Throughout Asia, particularly China and Japan, mushrooms have been part of the culinary experience but most importantly, they’ve harnessed the biggest health benefits of mushroom extracts for thousands of years. The western attitude and lack of nutritional information of mushrooms has landed our fungal friends in our salads and chopped up in our kitchens to be used in food dishes.
The Asian culture however, has for a couple of thousand years, used specific mushrooms to improve and maintain better health. Many of these mushrooms have reputed health benefits to include anti-aging properties to attacking cancer cells and although relatively new to the Western world, continue to be used within the Asian culture for their medicinal properties.
With advances in mushroom cultivation in just the last 20 years, increased availability, research, and affordability, use of mushrooms for their health benefits has increased. For example, the Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma Lucidum) was originally only available to Asian royalty and often referred to as mushroom of immortality. Reishi can suppress cell adhesion and migration of certain cancer cells, potentially reducing cancerous effects and certainly boosting immune systems.
The tumor inhibiting ability of specific mushrooms is created by the immune-stimulating polysaccharides. Medical practitioners in China and Japan have used mushrooms along with herbs in anti-aging and cancer medications. Certainly, the homeopathic community has expounded on the health benefits of using such extracts.
When selecting mushroom extract products for human consumption, it is important to select alcohol based extracts as they remove water-soluble components from the mushroom to maximize available triterpinoids. This is very important in accurate analysis of levels of Ganoderic acids to determine potency. Reishi is the only known source of a group of triterpenes known as ganoderic acids, which have a molecular structure similar to steroid hormones. It has the most active polysaccharides among medicinal plant sources. In addition to other curing qualities, some believe these Ganoderic acids may even lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Various mushrooms continue to be the focus of specialized research in cancer and immune dysfunction.
Nutr Cancer. 2005;53(1):11-7. Department of Health Technology and Informatics, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, SAR, China.
”Reishi a popular medicinal mushroom, has been used in China for longevity and health promotion since ancient times. Investigations into the anti cancer activity of reishi have been performed in both in vitro and in vivo studies, supporting its application for cancer treatment and prevention. The proposed anti cancer activity of reishi has prompted its usage by cancer patients. It remains debatable as to whether reishi is a food supplement for health maintenance or actually a therapeutic "drug" for medical proposes. Thus far there has been no report of human trials using reishi as a direct anti cancer agent, despite some evidence showing the usage of reishi as a potential supplement to cancer patients. Cellular immune responses and mitogenic reactivity of cancer patients have been enhanced by reshi, as reported in two randomized and one nonrandomized trials, and the quality of life of 65% of lung cancer patients improved in one study. The direct cytotoxic and anti-angiogenesis mechanisms of reishi have been established by in vitro studies; however, clinical studies should not be neglected to define the applicable dosage in vivo. At present, reishi is a health food supplement to support cancer patients, yet the evidence supporting the potential of direct in vivo anti cancer effects should not be underestimated.”
"Scientists have only recently confirmed what ancient cultures have known for centuries: mushrooms have within them some of the most potent medicines found in nature. We know that their cellular constituents can profoundly improve the quality of human health." –Paul Stamets
As a dedicated mycologist for over thirty years, Paul Stamets has discovered four new species of mushrooms, and pioneered countless techniques in the field of edible and medicinal mushroom cultivation. He also wrote the definitive guide to cultivating mushrooms ‘The Mushroom Cultivator’ and ‘Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms’ which serve as the Bible for mushroom identification, classification, and cultivation.
While some Westerners have only recently considered the medicinal properties of mushroom extracts, the introduction of mushroom formula treats for our canines is all the more a novelty. Some of the dog snacks have combined several of the most commonly used mushrooms in Chinese herbal medicine. Benefits to our best friends include strengthened and stabilized organ systems from Reishi mushrooms, improved digestion from Poria and Polyporous. Therapeutic effects include, enhanced immune system, anti-tumor effects according to some Asian research, increased energy, stomach, spleen, lung conditions, colds, flu, asthma, reduction of skin ailments/allergies, increased energy, improved immunity, and adjunct to chemo and radiation therapy.
A few certified organic pet products are natural, vegetarian, and consist of a blend of several mushrooms to include: Reishi, Maitake, Shiitake, Cordyceps, and Turkey Tail.
I’ve listed a few guaranteed analysis and certified organic products at my site and urge you to insist on product analysis when selecting a mushroom snack for your pet. Insure the product is all natural, vegetarian (even if your dog eats meat), free of chemical preservatives or additives, and 100% certified organic mushrooms.
If you’re not careful in your product selection, you risk never introducing the mushroom benefits to your dog’s diet. Some of the common problems with varieties claiming to contain mushroom blends include artificial colors, artificial flavors, meat by-products, sugar and salt, and non-natural chemical preservatives. Furthermore, many existing preservatives have been linked with health problems in dogs including damage to skin and liver and allergies defeating the purpose.
Whether your dog is older and suffers any ailments or a puppy, preventative and dietary maintenance will serve to improve your dog’s quality of life. Depending on the dog’s age and health, combining the right daily diet with mushroom blend treats makes for happier and healthier days your dog deserves now.
Randy Stewart owns www.ThoseMushrooms.com - A site dedicated to mushroom medicinal properties and cultivation.