Mycotherapy can be defined as the application of medicinal mushrooms high in active biomolecules for the benefit of people’s health and wellbeing. \ Using both single species preparations and specifically chosen synergistic blends of mushrooms, Mycotherapy helps to naturally complement integrative treatments and healthy routines.
Mycotherapy is one of the oldest and most effective natural healing methods in the world. Its origin lies in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). There, medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, shiitake or maitake have played an important role for around 4,000 years. They stabilise the immune system, detoxify our body and are successfully used for preventive health care, in the treatment of many complaints as well as for serious illnesses.
BIOACTIVE COMPOUNDS IN MUSHROOMS
Medicinal mushrooms contain a natural full-spectrum balance of a wide variety of active biomolecules including beta-glucans, terpenes, free amino acids, sterols, lectins, vitamins and minerals, among others. They have numerous benefits for human health due to their immunomodulatory, prebiotic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiallergic, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, anticancer, antihyperlipidemic, and other properties (Venturella et al., 2021).
Beta-glucans: are the most abundant natural polysaccharides in medicinal mushrooms, which have shown beneficial effects for human health. They act as prebiotics and effective immunomodulators (Bulam et al, 2018). Beta-glucans reach the intestine undigested and are fermented by the intestinal microbiota there
Terpenes: are extremely versatile organic compounds, from a therapeutic point of view, with multiple health benefits. Among their numerous actions, their anti-inflammatory effects stand out (Dasgupta A et al, 2019) a s well as their potent antiviral capacity (Lin et al. 2015). Terpenes also stand out as antimicrobial molecules (Souza et al. 2011), against neurodegenerative diseases (Yoo and Park 2012), as well as for their antitumor effects (He et al. 2009; Rabi and Bishayee 2009; Nwodo et al. 2016),among other actions.
HERICENONES AND ERINACINES
Hericenones and erinacines: terpenoids from Hericium erinaceus(Lion’s Mane). These are neurotrophic factors that contribute to the regulation of the gut-brain axis through their repairing action on the gastroesophageal mucosa and their extensive documented neuro-regenerating and neuroprotective activity. Both have been shown to promote NGF (Nerve Growth factor) and BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) synthesis as well as myelination of neurons (Ma, Bing-Ji et al., 2010 and Kolotushkina EV et al., 2003).
VITAMINS D2, D3 AND D4
Mushrooms are one of the only non-animal and vegan food sources of vitamin D. They can be considered the only unfortified culinary source of non-animal vitamin D that can provide an appreciable amount of vitamin D for vegetarians or vegans in a single serving (Cardwell et al., 2018). In fact, unlike other natural products, mushrooms are a source of several forms of vitamin D: significantly they provide bioavailable vitamin D2 but also vitamin D3 and vitamin D4. So taking them provides at least two additional forms of vitamins D (Boston University Medical Center, 2013). It is proposed that vitamin D intake through mushrooms could contribute substantially to alleviating the global public health problem of vitamin D deficiency (Cardwell et al., 2018).
Ergosterol: unlike plants, fungi contain high concentrations of ergosterol (Cardwell et al., 2018). Ergosterol is the main sterol produced by fungi that exhibits antioxidant properties. Being a provitamin for D2 it is converted to vitamin D2 in the fungus itself with the contact of sunlight.
Lectins: glycoproteins present in medicinal mushrooms, mostly found in their fruiting body (Sing SS et al., 2014). They have become the subject of numerous scientific studies. So far, many mushroom lectins have been identified, and in recent years they have attracted increasing attention due to their health promoting benefits including immunomodulatory, antiviral, antiproliferative, antitumor, and other actions (Sing SS et al., 2014).
VITAMINS B, C AND E
Vitamins B, C and E: medicinal mushrooms are a source of naturally occurring vitamins such as B vitamins (B1-thiamine, B2-riboflavin, B3-niacin, B9-folic acid, and B12-methylcobalamin); they also contain other vitamins of high importance for health such as vitamin C, D and E (Valverde ME et al., 2015).
Minerals: Medicinal mushrooms are a natural source of essential minerals including magnesium, zinc, selenium, phosphorus and potassium (S. E. Mallikarjuna et al, 2013).
FREE AMINO ACIDS
Free amino acids: medicinal mushrooms contain a significant supply of free amino acids, which contribute to their nutritional value and potent antioxidant effects. They also contain the complete set ofthe essential amino acids (Nachshol Cohen et al., 2014). Leucine, valine, glutamine, glutamic acid and aspartic acid are the most abundant amino acids in medicinal mushrooms, which are also a source of GABA and ergothioneine, as detailed below.
GABA: an amino acid that is one of the most widely studied neurotransmitters. It can be found in naturally large quantities in some medicinal mushrooms (Lin, Shin-Yi, et al., 2013). GABA is known for its effectiveness as a relaxant, especially in situations of irritation, nervousness and insomnia, as well as for supporting neurocognitive functions.
Linoleic acid: is an essential fatty acid found in higher concentration in the fruiting body of medicinal mushrooms (Pelin G. et al, 2013). It belongs to the same family as omega-3 fatty acids, to the family of healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).
Natural statins: the fruiting bodies of medicinal mushrooms are a valuable source of natural lovastatin, which belongs to the statin group, commonly used as cholesterol-lowering drugs. Due to the presence of lovastatin, medicinal mushrooms may be useful in the prevention of hypercholesterolemia (Kala et al., 2020).
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
Omega-3 fatty acids: though medicinal mushrooms have a very low fat content in comparison with foods of plant and animal origin, they are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs, beneficial to health, such as those of the omega-3 series) (Sande D. et al., 2019). These PUFAs mainly contribute to the nutritional value and cardiovascular and cognitive benefits of medicinal mushrooms. Their high content of PUFAs make medicinal mushrooms especially recommended for people with high cholesterol levels (González-Tijera et al., 2014).
Cordycepin: nucleoside analogue of adenosine, an endogenous purine (produced by the body itself) that is involved in numerous physiological processes. It has energising properties due to its adaptogenic nature and has shown benefits such as increasing endurance and blood oxygenation in physical exercise. Cordyceps sinensis contains a high concentration of the active biomolecule cordycepin. In addition to being known for its anti-fatigue action, it has antioxidant, immunomodulatory, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, antitumor, anti-arthritic, anti-osteoporotic, and hormone-regulating effects as well as being useful in cases of infertility (Ashraf S.A. et al., 2020, Tianzhu Z et al, 2014).
Ergothioneine: anorganic compound composed of the amino acids histidine, cysteine and methionine. In recent years, ergothioneine has attracted attention because of its beneﬁcial effects in modulating autoimmune disorders. In recent years, ergothioneine has also attracted attention for its antioxidant properties, such as in diseases characterised by high oxidation and cases of rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease (Halliwell, B et al., 2018). According to scientific studies, a decrease in ergothioneine levels has been observed in some diseases such as chronic inflammatory diseases, cardiovascular disorders and ischaemia, suggesting that ergothioneine may play a key protective role in various pathological conditions (Tsiantas, K et la., 2021).