Single Dose of 'Magic Mushrooms' Provides Long-Term Anxiety Relief for Cancer Patients, Study Suggests
Not only did the patients feel reductions in anxiety, a slew of other mental health symptoms were relieved as well, including depression, hopelessness, demoralization and death anxiety, according to CNN.
In addition to self-reported improved well-being or life satisfaction, some patients rated the treatment as being "among the most personally meaningful and spiritually significant experiences of their lives," the authors wrote, as Medscape Medical News reported.
The study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, followed up on a study published in 2016 that gave cancer patients a single dose of synthetic psilocybin, the psychoactive chemical present in mushrooms, in a controlled setting where the patients were monitored the entire time, as NBC News reported.
The study was featured recently in the documentary Fantastic Fungi.
The new follow-up tracked 15 of the first 29 participants from the study nearly five years after their guided experience with synthetic psilocybin. After five years, nearly 80 percent were still experiencing significant improvements in cancer-related depression and anxiety. Furthermore, almost all of the participants chalked up their positive life changes to the psychedelic-assisted therapy, according to NBC News.
"Our findings strongly suggest that psilocybin therapy is a promising means of improving the emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being of patients with life-threatening cancer," said Dr. Stephen Ross, associate professor of psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health, as CNN reported.
"This approach has the potential to produce a paradigm shift in the psychological and existential care of patients with cancer, especially those with terminal illness," Ross added, as Medscape Medical News reported.
That said, it is important to note that this was a single controlled-dose from pharmacy-made synthetic psilocybin, and a trained nurse monitored the patients while they were under the influence of the narcotic. Possessing hallucinogenic mushrooms is a felony and ingesting them is potentially hazardous.
The researchers are not sure why psilocybin produced such long-lasting relief, but they previously theorized that it has to do with the brain's neuroplasticity — the brain's ability to adapt and change with various experiences, according to CNN.
"These results may shed light on how the positive effects of a single dose of psilocybin persist for so long," said Gabby Agin-Liebes, lead investigator and lead author of the long-term follow-up study, and co-author of the 2016 parent study. "The drug seems to facilitate a deep, meaningful experience that stays with a person and can fundamentally change his or her mindset and outlook."
One of the patients, Dinah Bazer, suffered from ovarian cancer in her 60s. After a successful round of chemotherapy, her anxiety inexplicably overwhelmed her.
"I thought that when the chemo ended, I would celebrate but instead, I went into a tailspin. Even though my prognosis was really excellent, I was worried about a relapse," Bazer said to NBC News. After her experience with synthetic psilocybin, Bazer went through six-months of no anxiety at all.
"What is permanent is that I don't have anxiety about cancer. Not only about my cancer returning, but how I viewed my reoccurrence when it did happen," said Bazer, who was diagnosed last March with a type of rare gastrointestinal cancer, as NBC News reported.
While the results are promising, they are limited because of the small number of patients in the study and the follow-up.
"The conclusions that can be drawn are limited because the original trial was a crossover design," said James Rucker, who leads the Psychedelic Trials Group at the Centre for Affective Disorders at Kings College London in the UK, to CNN. "This means that in the original trial every participant eventually received psilocybin. Because of this, there is no control group in this current study. This means that we do not know whether the participants might have improved long term anyway, regardless of the treatment."
However, Ross sees a bright future for the future of psilocybin in oncology.
"This could profoundly transform the psycho-oncologic care of patients with cancer, and importantly could be used in hospice settings to help terminally ill cancer patients approach death with improved emotional and spiritual well-being," Ross said, as CNN reported.
- FDA Grants 'Breakthrough Therapy' Status to Psychoactive ... ›
- Mushrooms as Medicine? Psychedelics May Be Next Breakthrough ... ›
By Tracy Matsue Loeffelholz
Oil spills don't stand a chance against the cleansing power of mycelium.
Reposted with permission from our media associate YES! Magazine.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
The latest renewable energy breakthrough took place over a lunch.
Sudeep Joshi, a postdoctoral fellow at Stevens Institute of Technology, told BBC News that he and some colleagues were discussing the problem of cyanobacteria. These are organisms that can convert sunlight into electric current. The problem? They don't live long enough on artificial lab equipment for researchers to be able to take much advantage of that fact.
"One day my friends and I went to lunch together and we ordered some mushrooms," Joshi told BBC News. "As we discussed them we realized they have a rich microbiota of their own, so we thought why not use the mushrooms as a support for the cynaobacteria. We thought let's merge them and see what happens."
So Joshi and Manu Mannoor, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Stevens who runs the lab Joshi works in, took ordinary button mushrooms and used 3D printing to combine them with the bacteria.
A Stevens press release explained the process:
Mannoor and Joshi used a robotic arm-based 3D printer to first print an "electronic ink" containing the graphene nanoribbons. This printed branched network serves as an electricity-collecting network atop the mushroom's cap by acting like a nano-probe—to access bio-electrons generated inside the cyanobacterial cells. Imagine needles sticking into a single cell to access electrical signals inside it, explains Mannoor.
