Monday, 13 December 2010
A critically endangered mushroom & medicinal properties of mushrooms
Pleurotus nebrodensis, commonly known as Funcia di basilicu is a fungus that was declared by the IUCN as critically endangered in 2006. This fungus only grows on limestone in northern Sicily. The characteristics of the mushroom are its creamy white to yellow color, its diameter of between 5–20 centimeters, its extremely angled gills, and the breaking apart of the cap surface at maturity.
The first record of the mushroom was in 1866 by Italian botanist Giuseppe Inzenga, who named it Agaricus nembrodensis; it was described as "the most delicious mushroom of the Silician mycological flora". This was widely agreed upon, which has led to widespread cultivation, by professionals and amateurs. French mycologist Lucien Quélet later (1886) transferred the species to the genus Pleurotus. One reason it was classified as critically endangered is because it is found only in a 100 km square area, and the population has become fractured. In addition, there are not as many mature fungi, and it is losing its natural habitat. An additional reason for decline is the cultivators are now picking unripe specimens, which has led to species decline. It is currently estimated that only 250 Pleurotus nebrodensis reach maturity every year.
Currently there are no laws to protect Pleurotus nebrodensis. Even in protected areas there has not been a ban on picking of unripe specimens. However, a draft of rules has been created, and could be approved. This draft proposes protecting all ages of the Pleurotus nebrodensis in one part of Madonie Park, a sanctuary, while in another section of the park it will protect any non-mature mushroom. In addition to this, this fungus is being grown, like a crop, to reduce the strain on the wild population. These fungi that are cultivated for conservation are produced in tunnels that are covered by black nets, which provides 90% shade for them. These cultivated fungi have the same flavor and aroma as the wild kinds.
Mushrooms have been used as a cure-all in Asia for thousands of years, says Deanne Tenney, author of Medicinal Mushrooms (Woodland Publishing, 1997). "Polysaccharides [long-chain sugar molecules] are thought to be one of the constituents in mushrooms responsible for their medicinal abilities," Tenney writes. "These polysaccharides are able to stimulate the immune response against viral and bacterial diseases. They may even help with life-threatening diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, HIV, free-radical damage, liver problems and immune-related conditions.
FIVE MUSHROOMS THAT HAVE HEALING PROPERTIES
Maitake (Grifola frondosa) grow on tree trunks in deciduous forests in temperate climates in eastern Canada, northeastern and mid-Atlantic U.S., northeastern Japan and parts of Europe. These mushrooms have fan-shaped caps and often grow in masses.
They contain beta-D-glucan, a polysaccharide that stimulates the body's immune response. Maitake also may reduce high blood pressure. In a 1994 study conducted at the Ayurvedic Medical Center of New York, 11 volunteers given 500 mg doses of maitake twice daily reported their blood pressure was reduced by 5 percent to 20 percent.
It also may help treat cancer and HIV. Animal studies have found that maitake injected into the abdominal cavity reduced tumor growth by 90 percent, and it was the first mushroom found to inhibit the activity of HIV in laboratory studies
Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) grow on dead or dying broad-leaf trees, including chestnut, beech, maple, oak, walnut and mulberry, in the temperate mountain regions of Asia. THey are high in B-complex vitamins, which are necessary for cell energy and hormone production, and also contains protein, enzymes and eight essential amino acids. In addition, it includes the polysaccharide lentinan, which increases immune system activity. Lentinan is an approved drug in Japan used to treat cancer.
Shiitake also contains eritadenine, which lowers blood cholesterol. In a Japanese study, human volunteers ate 90 grams a day of fresh shiitake, and their cholesterol levels were reduced by an average of 12 percent. In addition, shiitake mushrooms can increase resistance to some bacterial, viral and parasitic infections, including herpes simplex and tuberculosis.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) rarely grows in the wild, but is cultivated widely in China. There are many varieties, but akashiba, or red reishi, is most popular. Reishi, also known as the "mushroom of immortality," is high in B vitamins, vitamins C and D, iron, calcium and phosphorus. It contains beta-D-glucan and triterpenes, which strengthen the circulatory and immune system.
Reishi also has a component similar in structure to steroid hormones that can help reduce allergy symptoms by inhibiting the release of histamines.
Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis). The Chinese call this finger-size mushroom found in the highlands of China, Tibet and Nepal "winter worm, summer grass." This rare mushroom, once only affordable by the Chinese imperial family, is traditionally used to increase stamina, endurance and sex drive, according to the Bio Research Institute in Paramus, N.J. It also is used to relieve bronchitis, insomnia, hypertension, pneumonia, emphysema, tuberculosis, anemia, night sweats and coughs, writes Kate Gilbert Udall in Cordyceps Sinensis: Immune and Stamina Booster (Woodland Publishing, 2000).
Royal Agaricus (Agaricus blazei Murill) grows in the mountainous region of Piedade near São Paulo, Brazil. Beth Ley, Ph.D., author of Medicinal Mushrooms for Immune Enhancement: Agaricus blazei Murill (BL Publications, 2001), reports that in the mid-1960s, a researcher from Pennsylvania State University noted that occurrence of adult diseases in the Piedade region was extremely low, and attributed it to a regular diet of agaricus mushrooms.
Agaricus has the most beta-D-glucan of any mushroom, and is mostly used for treating and preventing cancer, Ley says. It also can prevent or improve chronic fatigue syndrome and autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and lupus, she says. In addition, agaricus aids in digestion, reduces hair loss and, when applied topically, can heal wounds and clear up skin problems, Ley says.