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    Host Defense Information — Articles by Paul Stamets

    Should You Consume Raw Mushrooms?

    Should You Consume Raw Mushrooms?

    With the increased use of mushroom products, I feel a personal responsibility to inform the public about safety issues regarding mushroom preparations. Misleading marketing causes consumer confusion, risk, and damage to our industry, which is always under scrutiny. At Host Defense we are dedicated to providing the best, evidence-based, scientific information concerning safety and optimum use of mushrooms for health benefits.

    Should you consume raw mushrooms and/or mushroom mycelium?

    • No, absolutely not! Raw mushrooms are largely indigestible because of their tough cell walls, mainly composed of chitin.
    • Dr. Andrew Weil advises, in agreement with other experts, that mushrooms must be cooked! “Mushrooms have very tough cell walls and are essentially indigestible if you don't cook them. Thoroughly heating them releases the nutrients they contain, including protein, B vitamins, and minerals, as well as a wide range of novel compounds not found in other foods,” (Prevention, Feb 1, 2013).
    • Raw mushrooms and raw mycelium may pose health hazards from harmful pathogens and heat-sensitive toxins—potentially causing red blood cell damage1, gastrointestinal irritation and allergic reactions, such as skin rashes2.

    How can one safely use mushrooms?

    • By consuming mushrooms or mushroom products that have been cooked, or heat-treated.*
    • Proper heat treatment denatures toxins, softens fungal tissues, and allows our natural digestive enzymes to access and utilize the inherent benefits of both culinary mushrooms and mushroom supplements: Edible mushrooms should be tenderized by heating to at least 140 ˚F —over many hours— more preferably over 180˚F, most preferably above 200 ˚F to release their nutrients and render them digestible and safe.3

    Are Host Defense® Mushrooms raw or cooked?
    Host Defense® encapsulated products have been heated to proper temperature levels to maximize nutritional benefit and safety. Our process includes:

    • Growing mycelium (the root-like life stage) on Certified Organic, cooked, and sterilized brown rice.
    • At peak performance, we harvest and immediately freeze-dry material, to preserve nutrients and prevent oxidation. (Air-drying, a cheaper and inferior processing method, does not achieve maximum constituent levels nor reduce toxin levels, and is vulnerable to contamination and oxidation.)4
    • We heat-treat the mushroom mass after freeze-drying, to activate and unlock the nutritional compounds and ensure their bioavailability. Host Defense products are assayed a minimum of four times for quality and purity.

    Thank you for your continued support on the path to help people and planet.

    1Shibata, T., M. Kudou, Y. Hoshi, A. Kudo, N. Nanashima, K. Miyairi, 2010. “Isolation and characterization of a novel two-component hemolysin, erylysin A and B, from an edible mushroom, Pleurotus eryngii.” Toxicon 56: 1436–1442.

    2Kopp, T., P. Mastan, N. Mothes, S. Tzaneva, G. Stingl, A. Tanew, 2009. “Systemic allergic contact dermatitis due to consumption of raw shiitake mushroom.”Clinical and Experimental Dermatology 34: e910–e913.

    3Choi Y., S.M. Lee, J. Chun, H.B. Lee, J. Lee, 2006. “Influence of heat treatment on the antioxidant activities and polyphenolic compounds of Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) mushroom.” Food Chemistry 99(2): 381–387. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2005.08.004.

    4Ma, L., H. Chen, W. Zhu, Z. Wang, 2013. “Effect of different drying methods on physicochemical properties and antioxidant activities of polysaccharides extracted from mushroom Inonotus obliquus.” Food Research International 50:633-640.

    What Is the Stamets P Value® System?

    What Is the Stamets P Value® System?

    An unavoidable fact that affects all life on this planet—including humans and fungi—is that we age. When we are young, the number of downstream cell divisions is vast, but incrementally declines as we grow older. Recently, cell division limiting factors have been attributable to a shortening of telomeres, the protective region at the end of the chromosome, and the role that the enzyme telomerase plays in the repairing and replication of chromosomal DNA. These models serve to explain what we all know: as we age, we become less vital and more susceptible to disease.

