I love working in the world of natural health because exciting new horizons keep opening up. One such new horizon is Mycotherapy, or the use of the mushroom kingdom for its medicinal attributes. Mushrooms have been used for their health benefits for centuries in China and other Eastern countries, but here in Europe we are just discovering their the full extent of their power.
Having said that, the pharmaceutical world has know about the power of mushrooms for quite a while and approximately 40 per cent of the drugs you will find in your local Pharmacy have their origins in fungi. Penicillin for example, comes from a mold (molds are part of the mushroom kingdom), Lovastatin, a cholesterol treatment, was developed from oyster mushrooms, and the chemotherapy drug Taxol comes from a fungus that grows on the Yew tree.
Three weeks ago, in order to learn more about the power of mushrooms, I went on an extraordinary trip to a medicinal mushroom farm in Spain. It was much more than a farm, it turned out that it was a centre where a team of medical doctors, scientists, health professionals, biologists and pharmacists are working together to grow the best medicinal mushrooms and study how they could benefit human health.
I was shown around the most amazingly beautiful workplace I’ve ever seen! It was incredible. Nestled in the mountains in a mature chestnut forest, which is where the mushrooms are carefully grown, the centre has been developed to be sympathetic to the environment and beautiful to work in. The centre encompasses both research and development as well as mushroom farming and a processing plant where they concentrate the extracts into medicinal products.
The company, which is called Hifas Da Terra was started 15 years ago and the atmosphere in the centre was both gracious and serious, with a strong awareness of the importance of the work being conducted, which is appropriate since the main focus of the company is to produce complementary cancer therapies and research their effects on the reduction of chemotherapy and radiotherapy side effects as well as cancer survival rates.
They also produce a range of powerful extracts for other conditions, such as inflammatory and digestive conditions, and a range of smoothie powders for people who would like their food to be their medicine. There is also a could of products for children – one for immune boosting and one for calming and digestive issues (called Dr Rei and Dr Leo respectively)
They are working on a wide variety of fungal species, mushrooms such as Reishi, which was once used by the Chinese Emperors and their families to prolong a healthy life (no one else was allowed to harvest them, on pain of death!). Lion’s Mane is another medicinal mushroom is being researched in relation to preventing diseases such as alzheimer’s and dementia as well as all manner of digestive complaints. Another interesting species is Agaricus Blazei, which is widely given to cancer patients in Japan alongside conventional treatments, as is Shitake and a beautiful delicate frilly mushroom called Turkey Tail.
We are still very much learning about Mycotherapy, it really is a whole new world to us. We have an Instore coming up with Peter, representing Hifas Da Terra, at the end of November (November 29, times to be decided – look out for information on Facebook or in the shop). There is more information on www.hifasdaterra.co.uk (I found their blog good, and there are some webinars if you are really interested), and the products are available on our website (www.organico.ie).