Tag Archives: Health

Vaccinations via mushroom spores may be in our future

Fast Company had an interesting article describing Royal College of Art student Celine Park’s concept of inhaling vaccines using fungi. The idea is to inject attenuated vaccines into mushrooms then inhaling its spores.  Far from having been tested in trials or been perfected, the idea is still very interesting for those fearing needles.

Fast Company – Inhale your next vaccine

Dezeen,com – Mushroom inhalers replace vaccination needles in RCA student proposal


Could a Mushroom extract cure HPV?

A small clinical study performed on humans infected with HPV (human papillomavirus) concluded that the virus could be eradicated with a supplement made using mushroom extracts.

AHCC (active hexose correlated compound) appears to be a mixture of  Basidiomycete mushrooms that include shiitakes and boletes.

Healthline – In first human trial, mushroom extract cures HPV infections

HPV eradicated by AHCC supplement, study suggests


How Mushrooms rejuvenate our Skin

The theories as to why we age have been debated for some time.  One presumption is that our DNA is programmed to show signs of aging at a certain time and that genes determine how long we live a natural life; the other is that our cells and DNA get damaged and worn out over time.  Regardless of which theory is correct, we will all experience this gradual change, though how well our body ages depends on the lifestyle choices we make and our attitude towards this inevitable process.

The most obvious outward signs of aging are the graying of our hair and the wrinkling of our skin.  As we get older, our ability to produce new skin cells is less effective and their number is proportionately diminished.  Though genetics play an important role, environmental factors have some profound effects on our skin such as the exposure to direct sunlight, pollution and cigarette smoke.  Oxidative stress and inflammation also contribute to cellular breakdown by causing an imbalance between the number of free radical/oxidants that are produced (too many) and their counter parts, the antioxidants.  Increasing our antioxidant defenses can in part delay the aging process and also repair dermal components that provide elasticity and structure to our skin.

Mushrooms are full of antioxidants and the reason several cosmetic companies have incorporated them in some of their skin care product line including facial masks, moisturizers, serums, eye gels and sun care creams.  In addition to their antioxidant properties, mushrooms have the capability of repairing damaged or diseased skin cells and proliferate into new ones resulting in a youthful glow.

Human stem cells are the building blocks of our skin. Skin cells are produced in the epidermis supported by collagen and elastin proteins in the dermis below.  Collagen provides durability and structure to the skin whereas elastin gives it its flexibility allowing it to spring back after being stretched.  Over time adult stem cells lose their potency resulting in fine lines, wrinkles, age spots and sagging skin.  Certain mushrooms have cells that can function as “stem cells” similar to those of humans with the added benefit of remaining totipotent (capable of becoming any other cell type).  Introducing mushroom stem cells into the epidermis allows them to take on skin cell characteristics and help regenerate the dermal layer.

In addition to stimulating the skin’s renewal process, mushroom extracts in cosmetic products have other important dermal benefits.  They have anti-irritant properties, they can diminish the effects of oxidative stress, they protect the skin from photoaging and inhibit elastase activity responsible for wrinkles.  In addition, some mushrooms contain L-ergothioneine known to be a natural exfoliator and kojic acid, a natural skin lightener that also helps fade sunspots and acne scars.  Some cosmetic creams and serum have agarikon extracts that improves the appearance of oily facial skin and minimize size of pores.

Most skin care manufacturers use shiitake and reishi extracts, though some companies have found success with cordyceps, elm oysters and agarikon.  Extracts from mushrooms must be specially formulated in order to be effective and should be applied topically.  Companies such as Aveeno use a natural shiitake complex in their Positively Ageless line whereas Weil for Origins Mega-Mushroom products incorporates a trio of reishi, cordyceps and elm oyster. Estee Lauder, Menard, Swiss Spa, Chantecaille, Cornelia Essentials, Artistry and Ergo Boost skin care products all carry a line of skin care products with mushroom extracts confirming its beneficial effects.

Though the search for the fountain of youth, immortality and the elusive age-defying elixir has been a quest of mankind for centuries, mushrooms seem to hold the key to the mystery.  For those looking to improve the appearance of their skin, using a natural, mushroom-based skin care products combined with a healthy diet and exercise might just be the answer. Aging gracefully is accepting the predictable changes but why not do it with a positive attitude and glowing skin.

Terrafunga has not tested and does not endorse any products or companies mentioned in this article, nor does the company offer medical advice.   Readers should seek medical advice from a licensed physician or other qualified health care professional and not rely on information they may gather from secondary sources such as the internet.

