Mushrooms for Health and Longevity

by Ken Babal, CN

This 60-page booklet explains the nutritional and medicinal benefits of 11 types of mushrooms: Agaricus, Chaga, Cordyceps, Coriolus, Enoki, Lion’s Mane, Maitake, Meshima, Reishi, Shitake, and Tremella. “There are 38,000 species of mushrooms. Species can differ greatly in their chemical content. For example, about 50 species of mushrooms are poisonous and another 50 demonstrate medicinal value.”

“Mushrooms are living, breathing organisms. While plants absorb carbon dioxide and liberate oxygen, mushrooms mimic human respiration by capturing oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. But unlike humans who need light and fresh food, mushrooms feed on moist organic matter in deep shade.”

“About 85 percent of all plants, particularly trees, have developed a symbiotic relationship with mushrooms. Leaves and other organisms that are decomposed by mushrooms nourish the trees and create space for plants and animals by breaking down dead trees.”

Nutritional Value of Mushrooms

“Although a mushroom’s specific nutritional content is determined by how it is cultivated, mushrooms are generally rich sources of essential amino acids, minerals, and vitamins, including thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), and niacin (B3). In addition, mushrooms are high in fiber and low in calories, making them the perfect food for people who want to lose weight.”

“Mushrooms are unique in that they are the only vegan source of vitamin D (other than sunlight and ultraviolet light exposure). They contain abundant quantities of the provitamin ergosterol, which is not found in vegetables. Ergosterol is converted to active vitamin D in the body, just as beta-carotene in fruits and vegetables in converted to vitamin A… A three-ounce serving of UV-exposed mushrooms provides 100 percent of the daily value of vitamin D.”

“Many of us are familiar with vitamin D’s role in keeping our bones strong. However, new and exciting research suggests that vitamin D reduces tumor growth, lowers cancer risk, and reduces the risk of diabetes and multiple sclerosis.”

“In addition to essential nutrients and vitamins, mushrooms contain many compounds that have protective and therapeutic value against certain diseases. One of these is beta-glucan, a complex carbohydrate, or polysaccharide, composed of glucose sugar molecules that are strung together. Scientific studies show that glucans are largely responsible for medicinal mushrooms’ antitumor properties and immunologic activity.”

Medicinal Value of Mushrooms

“Scientific studies show that certain mushrooms enhance the immune system and have potent antitumor properties that make them promising cancer treatments. You might be surprised to learn that protein-bound polysaccharide (PSK), a best-selling anticancer drug in Europe and Japan, is a mushroom extract. In numerous experiments and clinical trials, mushrooms have also demonstrated antiallergenic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral actions, and an ability to sensitize cells to insulin.”

Coriolus is the source of one of the all-time best-selling cancer drugs. Protein-bound polysaccharide, known as PSK, which also goes by the brand name Krestin, is sold mainly in Europe and Japan. Two other substances extracted from the mushroom, PSP and VSP, are being studied as possible complementary cancer treatments. Clinical trials suggest that PSK can be used to treat a wide variety of cancers by increasing survival rates and lengthening intervals between disease, without causing major side effects. PSK is used as an adjunct to radiation and chemotherapy and is most commonly administered by injection.”

Enoki contains polysaccharides that significantly increase cellular nitric oxide, an important messenger molecule in the body that is needed to control high blood pressure.”

“Japanese studies show that Lion’s Mane is able to regenerate neurons by stimulating production of nerve growth factor (NGF)… A clinical study using Lion’s Mane was conducted to investigate its effectiveness against dementia in a rehabilitative hospital in Japan.”

“Most immunity and cancer research favors Maitake D-fraction, the protein-bound beta-glucan extract discovered in Japan and standardized by Cun Zhuang, Ph.D. Maitake D-fraction activates the body’s immune cells, including T cells, macrophages, natural killer (NK) cells, and other vital components of cellular immunity. One study compared D-fraction with mitomycin-C (MMC), one of the strongest and most widely used chemotherapeutic drugs, which has very severe side effects. With just a small dose, the maitake extract produced an 80 percent shrinkage in tumors in mice compared to a 45 percent shrinkage produced by the MMC. When the two agents were combined in half-doses, an astonishing 98 shrinkage was achieved in fourteen days, demonstrating an apparent synergy.”

Reishi has approval in Japan for treating certain types of cancers and has been used safely and effectively in conjunction with drugs and radiation. According to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, reishi has been demonstrated to stimulate the immune system in patients with advanced cancers. One study showed that reishi significantly inhibited the growth of leukemia cells.”

Shiitake… is Japan’s number one agricultural export and the most cultivated, popular, and researched exotic mushroom in the world. Take is Japanese for mushroom, and shii refers to the kind of chestnut tree on which the mushroom commonly grows. Many gourmet cooks prefer the more delicious, exotic taste of shiitake compared to that of the common and somewhat band button mushroom.”

The final sections features recipes, including soups, stir fry, spring rolls, and dessert. The book is illustrated with color photography.

Babal, Ken. Mushrooms for Health and Longevity. Summertown, Tennessee: Books Alive, 2011. Buy from