Cause for concern?
The most common manifestation of kidney stones is without a doubt, calcium oxalate stones – 80% of stones, to be exact. For this reason, people who are prone to stones tend to avoid high oxalate-containing foods. The most popular oxalate-rich delicacies: spinach, beets greens, chard, chocolate, tea, nuts, grains, and yes, some mushrooms. It is important to keep in mind that not all oxalate-rich foods will lead to kidney stones – chemistry is much more complex than that.
There was a recent report1 about an older Japanese woman with liver cancer who consumed 4-5 tsp of Chaga mushroom per day for 6 months, and happened to get nephrotoxicity. The postulated culprit: Chaga mushroom. Unfortunately, in this study, there was neither mention of the source of the Chaga, if this was the canker or mycelium, nor if the Chaga powder was an extract or not. This case report concluded that it must have been the high oxalate content in the Chaga mushroom that induced this nephrotoxicity. Is this a true cause or simply a correlation? Should consumers be concerned about the oxalate content in in all Chaga products?
My hope is that this post will be educational, and readers will walk away with some answers to these questions.
This report got me thinking, about Chaga and oxalates and wondering, could this really be? I mean, they do look so similar. Could this be an example of the doctrine of signatures or is it possible that if you crush any golden substance into small enough pieces it may resemble calcium oxalate fragments? (No offense to the doctrine of signatures)
Some education about oxalates
First, not all oxalates are created equal. There are soluble and insoluble oxalates. Insoluble oxalates are already bound to minerals, for example: calcium oxalate, magnesium oxalate and iron oxalate. The insoluble oxalates in foods pass right into the GI and come out in feces. They will not be absorbed in the blood stream, and so they are not a concern for causing hyperoxaluria (high urine oxalates). Examples of soluble oxalates are potassium and sodium oxalate. Unlike soluble oxalates, these acids release free oxalate anions which can pass into the blood stream. Free oxalate can then bind with free calcium and make calcium oxalate crystals;
This distinction is important to keep in mind when considering high oxalate foods.
Mushrooms and Oxalates
White button mushroom and Shiitake mushroom are both very high in oxalates, but 99% of them are insoluble! So, don’t fret about these mushrooms – the oxalate will all come out in your shiit(ake).2
Oyster mushrooms, on the other hand, are moderately high in oxalates, and 90% of them are soluble. They contain a comparable amount to chocolate, almonds, and grains.2 So if you can eat more oyster mushrooms than you can chocolate, you are my hero and you may want to eat them with some calcium containing foods – more about this later.
Lucky for kidney stone formers, they can continue to consume large quantities of Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus), Cauliflower mushroom (Sparassis spp) and Reishi (Ganoderma spp). There are no soluble oxalates found in any of these mushrooms.2
Remember, for an organism to take the time and energy to make a molecule, the molecule must serve some purpose for that organism; oxalates are not made to cause kidney stones in humans. I hope to find more on this subject in relation to mushrooms, but for now, I found one study. According to this study, calcium oxalate crystals form in response to toxic metal stress.3 So perhaps mushrooms growing in environments where there are more toxic metals will in turn have a higher calcium oxalate load than those same species growing elsewhere.
Oxalates and Chaga
Oxalate samples were assessed in Chaga samples from Russia, Finland and Thailand. A hot water extract was made of the Chaga canker (the growth coming out of the tree, traditionally used as medicine) and oxalate content was assessed. Researchers found that for 1 gram of the Russian Chaga extract there was 97.6mg of soluble oxalic acid and 24mg of insoluble oxalic acid. The Finnish Chaga extract contained 55.62mg/g of soluble oxalates and 9.5mg/g of insoluble oxalates. Japan Food Research Laboratories measured oxalate content of the mushroom powder and concentrations of 11.2g total oxalate in 100g of powder. Another test from this laboratory on a separate Chaga sample was 2.8g/100g.1
Some perspective: These amounts are higher than most edible mushrooms, similar to the amount in almonds, peanuts, cereal grains and chocolate, and much lower than what is found in high oxalate foods like spinach, rhubarb and beet greens.4
Cooking and Oxalates
Oxalate load was compared in a 10g sample of dried mushrooms cooked versus not cooked. This study found that cooking slightly decreases oxalates, but also seems to increase them in certain cases. Interestingly, levels of soluble oxalate from forest harvested mushrooms was generally lower than cultivated mushrooms.2
Concerned about your mushroom intake and risk of kidney stones?
Here is some food for thought:
Calcium intake and oxalate absorption
People with low calcium diets can benefit from consuming calcium-containing foods along with oxalate-containing foods to decrease oxalate absorption. One study found that exogenous (dietary) calcium leads to a linear reduction of oxalate absorption within the range of daily intake of 200-1200mg of calcium. This case has been documented in numerous studies5,6,7 and calcium supplements have been shown to lower the oxalate absorption. One study assessed this theory using 1000mg calcium supplement given simultaneously with soluble oxalates. They concluded that this technique will reduce oxalate absorption by 10%, however this is mostly effective if the person already has a low calcium diet. When calcium is supplemented to an already high calcium diet, there is only a 1% decrease in oxalate absorption.