Sources: happi.com June 6, 2013, dermatologysocal.com April 13, 2012, dermatology news June 1, 2007, Society of Dermatology & Skin Care March 20, 2012, Lifelineskincare.com, Whitney P. Bowe, MD, Cosmetic effects of Natural Ingredients: Mushrooms, Feverfew Tea and Wheat., Sept. 2013, Cosmeticsand toiletries.com.


How Mushrooms Effect Longevity

For centuries people have searched for the secret to longevity.  Whytelomeres do some people live a longer life than others? How is it that some people look and feel a lot younger than their age?  Though some may say it is due to chance and good genes, the secret may lie in telomeres, their length and their configuration on chromosomes.

Telomeres are stretches of DNA found on the tip of chromosomes that protect our genetic data, make it possible for cells to divide, and hold the secret to how we age and why we get cancer.  These important endcaps prevent the chromosome from fraying and fusing together thereby keeping genetic information intact and preventing the scrambling of data.  Each time a cell divides (which can be 50 -70 times in our lifetime) telomeres get shorter until they eventually can no longer offer protection resulting in an inactive or dead cell.  Studies have determined that telomere length influences health and longevity and that there is a direct link between short telomeres and Alzheimer’s, hardening of arteries, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Whereas an infant has much longer telomeres than an adult, there are factors other than age that can reduce their length.  These include: childhood trauma, sexual abuse, chronic and oxidative stress, alcohol, smoking, obesity and inflammation.  Telomeres only shorten in tissues where cells divide continuously such as skin, muscle, blood, and those in most internal organs as well as cancerous cells.  Compromised telomeres can cause chromosomes to fuse, resulting in genetic instability that leads to cancer.

Cancerous cells divide prolifically and though telomeres do get shorter as a result, the cells do not seem to die.  This is because an enzyme called telomerase, whose function is to maintain the length of the telomeres, is activated.  Scientists believe that finding a way to inhibit telomerase activity in cancerous cells would restrict the replication of these tumorous cells and eventually kill them off.

Several varieties of mushrooms have been studied for their ability to reduce telomerase activity in cancerous cells.  These include: Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris), Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus), Shiitake (Lentinula edodes), and Wood ear (Auricularia auricula).

  • Reishi – In a breast cancer study done in 2011, Reishi was shown to contain biological compounds that are cytotoxic to cancer cells while leaving non-cancerous cells intact. Separately, researchers concluded that Reishi could be a potential source of chemopreventive agents for bladder cancer due to its ability to suppress telomerase activity.  Others believe that Reishi’s effectiveness in inhibiting telomerase activity is due to its ability to reduce damage from oxidative stress.
  • Cordyceps – Lung cancer researchers determined that Cordyceps constrained telomerase activity in tumorous cells by decreasing a subunit of telomerase (hTERT). Another study involving Cordycepin isolated from Cordyceps, showed its ability to inactivate telomerase in Leukemia cells.
  • Oyster Mushroom, Shiitake and Wood ear – Several studies involving these mushroom extracts concluded they all have cytotoxic effect on cancerous cells and a “strong positive telomerase inhibitory activity”.

With such promising anti-cancerous results, particularly as it relates to telomerase inhibition, mushrooms (both edible and medicinal) are of considerable importance to human health.  Furthermore, mushrooms are one of the few food groups that naturally produce Vitamin D, one factor that can lengthen telomeres and thus extend life.  (Other factors are Omega-3, Folic acid, meditation and exercise).  Research shows that people with low concentrations of Vitamin D have 5 less years of life compared to those with sufficient levels.

Longer telomeres lead to longevity and telomerase inhibition destroys cancerous cells, two good reasons to continue to consume mushrooms for your health, wellness and a longer life.


Terrafunga does not offer medical advice. Readers should seek medical advice from a licensed physician or other qualified health care professional and not rely on information they may gather from secondary sources such as the internet.



Sources:  learn.genetics.utah.edu, alive.com, Park, EP et al Food and Chemical Toxicology (2009), Journals of Medicine and Hygiene (2013), Liu, J et al American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2013), Tuohimaa, P Journal of Steroid Biochemistry & Molecular Biology (2009), PubMed 21888505, 25282637, 24940901.


Oyster Mushrooms and Heart Health

February is Heart Health month bringing awareness to heart Do you love mushrooms?disease, the leading cause of death in the United States with 900,000 deaths annually.  The risk of cardiovascular disease can be greatly reduced by making a few lifestyle adjustments that include relaxation techniques, a wholesome diet and exercise.

Heart disease is the result of restricted blood flow to vital organs and tissues in the body due to damaged artery walls and plaque build-up.  Cholesterol plaque can begin forming on the artery walls as early as childhood and progress slowly as we age.  A heart attack or stroke usually occurs when a piece of plaque breaks off the artery wall or a blood clot forms on the plaque’s surface resulting in blockage.

