Summer 2002


 

 

A ‘Non-Green’ Revolution:

Mushrooms in the Fight Against Cholesterol, Cancer, Aids

 

Bad cold? Drink chicken soup.  High cholesterol?  Pop a mushroom.

   A University of Haifa biotechnologist has produced the Yellow Brain mushroom, which has pronounced medicinal qualities for inhibiting cholesterol and improving one’s immune system.  That means it is also recommended for fighting off AIDS, as well as combating cancer.

   The claims are not snake-oil pitching.  Prof. Solomon Wasser, who heads the Laboratory for Mushrooms, Biodiversity, and Biotechnology at the University’s Institute of Evolution, is of the world’s leading mycotologists (mushroom experts). He helped develop the mushroom at Med Myco Ltd. (Israel), the company he started as a result, in part, of his research at the University since leaving the former Soviet Union.

   Wasser pointed out that American epidemiologists thirty years came across a mushroom species near San Paulo, Brazil, that proved to be the most effective anticancer mushrooms studied.  The American scientists had been studying the diet of the native population, since the rate of occurrence of adult diseases there was extremely low.  The particular mushroom species, identified as Royal sun Champignon, was found to be a regular part of the diet of these inhabitants.

   Medicinal mushrooms, Wasser said, “has deep and firm roots in their traditional uses in the medicine of the Far East.  The Chinese valued the power of some mushrooms as divine.”  It was only at the end of the 1960s, however, that scientist started to investigate the mechanisms of the healthy effects of mushrooms.  The result: “The overall harmonizing effect of a diet balanced with mushrooms, so highly praised by the ancient Chinese, is not a myth, but is constantly verified by modern science.”

   Wasser’s company is not a pharmaceutical; rather, it produces what he terms “a novel class of dietary supplements (DS) or ‘nutriceuticals.’” A mushroom nutriceutical is a refined or partially refined extract or dried biomass from the mushroom that is made into a capsule or tablet.  Taken as a dietary supplement, not a food, it is claimed to have potential therapeutic applications.

   The UH scientist, who founded a professional journal in the field, contends that mushroom-based DSs have “some advantages over herbal preparations, especially in questions of safety.”  The reasons for this is that most such mushrooms used in DS production are cultivated commercially, not gathered in the wild.

     It is Wasser’s opinion, as well as that of many researchers in the field, he adds, that “sustainable development of mushrooms and their products in the 21st century can become a ‘non-green revolution.’”

 

 

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