Sandy’s Garden ... Magic Medicinal Mushrooms

Sandy Simpson
Sandy Simpson
Have your say

“Mushroom miracle infuses your cells with 86 400 times more healing – yes, healing power!” That’s quite a claim: but there’s more.

“2000 year old wonder nutrient now shown to outlast popular antioxidants like CoQ10 … Vitamin A, C and E … and alpha lipoic acid – by a whopping 28 000%!” Wow-eee. “Experience AMAZING results from … high blood pressure! Blood sugar imbalances! Out of control cholesterol! Memory loss and decline! Respiratory problems! Low energy and stamina! Anxiety and nervousness! Yeast overgrowth! And much, MUCH more!”

These claims are made on the cover of a slim magazine which was delivered …uninvited … to my home recently. I share the editor’s discomfort with the number of exclamation marks, absence of hyphens from ‘200-year-old’ and number of capital letters; and I am always made uneasy by such dramatic claims which, if they are taken at face value, will transform my life with the promises of resolutions of my problems with high blood pressure, memory loss and decline, low energy and stamina and anxiety and nervousness, not to mention yeast overgrowth, for I may also have that problem unknowingly. I am further promised, “This powerful, FAST ACTING formula GUARANTEED to work for you – or it’s FREE!” Haud me back, as they say in this part of the world, if not in North America whence these claims originally come, as readers may already have guessed.

We need CoQ10 to allow our bodies’ systems to generate energy; we need Vitamins A, C and E as antioxidants to prevent the transferring of electrons from a substance to an oxidizing agent, for oxidation reactions in the body create free radicals, which damage cells; and we need lipoic acid to provide protection against metabolic syndrome, which is a precursor to fatal diseases. We ingest CoQ10 from meat, fish and vegetable oils; we get Vitamins A, C and E from fruit and vegetables; and we find alpha lipoic acid in dark green, leafy vegetables. So do mushrooms really offer larger amounts of these essential agents? And am I a fool not to rush out to order this ‘mushroom miracle’ product?

Mushrooms are rich in antioxidants. People the world over … including our ancestors, of course, have eaten mushrooms for millennia and have benefited from this element in their diet. Mark you, our predecessors in Scotland made a lot of use of these unique fruits … for the bit of the plant that we use is the fruiting body … using them to plug holes in thatch roofs, to cauterise wounds and stop bleeding and, in dried form, as kindling for the fire among many other uses. Intriguingly, they probably burned them near the hives of wild bees, using the smoke from giant puffball mushrooms to stupefy the bees and so allow people to take the honey from the hive … an action the bees would normally take the strongest exception to! Specific mushrooms such as reishi, shitake and maitake have long been believed to offer health benefits: but it is only in recent years that these ‘exotic’ (to us) species have been widely available in the United Kingdom. So the answer to my first question is ‘yes.’

But members of the family called Agaricales are also packed with goodness… and that family includes the common or garden ‘button’ mushrooms found throughout these islands. So the answer to my second question may well be ‘no,’ for I can get many of the benefits of the ‘mushroom miracle’ product from inexpensive mushrooms in my local shops. But you pays your money and you takes your choice, though the wildest of the claims made by advertisers might benefit, like the mushrooms, from being taken with a pinch of salt!

Sandy Simpson, Polmont Horticultural Society