Although scientists have not pinpointed the exact cause of plaque build-up, researchers believe that it is primarily the result of smoking, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels.  Other contributing factors exist however including obesity, diabetes, stress, minimal consumption of fruits and vegetables, excessive alcohol intake and lack of physical activity.  The good news is that many of these behaviors can be modified to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

One of the easiest modifications to help prevent plaque development is through good nutrition and exercise.  Adding Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) to your diet is a great way to start.  These gourmet mushrooms are widely cultivated, readily available in grocery stores and online and can be added (cooked) to many recipes from soups to stews, salads and meats and even desserts!  These mushrooms are packed with nutrients and are especially high in antioxidants, have little effect on blood sugar levels and are low in calories.

Oyster mushrooms have a natural cholesterol reducing effect similar to lovastatin, a synthesized drug that treats patients with excessive blood cholesterol and is known to lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes.  These mushrooms have been widely studied for their effect on modulating blood cholesterol levels including a study done in 2004 by the National Institute of Health with HIV patients.  Patients were given a tea made from dried Oyster mushrooms and though some participants did not complete the study complaining that the concoction did not taste good, there was enough evidence to conclude that Oyster mushrooms had the ability to reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol in these patients.

In a separate 2003 animal study published in Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology, scientists added Oyster mushrooms to the diet of rats and discovered that it reduced plasma total cholesterol by @28% (“bad” LDL cholesterol was reduced by 55%, triglycerides by 34% and “good” cholesterol increased by 21%).  They concluded that adding Oyster mushrooms to a daily diet can prevent plaque from forming in arteries of patients with high cholesterol levels.

Oyster mushrooms, like other gourmet fungi, are a functional food meaning that they have healing and health promoting benefits and can be consumed daily without issue.  Cooked, these mushrooms are an important source of fiber, protein, vitamins and other essential nutrients that contribute to a healthy lifestyle.  100g (@ 1 cup) of Oyster mushrooms has only 43 calories, 0g of fat, 2.3g of fiber and 3g of protein.

The following describes some of the important nutrition value these mushrooms provide and their contribution to a healthy heart:

  • Niacin (Vitamin B3) – Oyster mushrooms have five times the amount of this vitamin compared to most vegetables. Niacin helps metabolize carbohydrates, fats and proteins and repairs damaged DNA.  This vitamin boosts memory, improves skin conditions, helps with arthritis and assists in maintaining good blood circulation.  Niacin contributes to heart health by lowering “bad” cholesterol and raising “good” cholesterol levels.
  • Vitamin D – One cup of Oyster mushrooms provides 103 IU (International units) of Vitamin D, about 17% of the recommended daily allowance. Mushrooms are one of the only food sources that produce its own Vitamin D (see Terrafunga blog Mushrooms: Natural source of Vitamin D).  Our bodies need Vitamin D to absorb calcium, regulate the genes that influence growth and boost our immune system. Vitamin D contributes to heart health by lowering blood pressure.
  • Antioxidants – Oyster mushrooms are one of the few natural sources of ergothioneine, an amino acid that lowers systemic inflammation. The benefits of ergothioneine include improved cognitive function, eye health, immune modulation, lung, skin and reproductive health. 3 oz. of Oyster mushrooms provides 13mg of ergothioneine.  Antioxidants contribute to heart health by preventing the build-up of plaque in the arteries.
  • Thiamine (Vitamin B1) – Improves energy by converting carbohydrates into glucose. It helps the body withstand stressful situations, boost the immune system and maintain a healthy nervous system. Thiamine contributes to heart health by increasing the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine that ensures proper cardiac function.
  • Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) – Helps in the production of neurotransmitters, supports the immune system, maintains lymph node health and improves carpel tunnel syndrome, anemia, muscular sclerosis and influenza. In addition Vitamin B6 is helpful for those suffering from premenstrual syndrome, arthritis and depression.  Pyridoxine contributes to heart health by lowering the levels of homocysteine in the blood thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Dietary Fiber – Fiber stimulates digestion, relieves indigestion and constipation. In addition, fiber nurtures the lining of the colon and aids in the absorption of glucose.  Studies have shown that there is a correlation between low fiber diets and heart disease and that dietary fiber may help reduce the risk factors for strokes such as high blood pressure, high blood levels of “bad” cholesterol.  The American Heart Association recommends an intake of 25g of fiber daily and a cup of Oyster provides 9% of that total.   Dietary fiber contributes to heart health by lowering the risk of first time strokes.
  • Potassium – This mineral is important in maintaining water balance in the body as well as strong bones, build protein and enhance muscle strength. Potassium helps with anxiety and stress as well as kidney and heart disorders. The recommended daily value for potassium is 3.5g and 1 cup of Oyster mushrooms provides 12% of the daily intake.  Potassium contributes to heart health by lowering blood pressure, lowering “bad” cholesterol and regulating proper heart rhythm.
  • Copper – Copper is essential to our bodies as it maintains the health of connective tissues, increases our energy, helps metabolize iron and increases the production of red blood cells. In addition, copper supports good eye and hair health, reduces symptoms of arthritis and helps prevent premature aging.  Copper contributes to heart health by reducing “bad” cholesterol production and influences the functioning of the heart and arteries.

