In recent years Western countries have finally started to acknowledge what traditional medical systems in Asian countries have known for centuries: mushrooms convey numerous nutritional and medicinal properties.
As a food, mushrooms are low in calories, but rich in proteins, fibers, carbohydrates, and numerous vitamins and minerals.
It is estimated about 140,000 kinds of mushrooms exist on earth, and only about 2,000 are edible. Of these less than 25 species are produced commercially for food.
In the United States, over 97% of the mushrooms produced fall under the genus known as Agaricus—the genus that includes the common White Button mushroom.
While this leaves literally thousands of species yet to be examined and scientifically studied for medicinal benefits, many species are already well-established as medicinals—at least in Eastern countries.
Beyond that, mushrooms are widely recognized as the only plant food supplying a rich source of critical Vitamin D, and for supplying the highest dietary source of the amino acid ergothioneine.
But there’s another benefit of mushrooms that receives a lot less attention: protection from toxins.
A 2013 study published in Molecules summed it up this way:
“It can be concluded from the quite numerous and generally consistent reports… that many mushroom extracts possess hepatoprotective properties against liver injury caused by toxic chemicals. In principle at least, scientific evidence seems, thus, to validate the use of mushrooms in folk medicine. The mushrooms may represent a new alternative to the limited therapeutic options that exist presently in the treatment of liver diseases or their symptoms, and they should be considered as such in future studies.”
Here is a list of six mushrooms demonstrated to provide liver protection and toxin removal benefits.
• Turkey tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor) are edible and medicinal mushrooms that are rich in polysaccharides—a type of carbohydrate that boosts the body’s antioxidation capacity and protects hepatic cells from oxidative stress.
These mushrooms also demonstrate hepatoprotective effects against induced liver injury.
Studies show there are over 35 different types of phenolic compounds in Turkey tail mushrooms that protect genes from mutation, remove toxins from our body and strengthen the immune system.
(International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2014.)
• Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) have been shown to help reduce liver fibrosis and support healthy liver function by modulating liver enzymes and reducing oxidative stress. Reishi have also been shown to assist in regulating blood glucose levels, a crucial factor in metabolic liver syndrome.
(Frontiers in Pharmacology, 2022.)
• Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula Edodes) are not only a popular food, but contain potent bioactive compounds that aid in alleviating oxidative stress, a common factor in liver inflammation. In a pivotal 2004 study concerning dimethylnitrosamine-induced liver injury, shiitake mushrooms helped restore liver functions by reducing scar tissue formation. Dimethylnitrosamine is most infamous as the chemical being produced through water treatment by chlorination or chloramination.
(The Bulletin of the Pharmaceutical Society of Japan, 2004.)
•Lion’s Mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) were ranked as number four in antioxidant potential by Malaysian researchers who tested hundreds of species in 2012. This high status likely explains why Lion’s mane has been proven to protect liver cells from oxidative damage. One example is a 2015 animal study that found Lion’s mane could protect the liver from alcohol-induced damage.
(Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015.)
• Mushrooms of the Auricularia genus were shown to significantly protect rats from liver damage caused by acetaminophen poisoning. The 2018 study was conducted at India’s National Institute of Technology in Manipur. All species of Auricularia form thin, brownish, rubbery-gelatinous fruit bodies that are shelf-like or ear-shaped. Several Auricularia species are edible and commercially cultivated on a large scale in China and East Asia.
(International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 2018.)
• Cordyceps is a genus of mushrooms that includes about 600 worldwide species. Different variants of Cordyceps have been used for more than 1,500 years in Chinese medicine. As a whole, this unique genus shows encouraging signs of supporting liver health.
A 2015 animal study demonstrated the species Cordyceps sinensis prevented cell death in the liver and alleviated induced liver inflammation and fibrosis.
(Nature/Acta Pharmacologica Sinica, 2015.)
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Sources: Links to all citations provided within article.