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Native Medicinal Mushrooms An overview of their therapeutic potential Background: in November 2015, mushrooms are treated as 'whole' material with many The Wild Side of Life hosted the constituents that act together in symphony. With First UK Medicinal Mushrooms only a small number of exceptions, they are very safe, Conference in Lincolnshire. The well tolerated and liked by patients. In fact many of sell-out conference, opened by Roger them are also used as gourmet foods.
Phillips, author of "Mushrooms and Other Fungi of Great Britain Perhaps one of the most surprising things about and Europe", was a great success medicinal mushrooms is their availability. Many and brought together medical herbalists, nutritional species with potent medicinal activity are native to therapists, biochemists, mushroom growers, foragers and the UK and based upon the fast pace of research the people with an avid interest in mushrooms and healing. list is growing year-on-year. It is possible to forage Speakers gave presentations on materia medica, fungal for medicinal mushrooms and to wildcraft remedies biochemistry, the latest medical research, sustainable harvesting and how mushrooms influence the immune system. A clear picture emerged as a result of this unique Mushroom structural compounds
meeting of disciplines, revealing that the way in which (the key to immune health)
mushrooms can influence and benefit the human body is a function of their role in the wider ecosystem. Fred Gillam immunological effects of takes up the story. mushrooms are derived from cell wall structural Fungal preparations are found in the folk materia medica of many traditional cultures and they hold a 1,3-beta-glucans. prominent position in both traditional and modern far- eastern medicine. Globally, a vast amount of money (polysaccharides)are is being invested by the pharmaceutical industry to built from chains of develop new drugs from mushrooms as discovery glucose molecules and after discovery points to them being a treasure trove they occur in a vast of new compounds and unchartered medicinal effects. array of chain lengths. Uniquely in fungi they Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) True to form, the also occur with certain pharmaceutical industry protein bound functional side units. The 'spectrum' is working towards the of beta-glucan compounds present varies between production of a new mushroom species. Much of the pharmacological generation of mushroom research taking place focuses on isolating one fraction medicines that I suspect of this spectrum from a particular mushroom and will not have the word determining its effectiveness against particular 'mushroom' anywhere pathogens or cancer cell lines. Mushroom beta- near them by the time glucans can be difficult to extract from whole fungi that they reach the as they are not soluble in ethanol and often require long decoction times in water.
Turkey Tail Mushroom Mushroom functional compounds – a range
In the context of western natural medicine and of aliphatic and aromatic compounds.
herbalism, medicinal mushrooms are definitely Many compounds present in mushrooms - for example establishing their place. These days it is common the di, tri and sesquiterpenes, the neurotransmitters, to find turkey tail mushroom in the dispensary statins, sterols and enzymes, possess a wide range of of a herbalist in the UK, and like the herbs the therapeutic actions in the different systems of the A FEW EXAMPLES OF MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS NATIVE TO THE UK
Species / Host
Regulates blood sugar, lowers Diabetes, hypercholesterolaemia, cholesterol, circulatory tonic, anti- Reishi *(rare)
hepatitis, tuberculosis, HIV, bacterial, anti-viral, hepatoprotective, Ganoderma
rheumatoid arthritis, Herpes blood thinning, immune lucidum / Oak
simplex, stress, auto-immune modulating, anti-inflammatory, (unspecified), cancer adaptogen, anti-cancer Regulates blood sugar, oxidative Diabetes, infections, Herpes simplex, Chaga** (common only in
stress, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, stress, recovery from radiotherapy, the far north & Scotland)
immune modulating, anti-cancer, Herpes simplex, psoriasis, cancer Inonotus obliquus / Birch
adaptogen, rich in anti-oxidants (melanoma, brain, lung, stomach) Turkey tail
Chronic infections – anecdotally for Immune modulating, source of Trametes versicolor /
chest infections / pleurisy. Cancer Polysaccharide K – or ‘Krestin' dead wood
of the stomach, colon, lungChronic infections – anti-tubercular, Tinder hoof
Anti-parasitic, anti-bacterial, anti- arthritic inflammation, bacterial Fomes fomentarius / Birch inflammatory, immune modulating
