The best health benefits from mushrooms come not from extracts, concentrated dosages and blended compounds, but simply from incorporating mushrooms into your diet on a regular basis.
Mushrooms are not a cure-all. But they do effect almost all systems of the body. This is because they have a good nutritional balance, and contain elements which effect the regulatory functions of the body. There is strong scientific evident that they support health in the endocrine glands, blood balance, digestive system, and storage of nutrients and release of stored nutrients. That gives them the potential to positively affect many conditions, including heart disease, persistent obesity, IBD and IBS (including Crohn's and Celiac), cancer, mutating viral diseases, hormonal imbalances, growth and healing disorders, fertility, and diabetes.
One of the most interesting potentials of mushrooms is the ability to help to compensate for damage from the modern world. They may help to minimize the effect of chemical exposure, and promote healing of tissues damaged by preservatives, Chlorine, formaldehyde, phtalates, and other chemicals which we are exposed to on a daily basis. If you minimize your exposure to chemicals, they may help to make the remaining exposure far less harmful. Even those nasty little white button mushrooms may do this – and that is about ALL they might do (other mushrooms may do much more).
Contrary to a popular myth (perpetuated largely by the prevalence of the White Button Mushroom), mushrooms are not lacking in nutrition. They are in fact a good source of protein precursors, many B vitamins, and a range of other vitamins. They are generally lacking in minerals (and as such, are not a meat substitute as some people would have you believe). They can provide an acceptable form of plant type protein precursors for food storage purposes.
Some mushrooms do have specific disease prevention or treatment benefits (according to a range of recent scientific studies). But most are a good choice in achieving or maintaining good health, when incorporated into a balanced diet.
Fresh cooked, frozen, or dried mushrooms have the greatest potential to benefit. Canned ones have a lesser potential, but may still help.
Simply incorporate a meal with mushrooms into your diet every day or two, and see what they do. Mushrooms are, after all, just good food!
Many mushrooms, such as Reishi, Turkey Tail, and Chaga, are used primarily for medicinal purposes. They really aren't recommended for culinary use. Others, such as Almond Portobello, Maitake, Shiitake, and Matsutake, are considered fine edibles, but are also used for medicinal purposes.
The literature and lore regarding medicinal mushrooms ranges from traditional, to fantastical. Some have been studied for specific treatments, and have been found to be more or less efficacious. A few have shown fantastically useful components for treatment of cancer and auto-immune disease in contemporary medical studies. Mushrooms are used medicinally more in the Orient than in the Western world.
In Asia, many mushrooms are consumed for culinary purposes, but are also used traditionally for healing. They see no inconsistency in using something both as a food and as a medicine. People in the US and many parts of Europe are less likely to feel that a familiar food has any kind of use in treating specific diseases or conditions.
The three mushrooms worth mention for medicinal use, which have been studied and proven, are Turkey Tail, Almond Portobello, and Gypsy.
Turkey Tail and Almond Portobello are used in cancer treatments, though in different ways. Gypsy is recommended for use as an anti-viral.
Almond Portobello has been shown to contain components which destroy certain kinds of cancer cells. Research is limited at this time, and I don't have full data on which cancers it does not treat, but it may not be effective on neural cancers. There are actually TWO Almond Portobello mushrooms with this history - Agaricus blazei murrill, and Agaricus subrufescens. Both have been shown to be effective against cancers, though the types of cancers vary minimally between the two.
Turkey Tail is suspected to help the immune system recognize cancer cells, but it has not been tested for that specifically. It has been tested as an immune booster to assist cancer patients in recovering from chemotherapy – chemo depresses the immune system, and it can take quite some time to rebuild a healthy immune system after intensive chemo. It has been used to enhance cancer treatments also.
Gypsy mushroom is nothing more than a hoax. While it has been shown to successfully treat herpes, and has been shown to have antiviral effects against other viruses in vitro, you can forget using it for any health purpose. You can't GET it. Oh, a few companies sell something purporting to be Gypsy mushroom, but it cannot be verified to BE what they claim it is. Gypsy mushroom is kind of hard to identify in the wild, it ONLY grows in the wild (since it is mycorrhizal), and mushroom hunters who KNOW and recognize it are a dying breed. You simply cannot GET Gypsy mushroom.
