Why medicinal mushrooms are so valuable
The most important points in brief
- Medicinal mushrooms have an amazing effect on our health.
- But what's behind that? Evolution itself provides part of the answer.
- Humans and mushrooms have much more in common than one would initially assume.
- One of the most important reasons for the effect of medicinal mushrooms is the immune system.
When it comes to everyday cuisine, mushrooms, porcini mushrooms, truffles and the like are considered delicacies, which, however, do not meet with approval from all of us. In contrast, medicinal mushrooms, which include the varieties Shiitake, Reishi, Maitake and others, are less important in terms of nutrition than in terms of health. But what makes it so incredibly valuable for our organism? Or are these just unsubstantiated claims?
Mammals and mushrooms - shared history for 450 million years
The positive influence of medicinal mushrooms on our organism has long been scientifically proven. And how this influence came about is extremely interesting, as we look back on the evolutionary history of almost half a billion years. Because the common ancestor of mammals and fungi existed around that time, and since then these creatures have diverged - and yet 30 percent of the genome still coincide with one another!
This means that humans are more closely related to fungi than to plants or bacteria. This is good news for us humans, because fungi have to be very resistant to be able to live in a hostile environment. And soils are very hostile, a lot of viruses and bacteria are there. Fungi don't even have cell walls like plants to protect themselves. The resilience that mushrooms display is not unlike the human defenses - which is why the power of medicinal mushrooms also strengthens our defenses.
Mushrooms are amazingly adaptable
Long before the first mammals scurried across the earth, mushrooms had to adapt to the harsh conditions of life on land. They already flourished when the land masses of the earth united in supercontinents like Gondwana and later fell apart again, trees only grew later on the earth. This means that mushrooms have always been able to adapt. The fact that these creatures grow practically everywhere on earth underscores this.
There are types of medicinal mushrooms that have developed independently of one another on different continents. Reishi, for example, is not only found in Asia, but also in North America and Europe. Experts estimate that there are at least 300 types of mushrooms worldwide that are of medicinal value to humans. According to scientists, four out of ten drugs used today are directly or indirectly related to fungi.
We owe the mushrooms for probably the most important drug
The most important drug in the fight against diseases caused by infections is penicillin - which, to put it simply, is obtained from mold. Ultimately, the industrial revolution was only possible with penicillin. No wonder that research today focuses on mushrooms, and no wonder that so many medicinal mushrooms have now been found.
But what remains most astonishing is the similarity between humans and fungi. Both types breathe in oxygen and produce carbon dioxide when they breathe out. And both are prone to the same pathogen. This makes it clear that humans and fungi need similar defense strategies in order to stay healthy. And precisely therein lies the value that medicinal mushrooms have for our organism.
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