(NaturalNews) Welcome back to part two of my interview with George Vaughan. George is a botanist specializing in mycology and the founder of Mushroom Harvest (www.mushroomharvest.com) , a supplier of high quality medicinal mushroom products.
Adam: Your main blend contains 14 different species of medicinal mushroom. We don't have time to cover all 14 of these different species, but I'd like to at least talk specifically about a few of the more popular ones if that's ok with you.
Vaughan: Yes, which ones are you thinking of?
Adam: Well, let's start with one of the most famous, Reishi.
Vaughan: The mushroom revered as the "Mushroom of Immortality", Reishi is truly one of the most impressive medicinal mushrooms both in its potency and its wide range of medicinal benefits. Reishi is a strong immune system stimulator and has been shown to be effective in treating cancer in numerous studies including those of breast cancer, prostate cancer, lymphoma and lung cancer. It has also been shown to provide relief from inflammation, arthritis, asthma, allergies, high blood pressure, insomnia, stress and has been shown to lower cholesterol. Reishi also helps to lower the damage done to the liver when exposed to toxins. In addition to being used as a cancer therapy by itself, it is also useful as adjunct and adjuvant therapy helping to lessen the damage from radiation, making chemotherapy more effective, lessening the side-effects of chemotherapy and helping to restore white blood cell counts to normal levels much more rapidly.
Adam: That's a powerful mushroom! Being interested in nootropic and orthomolecular medicine - and other ways of enhancing the mind and nervous system - I am particularly intrigued by the Lion's Mane mushroom, which is also included in your blend. You mentioned it a couple of times earlier, but can you speak a bit more in depth about what it can offer?
Vaughan: Lion's mane also has immune stimulating 1,3 beta-glucans, essential sugars and antioxidants, but it also contains compounds that are unique - erinacines. Erinacines are diterpenes that have been shown to stimulate the production of nerve growth factors and are being called nerve growth stimulators. In numerous studies, erinacines have been shown to stimulate neurons to regrow. Lion's Mane has traditionally been used to improve memory and for nervous system support. An ancient saying about Lion's Mane is that those who consumed it would have the memory of a lion and nerves of steel. It is also thought that Lion's Mane might delay the onset of dementia.
Adam: Also, many of our readers are very active athletically. Cordyceps is known as a great supplement for athletes and might be of particular interest to the NaturalNews audience. What is so special about Cordyceps?
Vaughan: Cordyceps first really became popular with athletes in the U.S. after the 1993 Olympics when several of China's track and field athletes broke world records and partially contributed their ability to do so to their use of Cordyceps. Many athletes have since tried it and found that Cordyceps increase their physical performance and endurance. No single constituent has been isolated from Cordyceps and been shown to be the source of the increase in endurance, so there's still a bit of mystery about this. Cordyceps has a wide-range of uses including immune system stimulation, reducing cholesterol levels and the treatment of asthma, arrhythmia and cancer. The high adenosine content in Cordyceps also helps to prevent blood platelet aggregation.
Adam: You are the expert here, so do you have any favorites that I didn't mention? Don't be shy!
Vaughan: I am also very impressed by Mesima, Suehirotake and Poria. Mesima has been shown to be extremely high in 1,3 beta-glucans, very effective in cancer therapy and a strong anti-inflammatory. Suehirotake is one of the most commonly used mushrooms in Japan for cancer therapy and is also used for chronic fatigue syndrome and increasing vitality. Poria, also known as Hoelen or Fu-ling, has many interesting constituents and has also been shown to be effective in cancer therapy and stimulating the immune system. Poria is actually one of the most commonly used mushrooms in Traditional Chinese Medicine appearing in more than 30% of all traditional formulas.
Adam: Wow! I always assumed the most commonly used would be Reishi.
Vaughan: Poria was more abundant in times past than Reishi and Cordyceps, so it was more available to the common person. In ancient China, Cordyceps and Reishi were actually supposed to be reserved for the exclusive use of royalty. You can see motifs of Reishi mushrooms throughout artwork, on buildings and the clothing of the Chinese royalty. Reishi and Cordyceps have actually just recently become widely available and affordable due to advances in sterile culture techniques starting in the 1960's.
Adam: Wow. And Poria is available at the grocery store isn't it?
Vaughan: I don't think we'll see that any time soon, but it does occur in the Southeast of the U.S. where it was consumed by the Native Americans and early setters.
Adam: Maybe I had that confused with something else.
Another interesting point is in the difference in chemical makeup between mycelium and fruiting bodies. What are they, what is the difference between the two, and how do you take that into account in formulating your products?
Vaughan: The mycelium is a living organism composed of fungal threads that form a territory within whatever substrate, for example an oak log, it is feeding and living. It basically forms a territory within its food source. When it is time to reproduce and spread spore, this network of fungal threads forms a little knob of dense mycelium that expands into a mushroom and grows out of and above the log. It then opens its cap, exposes the gills and acts as a dispersal tower to release the spores into the wind.
An apple tree would be analogous to the mycelium and an apple would be analogous to a mushroom. A mushroom is essentially a fruiting body. The fact that a mushroom is composed of mycelium means that the two mostly share the same constituents. There are chemical changes that do occur in the mushroom as it expands. For instance, in Reishi the triterpenes begin to change and the mushroom ends up having a very different set of triterpenes than the mycelium. Mycelium triterpenes, such as ganoderic acids T, Z, Y, X, W and V, have been found to have cytotoxic activity against hepatoma cells. The fruiting-body triterpenes, ganoderic acids C and D, were found to inhibit histamine release and provide relief from asthma and allergies. The mycelium triterpenes, ganoderic acids R and S, have both shown strong hepato-protective properties as has ganosporeric acid A from the spores.
