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The Magic of Medicinal Mushrooms January 22, 2013

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
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4 comments

The mushrooms you love so much may be better for you than you know.

Evidence of the curative effects of mushrooms dates to prehistoric times in Africa, Egypt and Mesoamerica, depicted by hieroglyphs and petroglyphs, and two types discovered in pouches found in 1991 on the body of a 5,000 year old European, Oetzi the Iceman. The West has acknowledged the powerful use of mushrooms as medicine, but most of the globe has worshipped–often literally–the fungi for millennia.

Medicinal mushrooms possess latent cancer preventive properties. Studies in Japan and Brazil strongly indicate that regular consumption over prolonged periods significantly reduces cancer incidence. One Japanese epidemiological survey over a period of 14 years revealed that cancer rates of workers at medicinal mushroom farms were 1 in 1,000 compared to 1 in 600 for the general population. A mixture of the active ingredients from different mushrooms maximizes the immune response by providing multiple stimuli to the body’s natural defenses. Cancer Research UK also found increasing experimental evidence that medicinal mushrooms demonstrate both high anti-tumor activity and restricting metastasis of tumors. They even reverse the harmful effects of radiation and chemotherapy.

Reishi mushroom. Photo by Eric Steinert.

Reishi mushrooms are the oldest in Traditional Chinese Medicine, still widely used today.
Photo by Eric Steinert.

Reishi has been rated the top medicinal herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 2,000 years. So highly valued, it was traded for its own weight in gold and available only to Emperors. It is still the most important herb in Asia, where the focus is on preventive medicine as opposed to the West’s reactive. It contains over 200 active ingredients and unique compounds that are the most biologically active from any plant source. Reishi is normally taken as an extract because it is a very tough, woody mushroom and difficult to digest raw. Its dynamic antioxidant action and immune stimulating effects make it so treasured.

Nearly any type of common mushroom you choose to incorporate into your daily life will have a multitude of medicinal effects, most of them supremely positive. Raw mushrooms dried in the sun will multiply their stores of vitamin D for up to one year. Vitamin D deficiency accounts for many symptoms of decreased health including death from cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in older adults, severe asthma in children, cancer, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance and multiple sclerosis.

Fresh mushrooms are readily available and easy to incorporate into any diet. Exotic Asian varieties now normally found on supermarket shelves (shitake, maitake, oyster and enoki) have anticancer properties, lower cholesterol and strengthen the immune system. Common varieties such as button, Portobello and crimini contain some benefits (Portobellos have high potassium and B12 levels) but also naturally contain substances that in large doses may increase tumor risk in animals. These should always be consumed thoroughly cooked, broiled or grilled to decrease the toxins and ease digestion.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, natural medicine researcher and father of nutritarian eating, provides us with a longevity equation: H=N/C or healthy life expectancy is proportional to the lifetime intake of micronutrient diversity and quantity per calorie. His advocacy of micronutrient-rich diets is featured in Whole Foods Markets and inspired millions to consume anti-cancer foods as part of their regular diets. According to Dr. Fuhrman,

Mushrooms block tumor growth and have anti-estrogenic activity. Frequent consumption of mushrooms, approximately one button mushroom per day, has been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer by 60-70%. Mushrooms are thought to protect against breast cancer particularly because they inhibit an enzyme called aromatase, which produces estrogen. Mushrooms are one of the very few foods that inhibit aromatase, and several varieties of mushrooms have strong anti-aromatase activity, including the common varieties like white button and Portobello mushrooms.

Other North American mushrooms contain health benefits too. You may have seen these while hiking:

Cauliflower mushrooms contain chemicals which enhance the immune system and have anti-tumor properties. Photo by Nick Valdez.

Cauliflower mushrooms contain chemicals which enhance the immune system and have anti-tumor properties.
Photo by Nick Valdez.

shaggy mane

Shaggy Mane’s polysaccharides and triterpenes fight cancer and existing tumors, stabilize blood pressure and keep blood sugar even. It benefits asthma, anxiety, diabetes, hepatitis, and leukemia.
Photo by Nick Valdez.

