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Medicinal mushrooms (sometimes called toadstools) have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. They have a variety of health and therapeutic effects. Some nicknames that various mushrooms have include immortal mushroom, fairy stool, hen-of-the-wood, hedgehog fungus, royal sun agaricus, and monkey's head. Below, you can review products for information like how to use, benefits, botanical names, cautions, references, and therapeutic uses.
Mushrooms are small living organisms that look sort of like small umbrellas. Athough they may look somewhat similar to plants, they are not technically classified as such. There are over 3,000 types of mushrooms currently known, classified as fungi.
Mushrooms have an interesting past, and present history. Penicillin and tetracycline are derivated from common mushrooms. People would gather the mushrooms and apply to open wounds, sores and rashes. They would use different methods to apply them such as using them as a compress or poultice.
Look carefully at mushrooms. The fungi lack chlorophyll. So how do mushrooms obtain food and nutrients? Easy, mushrooms absorb from the soil and decaying wood in their environment. The mushrooms will develop slender filaments, called mycelium. These mycelium penetrate underground assimilate nutrients. Don't under estimate the importance of these mycelium. In the words of mycologist Paul Stamets, "The entire food web of nature is based on these fungal filaments, the mycelium network that infuses all land masses in the world is a supportive membrane upon which life proliferates and further diversifies."
Some mushrooms have many medicinal properties while others have poisonous flesh. On top of that, many mushrooms look similar to one another and even professional mycologists sometimes have trouble telling them apart. That being said, you should never eat a mushroom you find unless you are absolutely positive that you know what it is.<
Parts of Mushrooms
Mushrooms have a variety of different parts. See the diagram on the left to identify what each part of the mushroom is.
Cap: The cap is the top of the mushroom (and often looks sort of like a small umbrella). Mushroom caps can come in a variety of colors but most often are brown, white, or yellow.
Gills, Pores, or Teeth: These structures appear under the mushroom's cap. They look similar to a fish's gills.
Ring: The ring (sometimes called the annulus) is the remaining structure of the partial veil after the gills have pushed through.
Stem or Stipe: The stem is the tall structure that holds the cap high above the ground.
Volva: The volva is the protective veil that remains after the mushroom sprouted up from the ground. As the fungus grows, it breaks through the volva.
Mycelium: The mycelium of a mushroom is essentially the root system. These thin strands stretch outward and downward to search through the soil for nutrients.
Some of the chemical constituents commonly found in mushrooms include inoleic acid, oleic acid, chitin, glycogen, trehalose, mannitol, β-glucans, polysaccharides, potassium, ergosterol, provitamin D₂, and phenolids with antioxidative properties.
- Kalač P. A review of chemical composition and nutritional value of wild-growing and cultivated mushrooms. J Sci Food Agric. 2013 Jan;93(2):209-18. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.5960. Epub 2012 Nov 21. Review. PubMed PMID: 23172575.