Perhaps this is an excellent reason to add milk to tea and coffee and of course, to your favorite mushroom drink. To give some perspective, 1 cup of dairy milk has about 305mg of calcium and 1 cup of fortified almond milk has about 300mg of calcium.
The microbiome and oxalate absorption
Within the microbiome resides a bacteria known as Oxalobacter formigenes.8 This superlative gut bacteria degrades oxalates and helps to prevent hyperoxaluria and kidney stones. So, for those concerned about the oxalate content in the mushrooms discussed, perhaps this little bacteria is your ally. Studies looking at oral intake of Oxalobacter have shown less urinary oxalate excretion following administration of an oxalate heavy food load compared to when there was no Oxalobacter administered. Unfortunately, this bacteria is susceptible to antibiotic use. Specifically, clarithromycin and doxycycline have been shown to annihilate this little probiotic, leaving the human left behind to be more susceptible to kidney stones.
Representation of Oxalobacter formigenes activity. Utilizes oxalate as a source of energy through the oxalate-formate antiporter.9
This is all very interesting and something most people do not need to worry about. Though I would say, if you are an oxalate kidney stone former: don’t eat a ton of oyster mushrooms or drink multiple cups of Chaga tea per day. Do make sure to drink plenty of water and eat a diet with adequate amounts of calcium, and hope that antibiotic use hasn’t eradicated all of your Oxalobacter.
- Kikuchi Y, Seta K, Ogawa Y, et al. Chaga mushroom-induced oxalate nephropathy. Clin Nephrol. 2014;81(6):440-444. doi:10.5414/CN107655
- Savage GP, Nilzen V, Österberg K, Vanhanen L. Soluble and insoluble oxalate content of mushrooms. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2002;53(4):293-296.doi:10.1080/09637480120057000
- Jarosz-Wilkolazka A, Gadd GM. Oxalate production by wood-rotting fungi growing in toxic metal-amended medium. Chemosphere. 2003;52(3):541-547. doi:10.1016/S0045-6535(03)00235-2
- Glamočlija J, Ćirić A, Nikolić M, et al. Chemical characterization and biological activity of Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), a medicinal “mushroom.” J Ethnopharmacol.2015;162:323-332. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2014.12.069
- Von Unruh GE, Voss S, Sauerbruch T, Hesse A. Dependence of oxalate absorption on the daily calcium intake. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2004;15(6):1567-1573.doi:10.1097/01.ASN.0000127864.26968.7F
- Bong WC, Vanhanen LP, Savage GP. Addition of calcium compounds to reduce soluble oxalate in a high oxalate food system. Food Chem. 2017;221:54-57. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.10.031
- Brogren M, Savage GP. Bioavailability of soluble oxalate from spinach eaten with and without milk products. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2003;12(2):219-224.
- Duncan SH, Richardson AJ, Kaul P, Holmes RP, Allison MJ, Stewart CS. Oxalobacter formigenes and its potential role in human health. Appl Environ Microbiol.2002;68(8):3841-3847. doi:10.1128/AEM.68.8.3841-3847.2002
- Corica, Domenico & Romano, Claudio. (2015). Renal Involvement in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. Journal of Crohn’s & colitis. 10. 10.1093/ecco-jcc/jjv138.
- Oxalates in Chaga – A Potential Health Threat By Michael W. Beug, Chair NAMA Toxicology Committee
- Mitchell T, Kumar P, Reddy T, et al. Dietary oxalate and kidney stone formation. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2019;316(3):F409–F413. doi:10.1152/ajprenal.00373.2018
I know you immediately think of the brain, but follow the vagus nerve from brain to gut and let’s just stay there for a while…
This mushroom is incredibly popular right now. Very hip. Very trendy.
Also of grand popularity are afflictions of the stomach, intestines and the colon. Many people have a visceral response to this overstimulating existence of modernity, and the most common viscera affected – the gut. Not only is the entire weight of the world living there, but the once-prolific community of microorganisms that once inhabited this space, and that would normally support the gut with the physiological burden that comes with this weight, has been significantly depleted. The reasons for this lack of microbial support are many, though we can just call it an unhealthy obsession with purity. The problem here is that this physiological burden that comes with the stress of the world, more often than not, becomes a pathology. Lion’s Mane extracts infiltrate the gut and the associated lymphoid tissue, regulating inflammation, decreasing oxidative damage, feeding the residing microbiota and modulating the immune system – all desired actions for healing, and hopefully avoiding, this potential pathology. Before being known as a nootropic medicinal, this mushroom was used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a digestive tonic and to support gastrointestinal health. I have gone through the most current research to support the use of Lion’s Mane for gut health, and so overall human health.
Warning – most all of the research has been done on rats or mice. This is just the reality of most in vivo research and that is all we get until human clinical studies, which are incredibly difficult to find funding for – especially with natural products that don’t have potential to be synthesized into pharmaceuticals – can be done. So if you need to blame someone, blame capitalism and big pharma.