The cool thing is though, the gills of common Portobello mushrooms are an effective alternative. This is something I've used successfully, not for herpes, but for viral pneumonia. It is certainly worth a try.
Other mushrooms may have value in treating heart disease, diabetes, persistent obesity, HIV, asthma, and auto-immune disease, including Celiac and Crohn's, and are currently under study.
We are of the opinion that simply consuming mushrooms is more effective than using “extracts” or isolated components from the mushroom. In most cases, when a food, herb, or fungus is found to mitigate a disease, pharmaceutical companies want to try to isolate the “active compound” to extract it (or synthesize it) and patent it. You cannot patent a food, so they want to patent an artificial version. The problem with this is that most foods that contain pharmaceutically active compounds also contain other elements which help balance those compounds, and which assist those compounds in working effectively. Hence, the potential side effects are generally higher, and the degree to which it can work effectively, is lower, once it is extracted and concentrated.
This is especially true of active foods. The best way to use them, is simply to toss them into appetizing recipes, and enjoy them!
For purely medicinal mushrooms, which are not appetizing to eat as food, most people will grind them and put them in capsules, or shred and dry them, to use for making tea.
Medicinal mushrooms may be more likely to cause reactions than culinary mushrooms. They are considered less likely to do so if well-cooked before consumption.
If you develop allergic reactions, or stomach upset, stop eating the mushroom. There are a few that will cause reactions on the first dose, which will diminish with successive doses, but most will not improve, and some can get radically worse with each dose. It is unwise to try to use anti-histamines or other remedies to try to subdue the effect so you can eat the mushroom anyway – best to avoid the mushroom in the future and go another direction.
Whether or not to use mushrooms medicinally, and HOW to use them, is an individual choice. You probably won't be able to find useful information on dosage or usage timetables.
Medicinal information regarding mushrooms also pretty much duplicates herbal medicinal lore. The accuracy is highly suspect. This is NOT to say that herbs or mushrooms do not heal. They can help some individuals. But most information about WHAT they heal is highly inaccurate.
Herbal lore is prone to the same perpetuation with motive that pharmaceutical drugs have fallen prey to. In other words, most people telling you to use this or that mushroom are doing so based on greed – they want to sell it to you. Sadly, most alternative practitioners are no better – they recommend supplements which they, themselves, sell.
The herbs, mushrooms, or supplement formulas which are recommended for a particular illness are poorly studied. They are often compounded of a series of elements which have been “historically used for” a particular condition, or similar conditions. The mechanism by which they are presumed to work is speculative. The vast majority of natural treatments do not do what they are promoted to do – at all. It is nothing more than snake oil.
That said, many herbs and mushrooms DO accomplish exactly what they are promoted to do. And many that are promoted for one thing, do something else instead – equally valuable, but completely different. You can often discover this by deep research, but you have to use a lot of reasoning and digging for the rare bits of information.
The real caution is that when the means by which something works is not known, you may take something that actually does the opposite of what you needed it to do. Migraines, and sinus headaches are a good example.
If you take a remedy for a migraine, and you have a constrictive migraine, you need a remedy which dilates blood vessels. But many migraines are actually caused by dilated blood vessels, so a remedy may be recommended for migraines which constricts blood vessels - usually natural remedies are recommended by what they are FOR, not by what they actually DO. If you assume it is simply a pain reliever, and your migraine is of the opposite type than the remedy is actually formulated for, you will end up with a worse headache. Similarly, if you take a remedy which dilates blood vessels, and you actually have a sinus headache and not a migraine (sinus headaches can mimic migraines in every respect and are commonly misdiagnosed based on pain level), then you end up worsening the problem.
With herbal remedies, one of the great problems is that someone had a headache, they took this, and it got better, so now they recommend it for headaches. They don't specify the headache type, or what the remedy actually did.
