|Mycelium: the Earth’s Living Internet
The pure healing force of the mushroom lies in its
mycelium. Mycelia are the delicate life threads growing unseen in
rainforest soil and wood, culturing organic matter and delivering
probiotic nutrients to all trees and plants. Mycelia make up a living
internet, connecting the ancient intelligence in the mushroom to all
life on earth. It is through the activity of the mycelium that
traditional mushrooms confer their maximum healing benefits on our
physiologies, and each MycoMedicinal from Host Defense delivers
proprietary strains of mycelium, hand selected and grown by Paul Stamets, in their certified organic culturing media.
It All Starts with Certified P Value
MycoMedicinal certified organic mushrooms from Paul
Stamets and Host Defense are the finest traditional mushrooms grown
anywhere in the world, and are the only commercially available
mushrooms with a Certified P Value. P Value is a scientific term for
the genetic integrity of the mushroom. When Paul Stamets, one of the
world’s leading mushroom experts, selects a mushroom from the
rainforest, he cultures it in rigorously controlled conditions in his
laboratories. The growing mushroom mycelium is absolutely genetically
identical with the rainforest mushroom that gave it birth, carrying
all of its genetic energy and healing force. Mushrooms not grown in
such a rigorous potency-assured manner may be hundreds of generations
distant from the purity of their genetic heritage, and thus suffer
genetic degeneration and a lack of vitality. We certify that all
MycoMedicinal mushrooms have a P Value ensuring the fullest healing
power and potency.
Organic Mushrooms meet all the
above criteria for the highest quality and purity of medicinal
mushrooms available in the market today. Click on the following links
for more information.
Although most healthcare professionals skilled in
the art of botanical medicine are aware of the immune enhancing
properties of certain mushrooms and other fungi, few may realize that
mushrooms are rich sources of natural antibiotics. In these, the cell
wall glucans are well-known for their immunomodulatory properties, but
few medical practitioners are aware that many of the externalized
secondary metabolites — extra cellular secretions by the mycelium —
combat bacteria1,2 and viruses.3-6 Additionally, the exudates from
mushroom mycelia are active against protozoa such as the parasite that
causes malaria, Plasmodium falciparum,7,8 and other microorganisms.9
Fungi and animals are more closely related to one
another than either is to plants, diverging from plants more than 460
million years ago.10 Diseases of plants typically do not afflict
humans whereas diseases of fungi do.11 Since humans (animals) and
fungi share common microbial antagonists such as Escherichia coli,
Staphylococcus aureus, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, humans can benefit
from the natural defensive strategies of fungi that produce
antibiotics to fight infection from microorganisms. Hence, it is not
surprising our most significant anti-bacterial antibiotics have been
derived from fungi.12
Interestingly, some mushrooms and their components
are target specific in their antibiotic properties, whereas others
have broader effects. With an increasing number of bacteria developing
resistance to commercial antibiotics, such as MSRA (methicillin-resistant
S. aureus) and Pseudomonas, extracts and derivatives from mushrooms
hold great promise for novel medicines in modern times. The
hypothesis, increasingly substantiated, is that mushrooms, especially
polypores, provide a protective immunological shield against a variety
of infectious diseases.13-15
Two thousand years have passed since the first
century Greek physician Dioscorides included the larch polypore (Fomitopsis
officinalis (Villars:Fr.) Bond. & Singer, Polyporaceae; syn.
Laricifomes officinalis (Villars:Fr.) Kotlaba & Pouzar) in his De
Materia Medica published approximately 65 C.E. Known then as agaricum
or agarikon, and later as the quinine conk, it was used as a treatment
for “consumption,” a disease now known as tuberculosis. The
pharmaceutical industry has been slow to explore mushrooms for
antibiotic activity, in part because basidiomycetous fungi are slower
growing in fermentation and less yielding compared to the mold fungi,
9 such as the well known Penicillium notatum, the fungus from which
Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928.16
For hundreds of years, the Haida of the Queen
Charlotte Islands of British Columbia and other Northwest Coast First
Peoples have used shelf polypore fungi medicinally. The Haida gave F.
officinalis a name that translates into “ghost bread” or “tree
biscuit.”17 Shelf fungi were also used spiritually, and were found in
shaman graves. Additionally, the Haida personified bracket fungus as
“Fungus Man,” who, because of his ritual strength, was conscripted by
Yaahl, or Raven, as a steersman for his canoe when he went to obtain
female genitalia in the Haida narrative on the origin of women.17 The
strong association of this fungus with women, in particular, and their
similarity in form, suggests an underlying female archetype.