Rodent studies exploring Hericium Extracts and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
There have been many studies exploring variations of Lion’s Mane extracts and the effects of these extracts on rodents with chemically induced inflammatory bowel disease (I know it is fucked up). In one study1, mice were exposed to 2% dextran sulfate sodium (DSS) for 7 days to induce acute intestinal inflammation. These mice were then administered an ethanol extract of Hericium at a dose of 250mg/kg/day (This is a very big dose). Results showed that the treated mice had significant improvement in body weight, colon length and overall decreased intestinal bleeding compared with control mice. After administration of the extract, there was suppressed production of inflammatory mediators (TNF-alpha, IL-1â and IL-6) in colon tissue, as well as a decrease in oxidative damage potentiators (nitric oxide production, malondialdehyde, and superoxide dismutase). Overall, Lion’s Mane decreased inflammation and oxidative stress, leading to a decrease in mucosal damage and protection of mucosal epithelium.
Another in vivo study2 induced colitis in mice using this same DSS solution, and found similar results with Hericium polysaccharides. In this study, researchers tested markers of inflammation and oxidative stress before and after administration of the polysaccharides. Similar to the previously described study, there was a marked improvement in clinical symptoms postulated to be due to the decrease in nitric oxide, malondialdehyde, superoxide dismutase and myeloperoxidase. There was also a significant reduction in inflammatory cytokines TNF alpha, IL-1ß, and IL-6. Other notable markers decreased after polysaccharide administration include COX-2 and iNOS. COX-2 is an important enzyme in the prostaglandin synthesis pathway and the target of NSAIDs (like aspirin). Reduction or inhibition of this enzyme leads to decreased pain and inflammation. Intriguingly, this extract also blocked phosphorylation of NF-kappaB, p56 and also reversed DSS- induced gut dysbiosis and maintained intestinal barrier integrity. NF-kappaB is the major transcription factor for inflammatory cytokine production and if it is not phosphorylated it will not be active, and so less overall inflammation. (I realize I am really driving home the idea that we want to reduce inflammation, and inflammation is NOT always bad, but in a condition like inflammatory bowel disease, where the inflammation is causing significant damage to the mucosa and destroying a person’s quality of life, inflammation is not desirable).
Another method of inducing colitis in rats is with a trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid (TNBS) enema. To further explore the therapeutic potential of various Hericium extracts on inflammatory bowel disease, another study3 had to be done, using rats with this TNBS induced colitis. After the TNBS enema, the rats exhibited symptoms of reduced activity, lethargy, weight loss, ruffled fur, and bloody stool. After 14 days of Lion’s Mane extract treatments, there was significant improvement in all symptoms. Serum levels of inflammation were also monitored during this time, and decreased significantly after treatment. The proportion of FOXP3 and IL-10 positive cells significantly increased, especially in the rats receiving the alcoholic extracts compared with the model group. FOXP3 is the transcription factor for T-regulatory cells, and T regulatory cells secrete IL-10, so increased levels indicate improved immune regulation.
Prebiotic activity: Another study4 using an IBD rat model explored immunomodulatory activity of the water soluble fungal protein, HEP3, extracted from the mushroom fruiting body. The mechanism proposed: regulation of the gut microbiota. The study explained that HEP3 is a protein, and its digestion and absorption is reliant on proteases and peptidases extracted from bacteria. The nitrogenous degradation products of protein digestion also serve as important nutrient and energy sources for some anaerobic organisms. Knowing this, HEP3 can significantly influence the diversity, structures, and metabolism of organisms and microorganisms. Evidence suggests that the diversity of gut microbiota is reduced in IBD patients, so finding treatments that can target both inflammation and increase biodiversity is ideal. In this study, after HEP3 administration, Bifidobacterium abundance increased significantly and the colon tissue damage, inflammation, other prebiotics and diversity and structures improved significantly. Bifidobacterium is a beneficial genus of bacteria, associated with enhanced gut health and overall human health. This study concluded that HEP3 improves the immune system via regulation of the structure and metabolism of gut microbiota. The researchers postulate that through this prebiotic role, HEP3 activates the proliferation and differentiation of T cells and stimulates antigen presenting cells.
This prebiotic activity was also found in a hot water extract of the fruiting body.5 The preparation method was to simmer dried and ground mushroom in water (1:10, w:v) for 8 hours followed by pouring ETOH over the extract and leaving overnight. The alcohol was used to precipitate the polysaccharides which were then collected and used as the treatment in question. This method of precipitating polysaccharides out with alcohol is typically how polysaccharides are extracted in a laboratory setting, and so when people say that alcohol will destroy the polysaccharides in your mushroom extract, that is simply not true. This study found that Lactobacillus plantarum was the probiotic most affected by the Hericium polysaccharides. At first, after administration of the polysaccharides, the bacterial population rapidly increased after 6h. Also, the molecular weight of the polysaccharide decreased due to the loss of glycosidic bonds from gastrointestinal digestion, leading researchers to suppose that digestion is vital for the bioactivity of these polysaccharides in the GI system.
Immune modulation: Not only are these polysaccharides food for our gut bacteria, but they are also the primary constituent involved with immune modulation. There are many receptors in the phagocytes associated with mucosal immunity and the most often discussed regarding mushroom 𝛃-glucans is Dectin-1. Interestingly, one study6 found evidence that that the major pattern recognition receptors for Hericium polysaccharides are TLR2 and mannose receptor rather than Dectin-1. (fangfang wu 2017) In an in vivo mouse study assessing Hericium polysaccharides and their effect on cell mediated immunity (T-cells and phagocytes), humoral immunity (B-cells, complement and antimicrobial peptides), phagocytic capacity of peritoneal cavity phagocytes, and NK cell activity, results showed that Hericium polysaccharides improve immune function by functional enhancement of all of the above.