Oyster mushrooms offer many more nutritional benefits to maintain good health.  We focused on nutrients that specifically enhance cardiovascular health given that it is Heart Health month. To get you started, we have posted a great good-for-heart recipe: Roasted Oyster Mushrooms and Red Quinoa Salad.  Enjoy!


Sources: Mycomedicinals, Paul Stamets (2002), National Institute of Health, NCBI.nlm.nih.gov, heart.org, nutritiondata.self.com, healthyeating.sfgate.com, diethealthclub.com, healthiestfoods.com, organicfacts.net

Terrafunga does not offer medical advice. Readers should seek medical advice from a licensed physician or other qualified health care professional and not rely on information they may gather from secondary sources such as the internet.

BREATHE: Mushrooms and Respiratory Health

Breathing is fundamental to our existence.  Through the simple

Photo courtesy Winslow Training – www.winslowtraining.net

act of inhaling and exhaling, we provide our vital organs with the oxygen it needs to survive while eliminating waste gases and toxins from our body.  Healthy adults take approximately 12-16 breaths per minute while newborns take 40 on average, a direct correlation of the size of the lungs.  Whereas daily breathing keeps our bodies functioning properly, deep, conscious breathing, relaxes muscles, lowers blood pressure and quiets the brain which relieves stress.


The process of breathing is straightforward.  Oxygen enters the body through the mouth or nose, passes through the sinuses, trachea and bronchial tubes into the lungs.  From there, oxygenated blood is carried in the bloodstream to the heart where it is pumped throughout the body.  Red blood cells carry carbon dioxide back to the lungs where it is exhaled out.

A healthy respiratory system is supported by strong bones and muscles primarily in the chest area and spine.  As we age, bones and muscles in and around the lungs become weaker making breathing more difficult leading to restricted airways, shortness of breath and fatigue.  Additionally these changes decrease the amount of oxygen in the blood leading to a weaker immune system and susceptibility to respiratory illnesses and other diseases.

Respiratory illnesses are not limited to older individuals.  Several factors contribute to respiratory complications including the environment (pollution, toxins, allergens), harmful lifestyles (smoking, inhaling toxic gases, poor diet, lack of exercise) and genetics.  Upper respiratory disorders include the common cold, sinusitis, influenza (flu), croup and whooping cough while lower respiratory maladies range from asthma to bronchitis, pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, emphysema, tuberculosis, COPD and a host of other lung diseases.

In the US over 23 million people currently have asthma and more than 6.8 million individuals were diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) last year, the fourth leading cause of death in the US.  8.7 million people were diagnosed in the past year with chronic bronchitis, 4.1 million with emphysema and close to 300,000 emergency visits were made in response to respiratory complications.

Some of these illnesses are in part due to a compromised immune system and oxidative stress.  Oxidative stress occurs when free radicals (atoms that attack cells) outnumber antioxidants (molecules that keep free radicals in check) leading to DNA damage.  Studies have shown that there is a direct link between oxidative stress and lung damage resulting in COPD, asthma and other respiratory illnesses as well as allergic disorders and serious non-pulmonary diseases.

A study using Chaga extract demonstrated its ability to reduce DNA damage from oxidative stress and concluded that it could be a “possible and valuable supplement to inhibit oxidative stress in general” (Najafzadeh, M. et al).  Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), is a polypore mushroom that grows predominantly on birch trees in northern climes, that has many known benefits including anti-tumor, anti-allergic and anti-glycemic properties as well as anti-inflammatory and immune potentiating effects.  Chaga’s healing powers has been used for centuries by Eurasians to prevent the onset of degenerative diseases and to treat ulcers, tuberculosis and gastritis.  It is currently approved in Russia as an adjunct to cancer therapy and used by Europeans to treat skin disorders, bronchitis and lung disease.

Animal studies using Chaga extracts were also done to determine its effectiveness on asthma by observing the inflammatory cells in mice.  The study compared a control group to three with asthma, two of which were given Chaga extracts in high and low dosages.  As suspected, the three asthmatic groups had higher numbers of inflammatory cells in lung tissues compared to the control group, but those that were given Chaga extracts had lower inflammatory cells and their tissue damage was significantly alleviated.  The researchers concluded that Chaga extracts had the potential to effectively treat asthma by correcting imbalance in the immune system and reducing the number of inflammatory cells.