Next, they printed a "bio-ink" containing cyanobacteria onto the mushroom's cap in a spiral pattern intersecting with the electronic ink at multiple contact points. At these locations, electrons could transfer through the outer membranes of the cyanobacteria to the conductive network of graphene nanoribbons. Shining a light on the mushrooms activated cyanobacterial photosynthesis, generating a photocurrent.
The result? Something Manoor calls a "bionic mushroom" that generates electricity, pictured below.
Bionic Mushroom Generates Electricity https://t.co/s0fvdcOED2 https://t.co/ACIH0tSBcC— ScienceDaily (@ScienceDaily)1541608193.0
The research team published their results in Nano Letters Wednesday. In addition to proving their idea was possible, they also showed that the bacteria lived for several more days on living mushrooms, compared to lab equipment or dead mushrooms. They also showed that 3D printing made a difference. Using it, they were able to more densely pack the bacteria, which increased its electric output. The dense, 3D printed bacteria generated eight times the electricity of bacteria placed with a normal pipette.
This first bionic mushroom is just the beginning. Several mushrooms wired together could power a small lamp, researchers told BBC News, but their ambitions shine even brighter than that.
"Right now we are using cyanobacteria from the pond, but you can genetically engineer them and you can change their molecules to produce higher photo currents, via photosynthesis," Joshi told BBC News. "It's a new start; we call it engineered symbiosis. If we do more research in this we can really push this field forward to have some type of effective green technology."
Bright Idea: This Lamp Harvests Its Own Energy From Plants https://t.co/hn5vXWf5JL @GOOD @GreenNewsDaily— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1511052306.0
By Dan Nosowitz
Various parts of the cannabis plant have already received full FDA approval; a drug consisting of cannabidiol, better known as CBD, has already been approved to treat two rare forms of epilepsy. Researchers have been pushing for years for relaxed legal status to study the possible medicinal benefits of hallucinogenic drugs, and now the FDA has given psilocybin—magic mushrooms—a conditional form of research approval, according to Compass Pathways, the company granted that approval.
Allowing researchers to study the effects of otherwise banned substances is tricky; the DEA's legal definition of schedule 1 drugs requires that they have "no accepted medical use." That's an immediate barrier to study, and also throws the drug into question if an "accepted medical use" is discovered. Can the drug even be a schedule 1 drug in that case? The DEA has generally refused to remove substances from the list, regardless of research, though CBD—which is not psychoactive at all—was recently rescheduled.
Anyway! Psilocybin has been casually used both recreationally and medicinally for decades, and international studies have indicated that controlled, somewhat low-level doses of psilocybin can be useful in treating depression. Earlier this month, researchers at Johns Hopkins wrote an analysis of existing studies, recommending that psilocybin be re-classified to enable more thorough study.
Compass Pathways says they have received designation as a Breakthrough Therapy treatment. That's the official name (rather than a hype-filled description) for an FDA program designed to expedite the approval process for drugs that have proved promising in treating serious conditions. As part of that designation, Compass Pathways will be able to conduct the largest North American clinical trial of psilocybin ever done: 216 patients with treatment-resistant depression.
From an agricultural perspective, growing psilocybin mushrooms is not particularly difficult, and guides abound online. But these mushrooms are not legally grown at any reasonable scale, and it's proved insanely expensive to buy approved psilocybin extract. This Quartz piece reveals that it can take up to a year for researchers to actually get their needed material, and that the price per gram can reach 13 times the street value. Compass Pathways actually grows their own and provides it at no charge to other researchers, because it can be so hard to get.
But this preliminary FDA approval, though very far from anything like decriminalization, might edge that door open a bit more for researchers who want to find out if psilocybin actually can help people.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
By Robert Beelman
Mushrooms are often considered only for their culinary use because they are packed with flavor-enhancers and have gourmet appeal. That is probably why they are the second most popular pizza topping, next to pepperoni.
In the past, food scientists like me often praised mushrooms as healthy because of what they don't contribute to the diet; they contain no cholesterol and gluten and are low in fat, sugars, sodium and calories. But that was selling mushrooms short. They are very healthy foods and could have medicinal properties, because they are good sources of protein, B-vitamins, fiber, immune-enhancing sugars found in the cell walls called beta-glucans, and other bioactive compounds.
Mushrooms have been used as food and sometimes as medicine for centuries. In the past, most of the medicinal use of mushrooms was in Asian cultures, while most Americans have been skeptical of this concept. However, due to changing consumer attitudes rejecting the pharmaceutical approach as the only answer to healing, that seems to be changing.
I study the nutritional value of fungi and mushrooms, and my laboratory has conducted a great deal of research on the lowly mushroom. We have discovered that mushrooms may be even better for health than previously known. They can be excellent sources of four key dietary micronutrients that are all known to be important to healthy aging. We are even looking into whether some of these could be important in preventing Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.