Neuroimmunity: mucosal immunity and vagus nerve regulation
The vagus nerve, the 10th cranial nerve and the queen of the parasympathetic response. This is the rest and digest, the chill and feel, the relax and pass response. The Vagus nerve also innervates the majority of our digestive organs, hence the ‘digest’ and ‘pass’ parts of the aforementioned idioms. Therefore, the mucosal immunity described previously, is also innervated by this nerve. Studies show that when vagus is dysfunctional, there is more GI inflammation and an overall dysregulated mucosal immunity.7,8 There is evidence for stress-induced alterations in gut flora and an associated increase in inflammatory markers in the gastrointestinal tract. Does it go both ways? If there is less stress, then there is less GI inflammation, but if there is more regulation of gut inflammation, increased intestinal integrity and a more diverse microbiome, will there be a more regulated stress response? Are we stimulating vagus by stimulating mucosal immunity, therefore eliciting a parasympathetic response? Is this actually the mechanism by which Lion’s Mane decreases depression and anxiety in post-menopausal women?9
Bidirectional gut-brain communication: One route of this communication is thought to begin through sensory information from the GI tract, and subsequent activation of neural, hormonal, and immunological signals. These signals can independently or cooperatively relay information to the central nervous system (CNS).10,11,12 There are a number of studies described in this review regarding increased probiotic intake associated with increased mood and less anxiousness. Specifically, probiotic supplementation with Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum showed less self-reported negative mood and decreased urinary cortisol.13 A similar effect was also observed in healthy participants who consumed a mixture of Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium lactis, and Lactobacillus acidophilus, Brevibacillus brevis, Brevibacterium casei, Bifidobacterium salivarius, and Lactococcus lactis 14 Allen et al.15 found that healthy individuals fed Bifidobacterium longum had attenuated levels of cortisol and reduced subjective anxiety in response to the socially evaluated cold stress pressor test. It does indeed seem to go both ways: decreasing inflammation and regulating the gut microbiome reduces anxiety and stress, and reduced anxiety and stress decreases inflammation and regulates the gut microbiome.
Lion’s Mane mushroom is more than one constituent that increases nerve growth factor synthase (the myopia of this mushroom’s medicine). Lion’s Mane, like all things living, is made up of many synergistic compounds that work together to keep this mushroom living and producing. These compounds also happen to play a major role in human health. This field of neuroimmunology is growing and the physiological effects of Lion’s Mane are an excellent example of the mechanisms of bidirectional gut-brain communication. Lion’s Mane is, in fact, the ultimate psychosomatic medicine, in the true meaning of the word – relating to the interaction of mind and body, the psyche and the soma, and a true psychobiotic.
*Psychobiotic is actually a word, I did not invent it. It is a medicine that affects the psyche by regulating the gut microbiome.
Disclaimer: Information from this post is not meant to diagnose or treat any disease.
- Qin M, Geng Y, Lu Z, Xu H, Shi JS, Xu X, Xu ZH. Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Ethanol Extract of Lion’s Mane Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Agaricomycetes), in Mice with Ulcerative Colitis. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2016;18(3):227-34. doi: 10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.v18.i3.50. PubMed PMID: 27481156.
- Ren Y, Geng Y, Du Y, et al. Polysaccharide of Hericium erinaceus attenuates colitis in C57BL/6 mice via regulation of oxidative stress, inflammation-related signaling pathways and modulating the composition of the gut microbiota. J Nutr Biochem. 2018;57:67-76. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2018.03.005
- Diling C, Xin Y, Chaoqun Z, et al. Extracts from Hericium erinaceus relieve inflammatory bowel disease by regulating immunity and gut microbiota. Oncotarget. 2017;8(49):85838-85857. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.20689
- Diling C, Chaoqun Z, Jian Y, et al. Immunomodulatory activities of a fungal protein extracted from Hericium erinaceus through regulating the gut microbiota. Front Immunol. 2017;8(JUN). doi:10.3389/fimmu.2017.00666
- Yang Y, Zhao C, Diao M, et al. The Prebiotic Activity of Simulated Gastric and Intestinal Digesta of Polysaccharides from the Hericium erinaceus. Molecules. 2018;23(12):1-14. doi:10.3390/molecules23123158
- Sheng X, Yan J, Meng Y, Kang Y, Han Z, Tai G, Zhou Y, Cheng H. Immunomodulatory effects of Hericium erinaceus derived polysaccharides are mediated by intestinal immunology. Food Funct. 2017 Mar 22;8(3):1020-1027. doi:10.1039/c7fo00071e. PubMed PMID: 28266682.
- Shea-Donohue T, Urban JF Jr. Neuroimmune Modulation of Gut Function. Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2017;239:247-267. doi: 10.1007/164_2016_109. Review. PubMed PMID: 28035531.
- Bailey MT. Psychological Stress, Immunity, and the Effects on Indigenous Microflora. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2016;874:225-46. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-20215-0_11. Review. PubMed PMID: 26589222.
