Mushrooms; The Medicinal value of Edible Mushrooms

Do you know what you eat? Do you know that you have a right to know what you put inside your mouth? Have you ever thought about this? This article focus on Mushrooms which are widely using food source due its nutritional and medicinal value.

Still some people scare to eat mushrooms (mycophobia or fungophobia). It is due to some toxic effects and allergies caused by some mushrooms. This article will make you feel good about the importance of polysaccharides present in mushroom. And to understand the edible and medicinally important mushroom varieties.

Chronic conditions have made the human life difficult today. Most of the people are suffering from chronic diseases today. This may be due to many reasons but most commonly due to mental stress and mal health practices. Value of mushrooms towards these chronic conditions is unbelievable.

Let’s know about edible mushrooms
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Researchers have identified more than 2000 species of edible and medicinal mushrooms up to date. Health promoting properties of these mushrooms have become a wide area of study today. These properties are due to the bioactive compounds especially the polysaccharides produced by mushrooms. There are many types of compounds in mushrooms. But carbohydrates or the polysaccharides are the mostly identified bioactive compound on mushrooms.

What are the main types of them?

There are mainly two types of mushroom polysaccharides and they are homo-polysaccharides and hetero-polysaccharides. From these two homo-polysaccharides especially β-glucans are believed as the most bioactive polysaccharide. That can be found in many varieties of mushrooms. The β-glucans with different glyosidic linkages have been identified as the most active functional molecules in mushrooms. Bioactivities of mushrooms are discussed as antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, anti-diabetic, anticancer/antitumor, immunomodulatory and hypolipidemic functionalities through this article.

Which bio-actives do they consist?

Mushrooms are belonging to the class Basidiomycetes and sometimes Ascomycetes. Mushrooms are a widely distributed food resource on earth which have been consumed. It is because of their nutritional value and medicinal properties for over 2000 years. There are several bioactive compounds in mushrooms like polysaccharides, lectins, lactones, terpenoids and alkaloids. But among these polysaccharides are the main component for the bio-activities of most of the mushroom species. The diverse activity of the mushroom include antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic/ anti-diabetic, anticancer, immunomodulatory and hypolipidemic activities.

Which types of polysaccharides do they have?
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The major two types of polysaccharides homo polysaccharides and hetero polysaccharides contribute for these functions. Both homo-polysaccharides and hetero- polysaccharides may possess homo linkages or hetero linkages in regard to configuration and linkage position. In addition to their differing types and sequences of monosaccharide units, hetero- polysaccharides have various types and sequences of glyosidic linkages. They are resulting in practically limitless structural diversity. Both homo- polysaccharides and hetero- polysaccharides bioactivities are closely related to their specific structural characteristics.

The structures of most of the mushroom polysaccharides have not yet been identified and very few are with known structures. Researchers have already identified that out of all the active compounds in mushrooms. And they are mostly responsible for the health benefits. They are of which have more biological value are the mushroom polysaccharides. In this article it is going to discuss the bioactive mushroom polysaccharides based on their bioactivity.

Anti-tumor/ Anti-cancer functions of mushrooms

The anti-tumor and anti-cancer function of mushroom polysaccharides is discussed in advanced from more than 100 years ago. Unlike traditional antitumor drugs, these substances produce an antitumor effect by activating various immune responses in the host. And cause no harm to the body. It has discovered that mushroom polysaccharides have inhibitory effects towards tumors. Such as Sarcoma 180 solid cancers, Ehrlich solid cancer, Sarcoma Yoshida sarcoma and Lewis lung carcinoma etc. Polysaccharides are the best known and most potent mushroom derived substances with anti-tumor properties.

Ganoderma lucidum, Lentinus edodes and Inonotus obliquus are some potent anti-tumor active polysaccharide containing mushrooms. When considering the type of polysaccharides in each type most of them were β-glucans.

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How can they can support to our immune system?

Mushroom polysaccharides exert their antitumor action mainly via activation of the immune response of the host organism or Immune-enhancing activity. Mushroom polysaccharides do not directly kill tumor cells. They help the host to adapt to various biological stresses. And they exert a nonspecific action on the host, supporting some or all of the major systems. Mushroom polysaccharides cause no harm and place no additional stress on the body. Therefore, they are as biological response modifiers.

We can find the immune-enhancing activity in many mushroom polysaccharides. Mushroom polysaccharides can produce over 50% reduction in tumor size and prolong the survival time of tumor bearing. Lentinan produced over 90% reduction in tumor size, or complete regression in most of the tested animals. In addition, it showed prominent antitumor activity not only against allogenic tumors, but also against various synergic and autochthonous tumors.

Analgesic functions of mushrooms

Analgesic activity or the pain relieving ability of mushrooms have not discovered in many varieties of mushrooms. But we can fond the significance results for analgesic activity of mushrooms in the Brazilian rain forests. The analgesic activity of Agaricus blazei Muriril is due to glucan bound-protein polysaccharide.