Four Key Nutrients
Important nutrients in mushrooms include selenium, vitamin D, glutathione and ergothioneine. All are known to function as antioxidants that can mitigate oxidative stress and all are known to decline during aging. Oxidative stress is considered the main culprit in causing the diseases of aging such as cancer, heart disease and dementia.
The downside of a mushroom. The upside is that it may contain an amino acid that does a lot of important work in your body. basel101658 / Shutterstock
Ergo is produced in nature primarily by fungi, including mushrooms. Humans cannot make it, so it must be obtained from dietary sources. There was little scientific interest in ergo until 2005, when pharmacology professor Dirk Grundemann discovered that all mammals make a genetically coded transporter that rapidly pulls ergo into the red blood cells. They then distribute ergo around the body, where it accumulates in tissues that are under the most oxidative stress. That discovery led to a significant increase in scientific inquiry about possible role of ergo in human health. One study led to a leading American scientist, Dr. Solomon Snyder, recommending that ergo be considered as a new vitamin.
In 2006, a graduate student of mine, Joy Dubost, and I discovered that edible cultivated mushrooms were extremely rich sources of ergo and contained at least 10 times the level in any other food source. Through collaboration with John Ritchie and post-doctoral scientist Michael Kalaras at the Hershey Medical Center at Penn State, we showed that mushrooms are also a leading dietary source of the master antioxidant in all living organisms, glutathione. No other food even comes close to mushrooms as a source of both of these antioxidants.
I Eat Mushrooms, Ergo I am Healthy?
A salad with egg, greens and mushrooms. The author is studying whether mushrooms can prevent neurodegenerative brain diseases.Ekaterina Kondratova / Shutterstock
Our current research is centered on evaluating the potential of ergo in mushrooms to prevent or treat neurodegenerative diseases of aging, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. We based this focus on several intriguing studies conducted with aging Asian populations. One study conducted in Singapore showed that as people aged the ergo content in their blood declined significantly, which correlated with increasing cognitive impairment.
The authors suggested that a dietary deficiency of ergo might predispose individuals to neurological diseases. A recent epidemiological study conducted with over 13,000 elderly people in Japan showed that those who ate more mushrooms had less incidence of dementia. The role of ergo consumed with the mushrooms was not evaluated but the Japanese are known to be avid consumers of mushrooms that contain high amounts of ergo.
More Ergo, Better Health?
One important question that has always begged an answer is how much ergo is consumed in the diet by humans. A 2016 study was conducted that attempted to estimate the average ergo consumption in five different countries. I used their data to calculate the estimated amount of ergo consumed per day by an average 150-pound person and found that it ranged from 1.1 in the U.S. to 4.6 milligrams per day in Italy.
We were then able to compare estimated ergo consumption against mortality rate data from each country caused by the common neurological diseases, including Alzheimer's, dementia, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis. We found, in each case, a decline in the death rates with increasing estimated ergo consumption. Of course, one cannot assume a cause and effect relationship from such an exercise, but it does support our hypothesis that it may be possible to decrease the incidence of neurological diseases by increasing mushroom consumption.
If you don't eat mushrooms, how do you get your ergo? Apparently, ergo gets into the food chain other than by mushroom consumption via fungi in the soil. The fungi pass ergo on to plants grown in the soil and then on to animals that consume the plants. So that depends on healthy fungal populations in agricultural soils.
This led us to consider whether ergo levels in the American diet may be harmed by modern agricultural practices that might reduce fungal populations in soils. We began a collaboration with scientists at the Rodale Institute, who are leaders in the study of regenerative organic agricultural methods, to examine this. Preliminary experiments with oats have shown that farming practices that do not require tilling resulted in significantly higher ergo levels in the oats than with conventional practices, where tillage of the soil disrupts fungal populations.
In 1928 Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin produced from a fungal contaminant in a petri dish. This discovery was pivotal to the start of a revolution in medicine that saved countless lives from bacterial infections. Perhaps fungi will be key to a more subtle, but no less important, revolution through ergo produced by mushrooms. Perhaps then we can fulfill the admonition of Hippocrates to "let food be thy medicine."
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
By Richard Waite, Daniel Vennard and Gerard Pozzi
Burgers are possibly the most ubiquitous meal on Americans' dinner plates, but they're also among the most resource-intensive: Beef accounts for nearly half of the land use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the food Americans eat.
Although there's growing interest in plant-based burgers and other alternatives, for the millions of people who still want to order beef, there's a better burger out there: a beef-mushroom blend that maintains, or even enhances, that meaty flavor with significantly less environmental impact.
- Reduce agricultural production-related greenhouse gas emissions by 10.5 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year, equivalent to taking 2.3 million cars (and their annual tailpipe emissions) off the road. That's like the entire county of San Diego going carless;
- Reduce irrigation water demand by 83 billion gallons per year, an amount equal to 2.6 million Americans' annual home water use; and
- Reduce global agricultural land demand by more than 14,000 square miles, an area larger than the state of Maryland.