The most significant trigger for asthma is allergies and animal studies using Chaga extracts suggest that this mushroom also exhibits anti-allergic activities.  In the research lab, mice were given Chaga extract to see how it responded to specific allergens.  The results demonstrated a significant reduction in allergy-causing antibody as well as an increase in cells that eliminate pathogens.

Other mushrooms also exhibit properties helpful in preventing and managing respiratory illnesses.  Reishi, for instance, is a well-known medicinal mushroom recognized for its many health benefits including its positive impact on the upper respiratory tract.  Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is a polypore mushroom that grows on dead or dying deciduous trees in North/South America and Asia.  It has been a part of Oriental culture for thousands of years revered for its antiaging and energizing effects.

Reishi helps with respiratory ailments by increasing the oxygen absorbing capacity of the alveoli (air sacs in the lungs where gas exchange occurs) which in turn boosts stamina.  Patients suffering from chronic bronchitis benefit from Reishi extracts that effectively reduces the activity of the parasympathetic nerves responsible for the incessant coughing. Like Chaga, Reishi appears to have antiviral properties as demonstrated in research determining the effects of this fungus on the influenza A virus.  Reishi boosts the immune system, acts as an energizer and due to its high levels of lanostan, is also a natural antihistamine.

Neither Chaga nor Reishi are consumed raw but rather ingested in tea form, as a tincture  or in  capsules.  Terrafunga carries a supplement called Breathe taken in capsule form that combines the benefits of Chaga, Reishi and Cordyceps for a healthier respiratory system. Both Reishi and Chaga can still be found in the wild; Reishi growing on oak, maple and elm, Chaga on birch, and can be made into a tea relatively easily.  Both are a little bitter so adding maple syrup or honey will adjust the flavor.

Respiratory health is directly connected to one’s general well-being. Developing good habits such as eating wholesome foods, staying active, getting plenty of sleep and relaxing the mind all contribute to boosting the immune system and overall health.  Taking long, deep breaths at various times of the day will calm the mind, relieve stress and restore a sound body.

Sources: Mycomedicinals, Paul Stamets (2002), chagaknowledge.com, National Institute of Health, NCBI.nlm.nih.gov, healthypeople.gov/2020, lifescience.com

Terrafunga does not offer medical advice. Readers should seek medical advice from a licensed physician or other qualified health care professional and not rely on information they may gather from secondary sources such as the internet.

Cordyceps Improve Exercise, Energy and Endurance

We have all been told that in order to improve our health and reduce our chances of getting a lifestyle-related disease is to eat wholesome foods and exercise regularly.  Exercise boosts our energy levels, improves heart, lung and muscle fitness, prevents weight gain and enhances our mood.  Researchers in 2012 surmised that worldwide 1 in 3 adults and 4 in 5 adolescents did not meet the minimum, daily exercise requirements thereby contributing to a decline in global health.

Athletes, on the other hand, understand the importance of taking care of their body by fueling it properly in order to maintain a desired level of fitness.  A university study of intercollegiate athletes determined that 88% used nutritional supplements as part of their training regimen (though there are some that resort to unnatural substances that promise to improve their performance).

The desire to improve physical performance and dominate in competition is not new.  For centuries, athletes have used a variety of “performance-enhancing” concoctions including the Ancient Greek Olympians who, prior to competing, ingested dried figs, mushrooms and strychnine amongst other substances, the Norse Berserkers who consumed hallucinogenic mushrooms to increase their fighting strength and, more recently, the Chinese women distance runners who shattered world records in ’93 due in part to a daily intake of cordyceps in chicken broth.

Cordyceps (aka Caterpillar fungus) are parasitic mushrooms that live on the larvae of butterflies and moths, primarily in the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau in Central Asia.  These celebrated mushrooms used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine grow in a mineral-rich soil at high altitudes and low temperature making their harvest a dangerous and treacherous activity.  Because of their incredible health benefits, scarcity, remote habitat and tough geography, cordyceps were historically reserved for the Emperor’s highest court and Chinese nobility and today are sold in Asian markets for exorbitant prices.

In recent years, six varieties have been cultivated for medicinal purposes; Cordyceps sinensis being the most common and promising.  This mushroom contains a broad range of compounds including vitamins E, K, B1, B2, B12, all essential amino acids, many sugars and polysaccharides, proteins, sterols and a host of macro and micro elements.  In traditional Chinese medicine, cordyceps are used to treat respiratory and pulmonary disease, renal, liver and cardiovascular disease as well as immune disorders.  In Tibet, it is considered a rejuvenator that increases energy and reduces fatigue.