Midwives have historically used a series of herbs to treat miscarriage. Again, they use them without really understanding what they do – they have been used this way, so they assume that they help, simply because they've been told they do. If the miscarriage is averted, the attribute it to the herbs. If it happens anyway, they shrug and console, and say there was nothing anyone could do (which is usually the case anyway). Each herb DOES something, and with each action, there is a reaction. Let me explain:
When a miscarriage is threatened, the goal is to stop the bleeding and to keep the baby in there. But to stop the bleeding, you have to constrict the uterus (which constricts the blood vessels). If you constrict the uterus, you REDUCE the blood flow to the baby. That is counterproductive. On the other hand, if you increase the blood flow to the baby, you increase the uterine bleeding. There is no solution to this – you have two goals, and they are mutually exclusive, but unless you understand what you are dealing with, and what the herbs actually do, you won't grasp that there really is not any herb you can take to stop a threatened miscarriage. There ARE herbs you can take to slow uterine bleeding, OR to increase blood flow to the uterus. But during a threatened miscarriage, either one can be more harmful than helpful.
The point is, that with herbs or mushrooms either one, alternative medicine may be fairly chancy. You have to be willing to give things a try, and to accept the personal risk involved. If they are historically used for specific conditions, and you don't find a lot of warnings about toxicity or potential side effects, the risks may generally be low. But you'll have to pay attention to your body to really know whether it is doing what you need it to do or not, and if not, then try something else.
Be suspect of any source that recommends something when they are getting paid to recommend it. This includes anyone who sells the thing they are recommending (and this includes US, since we sell mushrooms!).
Mushrooms are very much in the same category – some of the lore exists because it really does work. Some exists because it works in particular circumstances but not others. Some exists because they really didn't know what else to do, they used that, and the person recovered independent of the usage of the mushroom.
Proceed with caution, and don't believe everything you hear!
I believe that mushrooms help with some of the conditions we've used them with. But you have to find out for yourself.
I have no great opinion of the common White Button Mushroom. People eat them worldwide, and many people claim to like them. But many true mushroom lovers consider them to be merely a pale imitation of real mushrooms. And so they are.
Early in the 1900s, the Brown Button mushroom was the most commonly cultivated mushroom. It was the easiest to grow, and was commercially cultivated more than any other for that reason. Once in a while, the Brown Button would throw a white mutant. Someone thought that white one was appealing, and decided to propagate it intentionally. It looked so clean and neat next to that sad brown thing.
Within 20 years, it had completely upstaged the Brown Button, and was the leading commercially cultivated mushroom. It is actually a little more difficult to cultivate, is a tad more prone to contamination and disease. The trusting public, with the belief that a mushroom is a mushroom, bought the pretty one over the plain cousin, so the farmers cultivated it with abandon. Food was going through its own little industrial revolution at the time, and this is when white flour took the lead over brown flour, and when margarine replaced butter. Food was judged by appearance more than nutrition, because the public understood appearance more than they understood nutrition.
Early on, some other Agaricus strains were also grown - which were naturally white. A. bitorquis is one of them. It was abandoned as a commercial mushroom though because the white mutant was more "durable". And durability is a desirable commercial characteristic, even if it is NOT a desirable culinary characteristic.
If the White Button were equal in nutrition and health benefits to either the Brown Button or the naturally white buttons, this would be no tragedy. But alas, it is not. So the harmless little mutant becomes the evil villain in our story – through no fault of its own, to be sure, just through ignorance and avarice.
The White Button is a mutant. It is a Brown Button mushroom – whole, intact, and healthy – which has mutated into something LESS than the Brown Button. Now, there are a LOT of white mushrooms – and on the whole, they tend to ALL be a little less nutritious than the colored mushrooms. There are, in fact, a number of other Agaricus mushrooms which are white, nearly identical to the White Button (though they vary widely in size), just as easily cultivated, and which are ALL more nutritious and more useful than the White Button – because they developed that way naturally, while the White Button was a mutant that was then propagated, and further developed for rapid propagation. It lost a great deal in the changes. It lost elements which the other white mushrooms still possess. It is unfortunate that it was decided to mass propagate the mutant, instead of deciding to propagate one of the naturally white mushrooms.