Beef-Mushroom Burgers Taste Great, With Less Impact
The Culinary Institute of America and others recommend blending plant-based foods into meat-based dishes as one way to shift mainstream consumers' diets without requiring lifestyle changes. Mushrooms have a meat-like texture, moisture retention properties and an umami taste that can enhance the burger's flavor while enabling chefs to also cut back on salt. Beef-mushroom burgers can also be lower in calories and saturated fat than all-beef burgers, making them a healthier choice. Across a variety of important consumer attributes—including flavor, texture, appearance and the ability to make a consumer feel full at the end of the meal—the beef-mushroom blended burger stacks up favorably to a conventional all-beef burger.
Beef-Mushroom Burgers Are Good for Business
Blended burgers represent an exciting sustainability opportunity for restaurants and food service operators, as beef accounts for a sizable portion of these companies' greenhouse gas emissions. McDonald's, for example, estimates that 28 percent of its corporate carbon footprint—an amount similar in size to the footprint of its energy use across all of the company's restaurants and offices—results from beef production. Similarly, agricultural supply chains tend to account for 90 percent or more of a food company's total water footprint. Beef production is a particularly thirsty water user, requiring more irrigation water per pound of product than any other animal-based food. With companies increasingly setting science-based emissions-reduction and water-stewardship targets, the blended burger is a sustainability strategy that could sit alongside renewable energy, energy efficiency, water efficiency and waste reduction measures.
Encouragingly, the beef-mushroom blended burger also appears not to increase costs for food service operators. Effects on costs and profitability will depend on the relative prices of beef and mushrooms, the effects on meal preparation time, necessity for additional chef training and kitchen equipment, and the listed price of the blended burger on menus. A 2014-15 trial in a Baltimore public school suggested that the blended burger could be at least cost-neutral compared to traditional beef burgers. Over time, if meat producers and distributors sell pre-prepared blended burgers, economies of scale could make the blended burger an even more attractive business proposition to food service.
The blended burger is already starting to gain traction across the U.S. Last month, Better Buying Lab member Sodexo introduced "The Natural," a beef-mushroom blend aimed at meeting increasing consumer demand for sustainable foods with a lighter footprint. It will go into full-flavored dishes like burgers, lasagna and chili in workplaces, universities and other settings across the country. Another Lab member, Stanford University's Residential & Dining Enterprises, has been exclusively offering blended burgers in their operations for several years. And in mid-2017, Sonic became the first national burger chain to join the trend, trialing Sonic Slingers—their "juiciest burger ever"—at locations across the country.
WRI's Better Buying Lab is working with member companies and partners in the culinary world to refine and scale this remixed burger across the market. This includes researching and testing improved names that could further drive demand. The potential is so great that the lab is pursuing the blended burger as one its three core Power Dishes, which are more sustainable menu items with the kind of appeal and familiarity to go mainstream.
A Simple Shift to More Sustainable Eating
Shifting to healthier and more sustainable diets does not always need to mean overhauling people's lifestyles. The blended burger is a nice example of a potential "multiple win"—better for the environment, better for health and enjoyed by consumers.
Blending plants into burgers is only a start. Consider that only about one-third of ground beef is consumed in the form of burgers in the U.S. If plants were mixed into all ground beef dishes—tacos, chili, lasagna, meatballs, pasta sauces and so on—the total potential environmental benefits could be much higher.
Meat producers and distributors, restauranteurs, chefs, food service operators and retailers all have a role to play in serving up this delicious strategy for change.
- New Online Calculator Lets You See the Impact of Your Meat Intake ›
- McDonald's Quietly Ended Its Meatless Burger Trial With Beyond Meat - EcoWatch ›
- Plant-Based Diets Will Be Essential to the Planet's Future, New Report Finds - EcoWatch ›
By Laura Sorkin
Shiitake mushrooms require faith in the unseen. The fungi flourish under the cover of bark for nine to twelve months preceding the first harvest, during which eternity you can do little more than cross your fingers. Once established, though, the crop will produce fruit for approximately seven years. Plus, these umami bombs fetch as much as $20 per pound at farmers markets. Up for the challenge? You'll want to get started now, harvesting the logs that will serve as your growing medium before trees bud out and release the nutrients stored in their sapwood.
Not just any old logs will do. They should be 3 to 6 inches in diameter and about 3.5 feet long—cut from deciduous hardwoods. Oak, maple, ironwood and beech all make good candidates. Avoid pine and fruit trees, as well as wood covered in lichen.
Winter is also the ideal time to shop for spawn, live culture akin to seed. Serious growers prefer sawdust spawn and invest in the spring-loaded inoculation tool necessary to insert the sawdust into logs. Hobbyists tend toward shortcuts such as pre-inoculated wooden dowels, called plug spawn, or even pre-inoculated logs. (Fieldforest.net sells a wide variety of tools and spawn, including the beginner-friendly WR46; williams-sonoma.com carries pre-inoculated logs.)