In a recent in vitro study, extracts of more than 75
percent of polypore mushroom species surveyed showed antimicrobial
activity and 45 percent of 204 mushroom species (polypores and gilled
mushrooms alike) inhibited growth of a wide variety of
microorganisms.18 In particular, this study showed that species in the
polypore genus Ganoderma such as reishi (G. lucidum (Curtis:Fr.) P.
Karst.), G. pfeifferi Corner, and G. resinaceum Boud., all of the
family Ganodermataceae, were specifically effective against bacillus
(Bacillus subtilis). They were not, however, effective against other
bacteria, including P. aeruginosa, Serratia marcescens, S. aureus,
Enterococcus faecium, and Mycobacterium smegmatis. Another study
showed that the artist conk (Ganoderma applanatum (Pers.) Pat.)
demonstrated antimicrobial activity against Gram-positive Bacillus
cereus, S. aureus, and less activity against the Gram-negative E.
coli, and P. aeruginosa.19 In contrast, gilled mushrooms such as
Psilocybe semilanceata ((Fr.) Quél., Strophariaceae), Pleurotus
eryngii ((De Candolle: Fr.) Quél., Pleurotaceae) and Lactarius
delicious ((Fr.) S.F. Gray, Russulaceae) all strongly inhibited the
growth of S. aureus bacteria.
Two other mushrooms from the family Polyporaceae are
notable — the tinder fungus (Fomes fomentarius (L.:Fr.) J. Kickx.) and
the birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus (Fr.) P. Karst.) — both of
which the famous 5,300 year old Otzi, or Ice Man, had with him when
his body was discovered in the high alpine mountains on the border of
Italy and Austria.20 Scientists believe his use of these mushrooms was
likely for their antimicrobial properties21 and/or for tinder.22 The
woody tinder fungus has been shown to inhibit the growth of P.
aeruginosa and S. marcescens, while the birch fungus was effective
against these two bacteria, and, further, exhibited strong inhibitory
activity against S. aureus, B. subtilis, and M. smegmatis, a cousin to
the pathogenic Mycobacterium tuberculosis.18
In vitro studies of 26 proprietary cultures of
basidiomycetous mushrooms provided by the author found that four
species “completely” inhibited E. coli, stopping bacterial growth well
in advance of the encroaching mycelia, suggesting an extra cellular
antibiotic.23 Of these four species totally inhibiting E. coli, three
were polypores cloned by the author from the Old Growth forests of the
Pacific Northwest of North America: Ganoderma oregonense Murr., artist
conk (G. applanatum), and the tinder fungus (F. fomentarius). A fourth
polypore, turkey tail (Trametes versicolor (L.:Fr.) Pilát,
Polyporaceae), did not stifle the E. coli remotely, but its mycelium
consumed the E. coli upon contact. F. fomentarius, as well as other
polypores, have anti- viral properties.6,24,25 A highly water soluble,
low cytotoxic polysaccharopeptide (PSP) isolated from T. versicolor
has been proposed as an anti-viral agent inhibiting HIV replication.4
The fact that mushrooms can have both anti-viral and anti-bacterial
properties, with low cytotoxicity to animalian hosts, underscores
their usefulness as natural sources of medicines.
That the Ice Man had these polypore fungi as
components of his mobile pharmacopoeia strongly suggests that these
mushrooms provided medicine for Paleolithic Europeans, as well as a
method to transport and start fire.* Since autopsies of the Ice Man
showed he was suffering from intestinal pathogens, as well as an
arrowhead imbedded in his shoulder, his presumed use of these
mushrooms appears well-warranted.
Higher concentrations of effective antibacterial
agents from polypore fungi validates that this barely explored group,
in particular those with a long history of folkloric use by indigenous
peoples, should be carefully surveyed.27,28 The brilliantly colored
chicken-of-the- woods (Laetiporus sulphureus (Bull.:Fr.) Murr.,
Polyporaceae syn. Polyporus sulphureus Bull.:Fr.) produces antibiotics
strongly antagonistic to S. aureus18 and has been noted to consume E.
coli upon contact.23 Extracts of cultures of this mushroom are
currently the subject of in vitro scan investigations for
antibacterial properties based, in part, upon a long history of
folkloric use in the Russian Far East.29 Extracts of shiitake (Lentinula
edodes (Berk.) Pegler, Polyporaceae) were recently reported to inhibit
growth of S. aureus and E. coli, due in part to the formation of
oxalic acid, a common crystal on the cellular surfaces of the mycelia
of many mushroom species.30
The Suay et al. study, 18 by far the most extensive
to date, also determined that gilled mushrooms (order Agaricales) had
more species with antifungal activities than did the polypores. The
submerged fermentation of the mycelium of the gilled oyster mushroom (Pleurotus
ostreatus (Jacq.:Fr.) Kumm., Pleurotaceae) has shown effectiveness
against Aspergillus niger,31 one of the most aggressive of all molds
and one of the fungi causing aspergillosis lung disease, a malady that
can pose a serious threat to persons with compromised immune systems.
Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus (Bull.:Fr.) Pers., Hydnaceae) has
also shown anti-fungal activity against the mold A. niger and the
yeast Saccharomyces cervesiae.32 Additionally, this mushroom is
effective against aggressive HeLa cells.33
Not only do the extra cellular metabolites inhibit
microbes, but so do the heavy molecular weight cell-wall
polysaccharides. This dual source of anti-microbials enhances the
effectiveness of mushrooms for medicinal purposes. The polysaccharide
lentinan from shiitake and schizophyllan from the split-gill polypore
(Schizophyllum commune (L.) Fr., Schizophylaceae) inhibit Candida
albicans and S. aureus.34 Lentinan is also effective in retarding
Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Listeria monocytogenes13 while an
extract of the mycelium was active against herpes simplex virus type 1
(HSV-1).35 Mushroom polysaccharides such as lentinan can enhance the
immune system, potentiating a host-mediated response, and indirectly,
but effectively, may be antimicrobial.36-38
The well-studied polysaccharide PSK from turkey tail
(T. versicolor) also inhibits the growth of C. albicans.39-41 Simple
hot-water extracts of the blewitt (Lepista nuda (Bull.) Cooke,
Tricholomataceae), presumably rich with polysaccharides, retarded C.
albicans.18 A small study reported that the symptoms of 12 of 13 women
with chronic yeast infections were substantially alleviated after a
daily consumption of maitake (Grifola frondosa (Dicks.:Fr.) S.F. Gray,
Polyporaceae).42 These studies substantiate that various, novel
antibiotics from many mushroom species are at play, diverse and often
Medicinal mushrooms have a long and rich history of
use. More than 2,000 years ago, Dioscorides knew that F. officinalis
fought “consumption;” the Ice Man had F. fomentarius and P. betulinus
with him; and the healers — even shamans of Paleolithic peoples — knew
and used mushrooms as powerful medicines to fight illnesses. In the
world of the pre-modern shaman, spirits caused diseases, and medicinal
compounds were administered to appease or treat them. Although science
now knows that pathogenic microorganisms cause many diseases, it is
not known whether Paleolithic peoples had an intuitive or specific
knowledge of the nature of infection from microbes. Whether disease is
caused by “spirits” or invisible microbes, both views hold in common
an underlying cause of the unseen universe.17 In the future that
shared vision may extend to using the same tools as a practical
treatment for microbial infection.
The mushroom genome stands out as a virtually
untapped resource for novel anti-microbials. The declining ancestral
forests of the Pacific Northwest harbor novel mushroom species and
strains that occur nowhere else in the world. Focusing on these fungi
may lead to novel myco-medicines, hopefully before the opportunity is
forever lost as old growth temperate rainforests are converted into
tree plantations. A rich fungal genome is an essential component of
our natural heritage and may be society’s greatest protection against
microbial diseases. The intelligent use of these fungi can potentiate
the host defenses of both people and planet.
Organic Mushrooms meet all the
above criteria for the highest quality and purity of medicinal
mushrooms available in the market today. Click on the following links
for more information.
Acknowledgments: The author thanks Andrew Weil,
M.D.; Donald Abrams, M.D.; Reinhold Poder, Ph.D.; Christopher Hobbs,
L.Ac., AHG; Dusty Yao; Frank Pirano, Ph.D.; Solomon Wasser, Ph.D.; and
the peer reviewers of HerbalGram.
Paul Stamets is the author of five books,
including Growing Gourmet & Medicinal Mushrooms, a mushroom
cultivation textbook used worldwide. On the editorial boards of the
International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms and Mushroom, the
Journal, he also serves as an advisor to the Program for Integrative
Medicine, University of Arizona. His company, Fungi Perfecti, purveys
Certified Organic materials to grow gourmet and medicinal mushrooms
for personal use or professional cultivation.
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*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food
and Drug Administration. This product information is not intended to
diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.