- Nagano M, Shimizu K, Kondo R, Hayashi C, Sato D, Kitagawa K, Ohnuki K. Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake. Biomed Res. 2010 Aug;31(4):231-7. PubMed PMID: 20834180.
- Lach G, Schellekens H, Dinan TG, Cryan JF. Anxiety, Depression, and the Microbiome: A Role for Gut Peptides. Neurotherapeutics. 2018;15(1):36-59. doi:10.1007/s13311-017-0585-0
- Matteoli G, Boeckxstaens GE. The vagal innervation of the gut and immune homeostasis. Gut. 2013;62(8):1214-1222. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2012-302550
- Fonseca RC, Bassi GS, Brito CC, et al. Vagus nerve regulates the phagocytic and secretory activity of resident macrophages in the liver. Brain Behav Immun. 2019;81(December 2018):444-454. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2019.06.041
- Messaoudi M, Violle N, Bisson J-F, Desor D, Javelot H, Rougeot C. Beneficial psychological effects of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in healthy human volunteers. Gut Microbes 2011;2:256– 261.
- Steenbergen L, Sellaro R, van Hemert S, Bosch JA, Colzato LS. A randomized controlled trial to test the effect of multispecies probiotics on cognitive reactivity to sad mood. Brain Behav Immun 2015;48:258–264.
- Allen AP, HutchW, Borre YE, et al. Bifidobacterium longum 1714 as a translational psychobiotic: modulation of stress, electrophysiology and neurocognition in healthy volunteers. Transl Psychiatry 2016;6:e939.
Fall. The quintessential season of the mushroom. I very outwardly and not so secretly love when summer comes to an end. The giant ball of fire in the sky, reflecting off of the far too many reflective surfaces throughout the city like laser beams in a diamond shop, is finally going to be shrouded by clouds. What a treat. Although a creature of habit, I have a deep love for transition – seasons of transition, symbols of transition, momentous occasions initiating transition, etc. Perhaps this is why I love Fall, and perhaps this is why I have a tattoo of an ouroboros on my right arm, and most definitely why I love mushrooms. As the rains come and wash away the summer, this can be a time of deep introspection and with that, inevitable discomfort. Shorter days and a generally darker existence is not desirable to most people, but can be especially valuable for the psyche. So rather than seeking herbs or mushrooms to bring more ‘light’ during this time, how about seeking out plant and mushroom allies to support and encourage transition. I think of deciduous trees during this time, trees that innately hold the energy of transformation – the ability to move through seasons in different forms and continue to grow stronger each year. The tannins in the leaves of the Birch, Willow, Poplar and Aspen oxidize from green to brilliant yellow, red, and brown. They stand bare through winter – vulnerable, nude, yet with tremendous stature and strength. Imaginably, this is the medicine that these trees share, and the energy that we can cultivate. Look for patterns in nature to understand the medicine in nature. Is it grace through transition that you desire? Look closer at the natural world that surrounds you. This grace encompasses you already.
“side of the body” and “resembling oyster”
I am apt to write about the polypores – the often overlooked wizened and ancient ‘conks’ of the forest – that require more time to age, to collect, to process. I am stepping back and writing about the medicine of the familiar gilled Oyster Mushroom. They are as common in the forest as in the grocery store, and what better medicine to write about than medicine that is so accessible that the forest dwellers as well as the grocery store goers may benefit.
The fruiting Oysters will be found on hardwoods mostly – the Cottonwoods, Oaks and Alder – fruiting from their carnivorous mycelia in the spring. The carnivory is real – watch the mycelia digest a nematode in this video
Known active constituents
Pleuran (polysaccharide), chrysin, ergothioneine, lovastatin, GABA
Nutritional constituents estimated per 100 g dry weight include protein (29.3 g), carbohydrate (62.97 g), crude fat (0.91 g), ash (6.82 g) and crude fiber (12.3 g).
Energy value of this mushroom was about 297.5 kcal/100 g dry weight
Major mineral components estimated include Ca, Fe, and Mg with highest level of 505.0, 109.5 and 108.7 mg/100 g respectively.
Immune modulating, antiatherogenic, neuroprotective, antioxidant, inflammation modulating
Some laboratory findings
There are many factors that aggregate and result in atherosclerosis. These include and are not limited to hypertension, hyperglycemia, hypercholesterolemia and lipid peroxidation. Oyster mushroom research has demonstrated protection against all of those factors. In an animal study, rats were administered chrysin-rich Pleurotus extract. After administration there was a significant decrease in mean blood serum levels of glucose, lipid profile parameters, and hepatic marker enzymes and a simultaneous increase in enzymatic and nonenzymatic antioxidant parameters.2
P. ostreatus is the richest known source of ergothioneine, containing 118.91mg/kg. As mentioned previously, ergothioneine protects against DNA damage and lipid oxidation. For hypertension, Oyster mushroom water extract inhibits angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) – a common mechanism in hypertensive medication.
Oyster mushroom also contains lovastatin, a naturally occurring statin compound that reduces LDL cholesterol through inhibition of HMG-CoA reductase.