When other scientists finally got around to studying the nutritional benefits of mushrooms, the White Imposter was the chosen entity. It was then noised abroad that mushrooms were really not terribly nourishing, so you'd better not bother eating them – they were not worth the effort it took to prepare and chew them. All mushrooms were tarred with the little white brush.
The little white mutant made its way into every common food – representing mushrooms collectively in cans, trays, and pouches. All but the priciest restaurants served nothing but the little white imposter. Entire generations little knew that any other edible mushroom existed.
Mushrooms have a reasonable amount of protein precursors (classed as plant type proteins, which are not as complete as animal proteins, but which the human body can USUALLY complete) and several B vitamins. They are generally easily digestible, so people with some types of protein intolerances can still digest mushrooms.
The particular balance of nutrients provides a range of nutritional benefits, pretty much across the health spectrum – primarily because mushrooms do not contain elements which help a specific bodily system, rather, they contain elements which help with regulation of the hormonal and chemical balance within the body. This means that they help with a wide variety of issues, including blood pressure, heart and lung function, kidney function, pancreas and digestive function, musculoskeletal health, endocrine health, and more.
Mushrooms are indeed worth the calories expended to prepare and chew them! They are highly nutritious, and very beneficial.
The little white shade though, contains only a portion of these benefits. It should not be left to represent mushrooms in the culinary and nutritional realm, because it is in no way representative of mushrooms as a whole.
The tide does seem to be turning some – at least among the educated and health conscious of the world. Brown mushrooms have made a comeback under the name of Portobello, and Crimini. Wider varieties of mushrooms are now found in many grocery stores, and on the menus in even the less exclusive eating establishments. Shiitake and Oyster mushrooms are available many places, and a few stores even have other varieties such as Enoki or Bunashimeji.
We would like to see the return of the Brown Button mushroom as the common standard. After all, once cooked, you really can't tell the difference (they both turn to gray or black goo), but they are more nutritious. We would like to see people choose the earthy goodness of natural nutrition over the pathetic imitation of “pretty” food, which, like the empty headed PhotoShopped model, is all false appearance with no substance.
As far as we are concerned, the White Button Mushroom should just go away. It should disappear into obscurity and not return. It won't be missed by anyone with either taste, or sense.
As such, you won't even find a listing on any of our sites for the White Button (White Agaricus Bisporus). However, we do have spawn for Old Fashioned Portobello, and many other far more interesting and nutritious mushrooms.
Every so often someone will publish an article suggesting that mushroom cultivation is a way to get rich quick. Then someone else will come along with their “dose of reality” and point out how expensive it is, how fussy it is, how complicated it is, and how terribly impractical it is for anyone to do on a shoestring budget, and how long it takes to profit from it.
First of all, I'm no novice to business. I've started many, always on a shoestring, and I've worked with a very wide variety of small startups – not the kind that the government classes as startups (with VC funding, massive debt, stockholders, etc), but real startups. People starting a business in a corner of their livingroom – they don't even have a basement or spare room. So I know a viable opportunity when I see one. And mushrooms ARE a viable opportunity.
There are some myths out there. Buy into these, and you'll kill your chances before you even get started.
First myth, that if you are going to grow mushrooms, you have to do it the way everyone else is doing it.
Second myth, that you have to compete with the established vendors on their terms, which puts you at an immediate disadvantage.
So, let's get into what that actually means.
Read up on mushroom cultivation,and you'll be so boggled by the time you are done that you'll be in a fit of depression. They talk like they are speaking to scientists, and like you have the money to set up temperature and humidity controlled automation systems in a specifically designed gro-house, with a cement warf and automatic compost turning system outside. No way! That is just WAY too hard, and way too complicated. Your average person, even if they LOVE mushrooms, is just not going to be able to do that!
The good news is, you don't have to. First off, what they are describing is primarily White Button cultivation. And even that, they do wrong. Seriously! They are doing it on an industrial basis, not on a cottage basis, and that very premise sets them up for a Catch-22 of problems which they have to exercise ever more control and ever more expense to contain, and which they never CAN contain because they started out wrong in the first place. (And to make things worse, White Buttons are the LEAST profitable mushroom to grow!)
