Mushrooms: from Superpower Edibles to Youthful Skincare?

Immune booster extraordinaire; super-effective memory support and cognitive function helper; adaptogen-rich, coming to the rescue to help stave off fatigue and concomitant stress… Mushrooms come in a wide range of shapes and sizes (and toxicity levels!).  Nonetheless, according to Medical News Today, there are approximately 2,000 safe and very much edible varieties from which to choose and benefit.  Barring that, supplementation has become a bit of a thing, too, though you should feel confident enough to heed Hippocrates and eat your way to health and better prospects of longevity via these wonders of what Nutrition Today deemed “the third plant kingdom”. 

Nutrition-wise, mushrooms generally contain protein, fibre, the B vitamins, selenium and choline.  A portobello mushroom, in weight comparison, has the same amount of potassium as a banana.  In addition, you can place mushrooms stalk side up on a windowsill to increase their vitamin D content.  Neither a fruit nor a vegetable, these fungi offer a distinctly umami flavor which seems to have no equal.  If, however, you can’t stand the slightly slimy and rubbery texture, then why not purée them in a soup, or opt instead for powdered form?

The Most Magic of Mushrooms

WHITE

Good for: weight loss; protection against prostate cancer; selenium.

Includes: button, cremini, and portobello varieties.

SHIITAKE

Good for: tumour-fighting lentinan; immune support (due to vitamin D).

It is recommended that around 140g be consumed per day.

REISHI

Good for: anticarcinogenic properties; antioxidant and antibacterial properties; gandodermic      

acid (lowers cholesterol and by extension blood pressure).

MAITAKE

Good for: breast cancer protection.

It is recommended that half a cup per day be eaten.

OYSTER

Good for: ongoing studies believe oyster mushrooms might be of help in fighting HIV.

CHANTERELLE

Good for: anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties; high in vitamin C, vitamin D, &            potassium.

PORCINI

Good for: anti-inflammatory; ergasterol (promotes cytotoxicity, the process of attacking enemy cells).

SHIMEJI

Good for: beta-glucans; tumour-fighting; even asthma and allergies.

Aside from eating mushrooms, however, the beauty industry has also woken up to the benefit of fungi, including as a treatment against acne and rosacea.  This heralds it as a possible ‘life-saver’ for the youth of our nation, as a solution for teenage skin problems (inflammation due to hormonal changes and the stress of approaching exams; and perhaps some rather poor eating habits when revising…).

Healing Mushrooms

Thought that was all there was to say on the subject of mushrooms?  Think again.  When it comes to medicinal mushrooms, they’re not as weird as you might have thought and they’re far more wonderfully powerful than you could have imagined.  There be some very real magic in them there fungi…  Something holistic practitioners in the East have known for many, many centuries.

Adaptogenic (balancing our entire bodily systems to a hormonal and cellular level, so that there is neither deficit or excess), the common factor between medicinal mushrooms is the extreme gain for humans when they consume them, as well as a destructive nature as regards the floral hosts they grow on.  For instance, Chaga kills the birch trees that nourish it and yet it is one of the most beneficial of all medicinal mushrooms to humans.  Imbued with the life of the deceased tree?  Perhaps…

CHAGA

Referred to as The King of Mushrooms, chaga is known to be hugely beneficial as an immune support, thanks to its high beta-glucan content.  At the same time, its high melanin content aids the skin in providing a barrier against pathogens, providing strength from inside to out in the very real battle of staying healthy (in a world frequently damp and cold-ridden as regards our dear Ol’ Blighty).

Time for coffee?  Toss out the bean and get sipping on some fungus.  Chaga is frequently available in powdered form, perfect as a coffee-substitute, or instead of tea.

CORDYCEPS

An energy booster that has been adored for centuries upon centuries in their native China, Mongolia, and Tibet, cordyceps comes without risk of that post-caffeine crash.  Simply put, cordyceps serves to make our breathing more oxygen-efficient, which in turn makes us think more clearly and feel less sleepy.  Seems pretty positive to us.

Revered on a par with ginseng in tonic herbalism, cordyceps is beneficial to jing as conceived of in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) – and is also thought to be a boon to male sexual performance as well…

REISHI

Chaga’s corresponding queen, reishi have long been lauded as stress-busting without subduing into sleep if need be.  However, it is also useful as chaga’s antithesis: whereas chaga is definitely one for the morning, a hot drink from reishi dust is perfect just before bed (no relevance to Philip Pullman’s ‘dust’ whatsoever; we think, but then again…).

Mushroom-Picking as Mindfulness

A recent article in The Guardian reported the power of mycology to operate as a form of active meditation.  Consider the transience, the temporality of a mushroom: here for a second and in that second so very fragile to external factors.  Consider also the concentration and knowledge needed to forage for the correct fungi that won’t send you to your grave.  The process itself takes you back to Nature, places you in an environment separate from the quotidian, where deep breaths and a rare calm are once more natural…

Make sure you heed guidance from those in the know and book yourself on a reputable course, so as to avoid any Nicholas Evans-type mishaps…  For further information, visit that greenest of knowledge centres: your local library.

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