Fungi, Mushrooms And A Connection To Plant And Human Health

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One of the common topics of conversation for those interested in soil remediation are fungi and mushrooms. For good reasons fungi are beginning to be recognized for their health benefits to plants. Mushrooms and fungi are used in making medicines for a wide variety of illnesses and culinary mushrooms also can aid in overall health.
For mushroom lovers, the most intriguing interspecies companionship is that between
fungi and plant roots. In mycorrhiza, the threads of the fungal body sheathe or enter the roots
of plants.
Indian pipes and other plants without chlorophyll are supported entirely from the
nutrients they gain from fungi in their roots; many orchids cannot even germinate without fungal assistance.
Here plants gain sustenance from fungi; in more cases, however, the fungus obtains sustenance from the plant. But a mycorrhizal fungus is not just selfish in its eating. It brings the plant water and makes minerals from the surrounding soil available for its host.
Fungi can even bore into rocks, making their mineral elements available for plant growth. In
the long history of the earth, fungi are responsible for enriching soil thus allowing plants to evolve; fungi channel minerals from rocks to plants.
Trees are able to grow on poor soils because of the fungi that bring their roots phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and more.
Tsing, Anna. (2012). Unruly Edges: Mushrooms as Companion Species. Environmental Humanities. 1. 141-154. 10.1215/22011919-3610012.
A regular intake of mushrooms can make us healthier, fitter, and happier, and help us live longer. A variety of mushrooms have been used traditionally in many different cultures for the maintenance of health and in the prevention and treatment of various diseases. A total of 126 medicinal functions are thought to be produced by medicinal mushrooms (MM) and fungi, including antitumor, immunomodulating, antioxidant, radical scavenging, cardiovascular, anti-hypercholesterolemia, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-parasitic, antifungal, detoxification, hepatoprotective, and anti-diabetic effects. Special attention is paid to mushroom polysaccharides. Many, if not all, higher Basidiomycetes mushrooms contain biologically active polysaccharides in fruit bodies, cultured mycelium, and cultured broth. The data on mushroom polysaccharides are summarized for approximately 700 species of higher Hetero- and Homobasidiomycetes. In particular, the most important for modern medicine are polysaccharides with antitumor and immunostimulating properties. Several of the mushroom polysaccharide compounds have proceeded through phase I, II, and III clinical trials and are used extensively and successfully as drugs in Asia to treat various cancers and other diseases. Mushrooms are superior sources of different types of dietary supplements (DSs) (tonics). The advantages of using mushroom-based DSs as a matter of safety (as opposed to herbal preparations) are: (1) The overwhelming majority of mushrooms used for production of DSs are cultivated commercially (and not gathered in the wild). (2) Mushrooms are easily propagated vegetatively and thus keep to one clone. The mycelium can be stored for a long time, and the genetic and biochemical consistency can be checked after a considerable time.

Chang ST, Wasser SP. The role of culinary-medicinal mushrooms on human welfare with a pyramid model for human health. International Journal of Mdicinal Mushrooms 2012;14(2):95-134.

Larry Shier
 

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