by Sayer Ji
January 1, 2012
Over the course of the
past few years we have uncovered a remarkable body of research on
medicinal properties of mushrooms.
In fact, when it comes to natural cancer research, no other category
has been the subject of more human clinical research than
Lentinan, both unique preparations of
AHCC stands for active hexose correlated compound, and is classified
as a functional food made from hybridized mycelia of shiitake (and
sometimes other mushrooms) in rice bran. It contains both alpha- and
beta-glucan polysaccharides, well-known modulators of host immunity.
Lentinan, also from shiitake (Lentinula edodes), is exclusively
beta-glucan. What is so unique about these compounds is that they
are "host-mediated" anti-cancer agents, helping the cancer-afflicted
body combat cancer by boosting immune function.
This is a radically different approach versus conventional
chemotherapy, which poisons rapidly dividing cells,
indiscriminately, killing both cancer and immune cells (among other
healthy cell types).
How can edible
mushrooms like shiitake protect us against cancer, perhaps
the most widely feared disease that presently afflicts our
Could the reason
be that we co-evolved with fungi, and that the essential
polysaccharides they contain were present in our diet for so
long that the genetic/epigenetic infrastructure of our
bodies now depends on them?
Beta-glucan, after all,
is found widely distributed in whole grains, nutritional yeast, as
well as fungi.
The friendly bacteria,
in and outside of our gut, produce the beta-glucan fraction through
the biotransformative processes of digestive fermentation and, in
the case of food, culturing. Could it be that, failing to consume
(or produce) adequate quantities, our body fails in its cancer
immuno-surveillance - not unlike the well-established role that
vitamin D deficiency has in maintaining proper immune function, and
therefore reducing cancer risk.
But perhaps there is an even deeper reason to why fungi keep us
alive and well, even when faced with the most terrible of health
challenges: we share a common, unique evolutionary origin, and our
fates may still be intimately interwoven.
The microbiologist Mitchell Sogin was
interviewed back in
2004 on the topic:
'Animals and sponges
share a common evolutionary history from fungi...
...we thought fungi were related to plants or somehow were just
colorless plants. Plants had seeds, fungi had spores, and so on.
Scientists used to publish fungi articles in plant journals. But
the work does not support that. We've shown that fungi and
plants are very different from each other, and fungi are
actually more closely related to animals.'
When asked the question:
"Does all this mean
humans are just highly evolved mushrooms?",
I'd say we share a
common, unique evolutionary history with fungi. There was a
single ancestral group of organisms, and some split off to
become fungi and some split off to become animals.'
mushrooms "lend us their power"?
In certain traditions of
herbalism, there is an acknowledgment of the sacred bond between
patient and herb, where the plant lends its power to (s)he who is
suffering, as a "plant ally."
Beyond nutritional and caloric
content, biochemical make-up, pharmacology, etc., certain fungi may
embody the biological equivalent of compassion, and exude an
abundance or superfluity of life energy that we may harness to
correct imbalances within ourselves.
First, we must be willing to acknowledge that power in a source
outside of ourselves, which is difficult for egocentric,
anthropocentric humans to do.
Second, we must consider ourselves
worthy of the miracle of being healed, of life regenerating itself
To learn more about the sacred bond between fungi and humanity, as
well as how "mushrooms may save the world," watch below
Paul Stamets' amazing video on the topic...
Paul Stamets -
Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save The World
Mycologist Paul Stamets
the mycelium - and lists
6 ways that this
astonishing fungus can help save the world.