Medicinal Mushrooms

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Julia Segal, Naturopathic Doctor

Medicinal Mushrooms Are A Key Naturopathic Remedy
As a naturopathic doctor, I employ a wide range of herbal, supplemental, nutritional and hands-on therapies.  Most of these are aimed at permanently shifting an important organ or body-system dynamic, to break the vicious cycle of disharmony and allow the whole person to function smoothly on their own. 

Our bodies are inherently intelligent and can function well with the right environmental inputs.  That is why, of all the remedies sitting on our office shelves, medicinal mushrooms are some of the most vital.  The way they work resonates with my core approach to naturopathic practice.  Here’s why.

Modulating or Balancing – These mushrooms act strongly on the immune system.  But they don’t always cause more, or less, immune activity.  Rather, they work by re-establishing optimal, flexible, middle-of-the-road immunity – and in particular, rebooting the balance between TH1 and TH2 populations of white blood cells. 

That means an autoimmune condition, where the immune system is inappropriately active, will be cooled down.  Simultaneously, an immune deficiency will be also be corrected by their modulating effects.  The ultimate goal of naturopathic care is to similarly restore the balance and responsiveness of the body – not to enhance one system or function at the cost of other aspects of your health.

Nourishing – The line between a food and a herbal or nutritional remedy is often blurry, mostly defined by the strength or dose of the remedy. Nourishment is what allows our glands, organs and systems to work optimally, and is essential to naturopathic care. 

It includes the basics – water, protein, fat, fibre, vitamins, phytochemicals from fruits and vegetables.  Medicinal mushrooms are advanced nourishment.  Their special fungal carbohydrates (e.g. beta-glucans) provide powerful stimulation to receptors on various types of white blood cells. 

The existence of these receptors is evidence that humans have always interacted with fungal carbohydrates.  When our immunity acts to keep them in check, it comes with the added benefits of heightened TH1 immunity against pathogens and cancer cells.

Broad-acting – Various body systems are supported or treated with these remedies.  Whereas a drug may alter a single hormone, inflammation pathway or immune molecule, naturopathic remedies – and especially medicinal mushrooms – act broadly. They affect change at a deep level of functioning in a way that may raise energy levels, prevent frequent respiratory infections, support hormone balance from the thyroid to reproductive hormones, and strengthen digestion – all at the same time. 

This means more benefits – and less side effects.
Highly Potent – They get the job done as long as they’re used right, and in the correct form (for medicinal mushrooms this means hot-water extraction).  Medicinal mushrooms are effective in very common concerns from altitude sickness to allergies. 

The potent immune modulating effects of mushrooms also make them important in more serious conditions, such as in cancer recovery and autoimmune conditions.  While many natural medicines are gentle, when they are matched correctly with a person’s needs and taken in the right form and dose, they work.

Individualized – Each of the medicinal mushrooms has a body of knowledge about what organs, systems and tissues it has an affinity for – the liver, the lungs, the stomach, reproductive organs.  Modern scientific research is also on top of these herbs, finding evidence of their efficacy in specific diseases. 

This allows for a highly individualized application of these potent remedies, just as everything in a naturopathic treatment plan is tailored to each person’s story or history, constitution (body type or tendencies), and goals.

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