Paul Stamets Answers Frequently Asked Questions
About Medicinal Mushrooms:
Why use a mushroom blend?
A number of researchers have come to the conclusion that, to maximize a host-mediated response-that is, to 'awaken' the immune system-a panoply of polysaccharides is best. These polysaccharides appear to increase the number and activity of killer T and NK (natural killer) lymphocytes. Combining medicinal mushroom species sends the immune system multiple stimuli, awakening the body's natural defenses. One recent case study utilizing four of our medicinal mushrooms resulted in complete recovery from breast cancer. The patient combined allopathic and Naturopathic treatments (Wedam & Haynes, 1997).
Not only are there medicinal polysaccharides in mushrooms, but a wide variety of other constituents may help improve human health. Diabetics may benefit from better glucose metabolism, as may be produced by Maitake, Reishi and Cordyceps. Many species have direct tumor-growth-inhibiting effects with no or little cytotoxicity to healthy cells, an extraordinary characteristic of any cancer therapy. The LD-50, the dose lethal to 50% of a population of organisms, is typically extraordinarily high in these medicinal mushrooms, meaning they have very low toxicity, several orders of magnitude lower than most antibiotics or other immunostimulants.
Cordyceps is thought to extend the longevity of healthy cells, increase blood flow, and lower cholesterol levels. Several species improves liver and/or kidney function. There are recent reports that compounds in Lion's Mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) may stimulate nerve regeneration. Although, we are still just exploring their potential medical uses, researchers world-wide have come to the same conclusion. Mushrooms are powerful natural medicines-especially for those challenged by stress-related disease complexes entering the 21st century. A complex blend of medicinal fungi can offer a powerful therapeutic punch.
Nutritional Value of Mushrooms
Many myths have been spread about mushrooms. One of the most inaccurate is that mushrooms have no nutritional value. To properly consider them for their nutritional benefits, they must be viewed from a dried weight perspective. And mushrooms give you maximum nutritional benefit only upon cooking. Mushrooms are relatively high in protein, averaging about 20% of their dried mass. Further they contribute a wide range of essential amino acids. Low in fat (between .3 and 2%) and high in fiber, mushrooms also provide several groups of vitamins, particularly thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, biotin, ascorbic acid and Vitamin D.
For more information on the nutritional properties of mushrooms, Paul Stamets, founder of Fungi Perfecti, published an extensive study of 24 major nutrients in 16 mushroom species and varieties. See: Stamets, P., 2005. “Notes on Nutritional Properties of Culinary-Medicinal Mushrooms”, International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, vol. 7: 103–110.
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Why not produce a highly purified extract of, for instance, Maitake to isolate the D-fraction from Maitake?
There are several studies suggesting the high-molecular-weight polysaccharide family has greater stimulatory effects than any one of its isolated constituents. Adachi et al (1990) found that there was greater immunological benefit from a heat-treated 'mother' polysaccharide (800,000+ m.w.) than from the isolated, derivative polysaccharides of lower molecular weights of 250,000, 21,000, and 6400. Mizuno (1995, pp. 32-33) and Broffman (1997) also underscored the importance of constituents other than (1-3)-ß-D-glucans, and suggested that other components within the mushrooms helped increase activity. The following model is suggested: the human immune system is stimulated by the decomposition of coarse polysaccharides into synergistic subcomponents, thus enhancing immunological responses. In essence, this effect may be summarized by the adage that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." Hence, a crude extract is, in my opinion, better than any one isolated, purified constituent.
Why alcohol extracts?
Most of the active polysaccharides of mushrooms are soluble in water. When alcohol is added and becomes greater than 40+%, the water-soluble polysaccharides precipitate. Some of the active polysaccharides and their haptens are soluble in alcohol, but insoluble in water, as in the case of Agaricus blazei (Kawagishi et al. 1988). Hence, mushroom products containing both the water and alcohol extracts possess active constituents which remain in solution, giving you the best of both worlds.
Why is it important that mushrooms be grown organically?
Mushrooms are great sources of medicines but they can also concentrate heavy metals, especially if their culture is proximate to an industrialized area (Wu et al., 1996; Byrne, 1995; Stijve, 1977, 1984, 1990, 1991, 1992; Kawamura et al., 1991; Muramatsu et al. 1991). Pollutants from air and water can be taken up from the soil and passed directly into the mycelial network. Our mushrooms are grown at our certified organic farm situated at the base of the pristine Olympic Peninsula. Because of our location, abundance of clean air and water, our attention to environmentally sound practices, and personal concern for the integrity of each mushroom product, customers can be confident they are getting the highest quality. We are increasingly selling to Asian markets because of concerns for environmental contamination from pollution. A simple question to ask your supplier: where are their mushrooms grown?
Which extract is the best for treatment of cancer?
This is a tough question, since cancers vary so much, and given that only a few clinical studies have been completed. It is difficult to give specific answers at this time. However, we do know that several unique polysaccharides individually awaken the immune system, and several mushrooms possess compounds that are anti-tumorigenic per se. Ghoneum et al. (1995) reported that a concoction of multiple mushroom species induced a pronounced immune response. Hence, if I were the patient, I would prefer a multiple-mushroom blend.
Parris M. Kidd, PhD asserts that the current evidentiary answer to this question is Trametes versicolor - also known as Coriolus versicolor - available from us here.
Are these extracts good as a preventative to disease, including cancers?
From the information gathered thus far, yes.
For those in recovery, post chemotherapy or radiation therapy, are these extracts useful?
Yes. Many of the clinical studies in China show positive benefits with patients who have undergone radiation and chemotherapy in the treatment of cancers. A number of mushroom species have demonstrated a protective and regenerative effect on cells exposed to radiation and chemotherapy, including Maitake, Reishi, Zhu Ling, and Yun Zhi. In one case study with advanced breast cancer (Wedam & Haynes, 1997), complete recovery was accomplished after a regimen of chemotherapy and alternative therapies incorporating the daily consumption of our 4-mushroom tea blend.
What is Maitake "D-fraction"?
Maitake D-fraction is a phrase coined to describe a derivative of a high-molecular-weight polysaccharide (m.w. approx. 1,000,000) that is acid-insoluble, alkali-soluble, and hot-water extractable. The fraction is composed of 1,6 beta-glucans carrying 1,3 branches. All fruitbodies of Maitake contain this fraction.