So, start with nature. Don't start with “how do mushroom growers do this?” because mushroom growers do it in an unsustainable environment.
Start with outdoor cultivation, on a seasonal basis. This DOES impact profits, because you are not producing year-round. But it also reduces your costs exponentially.
Additionally, use the resources you HAVE, and choose mushrooms based on that.
Instructions on growing mushrooms generally call for either finished compost, or fresh logs, or fresh sawdust. They may also call for various other industrial waste products, which mushrooms don't naturally grow on in the wild. This is all determined REGARDLESS of what the mushroom really wants to grow on – it is determined by two completely irrelevant factors:
- What the industry considers to be the “most sterile” medium. In other words, finished, heat sterilized compost, heat sterilized sawdust, and fresh logs on which no other fungus has visibly colonized.
- What the industry considers to be the most economical materials. They'd rather grow it on industrial waste, because they can get that cheap. It isn't what is best for the mushrooms, and it isn't the least expensive option for the small farmer.
You don't have to do it like that. You can experiment with available natural materials. Make friends with people who have animals who want manure removed. Make friends with people who have land with woods, who want timber cleared. Make friends with home owners who want leaves and grass raked. There is plenty of free stuff out there if you just go get it.
Mushrooms grow perfectly well in the wild – and you can duplicate those environs fairly easily on a seasonal basis, and without too much difficulty year-round, with just a little creativity.
The second issue is competing with the giants of the industry on their terms. If you think that you have to grow massive amounts of mushrooms and sell them wholesale to make a profit, you're doomed before you start out. You won't be able to produce enough to get good prices, and you'll be selling wholesale, not retail – a big difference in prices (often as much as 10 to 20 times more for retail), and you'll be in over your head in debt that you'll never recoup, just creating facilities large enough to produce enough to profit just a tiny bit.
Small businesses that make a profit BEING small businesses do so marketing direct to the customer. Sell your mushrooms right to the end user. That means at farmer's markets, through co-ops, or through a website. There's a HUGE reason for this – for one, you sell RETAIL, not WHOLESALE, and there is a monstrous difference there. If you sell wholesale, the supply chain (the purchasing agent, the processing plant, the shipping companies, the regional distribution system, and the grocery store) take the majority of the profits. And if you sell wholesale you are selling commodities that are common, and high competition, which means they have the lowest prices to begin with. So when you sell direct to the customer, you keep it all – you DO it all as well. But at least you get paid for it.
Selling fresh is a high risk thing, and we recommend that you avoid it where possible, or have a dried or preserved product as backup.
There is far more liability with fresh, because you can't assure that it is really clean. I don't care about that – I know that when I cook it, it will be safe anyway. But some people don't get that, and you could end up in trouble with the USDA if your food is perceived to be “contaminated”, whether it actually caused a problem, or it was just the kid playing in the back yard who picked up a bug and spread it to the mother's hand, and she neglected to wash before she grabbed your mushroom. Doesn't matter – they had mushrooms for dinner, so mushrooms MUST have caused the contamination, and you'll be sunk even if your farm turns up clean on the tests. Nobody will want to prove that you DIDN'T do it.
Fresh mushrooms have to be SOLD before they decay also. Getting stuck with unsold product that rots is a situation which needs to be avoided. If you sell fresh, you need to have a pull point, where the mushrooms are sent to the drying room, or to other preservation stations so you don't lose the harvest.
So, that means selling dried, canned, pickled, or powdered mushrooms, or mushroom growing kits, spawn, etc. The food products are all heat sterilized in some way before they leave your facility, and people aren't eating the other ones. Lots of products to choose from that fit the bill.
Some markets are saturated – that means you really can't break in with a small farm and actually profit. There are a couple of keys to making a good profit:
- You need to sell differently than the competition. They are all selling 1-2 types of mushrooms, pretty much all the same types, and pretty much just dried mushrooms or gro-kits. Do it different.
- Sell more than one variety of mushroom. If you do this, then you need to sell 5 or more. Alternately, do the next thing on this list.
- Sell something unique – a special mix, a mushroom snack food, a special dried mushroom type that they CAN'T get anywhere else. Do something totally unique.