infections, intestinal parasites, helps to regulate blood sugarPeritonsillar abcess (quinsy), Jelly ear
Cooling and mucilaginous, anti- inflammation, hot conditions that inflammatory, anti-cancer, blood call for lowering of metabolism judae / Elder
thinning, lowers blood sugar and reduction of inflammation Lion's mane* (rare)
Promotes nerve growth factor Nerve damage, cognitive Hericium erinaceus
production, source of vitamin A impairment, memory loss, and lactase, immune modulating dementia, immune modulating Source of lovastatin, As it is a source of statins it can be Pleurotus ostreatus
immune modulating used in cholesterol management High cholesterol, low grade chronic Bay bolete
Source of GABA, theanine, pain, low mood and depression, low Boletus badius / various
serotonin, melatonin cognitive function, lethargy and SAD * REISHI AND LIONS MANE ARE RARE IN THE UK and should not be harvested from the wild. Excellent biodynamically grown mushrooms from UK native stock are available from Matthew Rooney at Matthew's strain of reishi is named after him as var ‘Rooney' by Kew. ** CHAGA IS ONLY LOCALLY COMMON IN THE UK and must be harvested sustainably. It can be harvested as a long rotation crop (typically 4 years) where the conks will grow back if cut correctly. Care should be taken over sources.
body. Many of these compounds can be extracted the process extracts the ethanol soluble compounds, well in ethanol. A double extraction process can many of which would be volatilised or de-natured by be performed at home to utilise both the ethanol the next stage of the process.
soluble functional compounds and the water soluble beta-glucans in one preparation. The resulting ‘broad Making turkey tail tincture in preparation for a
spectrum extract' offers wide ranging therapeutic broad spectrum extract
benefit and is simple to make in the kitchen.
After obtaining measurement of the menstruum obtained and allowing a little extra to compensate for Double extraction procedure for making
evaporation, measure out an equal amount of water. a broad spectrum extract - method
The marc is slowly decocted for at least an hour in The mushrooms are first dried and then broken up or this water before filtering once again. At this point ground to increase surface area. They are tinctured for the marc can be discarded or added to the kitchen around 6 weeks in ethanol (minimum 40% abv but compost. The menstruum from both processes is 65 to 75 abv is preferable) before filtering. Both the combined in a 1:1 ratio and bottled. It should remain menstruum and the marc are retained. This stage of useful for a very long time.

Do not overlook the humble white
A healthy gut biome has a fungal component that button mushroom
generates a reserve of our own beta-glucans, fungal enzymes and neurotransmitters and is a vital A 2009 case control component not only of digestion but of health and study of 2,018 Chinese resilience. As usual, nature offers us the best examples women correlated a of symbiosis at work and when we have a dysfunctional large decrease of the process at work in our bodies, we can sometimes learn from similar interactions taking place elsewhere cancer in women who in the ecosystem. Hence, if the human biome is consumed mushrooms. producing insufficient enzymes of a certain type we can work on ourselves to restore 64% reduction in the that biome, but we can also find remediation Turkey Tail Tincture cancer compared to the by introducing similar control group. Those who combined a mushroom materials derived from diet with daily green tea consumption reduced their similar fungal / bacterial risk of breast cancer by almost 90%. processes elsewhere.
Fungi ought to cover The humble white button mushroom, Agaricus practically every surface bisporus, is full of therapeutic potential. It has been on earth. They are the found to contain significant amounts of lovastatin unseen mediators of food which supports cholesterol regulation, and eating chains, breaking down and re-distributing that which mushrooms is not associated with the range of has been built up, and creating beneficial relationships side effects commonly reported by those who take with biological partners across the plant and animal synthetic statins. White buttons also contain gamma kingdom assisted by helpful bacteria. We interact -aminobutyric acid (GABA). Regulating muscle with them biologically at a very profound level and I tone and inhibiting over excitation in the CNS, this believe that by studying their roles in nature, we can compound also helps to smooth out the pain response grow to understand their role within ourselves. We and improves relaxation.
too are nature.
