Nature's "Smart Drugs": Mushrooms, Culinary Delights and Medicinal Magic

Master's of Delectable Disguise

Mushrooms, particularly medicinal mushrooms have been on the rise in being a new researched plant for the use of many different antibiotics and supplements for health. They have been nature's medicine and used by indigenous tribes as medicine for thousands of years. The truth of it is, we have been using lots of different mushrooms are whole lives that have their own medicinal benefits without even knowing it. You find them in super markets across the globe, chefs use them in their culinary dishes, and millions of people use them on a daily basis to put on top of their pizzas, make stuffed mushrooms, and a ton of other delicious mushroom recipes, all of which have become known as culinary mushrooms. Most of these include Maitake, Shitake, Oyster, Enokitake, Tremella, and Portabello.


In my last blog I spoke about the medicinal health benefits of my top five favorite medicinal mushroom family mushrooms, Reishi, Chaga, Turkey Tail, Lion's Mane, and Cordyceps. In this blog I want to expand on the magic of mushrooms medicinally to include those mushrooms that have grown to be known as "Culinary Delights." These mushrooms fill our kitchens with their amazing aromas and tantalize our taste buds with their fabulous flavors, but that is not all that they provide our body. Like the wild harvested mushrooms that make up the medicinal mushroom families these culinary mushrooms also provide our bodies with amazing health benefits, some of which I have found to be great medicinal supplements to help with Cystic Fibrosis.


Reishi Mushroom

If you are new to the mushroom scene, and don't know much about my favorite 'fun guys' aka the Fungi kingdom, then you should check out my previous blog "Mycomagic" here, which provides a wealth of knowledge on mushroom anatomy, the fantastic chemical compounds that mushrooms have that help us medicinally, but also help the planet to rejuvenate and rebuild ecosystems. These tiny fungi's are small in size, but they pack a big PUNCH in awesome benefits for all of nature!

The medicinal family of mushrooms, contains all different types of polysaccharides known as Betaglucans and each provides a unique chemical compound that benefits us medicinally. A lot of these medicinal mushrooms are great adaptogens that help the body to rebuild and boost our own immune systems, some are full of Vitamins, antioxidants, and anti-bacterial/viral properties making them a excellent addition to the daily remedies of a Cystic Fibrosis individual.

Since mushrooms are excellent adaptogens or non-specific regulators in the body, they are safe to take on a daily basis. As adaptogens, they provide more of a life force of bio-availability in the body and increased nutrients, and since they are perennials and can grow under extreme conditions they are great at helping to relieve stress, anxiety, and increase energy and stamina in the human body. They are growing in popularity and demand in the alternative health industry as "mushroom extract powders" are being added to some of our daily morning rituals of Coffee or Tea. This is one way I love enjoying some of my stronger medicinal mushrooms in a nice cup of cocoa tea, but when it comes to these culinary mushrooms, delectable dishes full of flavor are the way to enjoy all the benefits of these mushrooms.

Nature's "Smart Drugs"



Maitake mushrooms

The first of my favorite culinary mushrooms for not only flavor, but assisting with CF symptoms is Maitake. Maitake's have a variety of names depending on where you are on the globe, but the scientific name is (Grifola frondosa). Some other common names for this mushroom is 'Hen of the woods' for english speakers, and in Japanese it is known as 'Maitake' which means dancing mushrooms. Maitake's grow in clusters near the base of Oak trees usually and can be found in late summer or early Autumn for those of you foragers. This mushroom contains a large amount of betaglucans of 1.3-1.6 compared to other mushrooms which could be why they are so delicious with their savory flavor. Besides being delectable in flavor these mushrooms have amazing health benefits that are great for anyone, but also help those with CF. Maitake mushrooms assist with maintaining gut health and increasing immunity in the body just like some of it's other mushroom buddies, but the most beneficial to CF I have seen with my own health is it's ability to help with balancing blood sugar.

Maitake's contain alpha-glucosidase inhibitors that help to regulate and balance the blood sugar in the body. With more CF patients living into adulthood, they have found that most begin to develop CF related diabetes, where the body needs additional insulin because the thick mucus lining all of our organs makes it hard for our own insulin produced to make it's way out of the pancreas and into the cells, therefore insulin shots are needed to support. If we can manage low sugar diets that eliminate processed food and start using certain medicinal foods like Maitake mushrooms and Cinnamon to help balance blood sugar early on while these CF children are growing, we may be able to eliminate some of the CF adults from developing diabetes very young or be able to manage it with diet without having to take insulin shots. I have seen reduced A1C results from 6.2-5.8 and my blood sugar results during the day are very consistent 89-120. With diet, exercise, and adding beneficial medicinal foods and herbs that help balance blood sugar throughout the day, my insulin doses are barely anything compared to what they use to be. I use to take 2-4 units per meal and 10 units for long acting insulin, now I take 1-2 units per meal and 4 units of long acting insulin at night. A big sign how diet changes and using food as medicine can make a big difference when it comes to managing CF diabetes.


Shitake Mushrooms

Number two on the favorite for culinary mushrooms that I see as a benefit for CF, is Shitake mushrooms. These are also amazingly flavorful and delicious providing great macro-nutrients like amino acids, enzymes, vitamins and minerals. Believe me, for me to say that these mushrooms are flavorful and delicious is pretty ironic, because growing up I hated cooked mushrooms. I could eat raw button mushrooms like crazy, but when it came to cooking them no way, it was a texture thing I guess. About two years ago, I started eating more fresh organic foods and cooked mushrooms made their way back into my diet and now I love them.