Look at the competition. You'll find 50 websites out there all selling the same thing. Whatever they are doing, don't do that. Ok, so you CAN do that, but do it WITH something special. Then when people come to you for the something special, they'll get the rest of their mushroom stuff from you too.
Now, once you have that figured out, here's the trick to getting started on a shoestring:
- Locate a supply of logs, sawdust, compost, etc, that does not require paying for it (or which you know you can afford). Barter, and be willing to work for it.
- Research which mushrooms can grow on what you can get, and which ones will grow well in your climate. Start there - lower cost, higher profit.
- Select from those mushrooms, so that you have something in demand, and that you can create a unique product from. Make sure you have a unique product that you can sell well.
- Create a website for your product. Do it NOW, so it will be going when your mushrooms bear. Just put a Zero in the stock control in your cart so they show as sold out. Talk to co-ops, research local farmer's markets, etc. Base your prices in your shopping cart and on your locally sold products, by an average of other websites, and an average of what others are selling it for locally. We build websites professionally, as well as grow mushrooms, so this advice is professional advice!
- Purchase mushroom spawn – if you can't afford anything else, get a syringe full of spores, but make sure the company is reputable (cheapest ones are usually non-viable). Otherwise, purchase a sawdust growkit and create your own spawn once the kit fruits.
- Prepare your growing beds or bins or logs. An old chest freezer with the motor out, and some vents cut in the lid gasket makes a great growing environment for some types of compost mushrooms. Buckets with substrate, bins or laundry baskets, or even garbage bags can contain spawn outdoors. Logs can be stacked, and stumps can be used also.
- Inoculate your beds or bins, or logs. Make sure they are well set for the spawn run.
- Create your labels for your finished products, and print up business cards with your website URL, and maintain your beds, bins, or logs while you are doing this.
- Once the mushrooms start pinning, maintain them for fruiting.
- Get your packaging containers if you are selling mushroom products.
- As the mushrooms fruit, gather them, process them.
- If you are doing kits, create new spawn from some of the mushrooms, and be ready for creating kits.
- Enter in some stock numbers in your shopping cart, so that the items are active.
- Attend local farmer's markets, get with your co-op, etc, to market your products locally. Be sure to hand out business cards everywhere, with your URL on them.
This takes some gas in your car, an internet connection, the money for spawn, a website (you can do that free if you have to, but it may not work as well), money for labels and ink, business cards, and packaging containers. You can get started on less than $100 if you need to, and do the rest with legwork and grunt work. You WORK UP to a larger profit, you start with small returns and grow by reinvesting early returns.
This business model works if you can stick it out and market market market your stuff. If you are willing to work hard and be friendly and determined, you can make a profit at it.
So no, it is not a get rich quick option. But it is a Work to Profit option which has as good a chance of earning as anything else I've ever done (and I've done a LOT that worked).
So roll up your sleeves and get to work. And let us know if you need a pointer or two.
This Organization and Website are dedicated to the Preservation, Cultivation, and Wise Use of Culinary and Medicinal Mushrooms. We do NOT assist with cultivation or preservation of recreational mushrooms.
Mushrooms may cause allergic reactions in sensitive people. Some mushrooms are more likely to do this than others. Please research possible reactions prior to use. We are not responsible for how you choose to use our information, and do not claim that mushrooms are completely safe to consume.
We do not make any claims as to the efficacy of any mushroom product to treat or prevent any disease or condition. We are not medical professionals and will not provide advice on alternative medicine use for any mushroom. Please consult a doctor or alternative practitioner prior to using any mushroom product for treatment of any disease or illness.
We cannot guarantee that any spawn, spore, or kit product will grow or produce mushrooms. Gardening of any kind is a chancy business, and success depends upon adherence to instructions, and may be influenced by weather, environmental factors, and other controllable and non-controllable factors. As such, we cannot guarantee your success, and advise that if you are uncomfortable with purchasing instructions from us under these terms, that you refrain from purchase.
We do promise to answer your questions, and offer reasonable assistance if needed, and to correct any errors if a mistake is made on our part.
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