Magic mushrooms, psilocybin or psychedelic mushrooms, have been used in indigenous cultures for religious rituals, healing, and divinatory purposes for millennia.
Psilocybin is an hallucinogenic compound, the term ‘magic mushroom’ was formed when the effect of this mushroom was found to be like that of the recreational drug LSD. Though tested in the field of medicine for the potential benefits of mental health, psilocybin is currently not accepted for medical use, however some parts of America have legalised psilocybin assisted therapy.
But this is not the magic this blog is about!
The magic of our fabulous eating mushrooms is that they are a nutritional powerhouse, jam packed with nutrients and minerals, fat free, cholesterol free – and very low in calories.
Mushrooms are the fruiting body of fungi, so not technically either a plant or a vegetable. They are bursting with B vitamins, have moderate amounts of C, biotin, potassium, copper, selenium, fibre, protein, iron, zinc, and an antioxidant unique to mushrooms. They also contain a fair amount of vitamin D which is not usual in non-animal foods – and many have a high fibre content that can improve digestive health – maybe that’s why mushrooms are termed the ‘vegetarian meat’.
All eating mushrooms are great sources of antioxidants.
Some mushrooms, such as the Shitake, have immune stimulating properties and are antibacterial and antiviral. Shitake mushrooms have been used for medicinal purposes in China for centuries and have one of the highest amounts of natural copper, a mineral that supports healthy blood vessels, bones, and immune support.
The small white or common button mushroom has medicinal properties helping to lower cholesterol and improve gut health. It also has a range of bioactive compounds that benefit of our general health.
Porcini mushrooms come with many health benefits too. These meaty type mushrooms help to improve digestive health and reduce inflamation, and are loaded with iron and anitoxidants. Research on the anti inflamarotry aspect can be found below.*
Mushrooms have also been found to have an inhibiting effect on oestrogen which can lead to a reduction in the risk of breast cancer and Lentinan, a beta-glucan found in shitake mushrooms, has shown to have immune regulating and anti-tumour properties**
Medicinal mushroom is often produced in powders, perhaps the most common one is made from the Reishi mushroom. Reishi is part of a traditional Chinese medicinal herbal remedy taken for a healthy liver and immune function and is known for its calming properties. ***
Eating mushroom is good for your health and well-being.
Dried mushrooms rarely lose their effectiveness, even on the protein side just one ounce of a dried porcini mushroom contains 7 grams of protein. Dried mushrooms are like a condensed super healthy condiment. Use them often and variously, particularly in soups, casseroles and stews.
Use fresh mushrooms within one week (max), and keep any mushrooms not used straight away in a dry paper bag left open in the fridge. Before use, wipe clean with a dry cloth rather than washing them in water as they absorb water and can become slimy. Mushrooms contain 80% + water so are not suitable for freezing.
When cooking, sautéing quickly over high heat, or simmering over low heat, such as in soups, are ideal cooking methods for preserving nutrients.
Fresh mushrooms such as – porcini, lions mane, chanterelle, oyster, button, shitake, enoki, portobello, morel etc – can be used in many recipes – wraps, pasta bakes, stir fry’s, omelettes, salads, pizzas, filled and grilled, plain and fresh, or gently heated in a little butter and served on toast. Yum!
Mushrooms are considered super foods, packed with nutritional goodies to help promote a healthy immune system and boost bone health. Chefs recognise their earthy, savory flavour enhancement as ‘Umami’.
Interestingly truffles are also classified as mushrooms but have signifcant differences, such as growing completely underground and having no stem, having a strong rather than mild flavour, having just a short gowing season, and often being unaffordable! Try them shaved on scrambled eggs for an indulgent breakfast or keep a few eggs in a plastic bag with some truffle in the fridge, the truffle will infuse flavour throught the shells.
Happy and healthy eating.
Caution – be careful picking or accepting mushrooms grown in the ‘wild’, many contain toxins that are unsafe to eat and can cause hallucinations, vomiting, convulsions and potentially, insanity. In addition even edible mushrooms are unsafe if picked near industrial sites or train tracks etc as they may contain toxins or heavy metals. Always obtain mushrooms from a safe source. ‘If in doubt, leave it out’!
Try our Awareness of Senses meditation under Health and Well-Being meditations here
* *Ng, M. L., & Yap, A. T. (2002). Inhibition of human colon carcinoma development by lentinan from shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes). The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 8(5), 581-589.