In spring, once all danger of frost has passed, inoculate the logs using a power drill or a more efficient high-speed angle grinder with a drill-bit attachment. The size of the bit will depend on the type of spawn: The inoculation tool associated with sawdust spawn typically calls for a 12-mm bit; plug spawn, an 8.5-mm one. (Confirm the bit size with your supplier when purchasing spawn and/or an inoculation tool.) Working outside near a power source and wearing protective eye and ear gear, drill 1 inch-deep holes every 6 inches down the length of the log. Rotate the log a few inches and drill another row, adjusting the placement of the holes so that the overall pattern will resemble polka dots. Continue turning and drilling until you come back around to the first row.
If your spawn is in plug form, simply insert the dowels into the drilled holes and hammer until flush with the log. For sawdust spawn, place a wad of the spawn in a cup, plunge the inoculating tool into the cup to fill, then hold the tool up to the hole and push the button with your thumb to release. In either case, seal each hole with food-grade cheese wax. (I rely on a cheap deep fryer to melt the wax and a reusable dauber to apply it.) Arrange the logs as shown (see "Stacking the Logs," below) in a shady, humid location; they should be close to the ground but ideally not lying on it, with as much surface area exposed to rain as possible. Any time it doesn't rain for a week or two, give the logs a thorough watering.
Stacking the Logs: Place an ordinary log on the ground. Then arrange the inoculated ones atop it as depicted above. Illustration by Susan Huyser
The following spring, once temperatures rise above 60°F, fruit the logs by submerging them in cold, clean water overnight (in a feed tank or a nearby creek). The next day, move the logs to a shady area and lean them against a tree or fence, with a tarp spread underneath. (Keep slugs at bay with an organic deterrent like Sluggo or set out beer traps.) Cover with a fruiting blanket or other permeable cloth, and wait five to seven days for the mushrooms to emerge.
Once the caps are open but not quite flat, cut the fruit from the log with a knife or twist it off by hand. Refrigerate the mushrooms in a paper—not plastic—bag for up to 10 days. By re-stacking the same logs in the original formation (see "Stacking the Logs," above), you can re-fruit them every eight weeks until nighttime temperatures begin dipping below 40°F (at which point the mushrooms go dormant for winter). Should a log fail to fruit in the first place, peel back a bit of bark. If you see a white film, the inoculation was probably successful but needs more time to fruit. Re-stack and check again in six weeks.
The Bottom Line for Shiitake Mushrooms
The following estimates assume mushroom cultivation on 100 free logs and don't factor in labor costs. Allow roughly three days for drilling and inoculating, as well as three hours per fruiting, spread over a week.
- Initial investment: Angle grinder with adapter and dedicated drill bit ($160); spring-loaded inoculator ($35); deep fryer ($20); four 2.5-pound bags cheese wax ($35); four wax daubers ($1); four 5.5-pound bags sawdust inoculant ($100); tarp ($5); fruiting blanket ($25) = $381.
- Harvest yield (from year two): Approximately 1/4 to 1/3 pound per log per fruiting, with two to three fruitings annually, depending on climate = 50 to 100 pounds.
- Retail price per pound: $10 to $20.
- Annual revenue (from year two): $500 to $2,000.
- Effective life of crop: Approximately seven years.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
Stinkhorns, Truffles, Smuts: The Amazing Diversity—and Possible Decline—of Mushrooms and Other Fungi
By Alexander Weir
"Whatever dressing one gives to mushrooms ... they are not really good but to be sent back to the dungheap where they are born."
French philosopher Denis Diderot thus dismissed mushrooms in 1751 in his " Encyclopedie." Today his words would be dismissed in France, where cooks tuck mushrooms into crepes, puff pastry and boeuf Bourguignon (beef Burgundy), to name just a few dishes.
The French aren't alone. Mushrooms and their biological relatives feature in global cuisines from Asia to sub-Saharan Africa. Here in North America, they are part of many holiday meals, from humble stuffed mushroom caps to a single costly truffle shaved over pasta. Late fall is wild-mushroom foraging season in much of the U.S., so it's a good time to learn about these fascinating organisms—and to know that some popular species are declining.
Fungi, Not Vegetables
Human experience with mushrooms dates back thousands of years, including references from China, Africa, Greece and Rome. One of the first is attributed to Euripides (A.D. 450-456), who commented on the death of a mother and her family from mushroom poisoning. Indeed, a few species are poisonous—notably, Amanita phalloides, the so-called death cap mushroom, which sickened 14 people in California in 2016. Three required liver transplants.
All the more reason to learn some mycology—the science of fungi. This mega-diverse group of organisms is biologically distinct from its better-known counterparts, plants ( Plantae) and animals (Animalia). Along with mushrooms, it includes such curiosities as conks, puffballs, earthstars, stinkhorns, birds-nests, truffles, morels, molds, rusts and smuts.
Unlike plants, fungi do not have chlorophyll, the pigment in plant leaves that converts light energy to chemical energy through photosynthesis. Instead, fungi are decomposers: They release enzymes that break down tissues from living and dead plants and animals to nourish them as they grow.
