Shiitake, Reishi and Maitake: mushrooms for health
Chinese traditional medicine is increasingly common in the west, enabling us to include natural product extracts, such as mushrooms for health purposes, with beneficial effects in our European diets.
With the security that thousands of years of study and practice gives, products such as organic mushroom extracts are currently being marketed for health purposes. A range of mushrooms with important health benefits, which range from immunostimulant action, which is really important in autumn, with lower temperatures and a greater exposure to breathing problems, to helping with weight loss and improving the lipid profile, and can even contribute to recovery after chemo- or radiotherapy.
The stress from our lifestyles, poor eating habits, and not to mention seasonal changes, all contribute to the appearance of problems derived from a weakened immune system. Traditional Chinese, Japanese and Korean medicine use mushroom varieties selected for their health benefits, especially their positive effect on the immune system and because they are available on the market as food supplements. The most noteworthy are Shiitake, Reishi and Maitake.
Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) is the second most cultivated mushroom in the world. Its Japanese name refers to the tree, a type of chestnut tree, where it grows. It’s a good source of amino acids, minerals and vitamins. In traditional Chinese medicine, Shiitake is considered to activate blood flow and is used to treat colds, viruses, and other ailments, such as stomach aches or headaches. It stimulates the immune and digestive system, also has cardiovascular benefits and is antimicrobial.
Damp, dark, wooded mountains in Asia are the natural habitat of Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum). This mushroom is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine. Unlike Shiitake, it is not eaten given its bitter taste and hard consistency, which is why it is administered as an extract. It has many health benefits: it increases the body’s resistance to bacteria, parasites and viruses, helps reduce blood pressure, reduces cholesterol, and inhibits platelet aggregation, which helps prevent circulatory problems.
Maitake (Grifola frondosa) is known as the “king of mushrooms” in Japanese culture. It is widely appreciated for its flavour, but in addition to its culinary advantages, it is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine. In addition to the medicinal benefits mentioned above, it is known for its stimulating action on defences, but also because it contains some carbohydrates that act as prebiotic fibre, stimulating the growth of beneficial intestinal bacterial growth. Among the positive actions for health, it is worth mentioning that given that it is rich in fibres and low in calories and fat, this natural product can help with weight loss. There are also studies on its benefits for diabetes and high cholesterol.
Source: Salud&Aromas magazine, Nº 3