    The same is true with mushroom strains. In the 1980's, I developed the proprietary Stamets P Value® system for tracking the age of strains, as measured by their successive growth over a nutrient-filled petri dish. When a strain is first isolated from a mushroom in the wild, and getting the mycelium to grow from the mother mushroom onto a petri dish, it is labeled P-1. After a week or so, the strain will be transferred to a new petri dish which is then designated as P-2, and with each successive transfer, the P Value increases accordingly. This has proven to be an important method for both maintaining strains at peak vitality. The P Value system is key to providing our customers with fungal strains with the greatest efficacy and genetic vitality.

    Mushrooms have immune systems just like people. Over the years, I have received mushroom cultures from fellow mushroom enthusiasts, with no information on their age. Often these cultures would suddenly slow in their growth, become more susceptible to disease or even stop growing altogether. Strains that were progressively cultured from low P Values out-performed the very same strains that had high P Values. The strains that we isolate here at Host Defense are kept close to their wild genetic origins, maintaining exceptional vigor and disease resistance. We are able to keep the P Value low by making sufficient backups of the cultures during the original culturing, and storing pure master cultures under deep refrigeration in our mycological laboratories. In essence, most of our mushroom strains are genetically just a few weeks old, even though some of the rarer strains may have been isolated decades ago.

    In mushroom culture, small mistakes make for big problems. Even today I am surprised at how unfamiliar many culture libraries are with the importance of maintaining young cultures. Amongst the general public, most people do not realize that a small fragment of tissue, the size of your little finger nail, is expanded into hundreds or even thousands of pounds of fungal biomass in a short period of time. Unless the strains have sufficient vitality, they will often fail to produce healthy, vigorous mycelium, containing all the beneficial compounds found in identical strains growing in the wild. What this ultimately means is that the consumer may be getting a product that is far inferior to ones grown from younger strains of mushrooms.

    With Host Defense's nearly four decades of experience, a verifiable chain-of-custody, and the use of stringent quality-assurance tools such as the P Value system, we strive to provide the highest quality products available in the world today. From the Forest, to Our Farm, to You™.

    —Paul Stamets

    For educational purposes only. © 2013 Paul E. Stamets and Fungi Perfecti, LLC, All rights reserved.

    Beta-Glucan Analysis and the Seven Pillars of Immunity

    Beta-Glucans

    Currently, there seems to be a lot of confusion about beta-glucans and their contribution to the beneficial properties of mushrooms. In order to shed more light on the subject, Paul Stamets has written a new article, "Beta-Glucan Analysis and the Seven Pillars of Immunity".

    Q: Why don’t you list beta-glucan content on your products?

    A: Because we want to be accurate. The testing methods used to determine beta-glucan content are highly inaccurate.

    Over the years, Fungi Perfecti LLC has spent thousands of dollars on product testing for beta-glucan content at various laboratories. The reported beta-glucan values from several independent laboratories vary greatly even though identical assays were performed. The most commonly employed assays for determination of beta-glucan content can only detect soluble beta-glucans; the insoluble beta-glucans remain undetected. Beta-glucans differ in their solubilities depending on their size, functionality, and interaction with other molecules. In agreement with other organic chemists specializing in beta-glucan analysis, we have concluded that the currently employed methods are unreliable! Deciding to place a percentage on our labels gives us sufficient pause, as we know each methodology and each laboratory would yield a different result. There is no standard, accepted,  validated methodology in the industry. This fact makes us reluctant to make any such claims on our product labels, and makes any purported beta glucan levels listed for any mushroom product dubious.

    Analytical laboratories have admitted that some mushroom companies use chitinase to convert otherwise water-insoluble sugars (chitin) into beta-glucans so their analyses falsely meet their desired marketing goal; a technique that simply embellishes the beta-glucan content in order to mislead the customer. Another trick some companies employ is to use beta-glucans isolated from yeast, such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae and list them as ‘mushroom beta-glucans’ on their product label—more than a bit of a stretch of logic, truth and reason. Yeasts are the simplest forms of fungi: many yeasts do not form mycelium and lack the cellular complexity of higher fungi, The other, non-beta-glucan constituents embedded into the cellular architecture of mushroom mycelium distinguishes the immunological activity of mushrooms from yeasts..

