Foodie Friday - Magic Mushrooms

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No, not *those* kind.....

Mushrooms belong to the fungus family, one of the most primitive of all plant groups. The edible part, the mushroom itself, is actually the fruit of the fungus, which grows underground.

Granted, they are not a favorite of everyone ... whether because of the taste, the texture, or the fact that they can only grow out of some kind of decaying matter... however, mushrooms have some amazing nutritious and health-giving properties.

From Sally Fallon's "Nourishing Traditions":

"[Mushrooms] contain protein, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iron and B complex vitamins, particularly biotin. Mushrooms are also rich in selenium, necessary for a healthy heart and nervous system. "

And regarding recent Japanese research into the medicinal properties of certain mushroom species:

"A substance called adensine has been isolated from the tree-ear mushroom' it has potent blood thinning and anticoagulant properties. Just a small amount of a black tree-ear mushroom can have a profound effect on reducing blood stickiness, clots and plaque build-up. Other commercially available mushrooms that seem to have these positive effects on the blood include shiitake, enoki and oyster mushrooms."

It would seem that other commercially grown mushrooms are lacking in most of these pharmacological properties, although they still contain some trace minerals and B vitamins, but there is also the concern, particularly with the common white mushrooms found in stores, that they are one of the most highly chemicalized plant foods available. The best choice would be wild-grown or those cultivated on healthy soil.

David Winston, herbalist and founder of Herbalist & Alchemist, speaks of the miraculous immunity-supporting properties of certain mushroom species:

"Mushrooms are a rich source of immune-stimulating large molecular weight polysaccharides. These compounds have been studied since the 1950's and have been found to increase the activity of macrophages and killer T-cells, thus inhibiting tumors, Hepatitis B virus and other viruses."

Winston has created a variety of single-species mushroom tinctures, as well as a compound I always keep on hand, called "Seven Precious Mushrooms". Of this, he says:

"This formula contains powerful immune potentiating substances that are used for immune deficiency (cancer, AIDS, chronic fatigue syndrome and immune excess (auto-immune) conditions, (multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, etc.). In Traditional Chinese medicine the mushrooms strengthen the lung qi. This helps prevent colds, flu and other "external pernicious influences". They are also used to normalize the heart, liver and spleen qi."

This formula, which may be more palatable for people who want the benefits of mushrooms, without having to actually eat them, specifically contains Black Reishi, Red Reishi, Reishi mycelium, Chaga, Shiitake, Maitake, and Cordyceps mycelium.

Another company that really knows their fungi is Woodland Essence. I have previously sung the praises of Kate Gilday and Don Babineau, whose home and center is "nestled in a Balsam Fir forest of the southern Adirondack Park". Kate and Don harvest their own mushrooms from the vast forest in which they live, and create such amazing products (both of which I have used) such as their Chaga tea, and "Deep Immune Tonic".. a blend of three mushrooms and the immunity-supporting herb, astragulus. The recommended usage for this product is to cook up the entire 12-ounce package, preferably with the bones of an organic chicken or leftover turkey, making three quarts of a potent broth, which can then be frozen in ice cube trays and consumed regularly throughout the winter season.

So, if you're already a mushroom fan, I invite you to explore some other varieties.. I find them to be more readily available even in mainstream grocery stores (although, please take care to ensure they are fresh, and not wilted and slimy-looking). Dried and packaged varieties are also available, and can be reconstituted and made into sauce and soups.

If you don't like mushrooms, but would still like to reap the benefits, as I stated above, check out the tinctures which can be mixed into juice, and taken throughout the day.

Looking for more recipes?

Check here for starters:

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(As is always the case, I want to stress that this information is for informational purposes only, and is by no means meant to be taken as a substitute for qualified medical care. Please consult with your physician if you have questions or health concerns.)