Earth Star Mushroom

Earth Star mushroom spore dust is used in TCM and applied externally to stop wound bleeding and reduce chilblains. Also prohibits tumor growth and has spurned research interest for immunomodulatory and antitumor properties.
Photo by Nick Valdez.

chanterelle mushrooms health benefits

White Chanterelles, indicative of healthy, old-growth forests, contain protein, vitamins B and D, riboflavin, niacin and thiamine. Minerals include potassium, copper and selenium.
Photo by Nick Valdez.

Magic Mushrooms

Use of psilocybin or magic mushrooms is often found in ancient records of spiritual and shamanistic rituals. Unlike manufactured psychotropic drugs (LSD), these mushrooms do not technically cause hallucinations, but alter perceptions of objects and time. They are non-addictive but can quickly become tolerable, lessening the effects with increased use. They are not known for their health benefits.

Today, psychotropic mushrooms are foraged wild and easily cultivated. They are ingested raw, added to stews or sauces, or steeped into a tea, causing long-term feelings of well-being. A 2011 Johns Hopkins study found that just one dose of this created personality shifts in “openness,” abstract ideas, creativity and aesthetics lasting up to one year. Each participant in the study relayed this as a life-changing experience for the better. Mushrooms were administered in a hospital setting with two people acting as guards over a period of eight hours. This is breakthrough news, as it was previously thought that personality was a set determinant. In the study, 60% of participants were markedly changed with a single high dose of psilocybin. (Note that psilocybin is illegal, classified as a Schedule 1 substance by the DEA.)

Amanita,

Unlike psilocybin mushrooms, psychotropic Amanita muscaria is popular but not often consumed due to its toxicity and unpredictable psychological effects. Often brewed as a tea for entheogenic use, its personality effects can be depressant or ultimately positively life-changing.
Photo by Steve Childress.

“Renaissance Mycologist” Paul Stamets walks us through the science, history and future of our world with mushrooms in this incredible TED talk.

Warning

Research well whatever type of mushroom you eat and consult your doctor before making changes to your diet. Many varieties will react adversely with prescription medications. There are several types of lethal mushrooms, often ingested due to misidentification. White and yellow Amanita phalloides are responsible for the majority of mushroom deaths every year. Cooking poisonous mushrooms will not release their toxins and will remain deadly.

Related Reading

South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology

North American Mycological Association

American College of Neuropsychopharmacology

“Healthy” Mushroom Recipes

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Is The Food Pyramid Killing Us? May 21, 2012

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
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11 comments
diet, nutrition, food pyramid, heart disease, stroke, hypertension

Two groups of food pyramid promote leading causes of U.S. deaths

Hang in there with me for just a few minutes, folks.

The leading causes of U.S. deaths are heart disease, cancer, respiratory ailments and stroke. Right? In the vast majority of cases, these are attributed to poor nutrition, not genetics. What food groups do we as a nation consume the most? Meat and dairy. Consumption of which foods increases at the same rate as chronic disease and fatal illness? Meat and dairy. What are two of the main food groups the Food Pyramid encourages us to eat as part of our daily diet? Meat and dairy. Why would an agency of the federal government urge us to consume the two most unhealthy foods as part of each meal? (defended my 10-year old son).

Welcome to the Western diet, Western diseases and the cozy kinships within the USDA, a not unbiased agency which regulates and promotes their own interests. According to Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM),

The USDA’s statutory duty is to foster and assist in expanding uses in moving larger quantities of agricultural products throughout the private marketing system to consumers in the US and abroad. They compromise consumer health in favor of promoting specific food products.

The US spends more money on health care than any other developed nation, yet we have among the highest rates of preventable disease. Our convenient diets are nutritionally deficient, being high in fats, sugar, salt and animal proteins, as brilliantly researched by Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s famous 20-year China Study, and his subsequent work with the esteemed surgeon, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Forks Over Knives. Their independent and collaborative science illustrates that our bodies are engineered for optimum performance with plant-based nutrition.

For over a century, the USDA dietary guidelines have included meat and dairy as the primary sources of protein and calcium. A previous post, Calcium for Bone Health-Not What You Thought, details a direct correlation between animal-based calcium consumption and increased rates of osteoporosis.