In Western medicine, cordyceps are used primarily by two distinct groups: the elderly and athletes, though with increased research, there are promising applications for patients undergoing cancer treatments and those suffering from respiratory, kidney and liver diseases.   Some athletes add cordyceps to their training regimen as research has shown it increases useful energy and endurance.  A Japanese study using aqueous cordyceps extracts showed that it dilated the aorta by 40% which increased blood flow to the muscles thereby greatly enhancing endurance.

A study in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise tested 30 healthy male athletes for 6 weeks to record the effects of cordyceps on their performance.  The group that added cordyceps to its daily regimen had twice the oxygen intake of the control group.  Oxygen intake is essential in supplying nutrients to the muscles, preventing fatigue and the build-up of lactic acid.  Another study done by the same group on 30 healthy Chinese elderly adults showed a 9% increase in aerobic activity.

Separately, a study performed in Shrewsbury, MA at the Rippe Lifestyle institute, tested sedentary adults for 12 weeks on their aerobic capability, exercise metabolism and endurance.  The healthy volunteers (ages 40-70) were divided into two groups with one consuming a mixture of cordyceps and rhodiola.  Their oxygen intake, respiratory exchange ratio (RER), blood pressure and body weight were measured at 0 weeks, 6 weeks and 12 weeks.

The group that consumed the cordyceps mixture reduced their timed one mile walk by 29 seconds at the end of 12 weeks, increased their work out on a cycle ergometer by 3.1%, increased their VO2peak by 5.5% (maximum of O2 body uses during a specific time) and decreased their RER by 2.1% (ratio between CO2 produced and O2 consumed in one breath).  Additionally, the group that consumed cordyceps lowered its blood pressure by 3.1% and decreased body weight by 1.2% by the end of the 12 weeks.

Research using laboratory animals also concluded that cordyceps improve performance.  In lab tests, mice that had cordyceps added to their diet significantly increased their time-to-exhaustion over the control group suggesting improved performance/endurance from increased energy output and decreased fatigue.  Another study using rats also determined that cordyceps improved endurance.  Two groups were tested; one that had not exercised prior to testing and the other that had.  The rats were given cordyceps over 15 days and tested against a control group.  The animals that had not exercised improved their endurance by 79% whereas the group that had exercised prior to testing improved by 179%.

Researchers concluded that the improvement in endurance was due to the activation of the skeletal muscle metabolic regulators, angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels important in improving physical performance) and better glucose and lactate uptake (glucose is necessary for ATP synthesis, lactate diminishes the “burn” in muscle). Others suggest the increased endurance was due to improved respiratory activity concomitant with the metabolism of lactic acid.  A Boston marathon runner shared that he improved his running time by 25 minutes recently attributing his success, in part, to consuming cordyceps in tea form.

Though more conclusive research needs to be done on the influence cordyceps have on physical performance, the positive health effects these fungi have on a slew of illnesses and disease is convincing.  Therapeutic effects include: anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-tumor, anti-viral, blood pressure, blood sugar moderator, cardio-vascular, cholesterol reducer, immune enhancer, kidney tonic, lungs/respiratory, nerve tonic, sexual potentiator and stress reducer.  Additionally, there are some encouraging results using cordyceps in conjunction with certain cancer treatments including lung cancer, leukemia and lymphoma.

Consuming cordyceps from Asia in their natural form is not recommended as there may be many impurities, fungicidal residue and some are also stuffed with foreign objects (including lead) to increase their weight (and thus price).  Cordyceps cultivated in the US organically from mycelium are considered better and safer with greater consistency, quality assurance and controlled potency.  Terrafunga carries a reputable line of supplements including cordyceps that are grown organically in the US.

As many of us have resolved to eat healthier and exercise more this coming year, perhaps adding some cordyceps to our routine will give us the energy boost we need while improving our performance and endurance.

 Terrafunga does not offer medical advice.  Readers should seek medical advice from a licensed physician or other health care professional and not rely on information they may gather from secondary sources such as the internet.

Sources:  PubMed.gov, US National Library of Medicine, International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 10(3):219–234 (2008), Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, Medicinalmushroominfo.com/cordyceps, Mycomedicinals, Paul Stamets 2002



As 2015 begins, full of hope and excitement for most of us, I am always intrigued by what upcoming food trends will be the rage in the New Year, what fad will simply disappear and where the culinary imagination of Master Chefs will take us.