Polysaccharides are highly complex molecules. And a characterization of specific glycosidic linkages, degree of branching, monosaccharide composition, molecular weight, and chain conformation. This chain coformation is essential for elucidating structure biological activity relationships of them. Polysaccharides containing high levels of uronic acid display significant antioxidant activity. And they can help to attribute to the presence of the functional group -COOH. Functional groups that act as efficient electron or hydrogen donors can associate to the antioxidant activity of certain polysaccharides.

The major pharmacologically active substance in Tremella is the polysaccharide glucuronoxylomannan, composed primarily of Mannose. Thus the biological activity of certain mushroom polysaccharides is related to content of other monosaccharides such as rhamnose. Rhamnose as a major monosaccharide component may enhance antioxidant capacity, and play a role in radical-scavenging ability. Out of these mushroom types Letinus edodes have the highest anti-oxidant activity.

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Immunomodulatory action of them

Immune modulators are the components which modulates the immune system. These may lead to increase or decrease the immunity. Most of the mushroom polysaccharides which have immunomodulatory action have antitumor effects as well.

The immunomodulating action of mushroom polysaccharides is especially valuable. As a prophylactic, a mild and non-invasive form of treatment. And in the prevention of metastatic tumors and many other tumors. But polysaccharides from mushrooms do not attack cancer cells directly. But produce their antitumor effects by activating different immune responses in the host. Accordingly β-glucans are responsible for immunomodulation of mushrooms. These things explains that immunomodulatory function is related with some other bioactivity like antitumor.

Hypolipedemic activity of them

Hyperlipidemia is a key risk factor in inducing fatty liver, hypertension, atherosclerosis and cerebrovascular diseases. We can find beneficial effects of some mushroom varieties (polysaccharides) in the prevention of obesity and some other diseases. It has found that the mushroom Agaricus bisporus havs the ability of to reduce plasma triglycerides and glucose levels. So it follows that this mushroom is beneficial in lipid metabolism. Which could be very advantageous in the treatment of obesity.

Flammulina velutipes contains rich dietary polysaccharides. Which accelerates the decomposition of cholesterol and hence can reduce triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL level in the blood. And triglycerides, total cholesterol and phospholipid in the liver. The Pleurotus species can prevent weight gain and hyperlipidemia.

For example, β-glucans are the most active polysaccharide from the Pleurotus sajor-caju mushroom. They prevent the development of obesity and oxidative stress. Polysaccharides of the Pleurotus eryngii has a high capability of lowering the blood lipid level than aother mushroom polysachcharides. Shiitake mushrooms also have high effectivity on reducing levels of lipids in plasma and preventing weight gain.

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Hypoglycemic activity

The bioactive polysaccharides from mushrooms especially glucans are effective on reducing effect of uncontrolled diabetes in hyperglycemia (excess blood sugar). Glucans extracted from the Agaricus blazei reduce the level of glucose, triglycerides and blood cholesterol simulating the effect of insulin. And it decrease plasma glucose, when on an empty stomach, and glycated hemoglobin. As well as it helps a decrease in body weight loss due to the diabetes. Pleurotus species show very good results regarding the hypoglycemic effect of these mushrooms.

Medicinal mushrooms are “Agaricus bisporus, A. subrufescens, Cordyceps sinensis. They have been reported to have hypoglycemic effects (reduction of blood glucose levels) and anti-hyperglycemic effects.

Mushrooms are known to contain compounds which help in proper functioning of the liver pancreas and other endocrinal glands. Thereby promoting formation of insulin and related hormones which ensure healthy metabolic functioning. As well as the Polysaccharides, such as beta glucans contained in mushrooms have the ability to restore the function of pancreatic tissues. It is by causing increased insulin output by β – cells, which leads to lowering of blood glucose levels.

Antiinflamatory action
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Inflammation, a part of the non-specific immune response, involves changes in blood flow, increased vascular permeability and destruction of tissues. They are via the activation and migration of leucocytes with synthesis of reactive oxygen derivatives. Fomes fomentarius, Ganoderma applanatum and Trametes hirsute are some mushroom varieties. They contain polysaccharides which have anti-inflammatory functionality.

Several polysaccharides from mushrooms which have anti-inflamatory action. And they are structurally different β-D-glucans besides xyloglucan, xylomannan and heterogalactans. They may contain O-methyl groups or a variety of side chains including manogalactans fucogalactans and fucomannogalactans. For an example fucomannogalactan and a β-D-glucan isolated from Amanita muscaria were highly effective against the inflammations.

Consuming mushrooms will make you live healthy. Sometimes if you buy them from market please be conscious. Because they will contain many chemicals from insecticides and pesticides as residues. They will fall you in trouble with many disadvantages rather than advantages. This attempt is to make you think of how much precious and wonderful things are around us. This is how the fascinating Mother Nature deserves for us. Something more is unfavorable and something less is unfavorable.

Moderation in life is the principle of living. There should be a balance in everything. This review does not impressed you to eat lot of mushrooms. This is just to make you know the value of things around us. And to impress you how the nature adapted to make you live healthy. Try to get the maximum advantage of nature without destroying it. I feel like I should mention here that keep practice to know what you eat or drink food or medicine; you will feel different.

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