Shitake mushrooms have wonderful medicinal benefits for blood circulation, liver health, helping in lowering cholesterol, and providing beautiful glowing skin. Even with all of those, the best benefit I think, is they contain the polysaccharide Lentinen which in Chinese medicine is great for increasing Chi, or the life force energy in the body. This is a point of reference for where the energy of the breathe comes from in Chinese medicine igniting our breath of fire. In Chinese medicine there is a candle metaphor that "Shen" represents the light or spirit within, 'Chi' is the flame of the candle representing the energy, and 'Jing' is the wax of the candle or essence within our bodies. If you work to increase your 'Chi' in your body and breathe from this point you can really draw awareness to increasing and controlling your breath. This is a valuable skill to know and be aware of when it comes to having Cystic Fibrosis as it allows us to take a deeper breath and expand our lungs making it easier to breath. I cook with these as much as I can to help increase my Chi energy along with daily breathing exercises to help me become more aware of my breath and how I'm breathing. These two have really helped me to expand my lungs and the breathing exercises help me to cough up trapped mucus deep down in the lower lobes of my lungs.

The last three top culinary medicinal mushrooms I am less familiar with and haven't worked with much, are Oyster, Tremella, and Enokitake. These mushrooms still have amazing health benefits that I would like to share that can benefit CF I believe, but I can't provide any insight to how they have helped me personally.



Oyster Mushrooms

The first is Oyster mushroom, another delicious culinary mushroom that you find in the store most often and provides some great benefits as a medicinal food. Oyster mushrooms are the easiest to grow and can even be grown at home using coffee grounds. These mushrooms also grow in clusters on the forest floor like a lot of it's other culinary family members and are a great benefit to mother nature because they are such good eaters and decomposers. They contain strong chemical components that allow it to consume and hyper accumulate the breakdown of toxins in nature, such as diesel, radiation, and chemical welfare in the soils. Other benefits include high amounts of Iron, Vitamin B3 and B6 which are essential for regulating mood, and helping to lower cholesterol. They also contain Kojic acid, a polysaccharide that helps in making skin lighter in color. I love enjoying these in soups as they provide a richness of macronutrients to our diet, but don't have a direct relation to benefiting CF besides nutrition wise.

Beauty Mushrooms

Another interesting culinary mushroom is Enokitake (Flammulina populicola) also known as the Beauty mushroom. This mushroom is used in a lot of different beauty products because it contains large amounts of Proflamin which has been researched to help with reducing melanoma and other cancer cells, and rejuvenating skin. This mushroom grows on Chinese hackberry trees and can be white in color when grown in cultivation, but are normally light brown to brown when found in the wild. These mushrooms are great for reducing inflammation in the body, contain large amounts of Vitamin B3 and are anti-bacterial all of which are beneficial to Cystic Fibrosis especially for inflammation. This mushroom is hard to find in Hawaii, so I would love for you to give it a try and let me know how you liked this mushroom and if it helped with inflammation in the comments below since I have yet to try this one.


Tremella mushroom

The last of these amazing culinary mushrooms is Tremella (Tremella fuciformis) and it comes from a unique type of mushroom group known as jelly mushrooms. These mushrooms help the body produce large amounts of SOD or Superoxide Dismutase, a strong antioxidant. These antioxidants help boost immunity and assist the body in fighting off free radicals which is a great support to Tremella's other benefits as a beauty mushroom for anti-aging and hydrating the skin. Tremella is also great for respiratory issues like asthma and contains high amounts of Vitamin D, both of which we as CF patients could benefit from. I really look forward to buying this in my next mushroom extract order and seeing what awesome benefits I can find from this jelly mushroom.

Well there you have it, all my favorite medicinal mushrooms and culinary delight mushrooms that have helped benefit my Cystic Fibrosis. I hope that you enjoyed learning about these amazing natural smart drugs that nature has provided us and decide to try some yourself as well. There are lots of different mushroom extract suppliers and I gave some tips on what to look for in my previous blog "Mycomagic" which you can find a link to it here. My favorite two places that I get my mushroom extracts from is Four Sigmatic and Wild Foods.

These extracts or blends can be used in so many ways, in smoothies, soups, teas, etc. Be creative and when using these mushrooms remember you have to cook them. So, I encourage you to jump in and start adding these to your diet in some way because they have huge health benefits for everyone, not just people with CF, so share with your families too!

Resources and Updates:

If you are interested in learning more, or looking for information on creating your own mushroom extractions then look no further than the awesome Mushroom academy, given by foursigmatic.com, you can find it here. It is a wealth of awesome free knowledge and was my main resource for this blog.

I just got a order of mushroom extracts and herbs to start creating different remedies with and I can't wait to see what awesome stuff I come up with, so stay tuned for recipes.

My sisters and I just started our herbal business almost two years ago 'Ohana Green Witches, and I am looking forward to turning my harvested herbs into amazing medicinal remedies for the CF community and my local community. I have learned amazing things from my herbal class so far and I have one more weekend left. I'm excited to see what we learn this week about all the local Hawaii medicinal plants and how we can use these beautiful local plants to assist in healing our body, mind, and spirit. It has been a awesome experience to learn the cultural background of the plants, the health benefits, and learning how to be grounded and more aware of the true essence of the earth and how vital it is to our survival. These lessons are one that I want to continue to teach the local community and spread the word of how vital it is for us to go back to our roots and live, learn, and know the land that we call home, mother earth.

Stay up to date, and subscribe to our email list here, so you don't miss out on any new blog updates, events, recipes, and much more. If you have any comments or recipe suggestions I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

With Aloha,

~Karen

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