Medicinal mushrooms are considered to be tonics or adaptogens. What does it mean to be an adaptogen?
An adaptogenic herb is one that both helps us to adapt more effectively on various levels to the stresses of life, and also adapts intelligently to our own physiology.
Adaptogens are also primarily balancing to the body. Their overall effect helps restore the body’s innate state of homeostasis.
Adaptogens are also unique in that they are generally extremely safe for human use. Unlike the vast majority of other herbs, adaptogens are safe and even beneficial when taken for extended periods of time.
Many herbs that are used therapeutically whose active constituents, although often effective for the treatment of ailments, are toxic or perhaps even potentially harmful, depending on the dosage.
Adaptogens on the other hand, by and large contain virtually no toxic or harmful components whatsoever, and so are generally considered to be extraordinarily benign.
Another quality often associated with adaptogens is that of having a dual-directional effect. This means that they have the capacity to intelligently modulate the body’s systems depending on what is needed when the are taken. For instance if one’s immune system is overactive, adaptogens will help to mitigate immune response, and if on the other hand a person’s immune system is deficient, taking an adaptogen will assist in the stimulation or increase of that person’s immune response.
When it comes to herbs, the word tonic is often considered to be synonymous with adaptogenic. So it simply may be a matter of semantics whether we call medicinal mushrooms tonics or adaptogens.
One nuance worth noting however, is that tonics are said, appropriately enough, to be tonifying. Therefore tonics effect is to tone the body’s various systems, honing and strengthening them, which helps to improve their overall function.
Besides a variety of trace minerals, the two primary categories of components contained in medicinal mushrooms are terpenoids and polysaccarides.
Terpenoids are derived from terpenes, which belong to a diverse and extensive classification of organic compounds that are produced by many different kinds of plants.
Conifers in particular are producers of terpenes, and terpenes are one of the primary components of tree saps and resins, as well as the essential oils derived from a variety of different types of flowers and plants.
These compounds have been studied quite extensively scientifically for their therapeutic benefits. Here is a list of some of the beneficial properties that have been associated with terpenoids:
anti-pyretic (reduces fever)
antipruritic (helps stop itching)
antiangiogenic (effective for stopping the growth of tumors and progression of cancers by limiting the pathologic formation of new blood vessels)
cytotoxicity against a variety of cancer cells without manifesting any toxicity in normal cells
Polysaccharides, which are a main component of most medicinal mushrooms, are large, complex carbohydrate molecules comprised of chains of simpler monosaccharide molecules bonded together.
Like terpenoids,the polysaccharides in medicinal mushrooms have been widely studied for their beneficial qualities, which include anti-tumor, anti-viral, hepato-protective, and immune modulating, among others.
Mycelium’s Qualities Shine Through
The mycelium’s own anti-microbial, anti-viral, antibacteral and anti-funal qualities are translated into the medicinal mushrooms they produce.
And the terpenes along with a variety of the other nutrients and potentially beneficial components that they ingest as a result of their role as forest stewards and recyclers are also passed on to the medicinal mushrooms that create.
All in all, medicinal mushrooms are among the most remarkable, benign and effective of all the herbal allies ever gathered from nature and utilized by human beings for their healing, strengthening and tonic attributes.
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