    Here at Fungi Perfecti, we are addressing this problem. Dr. Regan Nally, who directs our chemical analytical division, is leading this research effort by writing for publication an article for peer-reviewed journal exploring numerous inaccuracies in beta-glucan analyses.

    So I ask: what would you do? What is the scientifically accurate and ethical response? If you had one identical product tested at several laboratories but whose results ranged from Non Detectable to 40%, which would you put on the label? This is why Fungi Perfecti is different: if we are not confident in the scientific method being used by the industry, we refuse to pass on what we consider to be misinformation.

    The immune system is activated multifactorially by many components in mushrooms. Beta-glucans are just one. Other constituents include but are not limited to alpha-glucans, ergothioneines, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory sterols, lipids, glycosides, and mycoflavonoids—many of which work synergistically to optimize health. The efficacy of a multi-constituent approach has been positively confirmed in the scientific literature. Many of these active ingredients are not water soluble, meaning that they are not pulled out by hot water extraction. The inclusion of these beneficial co-ingredients enhances their protective effects. These constellations of complementary constituents are the foundation of our Host Defense mushroom product line.

    For educational purposes only. © 2013 Paul E. Stamets and Fungi Perfecti, LLC, All rights reserved.

    The Mushroom Renaissance

    The Mushroom Renaissance

    Mushrooms have been used cross-culturally for centuries as food, clothing, tools and medicinals. Examples include:

    • 7,000 year-old Tassilli cave paintings
    • Mushrooms found on 5,300-year-old Neolithic Otzi the Iceman
    • The ancient writings on mushrooms in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Traditional Chinese Herbal, dated 1644

    humans-plants.png

    The Genetic Connection

    • Humans and fungi share more DNA than humans & plants
    • Fungi and humans share in common infections from the same microbial pathogens. However, fungi, after millennia of evolution, are infinitely more adept at manufacturing compounds to combat these pathogens.

    Because of the similarities between fungi and animals, we can digest, assimilate and utilize these fungi as functional foods. Most everyone is familiar with the fruitbody (or mushroom cap), which is the end stage of the fungal life cycle.

    • The Mycelium holds the crucial life functions of the mushroom organism
    • The Fruitibody is the reproductive stage
    • The Spores represent seed-like capsules for complete regeneration

    Thousands of Compounds
    Compounds found in the fruiting body are just one piece of the full constituent offerings of mushrooms. Novel compounds exclusive to mycelium and the substrate (or food source), are used in combination to create a broader range of available health-promoting constituents.
     
    Functional Food Everyday
    Mushrooms have been used throughout history as functional foods.  Across the globe they provide macro- & micro-nutrients, while simultaneously conferring benefits to multiple systems in the body.

    Optimal Host Defense

    • Functional food mushrooms support the body’s immune system.
    • Cultural and traditional use, along with current scientific research, has shown mushrooms have positive correlation with certain functional systems and pathways in the body.

    We see this with:
    Reishi and the cardiovascular system
    Chaga and antioxidant support
    Turkey Tail and immune support
    Lion’s Mane and brain/nervous system support

    Mushrooms Offer Support for a Multitude of Body Systems 
    Examples include support for:
    •  Cardiovascular System  •  Digestive System  •  Neurological System  •  Immune System  •  Reproductive System  •  Integumentary (Skin) System  •  Skeletal System  •  Muscular System

    Multiple Mushroom Species As a Wellness Strategy

    • Research by Paul Stamets demonstrates that a combination of mushroom species increased immune activity compared to single mushroom species.
    • In 2003, a study was published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, “Potentiation of Cell-Mediated Host Defense Using Fruit Bodies and Mycelium of Medicinal Mushrooms.”         
    • This 7 mushroom blend, Stamets 7, is highly active in immune markers, and can be taken everyday like a multiple.

    For educational purposes only. © 2013 Paul E. Stamets and Fungi Perfecti, LLC, All rights reserved.