We’ve all heard the benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, but one healthful food we often overlook is mushrooms. Asian strains of mushrooms are referred to as “medicinal mushrooms” because they are especially good for our health. They have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and immune-enhancing properties. The best kinds of mushrooms to choose for their health benefits are shitake, enoki, reishi, and maitake.
Shiitake mushrooms are both delicious and beneficial. They are meaty and flavorful, and also contain a substance called eritadenine, which encourages the absorption of cholesterol, thereby lowering the amount circulating in the blood. Shiitakes are also said to have benefits for cancer patients, because they contain yet another substance, lentinan, that has been shown to treat chromosomal damage caused by chemotherapy. Yet another substance in shiitakes, lentinula edodes mycelium (LEM), has been found effective for treating and preventing cancer, heart disease, hypertension, and even infectious diseases such as hepatitis.
Enoki mushrooms are quite different from shiitake mushrooms in appearance and flavor. These long, white mushrooms have a very mild flavor and are also good for fighting the effects of cancer treatments like chemotherapy, and are said to be especially effective for those fighting prostate cancer and lymphoma. They are also fantastic for enhancing the immune system by detoxifying the body. Enoki mushrooms are said to reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases, heart disease, and even degenerative diseases like Alzheimers’ and dementia. On top of all these benefits, enoki mushrooms are also a great source of iron.
Reishi are yet another kind of Asian mushroom said to hold excellent beneficial effects for your health. Reishi are different from the other mushrooms in the list because they are used strictly for medicinal purposes, not for cooking, because they are woody, hard and bitter. However, they are effective in improving immune function and inhibiting the growth of malignant tumors. Its anti-inflammatory properties help to protect the liver and also to protect against allergic reactions. Since Reishi are not intended for cooking, they are best bought in tablets.
Finally, maitake mushrooms are both delicious and medicinally potent. They are often called the “hen of the woods” in Japan because they resemble the fluffed tail feathers of a nesting hen. Like other Asian medicinal mushrooms, maitake mushrooms enhance the immune system and slow tumor growth such as in brain or prostate cancer. Maitake mushrooms are also said to contain other healing powers as well, such as helping to manage emotional and physical stress levels. Some patients with HIV have reported immune-boosting effects, and diabetics have reported reductions in blood pressure. You can find Asian mushrooms at your local grocery store or Asian supermarket, or you can order online at Marky’s.