Health & Wellness

Nutritionally Speaking: Medicinal mushrooms: potent medicine for people and planet

The estimated number of mushroom species ranges from 30,000 to 1.5 million. We have had a close relationship with mushrooms and have enjoyed the benefits they offer for thousands of years. The mushroom life cycle includes three distinct phases; mycelium, fruiting body and spore. They spend most of their life as mycelium, extracting nutrients from the environment and protecting themselves from invaders. Humans have evolved with them and many different cultures have relied on mushrooms as a wholesome food source and medicine. Through trial and error, and more recently through science, we have discovered the many benefits of these prolific fungi. Unlike most pharmaceuticals, mushrooms have extra-ordinary low toxicity, even at high doses.
Consistent with the Western tradition of the Doctrine of Signatures, Asian cultures give great significance to the natural form. The shape of the medicinal plant symbolized its medicinal potency or spiritual power. According to many native cultures, the cap and stem of mushrooms symbolized fertility, and the interconnection between the underworld and heaven, and natural harmony.
Most mushrooms appear, grow and disappear in a few days. Their sudden appearance is brief as compared to the mycelium web which makes up the strands of their global network. Picture the net of these filaments stretching the globe, all connected and supporting the planet’s health, in this way all mushrooms are medicinal. In his book, Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, Paul Stamets describes methods for Mycoremediation, or how fungi can decompose toxic substances (such as oil spills) and support habitat recovery and planetary health.
Stamets is a well-known expert mycologist, known for his books, and inspiring lectures. He is a trusted supplier of everything needed to grow your own mushrooms and he sells a variety of medicinal mushroom supplements. He holds many patents and trademarks for his products and his lectures have inspired many to learn about mushrooms and be more conscious about our environment.
Medicinal mushrooms are used in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), a modality that some say is designed to avoid disease as opposed to Western medicine, which responds to disease. The use of medicinal mushrooms in the West has declined with the rise of synthesized drugs.
Two popular medicinal mushrooms used as part of the TCM synergistic therapies that often include acupuncture are Shiitake and Reishi mushrooms.
Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) is traditionally used to support general health, improved circulation, prevent or reduce the impact of colds, improve stamina, and help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Shiitakes are a tasty addition to any meal. Lentinan, a constituent in shiitake mushrooms is a polysaccharide that is thought to stimulate the immune system by activating the bodies’ production of interferon. Another constituent L. edodes, has been shown to have a mostly antiviral effect and has been shown to enhance the effects of AZT, an antiretroviral drug.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), is the ”herb of deathlessness” or the ”the 10,000 year mushroom” as described by author Eugenia Bone in her book, Mycophilia, Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms. She notes that reishi has been credited with relieving the effects of a wide variety of illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, hypertension and hepatitis. With hundreds of active constituents offering potential medicinal benefits, this mushroom has attracted the attention of Western medical researchers and there have been many studies with promising results.
In this world where we are exposed to environmental toxins and the number of oil spills and other industrial accidents potentially damage our natural habitats, the mushrooms on our plate and forming their earthly net are here for protection and healing. Salud!

Spinach, Mushroom and Bacon Frittata
(from Natural Grocers website)
1 (8-ounce) package bacon
12 organic pasture-raised eggs
1 1⁄2 cups shredded organic sharp cheddar, divided
1⁄4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 (8-ounce) package organic mushrooms, sliced (ie: Shiitake)
1 1⁄2 cups organic frozen spinach
Preheat oven to 350°.
Heat a heavy-bottomed, oven-safe skillet (such as a cast iron) over medium heat. Cook the bacon, in batches, if necessary to prevent overcrowding, until cooked to your liking. Transfer the cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
While the bacon is cooking, add the eggs to a large bowl and whisk until well combined. Add 1 cup of the cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and whisk again. Set aside.
There should be between 1-2 tablespoons of bacon grease left in the pan after the bacon has been cooked. If there is significantly more, remove some, and if there is not at least a tablespoon, add a little olive oil or butter to the pan. Add the mushrooms to the skillet and cook over medium heat until they just start to soften about 3 minutes. Add the spinach and continue to cook, stirring frequently until the mushrooms are cooked through, the spinach is thawed, and some of the excess moisture has cooked away about 5 more minutes.
Cut the bacon into small bits, add to the mushroom-spinach mixture. Add the eggs and cook for about one minute. Using a heat-proof spatula, firmly scrape along the bottom and sides of the skillet every thirty seconds, moving the formed curds and allowing liquid egg to run into the empty spaces. Continue for about two minutes before using the spatula to evenly distribute the frittata in the skillet, lightly smoothing the top if necessary. Top with the remaining ½ cup of cheese and place in the oven.
Bake for 10 minutes, or until the center is just set and the cheese is lightly browned. Remove the frittata from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving. Enjoy!
At Natural Grocers in Eugene, where I am the store’s Nutritional Health Coach, we offer free classes that include plenty of information about healthy eating choices, and free one-on-one health coaching sessions (call 541-345-3300). Please ”like” our Natural Grocers-Eugene Facebook page. Find our store’s schedule of free classes at:



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