Medicinal mushrooms have been known for thousands of years for their powerful immune-modulating and anti-inflammatory properties.
Medicinal mushrooms are home to a group of compounds known as beta-glucans, particuarly beta 1-3/1-6, which can be found in shiitake, cordyceps and miatake mushrooms, amongst others. They are one of the most effective natural group of compounds known to enhance the function of the innate immune system. Our innate immune system is the one that comes in to play immediately or a few hours after we have been exposed to an ‘antigen attack’ of some description eg a virus.
Beta-glucans have been shown to increase the action of a particular immune cells (such as macrophages and natural killer cells) and activating the compliment cascade, an important component of the immune system. They have also been shown to help restore health from various diseases and enhance recovery from exhaustion (a potentially useful tool for athletes also) due to their adaptogenic properties.
Here are 5 additional reasons why they could be a beneficial addition to your diet:
- They have been shown to increase anti-oxidant activity, important for reducing inflammation and chronic fighting infection.
- They have been shown to help lower blood sugar in diabetic mice and lower elevated blood triglyceride levels.
- Shiitake mushrooms contain a compound known as lentinan which has been shown to have powerful anti-proliferative properties which may help prevent tumour growth.
- Another class of medicinal mushrooms known as Lions Mane has been shown to help improve cognitive function.
- Liver protective properties have been shown in shiitake mushrooms which make them a potential consideration for conditions such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
How to take them: Medicinal mushrooms are available in supplement form but, as with all supplements, suitably qualified advise should be sought, as side effects and interactions with any medication may occur. Do not take them if you are on medication without having drug-nutrient interactions checked first. This is also not a recommendation that they should be taken for Covid-19. Please contact Katherine if you want any more individualised advise.
Different mushrooms will have different effects and often taken in combination may have more beneficial results due their synergistic effects. When purchasing any supplement, consider the quality of mushrooms (eg organic) you are buying and the brand so that strict harvesting and manufacturing guidelines have been adhered to to preserve the medicinal properties of the mushrooms.
Then of course you can cook with them. There are many options such as mushrooms on toast, with eggs, in a risotto and adding garlic, onion and additional immune boosting herbs is going to pack an immune-system fighting-punch. One of my favourite ways of eating them is via a soup as shown below:
Recipe: Immune Boosting Mushroom Soup.
Notes: For additional immune boosting qualities, use bone broth as your base – simply boil an organic chicken in filtered water for 4-5 hours on a low heat, with a few garlic cloves, an onion and herbs of choice. Reserve the stock for soup and you can add some of the chicken to the soup at the end for an added protein boost.
- 1/2 pound of mixed mushrooms ensuring at least half of shiitake (you could use dried if you cant get fresh).
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 small leek
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.
- 1/2 chopped red onion
- 1 stalk of celery
- 2 carrots
- 1/2 litre of stock (ideally bone broth for added immune support) if not stock use vegetable or chicken stock of choice.
- 2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme (dried if you haven’t got fresh)
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh sage
- OPTIONAL EXTRA: organic already cooked chicken for added protein.
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- Spring onion to serve.
- Chop the mushrooms and heat in half of the oil over a medium heat in a sauté pan. If using dried mushrooms, squeeze dry and reserve the liquid to use to add to stock before adding the dried mushrooms to the oil as well and lightly sauté.
- Add the mushrooms to a larger pot along with the rest of the oil, the onions, leek, garlic and sauté again on a low heat for 3-5 minutes.
- Add the carrots and celery, sauté for approx. 5 more minutes or until everything is soft and lightly cooked.
- Add the stock and any reserved juice from the mushrooms along with soy sauce. Bring to the boil and then simmer for approx 20-30 minutes.
- Add the fresh herbs, salt and pepper to taste and add any additional chicken (eg from making the chicken stock) at the end for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
- If you want a smooth soup, blend and serve. For a chunky soup, blend briefly or serve as it is (unblended). Sprinkle with chopped spring onions (optional).
If you would like to contact Katherine to find out how she can help you further please click here.