Here is a brief summary of what the “experts” in the gastronomic field tell us will be hot in 2015:

  • CAULIFLOWER – It appears that this once maligned vegetable, thought to be a tasteless and worthless side could dethrone Kale as the new superfood due to its high fiber content, important levels of vitamin C and K and its anti-inflammatory properties.  Additionally it lends itself to a variety of cooking techniques including roasting, ricing and mashing making it a great, lower calorie substitute for potatoes.  Cauliflower can be found in a variety of color from orange to purple adding interesting hues to a meal.
  • ROOT VEGETABLES – Although we are accustomed to carrots, beets and ginger, there are many unfamiliar and “ugly” root vegetables that are now readily available in most grocery stores that are packed with nutrients and vitamins. Celery root, parsnips, kohlrabi, turnips and rutabaga can be roasted, grated, mashed, puréed, sautéed and in some instances eaten raw. The flavors vary from subtle to earthy and are a great alternative to potatoes.
  • PISTACHIOS – Whether spurred on by the clever “Get Crackin’”advertising campaign from Paramount Farms Intl. or a push by pistachio growers, this little nut is predicted to be the star of 2015. California is the second largest producer of pistachios in the world with over 500 million pounds harvested annually.   Recent data shows that this nut contains fewer calories than other nuts and packs more potassium and Vitamin K.  Pistachios are an important source of proteins, fats and minerals and an excellent source of antioxidants and vitamin E.
  • OYSTERS – With an increase in harvest due to cleaner waters, oysters will be more available and affordable in 2015. The Kusshi oyster from British Columbia will be all the rage due to its small size and clean flavor. Aside from the traditional cocktail sauce, oysters will be served with interesting brines and new sauces adding to their fascination.  $1 oysters are appearing in all restaurant types including the fastcas (new buzzword for fast casual) establishments that are introducing younger diners to these tasty indulgences.
  • INSECTS – Deep fried locust and other insects have been part of Asian cooking for centuries and are slowly making their way into western cuisine as seen on menus of some of the finest European restaurants. Top restaurants are serving such exotic fares as beef tartare with ants, pâté with a side of crickets and chocolate covered locusts! A healthy source of protein (ounce for ounce crickets have more than twice the protein of meat) crickets are also high in magnesium, calcium, iron and Vitamin B12.  Insects may also find their way into your food as powders or incorporated into protein bars.
  • SAVORY YOGURTS – Whereas the Greek yogurt trend continues, lower sugar alternatives are in our future. Substituting the familiar fruit flavors with hearty vegetables seems to be catching on.  One company already on the market offers butternut squash flavors as well as beet, tomato and carrots, while other specialty shops include exotic seasoning mixins such as Za’atar, sea salt and “everything bagel”. Savory yogurt makes a great alternative for mayonnaise.
  • FERMENTED VEGETABLES – Fermenting food is an age-old process practiced by ancient civilizations to enhance and preserve foods. The fermentation process results in a superior food high in enzymes that improves nutrient absorption benefiting the colon and the entire digestive tract.  Fermented foods we will see more of in 2015 include Kimchi (Korean vegetable side dish), Kombucha (mushroom tea), Tempeh (bean cake), Miso (bean and grain paste) and sauerkraut (fermented cabbage).
  • MAPLE WATER – Experts predict Maple water will replace coconut water as the beverage of choice for the health conscious consumer. The drink is not maple syrup diluted with water but rather a naturally occurring liquid harvested from maple trees in late winter.  Whereas maple syrup is sap that undergoes an evaporation process, maple water does not, resulting in water with a hint of maple.  Unlike coconut water that comes from overseas, maple water is considered a local product currently manufactured in New York and Vermont.
  • ANCIENT GRAINS AND SEEDS – Gluten free diet trends will continue in 2015 and as a result so will alternatives to wheat. Ancient grains such as quinoa and seeds like chia are becoming more mainstream today, but ‘new’ varieties will become more prominent in the coming year.  These include:  whole grain Teff, traditional Ethiopian grain, Kaniwa, a seed similar to quinoa originally from the Andes, Amaranth, Freekeh, Lupin, Spelt and Kamut amongst others.
  • SEAWEED – Though we are familiar with seaweed in our sushi, varieties such as kelp, nori and wakame are set to transition into our salads, risottos, soups, sauces and beverages in 2015. A craft beer company in Maine is infusing its beer with organic seaweed, the Scots have been serving pizza with locally harvested seaweed and the Brits are chomping on seaweed chocolate! Seaweed is an excellent source of calcium, is packed with anti-oxidants and a broad range of vitamins, but most importantly it is one of the few natural sources of iodine.
  • SPICY HONEYS – Pairing sweet and spicy continues in 2015 with particular emphasis on honey. Honey with habanero peppers, ghost chili and jalapeños are trending in restaurants as are spicy jams and jellies paired with meats and poultry. A renowned pizzeria in Brooklyn, NY is spreading chili honey on its soppressata pizza and is getting rave reviews from discerning local connoisseurs.

