The use of mushrooms in traditional ancient therapies dates back to at least the Neolithic Age (in China, 10,000 B.C. – 2,000 B.C). For millennia, mushrooms have been regarded and revered by humans as edible and medicinal agents. Ancient Asian traditions have stressed the importance of several mushroom species, most notably the lingzhi or reishi, lion’s mane, cordyceps, and shitake mushroom. The history of mushroom consumption is rich in Tibetan shamanism and Buddhism, as well as in spiritual cultures of Mesoamerica, Mexico, and Guatemala with the use of hallucinogenic mushroom species. Also, the use of medicinal mushrooms has a long history in Russia, Europe, and some parts of Africa, including Nigeria, Algeria, and Egypt.
Given the use of mushrooms in traditional therapies spanning the globe, modern researchers are attempting to validate and document some of the ancient knowledge. In the past three decades, the interdisciplinary field of science that studies mushrooms, known as mycology, has demonstrated the nutritional (culinary) and therapeutic (medicinal) value of many compounds extracted from a range of mushrooms species .
Traditionally, mushrooms were used to maintain good health, as well as to prevent and treat diseases, mainly by regulating the immune system. In the last decade scientists have identified and explored other ways in which various mushroom species promote good health, revealing mushrooms to be unique, multi-modal medicinal agents worthy of further investigation.
Today, more than 100 therapeutic applications have been demonstrated by mushrooms, including
antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antitumor, anti-diabetic, immunomodulating, antiviral, antibacterial, anticholesterolemic, antiparasitic, and antifungal.
Mushrooms also protect against brain, heart, and liver damage. While modern researchers are just beginning to explore the clinical potential of medicinal mushrooms in the West, countries in the East such as Japan, Korea, China, and Russia have already adopted mushroom-derived preparations for use in clinical practice.
For example, mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for years to treat pulmonary diseases, and in Japan, the mushroom T. versicolor has been used as an approved product for adjunctive cancer treatment since the 1970s.
The number of mushroom species on Earth is currently estimated at 150,000, yet perhaps only 10 percent are known to science. This presents researchers with an exciting opportunity to dive into this vast and largely untapped. With all these types of mushrooms, it’s easy to get confused about where to start your medicinal mushroom journey. At Qi Traditions, we’ve super-simplified your search with Health Canada’s Monograph that lists the top 14 main types of medicinal mushrooms in the world.