The federal government is considering regulating our diets in an effort to tackle the obesity epidemic, especially in children, due to the amount of time spent and number of calories consumed during school hours. This is an appalling notion. There is obvious conflict mandating compliance with National School Lunch Program menus, and providing the very guidelines which promote obesity-related illnesses. Regular lunch entrees in my school district include corn dogs, breaded and fried chicken patties, breaded and fried chicken nuggets, fried mozzarella sticks, cheeseburgers and pizza. Always available: milk, ice cream, unhealthy snacks and drinks in vending machines. By contrast, a regular French school lunch in the town of Barjac, for example, consists of coleslaw, mussels mariniers, sautéed potatoes, and an organic, locally grown pear for dessert. Water and baguette are standard at every meal, of course. Karen LeBillon’s book, French Kids Eat Everything, details fundamental differences in their approach to school lunches. Menus are decided by regional school administrators and parents, there is no national food program, and there is a national ban on vending machines.

Each one of us is in control of our own health destiny. A plant-based diet not only prevents what’s killing us, but can reverse it. Dr. Esselstyn was shunned by the USDA after reporting his results, and the Food Pyramid still contains meat and dairy. In his TED talk, he explains our top killers are food-borne illnesses.

Your food choices are 100% up to you. What will you choose to eat today?

*           *           *

Forks Over Knives is streamable from Netflix. It just might save your life.

Related Posts:

My Picks: Top 10 Superfoods For Disease Prevention

Location, location, location! The High Cost of Living in a Food Desert

Trickery, Manipulation and $50: A Plan for School Cafeterias

The Kind Diet

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Blackstrap: The Healthy Molasses May 24, 2011

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
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9 comments

Blackstrap molasses for your health

Up until the late 19th century, blackstrap molasses was a staple sweetener, as white refined sugar was rare and very expensive. Then for decades it was generally unused until people became interested in controlling their diets and overall health. The health benefits of blackstrap molasses have been numerous but widely unknown.

It is the concentrated byproduct of two boilings of sugar cane as it is refined into table sugar, then boiled a third time. It is very dark and thick. Unlike sugar, it contains significant amounts of minerals, most notably manganese, copper, iron and calcium, but also potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and selenium.

The first health benefits you will notice are an increase in energy (within 20 minutes) and iron count in the blood. Many people who suffer from anemia have been cured when iron pills had no effect, it decreases length and severity of menstruation, and can prevent or aid treatment of uterine fibroids. Additional health benefits have included relief from: acne, arthritis, anxiety, eczema and psoriasis, constipation, canker sores, nose bleeds, swollen extremities due to poor circulation, and even terminal cancer according to many testimonials and the book Crude Black Molasses by Cyril Scott. Instead of gray, new hair will grow in darker due to the copper. Skin will appear radiant. Ancient Egyptians used this as a cure for consumption (tuberculosis), and some veterinarians report that it has cured tumors in dogs and is helpful in many ways for horses and cows.

Important to note:

  • Purchase blackstrap molasses organic and unsulfured. Check the label to verify copper content. Do not confuse with sweet dark molasses.
  • Note the dosage as it is very possible to get too much iron or calcium.

How to take blackstrap molasses:

For optimum benefit, take 1-2 tablespoons every day. It is a great coffee or chai tea sweetener, and very tasty in a class of cold or warm milk. Take with a meal and add it to a morning smoothie or oatmeal, spread on toast or biscuits. It is often added to baked beans and, of course, gingerbread. Some people like to mix it with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of warm water to aid in the absorption of the minerals and burn fat cells. Together they pack a ton of energy. Blackstrap molasses can be substituted when a recipe calls for regular molasses or sugar, but there are some recipes which call for it specifically on Cooks.com, and epicurious.com.

Warnings:

  • Check with your doctor before taking blackstrap molasses on a regular basis.
  • There are many reasons for anemia to develop, and it is not always due to low iron.
  • People of Mediterranean descent who suffer from thalassemia can be more effectively treated with chlorophyll than blackstrap molasses.
  • There will be a notable spike in your blood sugar level.
  • Every body will react differently and some cannot tolerate it. There may be undesired effects (such as new hair growing in with a greenish tint, a sign of too much iron). Stop taking blackstrap molasses if you experience any unwanted side effects.
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