Most fungi grow in or on a natural substrate, such as dead logs or manure (Diderot was not wrong to say that they came from a dung-heap). Commercial mushroom growers use materials such as straw or coffee grounds. Mushroom spores put out filaments ( hyphae) that form a network (mycelium). This is the organism's feeding stage, and in some species can grow to an enormous extent, largely hidden in the soil.
Oyster mushroom mycelium growing in a petri dish on coffee grounds. Tobi Kellner
Almost miraculously, in response to a range of environmental cues such as moisture and temperature, this network produces "fruiting bodies" or reproductive structures, that typically erupt out of the substrate. These structures are what we think of as mushrooms. They come in many sizes, shapes and colors, and can either persist or appear and then disappear in a matter of hours or days.
The mysterious origin of these seemingly magical apparitions has fascinated humans for millennia. Certain species erupt naturally in circular formations, which are widely known as "fairy rings" and linked in European folklore with fairies and other magical creatures. Many accounts claim that psilocybin mushrooms, which contain hallucinogenic compounds, have been used for mind-altering purposes for millennia. Today they are being studied as a possible treatment for depression.
Abundant But Also at Risk
Even after more than 200 years of exploration, scientists estimate that only about 5 percent of a likely 1.5 million species of fungi have been described and named. Of those, roughly 10 described species have been "domesticated" and form the basis of the global cultivated mushroom industry, which has an annual value estimated at more than US$35 billion and rising. A 2004 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report documented use of more than 1,100 species in over 80 countries.
Meilinger Lab pdf. Bradley Meilinger
Detailed studies have helped to dispel the commonly held view that mushrooms are a low-calorie food with little nutritional benefit. We now know that they are typically low in fat, sodium and carbohydrates, but high in
vitamin D, potassium and antioxidants. In short, mushrooms are increasingly recognized as nutritional powerhouses.
Historically, mushrooms were eaten mostly at subsistence levels in rural communities in developing countries. Recently, however, an export trade has developed for wild varieties, moving mainly from poor to rich countries. This growing demand reflects recognition of wild edible mushrooms' nutritional value, but has also been linked to a decline in the numbers and diversity of mushroom fruiting bodies in traditional centers of high consumption, such as Europe and Japan.
This trend is a serious concern for scientists, who are continuously learning more about the important ecological roles that fungi play. Some form relationships with plant roots that sustain the growth of native forests and commercial tree plantations. As decomposers, fungi also recycle nutrients from dead matter in many different types of habitats.
There are vast gaps in our knowledge about fungal biodiversity and how these organisms are affected by trade, land management practices, air pollution, habitat loss and global climate change. One recent study identified three unknown species of porcini in a packet of dried Chinese mushrooms purchased in a London grocery store.
Huitlacoche, a fungus that grows naturally on corn, is harvested as a delicacy in Mexico. Russ Bowling / Flickr
Many countries are developing or have published
Red Data Lists of threatened fungi. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature is accepting information for a Global Fungal Red List Initiative that aims to assess and classify at least 300 species of threatened fungi.
Mycologists like me are also a dwindling resource. The number of positions at universities, research institutes and botanic gardens has declined in recent years. Inventorying, describing and understanding the impacts of human-induced and natural disturbances on fungal communities is a huge and challenging task, and an essential step toward determining whether harvesting wild fungi at the current level is sustainable. But this work is starting to gain momentum. Finally, humans are starting to see fungi not just as commodities or as biological organisms, but also as important contributors to ecosystem function that are worthy of conservation.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
By Kerri-Ann Jennings
Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular mushrooms worldwide.
They are prized for their rich, savory taste and diverse health benefits.
This article explains everything you need to know about shiitake mushrooms.
What Are Shiitake Mushrooms?
Shiitakes are edible mushrooms native to East Asia.
They're tan to dark brown in color and the caps usually grow to between 2 and 4 inches (5 and 10 centimeters).
While typically used as vegetables, shiitakes are actually a fungus that grows naturally on decaying hardwood trees.
They're also widely grown. Eighty-three percent of shiitakes are grown in Japan, although the U.S., Canada, Singapore and China also produce them (1).
You can find them fresh, dried or in various dietary supplements.
Bottom Line: Shiitake mushrooms are brown-capped mushrooms used around the world for food and as supplements.
Nutrition Profile of Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitakes are low in calories. They also offer good amounts of fiber, as well as B vitamins and some minerals.
Here are the nutrients you get in four dried shiitakes (15 grams) (2):
- Calories: 44.
- Carbs: 11 grams.
- Fiber: 2 grams.
- Protein: 1 gram.
- Riboflavin: 11 percent of the RDI.
- Niacin: 11 percent of the RDI.
- Copper: 39 percent of the RDI.
- Vitamin B5: 33 percent of the RDI.
- Selenium: 10 percent of the RDI.
- Manganese: 9 percent of the RDI.
- Zinc: 8 percent of the RDI.
- Vitamin B6: 7 percent of the RDI.
- Folate: 6 percent of the RDI.
- Vitamin D: 6 percent of the RDI.