Some human findings
In a split-body study of 80 patients, topical P. ostreatus-based β-glucan cream application resulted in improvement of both subjective and objective symptoms of atopic dermatitis. The patients applied the cream on one segment of the body with atopic dermatitis and no treatment on another atopic dermatitis segment. On the application site there was a significant decrease in the number of days and severity of atopic dermatitis. 4
You can make your own Oyster mushroom cream by following my mushroom cream recipe here. The aqueous part of the cream will be an Oyster mushroom decoction.
Pleuran extract from Oyster mushrooms has clinical evidence for application with various respiratory diseases. In a human study, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients treated with 100mg Pleuran, 60mg vitamin C, and 5mg Zinc, had significantly lower incidence and shorter duration of exacerbations compared to the control (60mg vitamin C and 5mg Zinc).5
In another double-blinded, placebo-controlled, randomized multicentric study, 175 children were treated with either pleuran or placebo over a 12-month period. Children treated with pleuran experienced a significant reduction in the frequency of recurrent respiratory tract infections. 1,6 These findings agreed with a Spanish study investigating 166 children aged one to ten years old who were also treated with Pleuran for recurrent respiratory infection.7
Advantageous respiratory effects of pleuran were also observed in adult athletes. A study included 50 athletes treated with pleuran over a three month period of time and found a significant reduction in the frequency of upper respiratory tract infections as compared to athletes treated with placebo. Blood samples of the athletes showed significantly higher levels of circulating NK cells in the pleuran group as compared to the placebo group.8
20 subjects were randomized to take either one portion of soup containing 30g dried oyster mushrooms or a tomato soup (placebo) on a daily basis for 21 days. Standardized blood concentrations of lipid parameters and oxidized LDLs were measured at baseline and after 21 days. Treatment with Oyster mushroom soup decreased both triacylglycerol and oxidized low density lipoprotein levels significantly, and showed a significant tendency towards lowering total cholesterol values. 9
Pleurotus ostreatus Syrup Recipe
for upper respiratory support
30g dried Oyster mushrooms, chopped
120mL raw honey
130mL Water (up to 300mL if not using pressure cooker)
Kitchen Tools Needed
Boiling pot or Pressure cooker (Instant pot)
Pressure cooker: pressure cook dried mushrooms with 130mL water for 45 minutes
Boiling pot: boil for 1.5 hours, strain mushroom from decoction, dispose of mushrooms, put aqueous extract back on heat and reduce liquid down to 120mL
Once you have 120mL of mushroom aqueous extract, stir in 120mL of raw honey
Store in jar and refrigerate
Final product should be 240mL 1:8 (1gram of mushroom in 8mL liquid)
1g mushroom = about .5g Pleuran
Pleurotus ostreatus is about 50% Polysaccharide, and the best way to extract these polysaccharides is through a boiling process. We have 30g of dried Pleurotus ostreatus and for a child who weighs 27kg, we would dose them with 270mg Pleuran, and so about 540mg dried oyster mushroom, or .5g. We want there to be .5g in 1 tsp (4mL) of extract. Since we will add 1part honey to 1part mushroom decoction, we will want the decoction to be a 1:4 and the final product to be a 1:8.
Pediatric Dose: 4mL (~.25g Pleuran)
- Jesenak M, Hrubisko M, Majtan J, Rennerova Z, Banovcin P. Anti-allergic Effect of Pleuran ( b -glucan from Pleurotus ostreatus ) in Children with Recurrent Respiratory Tract Infections. 2014;474(March 2013):471-474.
- Anandhi R, Annadurai T, Anitha TS, Muralidharan AR, Najmunnisha K, Nachiappan V, Thomas PA, Geraldine P. Antihypercholesterolemic and antioxidative effects of an extract of the oyster mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus, and its major constituent, chrysin, in Triton WR-1339-induced hypercholesterolemic rats. J Physiol Biochem. 2013 Jun;69(2):313-23. doi: 10.1007/s13105-012-0215-6. Epub 2012 Oct 27. PubMed PMID: 23104078.
- Hamdi M, Abidin Z, Abdullah N, et al. Therapeutic properties of Pleurotus species ( oyster mushrooms ) for atherosclerosis : A review Therapeutic properties of Pleurotus species ( oyster mushrooms ). Int J Food Prop. 2017;20(6):1251-1261. doi:10.1080/10942912.2016.1210162.
- Jesenak M, Urbancek S, Majtan J, Banovcin P, Hercogova J. b -Glucan-based cream ( containing pleuran isolated from pleurotus ostreatus ) in supportive treatment of mild-to-moderate atopic dermatitis. 2016;6634(4):351-354. doi:10.3109/09546634.2015.1117565.
- Minov J, Bislimovska-karadzhinska J, Petrova T, Vasilevska K, Stoleski S. Effects of Pleuran ( Β – Glucan from Pleurotus Ostreatus ) Supplementation on Incidence and Duration of COPD Exacerbations. 2017;5(7):893-898.
- Jesenak M, Urbanclkova I, Banovcin P. Respiratory Tract Infections and the Role of Biologically Active Polysaccharides in Their. Nutrients. 2017:1-12. doi:10.3390/nu9070779.
- Pico Sirvent L, Sapena Grau J, Morera Ingles M, Rivero Urgell M. Effect of supplementation with β–glucan from Pleurotus ostreatus in children with recurrent respiratory infections. Ann Nurr Metab. 2013; 63 (1): 1378.
