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There’s a fungus among us. With respect to your health, that’s a good thing if the fungus is an edible mushroom. Much maligned and often shunned simply for looking weird and growing in unusual places, edible mushrooms are potent medicines and a delicious addition to a healthy diet. Here are four reasons to eat more mushrooms.
1. Mushrooms can help in the fight against cancer. A study in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms found that chaga mushrooms inhibited cancer tumor growth. Chaga has long been used in Asian and northern European traditional medicine for a number of ailments. The fungus grows on trees—most notably birch trees in northerly forests in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia. It typically resembles a black mass on the tree trunk due to the high levels of melanin, a naturally occurring pigment that in humans protects against ultraviolet B shortwave (UVB) radiation damage.
Chinese researchers investigated the inhibitory roles of a polysaccharide extract from chaga on U251 human brain tumor cells. The extract successfully inhibited the proliferation of the tumor cells and that success increased both over time and with increased concentrations of the extract.
2. Mushrooms can also boost immune function, according to research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Scientists wanted to determine whether consumption of whole, dried shiitake mushrooms could improve human immune function. Shiitake mushrooms are native to eastern Asia but they are one of the most common mushrooms found in the produce section due to their increasing popularity. They have a rich smoky flavor that complements many types of cuisines.
The four week study involved men and women in good health between the ages of 21 and 41 years. The authors concluded that regular shiitake consumption resulted in improved immunity, as seen by improved cell proliferation and activation and increased immunoglobulin A (also referred to as IgA) production, which is an antibody that plays a critical role in mucosal immunity. The authors also concluded that changes observed in other immunity markers suggested that these improvements occurred under conditions that were less inflammatory than those that existed before consumption of the mushrooms.
3. Reishi mushrooms, another popular choice, have been found to protect the brain and nervous system. Mexican researchers tested compounds in reishi to determine the possible anticonvulsant and neuroprotective effects of this mushroom. The study, published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, found that the mushroom inhibited seizures and reduced degeneration patterns in parts of brain, leading them to conclude that reishi offered credible anticonvulsant and neuroprotective effects.
4. Mushrooms are delicious and versatile. They can easily take the place of meat in any meal (think portabello instead of steak) and are excellent additions to soups, stews and curries. They also lend a rich flavor to gravies and obviously support a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.
A wide variety of edible mushrooms can be found in grocery stores, health food stores and many farmers’ markets. Purchasing from these retailers takes the risk out of eating mushrooms because they have been harvested by knowledgeable “shroomers” who understand the difference between edible and inedible or poisonous varieties. It also gives you an opportunity to try health-enhancing mushrooms that may not be indigenous to where you live.
While wildcrafting (wandering the woods and harvesting mushrooms straight from Mother Nature) is enjoyable and fulfilling, it is best left to mushroom experts who can identify species accurately and who will practice sustainable harvesting methods that won’t damage the long-term viability of the mushroom ecosystem. If you decide you want to wildcraft mushrooms, enroll yourself in a credible, hands-on workshop with an experienced mycologist that brings you into direct contact with the mushroom varieties in your area. Relying on an illustrated book is not enough to fully understand the complex and strangely beautiful world of these fantastic fungi.
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A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
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