Other mycelium triterpenes, ganoderic acid Mf and ganodermic acid T-O, have been found to inhibit cholesterol synthesis by inhibiting cholesterol synthase. Triterpenes from both the mycelium and fruiting body, ganoderic acids S and Y and ganoderic acids B, D, H, and K, respectively, have been found to have anti-hypertension activity through their ability to inhibit angiotensin converting enzymes. The mycelium triterpene, ganoderic acid T, induces apoptosis of metastatic lung cancer cells.
In essence, there are certain mushrooms that have been demonstrated to have unique constituents in the mycelium and the fruiting body. When that is the case, we like to make our powders a combination of the mycelium and the fruiting body in order to get all the benefits that mushroom has to offer. The majority of the beta-glucan products in Japan that are used in cancer therapy have been made from mycelium including those of Turkey Tail (also known as Coriolus) and Suehirotake.
Adam: Absolutely amazing! There is so much to these mushrooms. So simply put, when there are beneficial constituents found in one that aren't in the other, you use both mycelium and fruiting body. When there are higher concentrations of the same constituents in one or the other, you only use the one containing those higher concentrations. This results in the most complete, most potent product. Correct?
Vaughan: That's correct. Also, in general, many of the medicinal mushrooms produce very hard woody conks for mushrooms. These conks are very dense which makes the 1,3-beta-glucans and the other constituents less exposed and thus less accessible and available. When that's the case, we focus more on the mycelium than the mushroom.
Adam: Can you explain what substrate is, and why strain selection and full colonization is important?
Vaughan: Substrate is the material that the mushroom is growing on. Most of the medicinal mushrooms grow on wood and thus logs or sawdust are used for their substrate. The mycelium is frequently grown on a medium of grain, such as brown rice, milo or millet. When the mycelium is grown on grain, it is important to make sure that full colonization of the grain is being achieved to provide a potent product.
Adam: Many of the mass-produced, mass-marketed products out there might not be using the most effective strains of a particular mushroom species. When these strains fail to colonize the substrate to a high degree, more substrate and less mycelium can be the result. What type of substrate to mycelium ratio do you see in your product versus other products on the market?
Vaughan: The strain of mushroom used can dramatically affect the degree of colonization that can be achieved. Different varieties of a mushroom can also differ greatly in their concentration of medicinal constituents. It is of the utmost importance to use superior strains in order to be able to produce a potent product.
Adam: Can you tell us about arabinoxylans?
Vaughan: Arabinoxylans are one of the key components in the activated rice bran products. Some of these products are made by growing Shiitake or some other fungus to obtain enzymes, which are then used to enzymatically break the rice bran down into fragments that cause an immune response similar to that produced by beta-glucans. These products do not actually contain any mycelium or mushroom and are typically quite expensive. Our powders all include about 10% activated rice bran, mostly as arabinoxylans, generated by the enzymatic treatment of whichever mushroom the powder is composed of. In other words, our powders include both the mushroom and the arabinoxylans. Therefore, some of our powders are composed of the mycelium, mushroom and arabinoxylans to give the full potential range of benefits that these mushrooms can offer.
Adam: Okay, so although these arabinoxylans are not mushrooms, they are still very medicinally useful in and of themselves, as opposed to being just a waste product. It is an added benefit.
This brings us conveniently into the next key point, which is potency or concentration of active components in the mushroom. Your strains are incredibly efficient colonizers, which translates to more mushroom and less substrate. Does that translate to stronger strains in terms of higher concentrations of medicinally active compounds as well?
Vaughan: There is an amazing degree of varying quality when it comes to mushroom products, in particular when it comes to Reishi. We have looked at some Reishi products that are only a fourth as potent as ours. The degree of colonization in general is proportional to the potency of the product as long as the strain being used is a good producer of the medicinal constituents.
Adam: Finally, I would like to ask about custom orders, where customers can choose any of the wide selection of mushrooms that you offer and blend them to their particular needs. When is the full-spectrum blend ideal, and when should customers look at a more specialized approach?
Vaughan: We are happy to do custom blends for customers who feel they need a certain variety of mushrooms. We generally need to have a minimum order of 5 lbs to make a custom blend. However, we do also sell smaller 4 oz and 1 lb bags that customers can purchase to make their own blends on a smaller scale. As far as a general immune stimulant and health maintenance regimen, a full-spectrum blend is ideal. If someone is trying to get relief from a particular ailment like asthma, they might want to focus on mushrooms such as Reishi, Chaga, and Cordyceps. If they are looking for memory support, they might want to focus on Lion's Mane and Oyster.
Adam: You just don't find that kind of dedication to the customer with most companies. Can we get the website and phone number one more time?
Adam: You really are a treasure trove of information on this subject, George. I have learned a lot in the course of picking your brain over the past few weeks, and even more through this interview. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. Is there anything else you would like to say before we wrap this up?
Vaughan: No, I think we did a pretty good job. It was fun chatting with you. Have a great Saturday night. I need to go read bedtime stories to my kids.
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About the author
Adam Miller is a student of life who has dedicated literally thousands of hours of personal research on top of formal institutional training in Dietetics to learn the secrets of achieving vibrant health and extended lifespan. His passion and dedication is in bringing the best ideas for self-empowerment through nutrition and nutraceuticals as well as alternative therapies, technology, and information to the public through various means.