- Bergendiova K, Tibenska E. Pleuran ( b -glucan from Pleurotus ostreatus ) supplementation , cellular immune response and respiratory tract infections in athletes. 2011:2033-2040. doi:10.1007/s00421-011-1837-z.
- Schneider, I.; Kressel, G.; Meyer, A.; Krings, U.; Berger, R.G.; Hahn, A. Lipid Lowering Effects of Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus Ostreatus) in Humans. Journal of Functional Foods 2011, 3(1), 17–24. DOI:http://Dx. Doi.Org/10.1016/J.Jff.2010.11.004
It is easy enough to read and write about the research that has been done on medicinal mushrooms, but what is one supposed to do with this new found knowledge? What if you don’t have time to make a dual extract, or it feels too hot out to drink a hot mushroom tea. There are many ways to include mushrooms into daily life that do not involve imbibing a tea or taking a tincture. As it is now Fall and the weather will start to get colder, people are more susceptible to viruses. A person who uses mushrooms throughout their days will be more resilient during these cooler and darker months, and really, the whole year. The medicinal polypore mushrooms that I usually write about are deemed ‘inedible’ in most ID books. To an extent, this is true, in that you are not going to fry them up and eat them like a Shitake or Matsutake, but there are definitely ways to consume them, and benefit from their medicinal qualities. This is the first recipe I’ll be posting, but stay tuned for more throughout the next few months.
Immune Boosting Oatmeal
For 1 large Serving
1 C Water or pre-made *Mushroom decoction
1 Tbs Mushroom powder (Reishi, Chaga, Cordyceps, Turkey Tail, Lion’s Maine) – available at Dandelionbotanical.com –
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp Turmeric
1 Tbs maple syrup, honey, or mushroom infused honey! (made by chopping up polypore mushroom into the smallest pieces possible, filling up a jar half way, pouring raw honey over the mushrooms, and letting sit for 1 month or more)
- Place all ingredients accept sweetener in pot over high heat. When boiling begins, turn down heat to a simmer.
- let simmer for a few minutes until oats are fully cooked and then drizzle maple syrup or honey.
- Add fruit, seeds, nuts, milk, yogurt, whatever you love!
- Enjoy and know you are keeping your immune system strong and healthy.
*Mushroom decoction: 1 Handful chopped mushrooms placed in pot or crockpot. Pour 4 cups of water over mushrooms, and simmer until the brew is decocted by half…this means that there will now be 2 cups left. You can test this by using a chopstick – Mark the chopstick where the water begins, and then dip the chopstick in intermittently to see when the brew hits half – Strain out the mushrooms and either drink the decoction as tea, or place in fridge for use in smoothies, oatmeal, broths, porridge, rice, beans, and stews.
A note on beta-glucans and the Immune System
Fungal Cell Wall Components
“Chitin, Chitinase Responses, and Invasive Fungal Infections : Figure 1.”Chitin, Chitinase Responses, and Invasive Fungal Infections : Figure 1. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2015. http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijmicro/2012/920459/fig1/
Beta Glucans are polysaccharides (carbohydrates) found in the cell walls of Yeast, Fungi, Algae, Lichens, and some plants, such as Oats and Barley. Together, with Chitin, they make up the fungal cell wall. B-glucans are biological response modifiers. This means that they cause no harm and place no additional stress on the body while helping the body to adapt to certain biological and environmental stressors. They support major systems such as the nervous, hormonal and immune system. You may have heard of adaptogens, this is a very similar definition.
Research shows that Beta-glucans have a hypoglycemic, cholesterol lowering, immune-stimulating and immune-modulating, and anti-tumor effect on animals. 1,2,4
Beta-glucans are made up of hemicellulose, which is a soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is water-soluble and forms a viscous water layer in the gut. This viscous layer in the small intestine decreases absorption of sugars and lipids into the blood stream. (hence, the hypoglycemic and hypocholesterolemic effect). Beta glucans from fungi reduced overall level of cholesterol and LDL in blood, as well as decreased the level of free fatty acids, while at the same time increasing HDL cholesterol. The sugars also increase the amount of Leptin – a protein like substance produced by fat cells that plays a role in hunger and satiety, which suggests their use as an agent to help with weight loss.
Beta-glucans are resistant to stomach acid and so they move through the GI, into the small intestines pretty much unchanged. The cells in the lining of the small intestine, the enterocytes, facilitate the transportation of the Beta-glucans into the lymph where the macrophages are waiting with open arms (Dectin-1 receptor sites). Like a key, they unlock the macrophages and activate them to travel back to the lymph nodes to induce immune activations. Once activated, it starts to produce bactericidal compounds such as reactive oxygen radical, N-oxide, and lysozyme. These activated cells also produce cytokines, which then activate phagocytes and leukocytes in specific immunity. B-glucans also play a role in promoting the activity of helper lymphocytes known as Th1 and Th2. Th1 controls immunity against intracellular parasites, while Th2 controls immunity against extracellular pathogens. When there is an imbalance in these lymphocytes, an autoimmune response can occur. Beta glucans help keep this balance.