Button mushrooms should not be consumed regularly References:
when raw as they contain the carcinogen agaritine. It is Chen D., Tsai C., Hsieh Y., Wang L., Mau J., Lovastatin and not completely destroyed by heating but is reasonably Gamma-aminobutyric acid Content in Mushrooms, 2004, National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan.
well denatured. Because white button mushrooms are Collopy PD., Royse DJ., Characterization of phytase activ- saprobes, i.e. part of the great army of composters in ity from cultivated edible mushrooms and their production our world, they have evolved a range of enzymes that substrates, Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, 2004, enable them to digest their food. They are a good source of phytases and proteases and therefore ideal Powell M., Medicinal Mushrooms, a Clinical Guide, 2015, for grain and seed allergy sufferers. Fungal proteases Mycology Press.
Stamets P., Mycelium Running, 2004, Ten Speed Press may also be a part of the regulatory mechanism that Stamets P., Mycomedicinals – An Informational Treatise on keeps the balance between fungi and bacteria in our Mushrooms, pp 13-19, 1999, Mycomedia.
gut. As a wheat allergy sufferer myself, I have found Zhang M., Huang J., Xie X., Holman C., Dietary intakes of this mushroom to be very useful. mushrooms and green tea combine to reduce the risk of breast cancer in Chinese women, International Journal of Cancer, vol. 124 issue 6: 1404-08.
Fred Gillam, as the young son of a head gardener on a Animals and fungi share a common genetic country estate, developed an interest in edible and medicinal ancestry (2.8 billion years ago) and there are some plants from an early age and he was already a keen mushroom similarities in biochemistry between them. Fungi forager at the age of 14. even synthesize Vitamin D2 in their skins from ergosterol, much as we synthesise D3 from the After a career lecturing in and practising horticul- similar compound, cholesterol. ture, forestry and conservation, his interest in herb-

alism deepened and he undertook a 3-year herbal Fred's business, The Wild Side of Life, (http://www.
apprenticeship with Sarah Head at the Springfield is responsible for organis- ing the UK Medicinal Mushroom Conference (see Fred regularly appears on local and national radio Diary Dates for more information) and for run- talking about wild food and hedgerow medicine. He ning herbal medicine wildcrafting weekends and presented a series of three lectures to the Bath Royal food foraging courses that come recommended by Literary and Scientific Institution on ethnobotani- BBC Countryfile Magazine. He is the author of cal topics and with his partner he runs a voluntary Poisonous Plants in Great Britain.
herbal dispensary for a community of friends, family and villagers in Wiltshire. Herbal First Aid for the Home with 7Song and Director of Holistic Medicine at the Ithaca held as a two-day Free Clinic which 7Song wholeheartedly champions… Free Medicine. He has also taught 11th and 12th at and directed The Northeast School of Botanical Medicine for 13 years. Court, Dorset, a rural earthy setting If you were unfortunate not to attend this event perfect for a herbal do check out 7Song's website for very useful information and a calendar of events and training Herbal First Aid programs at course was organised by the UK forager Also check out Robin Harford's website for details of upcoming courses, or to sign up to The two days were his newsletter or packed with herb walks, lively humour and real hands-on Herbal wisdom from 7Song in the first aid sector. 7Song's unique approach to teaching left us hungry for more, and yet knowing we had digested a delicious meal of knowledge that we would take home with us and be able to use. 7Song is an internationally respected herbalist who rarely visits the UK so this was a quickly booked event. 7Song has been studying plants and their medicine for over 20 years which included his deep love for botany from his roots in Long Island, NY. His herbal education led him to the California School of Herbal Studies with Rosemary Gladstar in 1983 and later the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine with Michael Moore in 1994 & 95.
7Song teaches at many schools and conferences throughout the US. He is a herbal practitioner


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