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Registered: 07/26/04
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Mushroom medicine
    #4540524 - 08/16/05 01:25 AM (12 years, 8 months ago)

Mushroom medicine
August 15, 2005 - dailycamera.com

Scientists, doctors finding 'forbidden fruit' has healing properties

They are subjects of fascination and fear, long seen by Westerners as symbols of decay, deadly poisons, or hallucinogens.

But in the 21st century, the lowly mushroom - used medicinally for 2,000 years in Asia and eastern Europe - is enjoying an image change among some health practitioners.

"Mushrooms were seen as sort of the forbidden fruit. But the pendulum is swinging," says Washington mycologist Paul Stamets, author of the new book "Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World," ($35; Ten Speed Press). "We are undergoing a mycological revolution. Gone are the days of medical practitioners pooh-poohing the importance of mushrooms as medicine."

Stamets is among the dozens of scientists, researchers and doctors who will gather at the Third International Medicinal Mushroom Conference in Port Townsend, Wash. this October to discuss using mushrooms to treat everything from cancer to smallpox. He'll also visit Colorado Friday to present a lecture on medicinal mushrooms at the Telluride Mushroom Festival.

This year, he'll have a lot to talk about.

Studies by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense recently found that extracts of a rare mushroom called agarikon were powerful enough to fight off and prevent smallpox and other similar viruses, making them a promising weapon in the case of a bioterrorist attack. Out of 200,000 samples tested, they ranked in the top 10, prompting the government to launch further testing in animals.

The results come as no surprise to Stamets, who for 25 years has been studying the medicinal properties of mushrooms. At a time when many antibiotics are beginning to fail, he sees mushrooms - which have developed defenses against many of the same pathogens that ail humans - as a safe, potent defense against things like drug-resistant staph and e-coli.

"There is an emerging, critical need for novel antibiotics," says Stamets, who provided the mushroom cultures to the NIH and has since patented them. "Simply put, mushrooms don't like to rot. They produce defenses against bacteria that we can utilize."

Using mushrooms as antimicrobials is just the latest in an array of potential medical applications to come under investigation in the United States in recent years.

Research published in the scientific journals Integrative Cancer Therapies and Oncology Reports recently showed that reishi mushrooms inhibited breast and prostate cancer cells and promoted anti-tumor activity.

While other studies are few and far between, the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center recently launched a study using maitake mushroom extract to boost the immune systems of breast cancer patients. And government-funded studies are currently underway to determine whether oyster mushrooms can quell liver problems in HIV patients and turkey tail mushrooms can shrink tumors.

Dr. Pierre Brunschwig, a family practice physician with Helios Integrated Medicine in Boulder says he frequently recommends reishi and maitake mushroom supplements for cancer patients and others with low immune function. He says they are loaded with beta-glucans, sugars which mimic immune stimulators in the body. He's kept patients on mushroom supplements for months, or years, and seen no adverse side effects.

"These things have been used in other cultures for thousands of years," Brunschwig says. "They are very, very safe."

Boulder oncologist John Fleagle said he hadn't seen enough research to comment specifically on whether mushroom extracts hold promise in cancer treatment. But he recommends that cancer patients interested in trying them go through a clinical trial, to be safe, rather than just taking them off the shelf or over the Internet.

Matthew Becker, an herbalist with Pharmaca Integrated Pharmacy in Boulder says in the last 15 years he has seen both awareness about medicinal mushrooms and the number of mushroom supplements on the shelves skyrocket in recent years.

Top sellers include: cordyceps, which runners and athletes use to improve respiratory function and bring more oxygen to the body; reishi, used as an anti-inflammatory, to strengthen the liver, to boost the immune system, and to calm the nervous system; shiitake, as a daily health tonic; and maitake, famous for its immune-boosting and cancer-fighting properties.

Some, like shiitake and maitake, can be cooked and eaten. Others, like cordyceps and reishi, must be taken in a supplement. Some are taken temporarily for specific purposes, others serve as a daily tonic, "the herbal equivalent of a multi-vitamin," Becker says.

"They have no downside to them. They are kind of like good food or exercise. The longer you take them, the better they work."

Marilyn Shaw, toxicology chair for the Colorado Mycological Society, says she hasn't seen enough research to be convinced of the medicinal properties of mushrooms. But as long as they aren't being used in place of a more proven remedy, she sees little harm in trying them.

Out of roughly 140,000 species of mushroom worldwide - 3,000 in Colorado alone - there are only about 100 species that are known to be toxic, she says. In the last 100 years, the mortality rate from mushroom poisoning in the United States has averaged fewer than 1.5 per year.

"People always think 'deadly mushroom.' But that is almost never the case," she says. "You are much more likely to die, and die quickly, from going around nibbling green plants."

* Related Story: Beneficial fungi

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Brainy Smurf

Registered: 05/08/04
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Re: Mushroom medicine [Re: veggie]
    #4541096 - 08/16/05 04:23 AM (12 years, 8 months ago)

Kick ass!

"life is like a drop of rain getting closer and closer to falling into a lake, and then when you hit the lake there is no more rain drop, only the lake."

Growing with bags, start to finish (including my new grain and substrate prep)
Anyone looking to start bulk tubs/mono tubs/shotgun hybrids? Good tubs to use..
How I do grain (old still good tips)
Turn your closet into a fruiting chamber
Casing layer colonization and overlay

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Not an EggshellWalker
 User Gallery

Registered: 07/18/03
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Re: Mushroom medicine [Re: veggie]
    #4541120 - 08/16/05 04:29 AM (12 years, 8 months ago)

Pretty soon doctors will be writing cancer patients scripts for "medicinal mushrooms".

So long as you are praised think only that you are not yet on your own path but on that of another.

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Folding@home Statistics
Registered: 09/11/04
Posts: 1,332
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Re: Mushroom medicine [Re: veggie]
    #4542340 - 08/16/05 02:45 PM (12 years, 8 months ago)

I would like to go to Telluride and listen to what Paul has to say. Everything we need to live well already exists, we just need to learn how to use them.


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