Antitumor action: The antitumor action happens via activation of the immune response, explained earlier. They do not attack cancer cells directly, but produce their antitumor effects by activating different immune responses in the host. They potentiate the response of precursor T cells and macrophages to cytokines produced by lymphocytes after specific recognition of tumor cells. In summary, the tumor cells are attacked by the immune system, which is activated by macrophages bound with Beta glucans.
- Rahar, Sandeep, Gaurav Swami, Navneet Nagpal, Manisha A. Nagpal, and Gagan Shah Singh. “Preparation, Characterization, and Biological Properties of β-glucans.” Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology & Research. Medknow Publications Pvt Ltd, n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.
- S., Wasser. “Medicinal Mushrooms as a Source of Antitumor and Immunomodulating Polysaccharides.” Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 60.3 (2002): 258-74. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.
- Ferreira, Isabel C.f.r., Josiana A. Vaz, M. Helena Vasconcelos, and Anabela Martins. “Compounds from Wild Mushrooms with Antitumor Potential.” Anti-Cancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry10.5 (2010): 424-36. Web.
- Rop, Otakar, Jiri Mlcek, and Tunde Jurikova. “Beta-glucans in Higher Fungi and Their Health Effects.” Nutrition Reviews67.11 (2009): 624-31. Web.
(Resembling Flesh, Blood Red)
Snow Plant or Snow Flower
Family: Ericaceae (Madrone family) Sub-Family: Monotropoideae (Indian Pipe family)
The Snow Flower. Back in the day, when it still snowed in Tahoe, and the pine-needled humus would have a layer of snow in the Spring, I would look forward to this brilliant red being that would erect from the earth surface. The snow is mild now, but this crimson beauty still comes up, yet the contrast against the white of the snow is missed. A fitting plant to talk about on this blog being that although it is a plant, it is a saprophytic plant, getting its nutrients from the mycorrhizal fungi rather than partaking in photosynthesis, as green leaved plants do. The Snow Flower is most often seen near conifers, Ponderosa Pine, Jefferey Pine, Sugar Pine, etc. It is found here because it can’t live without them – a very one-sided and secretive connection. It is not directly parasitic to the tree, but it feeds on the trees relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. The fungi and the conifer have a mutualistic relationship; the fungus provides minerals and other earthly delights for the tree, while the tree provides sugars for the fungus – the Snow flower then gets it’s nutrients from this fungi.
John Muir writes of Sarcodes in 1912:
“The snow plant is more admired by tourists than any other in California. It is red, fleshy and watery and looks like a gigantic asparagus shoot. Soon after the snow is off the ground it rises through the dead needles and humus in the pine and fir woods like a bright glowing pillar of fire. In a week or so it grows to a height of eight or twelve inches with a diameter of an inch and a half or two inches ,then its long fringed bracts curl aside, allowing the twenty or thirty five lobed, bell-shaped flowers to pen and look straight out from the axis. It is said to grow up through the snow on the contrary, it always waits until the ground is warm, though with other early flowers it is occasionally buried or half buried for a day or two by spring storms. The entire plant-flowers, bracts, stems, scales, and roots-is fiery red. Its color could appeal to one’s blood. Nevertheless, it is a singularly cold and unsympathetic plant. Everybody admires it as a wonderful curiosity, but nobody loves it as lilies, violets, roses, daisies are loved. Without fragrance it stands beneath the pines and firs lonely and silent, as if unacquainted with any other plant in the world; never moving the wildest storms; rigid as if lifeless, through covered with beautiful rosy flowers.”
In the New York Medical Eclectic, Volume 6, Issue 10 (1879):
“The Sow Plant, a Flower of Strange Beauty.
One of the Grandest objects which meets the eye of the traveler in our mountains is the exquisite plant, the Snow Plant of the Sierras-the Sarcodes sanguinea of John Torrey, the botanist. It is an inhabitant only to the higher Sierras, being rarely found below an altitude of 4,000 feet, and its glorious crimson spike of flowers may be seen early in May, forcing itself through the snows which at that period cling about the sides of our pine forests. The portion of this plant which is visible above the soil is bright rosy crimson in color and presents the very strongest contrast to the dark green of the pines shimmer of the snow. Its root is succulent, thick, and abundantly free of moisture, attaching itself to the roots of other plants, principally to the species of the pine family…the Deer are exquisitely fond of it, and it is not an uncommon circumstance to find a number of the plants uprooted and robbed of the fleshy part of their underground growth…”
Food and Medicine
I have always been told, since I was a child, to not mess with the Snow Flower. I never knew why exactly, in fact I thought maybe it was poisonous. The real reason is that it only grows around the Sierras and it is a rare and protected plant – although I will talk about its history of use as food and medicine, it would be wise to pocket this information for your own edification and choose a different plant for these uses, that is not as rare.
The Snow Flower, is in fact edible and can be cooked like asparagus.
I can deduce from the ethnobotanical uses that it has an analgesic effect as well as soothing epithelial tissues. There is documentation of a decoction of the leaves and stem to treat ulcerated sores, irritated skin, and toothaches. The docterine of signatures would suggest its use as a blood tonic, and a decoction has been used in this way. Some Native Americans also dried and powdered this plant to relieve toothaches and other mouth pains.