In addition to the aforementioned trends, culinary themes for 2015 will benefit local farmers such as Terrafunga that produce organically grown produce in a sustainable fashion.  Restaurant chefs are looking for food waste reduction in their establishments, hyper-sourced, natural ingredients, environmentally sustainable products, farm-branded items and artisan foods.  Gluten free cuisine will continue its emergence as will locally-grown produce.

All of these trends and cuisines bode well for Terrafunga, seeing that our mushrooms, fresh or dried, provide a host of health benefits, are naturally grown and benefit all diets including those that are gluten free.  We’re looking forward to a healthy and great year!

Sources: newrepublic.com, Alice Robb, baumwhiteman.com, 2015 food trends, restaurant.org, National Restaurant Association, www.nutrition-and-you.com/pistachio.html, men’shealth.com/nutrition/crickets-perfectprotein, superfoods-for-superhealth/fermented-foods.

Mushrooms: Natural Source of Vitamin D

During the winter, many of us living in Northern climes have shorterMaitake7 days and less exposure to sunlight meaning a decreased ability to manufacture our own Vitamin D.  Vitamin D plays an important role in our well-being; essential for healthy bone growth, neuromuscular and immune functions, as well as reduction of inflammations and prevention of respiratory infections.

Vitamin D is synthesized in our bodies when skin is exposed to UV rays from sunlight, though age, the amount of time spent in the sun, melanin levels in the skin and sunscreen application can affect absorption levels.  Vitamin D can also be obtained by consuming certain foods rich in the vitamin, though the natural options are limited to oily fish, beef liver, eggs and fortunately mushrooms.  There are also fortified foods that can be consumed such as milk, cereal, orange juice, yogurt and margarine as well as dietary supplements.  Mushrooms are the only produce that contain vitamin D naturally and thus should become of every diet.

The following is an abbreviated list comparing the amount of Vitamin D in food we consume (measured in International Units (IU))demonstrating the important levels mushrooms contain.  Fruits and vegetable are not featured in this chart since none contain vitamin D and though fortified, ready-to-eat cereals do contain vitamin D, they are high in sugar and low in nutritional value and hence were not included. The entire list can be viewed on the USDA website.

Maitake 1123
Chanterelle 212
Morel 206
Shiitake 154
Oyster 22
Portobello, exposed to UV light 524
Sockeye salmon 526
Mackerel 457
Swordfish 666
Tuna fish, canned, in oil 269
Pork spare ribs 104
Bacon, reduced sodium 42
Salami, dried 62
Beef bologna 32
Milk, whole, fortified 420
Yogurt, fortified 52
Egg, fried 88
Margarine, fortified 429
American cheese, fortified 301

 *extracted from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference release 27

Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium essential for healthy bone growth preventing them from becoming brittle, thin and/or misshapen.  Lack of Vitamin D can cause rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults, two conditions that can be prevented.  Additionally, studies suggest that Vitamin D may affect cancer risk.  Though still inconclusive, there is strong evidence that vitamin D has protective effects on certain cancers including breast and prostate, though the most promising results came from research involving patients with colon cancer.  More recently, there has been evidence that Vitamin D could play a role in the prevention and treatment of Type 1 and 2 diabetes as well as MS and hypertension.  Lastly, a study conducted at Cambridge University concluded that increased Vitamin D in the body increased the preventive effect against influenza by boosting the bodies’ immune levels.  NB Excessive levels of vitamin D can also be harmful to the body.

People at greater risk of Vitamin D deficiency include growing children, darker skinned individuals, overweight persons and the elderly.  Children need calcium for bone development and tend to be protected against direct exposure to sunlight, dark skin contains more melanin which is less effective in producing vitamin D from sunlight, obese individuals sequester vitamin D in fat preventing its release into other parts of the body and the elderly have skin that doesn’t synthesize efficiently and are inclined to stay indoors more often.

Vitamin D deficiency can be reversed by consuming foods rich in this nutrient.  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans put forth by the federal government recommend that nutrients should be obtained from foods.  Although dietary supplements are valuable, vitamins obtained from natural foods have added health benefits that can help the body function properly and boost the immune system.  Mushrooms that naturally produce vitamin D should become part of every diet.


Sources: Journal of Virology2008 –  review on The Epidemiology of influenza, National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements, Vitamin D Facts sheet for professionals, Facts sheet for consumers, USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference release 27, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 

Terrafunga does not offer medical advice. Readers should seek medical advice from a licensed physician or other qualified health care professional and not rely on information they may gather from secondary sources such as the internet.