In addition, shiitakes contain many of the same amino acids as meat (3).
All of these properties can differ, depending on how and where the mushrooms are grown, stored and used (3).
Bottom Line: Shiitake mushrooms are low in calories. They also offer many vitamins, minerals and other health-promoting compounds.
How Are They Used?
Shiitake mushrooms have two main uses: as food and as supplements.
Shiitakes as Whole Foods
You can cook with both fresh and dried shiitakes, although the dried mushrooms are slightly more popular.
Dried shiitakes have an umami flavor that's even more intense than when they're fresh.
Umami means savory and delicious. It is described as the "fifth taste" along with sweet, sour, bitter and salty.
Both dried and fresh shiitake mushrooms are used in stir-fries, soups, stews and other dishes.
Shiitakes as Supplements
Shiitake mushrooms have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine.
They're also part of the medical traditions of Japan, Korea and Eastern Russia (4).
In Chinese medicine, shiitakes are thought to boost health and longevity, as well as improve circulation.
However, many of the studies have been done with lab animals or in test tubes, rather than with humans.
In addition, many of the mushroom-based supplements on the market have not been tested to determine how well they work (5).
Although the proposed benefits are promising, you should consider them with a grain of salt.
Bottom Line: Shiitakes have a long history of use, both as food and in medicinal supplements.
They Could Help Your Heart
Shiitake mushrooms may have several benefits for heart health. For example, they have three compounds that may help lower cholesterol:
- Eritadenine: A compound that inhibits an enzyme involved in producing cholesterol (3).
- Sterols: Molecules that help block cholesterol absorption in your gut (6).
- Beta-glucans: A type of fiber that can lower cholesterol (7).
One study of rats with genetically high blood pressure found that shiitake mushroom powder prevented an increase in blood pressure (8).
Beyond its individual components, shiitakes may be heart-healthy as a whole food.
A study in lab rats fed a high-fat diet found that those given shiitake mushrooms developed less fat in their livers, less plaque on their artery walls and had lower cholesterol levels than those who didn't get any mushroom supplement (9).
Bottom Line: Several compounds in shiitakes help lower cholesterol and may keep plaque from sticking to artery walls.
They May Boost Your Immune System
Shiitakes may also help strengthen your immune system.
A 2015 study had people eat around two dried shiitakes daily for a month. Overall, their immune markers improved. They also had less inflammation than before the study began (10).
Additionally, your immune system gets weaker with age. However, a mouse study found that a supplement derived from shiitakes helped reverse some of the age-related decline in immune function (12).
Bottom Line: Eating shiitake mushrooms regularly may help bolster your immune system and reduce age-related decline in immune function.
They Have Compounds Used to Fight Cancer
Lentinan has been shown to inhibit the growth and spread of leukemia cells (17).
In China and Japan, an injectable form of lentinan is used alongside chemotherapy and other major cancer treatments to improve immune function and quality of life in people with gastric cancer (18, 19).
However, there's not enough evidence to say whether actually eating shiitake mushrooms has any effect on cancer.
Bottom Line: Lentinan is a polysaccharide in shiitake mushrooms that may help fight cancer.
More Benefits of Shiitakes
Shiitake mushrooms may also help fight germs and promote bone health.
They Have Promising Antibacterial and Antiviral Effects
In the face of growing antibiotic resistance, some scientists think it's important to explore the antimicrobial potential of shiitakes (21).
They May Help Strengthen Your Bones
Mushrooms are the only natural plant source of vitamin D.
Your body needs vitamin D to build strong bones, yet very few foods contain this important nutrient.
The vitamin D levels of mushrooms vary, depending on how they are grown. When exposed to UV light, they develop higher vitamin D levels.
In one study, mice fed a low-calcium, low-vitamin D diet developed symptoms of osteoporosis. In comparison, those given calcium and UV-enhanced shiitake mushrooms had higher bone density (22).
However, keep in mind that shiitakes contain vitamin D2. This is an inferior form of the vitamin compared to vitamin D3, which is found in fatty fish and some other animal foods.
Bottom Line: Compounds in shiitake mushrooms have antimicrobial properties. Eating shiitakes with higher vitamin D levels may improve your bone density.
Possible Side Effects of Shiitakes
Most people can safely consume shiitakes, although some side effects may occur.
In rare cases, people can develop a skin rash from eating or handling raw shiitakes (23).
This condition, called "shiitake dermatitis," is thought to be caused by lentinan (24).
Some also claim that eating mushrooms can cause symptoms in gout sufferers due to their high purine content. However, research suggests that eating mushrooms is linked to a lower risk of gout (27).
Bottom Line: Shiitakes may cause some side effects, such as a skin rash. Shiitake mushroom extract may also cause digestive problems and increased sensitivity to sunlight.
How to Cook With Shiitakes
Mushrooms have an umami flavor, offering a savory base note to dishes. This can be especially helpful when making vegetarian dishes.
Shiitake mushrooms are often sold dried. You can soak them in hot water, soften them and then cook with the mushrooms and mushroom water.
