, prefer an extract which contains 4% of beta-glucans (immunity supporting compound).
General dosing should be once or twice a day, ranging between 250 – 500 mg but that’s only general dosage. If you’re planning on consuming it on a daily basis then please don’t forget to take your physician’s advice. As we know, everything has pros and cons. Similarly, there are some side-effects of using lion’s mane in excessive amounts or in product (extract) form. Let’s have a look at them…
Side Effects of Lion’s Mane
It is really important to consult a physician prior to using Lion’s mane or its supplements for a long term. Lion’s mane may aggravate symptoms in people with asthma or allergies. Also, pregnant women must not consume lion’s mane products as there’s insufficient information available to determine if any dosage is safe during pregnancy. Due to lack of supporting research and studies, it’s too soon to tell whether to consume lion’s mane for any specific health condition or not, so consider your doctor’s advice before consuming it for a longer time period.
Cordyceps is a parasitic fungus which has over 400 different species found in countries like India, China, Japan, USA, Australia, Peru, Bolivia and many more. But the Cordyceps we’re discussing is also known as Cordyceps sinensis or caterpillar fungus, it lives on certain caterpillars in the high mountain regions of China. Initially local herders observed that yak, goat, sheep, etc. consuming Cordyceps during their grazing in the forest became very strong and stout. This observation paved the way for the discovery of its medicinal value by locals approximately 8 centuries ago.
The life cycle of Cordyceps begins with infecting insects and arthropods. Each species targets a very specific bug. Cordyceps spores land on an insect’s body and start germinating, then small thread-like filaments begin to grow inside the insect and then turn into mycelium. The mycelium continues consuming the insect until it has been fully consumed. If the environmental conditions are good enough then a blade-like mushroom is produced. The mushroom begins spreading spores and the life cycle starts over.
As this parasitic spore sticks on the caterpillar, it begins controlling the caterpillar’s body and as a result it forces the insect to travel from deep inside the ground to its surface so that the fruiting body could rise above the surface to release more spores. Every summer local villagers (living across Tebetian Plateau) leave all of their works and begin the search for Caterpillar mushroom as this is considered to be among the world’s most valuable fungus types.
Benefits of Cordyceps
Cordyceps stimulates cells and other chemicals in the immune system which causes an increase in immunity. Cordyceps extracts might reduce the kidney damage caused by excessive use of antibiotics.
Early research proves that Cordyceps alone can reduce the symptoms of asthma in adults, though it does not perform well on children. Some evidence proves that taking cordyceps during or after chemotherapy might improve quality of life and improve tolerance to the treatments.
Researchers believe that their antioxidant content may explain their anti-aging potential. Antioxidants are molecules that fight cell damage by neutralizing free radicals, which can otherwise contribute to disease and aging. Several studies have found that cordyceps increase antioxidants in aged mice, helping improve memory and sexual functions. A study proved that the rodents that were given cordyceps lived several months longer than the rodents given placebo.
Traditionally, Cordyceps were used in treating diabetic patients in China. Today several successful studies investigate its effects on humans while there are some studies performed on animals and the results were quite disappointing. One of this was done in 2010 at Taiwan concluded that after 4 weeks of daily consumption of cordyceps extracts, it was that extracts were able to reduce weight and improve cholesterol levels in diabetic mice but did nothing in maintaining blood sugar level.
Increases Athletic Performance
A study conducted at University of North Carolina in the year 2016 showed that daily consumption of cordyceps resulted in maximum oxygen consumption after 3 weeks in young adults. Increase in oxygen consumption doesn’t mean increased athletic performance, though it has a positive effect on overall athletic performance but a study in 2010 suggested that long term consumption of cordyceps supplement appeared to improve exercise performance in adults aged 50 – 75 years. After going through these researches, the conclusion is, there would
be an increase in athletic performance only if cordyceps is consumed for a longer period of time.
Consuming cordyceps has some more benefits to health but due to lack of research and enough evidence these are not yet completely proven. Some of these benefits of Cordyceps are improvements in cases of:
Just keep in mind that all natural products are not always necessarily safe and their proper dosage plays an important role. Unfortunately, at this time there’s not enough scientific information available to determine the suitable range of Cordyceps dosage. Dosing of cordyceps depends upon several factors, including a person’s age and health condition, and this should be considered by a physician. If you are eager to add Cordyceps to your diet then cooking it once a week would be great. Just avoid using it for a longer period of time. It is considered best if cordyceps is taken in the form of supplements. Always use any supplement after consulting with your doctor.
Side-effects of Cordyceps
There are some possible side effects of using Cordyceps in excessive amounts, including stomach ache, diarrhea, dry mouth and nausea. Also, cordyceps is considered safe for short-term use only. If you are allergic to molds and yeasts then Cordyceps isn’t for you because you may be allergic to it.
As with Lion’s mane, there is a lack of research and proper studies so pregnant women, children and nursing mothers must avoid consuming Cordyceps. Diabetic people on medication or taking insulin injections should also avoid Cordyceps as it would lead to an extreme fall of blood sugar level, which isn’t good for your health.
People who take blood thinners or anti-clotting medications should also not consume Cordyceps. If it is used together with these medications it may increase the risk of bleeding. If you have to undergo surgery, stop consuming Cordyceps a couple of weeks before it, or the risk of excessive bleeding would increase.
Here are some other examples of Chinese mushrooms and their brief description.
Reishi mushrooms are brown-capped mushrooms used around the world as food and supplements. Their fruiting body is shaped like the beans. For many years, this fungus has been in use in Eastern medicine. It has a variety of health benefits including boosting the immune system and fighting cancer. Consuming the mushroom itself will provide excessive dosage while extracts provide lower dosage.
Shiitake mushrooms are brown-capped mushrooms, an extract made from these mushrooms is widely used in modern drugs. They are found beneficial to the human body as they aid the immune system and may even help fighting HIV/AIDS. It is considered best if they are consumed as food (cooked). Don’t use Shiitake mushrooms if you have a blood disorder called eosinophilia.
King Oyster mushrooms are packed full of flavour and nutrients. Their savory flavour tastes amazing. They are a good source of protein, vitamin B6, minerals, dietary fibres and potassium, and very low in saturated fats and cholesterol. They are a low calorie food, containing only 35 calories per 100 grams.
1) Healthline.com - 9 Health Benefits of Lion's Mane Mushroom (Plus Side Effects)
2) Wikipedia.org - Hericium erinaceus & Cordyceps
3) Jeff White - Redefining Medicinal Mushrooms
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