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Hippocrates is considered by many to be father of modern medicine. Although this is true, the irony is Hippocrates did not believe in drugs; he considered them to be harmful to the human body in the long run. Instead he believed that all the human body need is adequate rest, proper diet, exercise, clean air and herbs. Although today some people might disagree with his view, truth is this is what your doctor means when he says you need rest and exercise. For centuries people have been trying to merge natural remedies like herbs with conventional medicine and they have consistently failed especially when trying to cure diseases like cancer, allergies or preventing side effects.
Some of the misconceptions about mushrooms are that they carry little nutritional value. However this is further from the truth. Apart from being a low calorie highly nutritional food source, mushrooms carry unique compounds such as for example an antioxidant called L-ergothioneine. Also 5 little button mushrooms contain more potassium than an orange!
And since some mushrooms are extremely toxic, avoid putting yourself and your dinner guests at risk by buying mushrooms from professionals who are conversant on mushrooms and their medicinal benefits.
Medicinal Mushrooms, Chinese medicine / Herbal medicine
The Chinese and the Egyptians were among the first people to appreciate the value of the mushroom. Egyptians associated mushroom with immortality and since they revered their Pharaohs, they included mushroom as a specialty in the diet of the royal family. Many countries in Asia and Eastern Europe too have been fascinated by the mushroom for years. China in particular associated it with longevity. As such, these cultures included it in their diet and had fun with it in the process, by organising communal mushroom hunting errands.
Others like the Romans, however, went to the extreme by castigating the mushroom for its poisonous potency since it apparently killed their Emperor Claudius in a premeditated murder.
Today, the mushroom is part of expensive cuisines in luxurious restaurants all over the world. It is also used as medication as it provides precious ingredients for modern medicine. Mushroom is also used as an effective leavening and fermentation agent in food processes. In 2008, UC Davis published a review of medicinal mushroom research and encouraged further research by way of clinical trials.
Subsequently, the mushroom has ceased to be just a wild incidental growth from decomposing material, and has taken up its place as a commercial crop. Of course the species that are best suited to wild growth are left to continue in their habitat, and still get hunted reminiscent of the good old days.
How can you tell a mushroom is safe to eat?
Mushrooms come in different shapes and sizes and different varieties. Since different varieties share similarities in shape and size, it takes a trained eye to identify a particular mushroom with precision. While some common mushrooms are safe to eat, some others are extremely toxic and can be fatal to eat. Therefore the task of picking mushroom for consumption should be left to the experienced or those trained in the agrarian field. It is otherwise an impossible task for an ordinary person to tell what type of mushroom a particular piece is.
The methods of identification in use today include a combination of ancient plus modern methods. Long ago, a keen expert eye would observe the spore prints made on a surface by the powdery stuff emitted from the mushroom gills, where both colour and patterns were extremely significant. The colours to look for included mostly white, but there was also black, brown, yellow, purple-brown, and cream. Modern categorisation of mushroom involves scientific testing of samples in a laboratory.
Considering the possible repercussions of eating a poisonous piece of mushroom, it is wise to cook only mushrooms sourced from an expert.
Research has shown that some mushrooms exhibit in vitro anti-viral properties.
Mushrooms have been scientifically proved to having anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties which assist the body in fending off diseases like Polio, Hepatitis B, HIV, Influenza, HSV-1 and HSV-2 as well as the small pox virus.
An in-depth analysis of mushrooms a few decades ago also led to some interesting discoveries. Scientists discovered that some enzymes present in the stipe can be used in the manufacture of detergents. On the other hand, toxic elements in some mushroom species that the plant presumably uses to deter predators (including humans); can be used to produce environmentally friendly pesticides.
Mushrooms also seem to have great potential in the field of biotechnology. It is already being used to spur plant growth and or lower the level of bacterial contamination in water. The US patent and Trademark Office has registered different patents in relation to the specialised fields of mycoremediation, a cleaning process where contaminants are biodegraded to clean the environment and mycofiltration, a filtration process that gets rid of disease causing elements like the bacteria, e coli and the protozoa, plasmodium falciparum.
In 2013, the US Davis School of medicine in collaboration with US Davis Comprehensive Cancer Centre continues to do research on the impact extracts from mushroom have on patients of prostate cancer, and they are very optimistic about the results.
The Mushrooms and Health 2012 report that was prepared by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) confirmed the health benefits of the mushroom. CSIRO is Australia's biggest food research organization.
It is therefore evident from all its various uses, medical and most importantly its dietary benefits it is clear that mushroom is the most significant fungus after penicillin.
Additional information and sources
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