To select the best dried shiitake mushrooms, look for ones that are sold whole, rather than sliced. The caps should be thick, with deep, white fissures.
You can find excellent tips on selecting, prepping and cooking with dried shiitake mushrooms in this article.
When cooking with fresh shiitake mushrooms, remove the stems, which remain tough even after cooking. Save the stems in the freezer for making veggie stock.
You can cook with shiitakes as you would any other mushroom. Here are a few suggestions:
- Sauté shiitakes with greens and serve with a poached egg.
- Add them to pasta dishes or stir-fries.
- Use them to make a flavorful soup.
- Roast them for a crispy snack or side dish.
Bottom Line: You can cook with either rehydrated, dried or fresh shiitake mushrooms. They add a delicious, savory flavor to foods.
Take Home Message
Shiitakes have a long history of use, both as food and as medicinal supplements.
While the research on the health benefits of shiitake mushrooms is promising, very few human studies have been conducted.
However, shiitakes are low in calories and contain many vitamins, minerals and bioactive plant compounds.
At the end of the day, they're an excellent addition to your diet.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
"Dr. Hyman, you often talk about superfoods and their benefits," writes this week's house call. "Can you share some of your favorites?"
I realize "superfood" carries a certain hype, but some foods do earn that status. Food is medicine. And some foods are more powerful medicines than others! Food is the most powerful tool to create optimal health. Food is the first and most powerful drug in my arsenal to treat patients.
Here, I share five superfoods I frequently enjoy that you should also incorporate into your eating plan.
My three favorite seeds are chia, hemp and flaxseeds. You can add all three super seeds to smoothies, puddings or on top of coconut yogurt with berries. Let's look at their benefits.
- Chia seeds provide an excellent source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids that have numerous benefits, including glowing skin and mental clarity. Just one ounce of chia seeds packs a whopping 10 grams of fiber. Its insoluble fiber acts as a prebiotic that feeds friendly gut bacteria and ferments into short-chain fatty acids to support gut health. Chia seeds also contain more protein than most plant foods. And they contain more calcium than milk.
- Flaxseeds are another great source of omega-3 fats, dietary fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Flaxseeds have powerful, anti-cancer, hormone-balancing phytonutrients called lignans. Freshly ground flaxseed sprinkled into a smoothie is an excellent way to ease constipation.
2. MCT Oil
Medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs are a special type of fatty acid derived from coconut oil. You can get them in coconut oil or as a stand-alone oil. I've written about how studies show MCT oil can help with weight loss, cognitive ability and much more. This super fuel becomes an instant-energy source because MCTs get rapidly burned and metabolized very efficiently, absorbing directly into the gut and then liver, so MCTs don't get stored as fat. You can add MCT oil to smoothies, coffee or veggies. MCTs also provide powerful antioxidant support to strengthen the immune system. Animal studies show MCTs also benefit liver and gut function.
Fiber is vital for so many reasons, including feeding friendly gut bacteria. Studies show fiber can prevent obesity, reduce risk for chronic diseases and decrease aging. That's because fiber slows the rate food enters your bloodstream and increases the speed of food exiting through the digestive tract. Dietary fiber also helps balance blood sugar and cholesterol levels, aids in quick release of toxins from your gutand curbs your appetite. Glucomannan is a soluble, fermentable and highly viscous dietary fiber from the root of the elephant yam, also known as konjac. The konjac tuber has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy and to make traditional foods like konjac jelly, tofu and noodles. You can find glucomannan as a supplement called PGX. It mixes easily into water for an easy, effective fiber source.
While visiting China, I discovered folks there knew more about food's medicinal properties than I did even after many years of research. Medicinal foods are a part of their everyday diet, and mushrooms play a huge role within Chinese medicine. Reishi, shiitake and cordyceps contain powerful healing properties that boost your immune system and support healthy hormone production. Mushrooms are anti-viral and anti-inflammatory to support healthy liver function, optimized cholesterol levels and anti-cancer benefits. I use them often: I make a reishi tea, cook with shiitake mushrooms and make mushroom soup.
5. Plant Foods
The vast, colorful array of vegetables represents more than 25,000 beneficial chemicals. Research shows the synergistic balance of these chemicals provides numerous health benefits. I recommend adiverse diet with numerous colorful whole foods. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate well more than 800 varieties of plant foods. Today, we don't consume anywhere near this amount. Make that extra effort to include as many varieties of these colorful superfoods as you can. Eat from the rainbow: Every fruit and vegetable color represents a different family of healing compounds. Red foods (like tomatoes) contain the carotenoid lycopene, which helps eliminate free radicals that damage our genes. Green foods contain the chemicals sulforaphane and isocyanate, as well as indoles that inhibit carcinogens to protect against cancer. Simply put: The more color you incorporate, the more health benefits you'll receive.
The tremendous power at the end of our forks becomes far more powerful than anything we find in a pill bottle. Functional Medicine ultimately rests on one central principle: Taking out the bad and putting in the good.