Although not as well known as their ‘nutrient’ siblings, Myconutrients are gaining traction in the medical industry for their medicinal qualities.
What is a myconutrient?
Myconutrient (“myco” translates as “mushroom or fungus”) is the name given to the organic compounds found in fungi that help to protect it from environmental hazards like air and soil pollution. Some fungi also have the incredible ability to detoxify their environment – a study by Washington state Department of Transportation found that oyster mushrooms were far more effective at detoxifying soil that was saturated with hydrocarbon smelling oil than conventional clean up methods. These natural defenses can be passed on to us when we eat them, helping our immune systems to grow stronger and be more resilient against diseases. These myconutrients are most densely packed and available to us in mushrooms.
Mushrooms as medicine
There are around 270 species of mushrooms that have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine because of their medicinal properties.
Some of the most popular medicinal mushrooms used today are:
– Turkey Tails (Coriolus versicolor)
– Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
– Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
– Zhu Ling (Polyporus umbellatus)
– Split gill (Schizophyllum commune)
– Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
– Almond Mushroom (Agaricus subrufescens)
A lot of these might mean nothing to you yet, but the list of their medicinal qualities is quite incredible, these mushrooms have shown to have positive impacts with:
– enhanced immune function
– decreased radiotherapy side effects and enhanced radiotherapy effectiveness
– enhanced digestion
– anti-cancer effects
– liver health – especially cirrhosis of the liver
– lung health in bronchitis sufferers
– reduced blood cholesterol
And all this from something that decomposes dead matter!
How to make sure we get enough
Because there is limited research to prove the effectiveness of mushroom-derived supplements, we should aim to eat our mushrooms rather than take them in pill form. When it comes to cooking methods, a study by the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition found that grilling or microwaving mushrooms was the best way to maintain the levels of all nutrients, whereas boiling decreased the micronutrient content and frying decreased the protein content while increasing fat content.
While the medicinal mushrooms have the highest concentrations of health boosting Myconutrients; even little button mushrooms share some of these great qualities, so if you can’t find medicinal mushrooms, any kind will help add some of the benefits to your life.
Words of warning
Although the list of medicinal qualities is incredible. It’s vital that we leave the picking and growing of mushrooms to those that know what they are doing as around 70% of mushrooms are either inedible or harmful to humans. And a lot of edible mushrooms have relatives that look very similar but could be harmful to us.