Oyster Mushrooms contain complex carbohydrates made up of small sugar molecules known as polysaccharides, more specifically they contain certain polysaccharides, beta-D-glucans. These powerful compounds naturally boost the immune system by optimising its response to disease and infections. Over 150 years of research has found that beta glucans act as immunomodulator agents, meaning they trigger a cascade of events that help to regulate the immune system and make it more efficient.
Specifically, beta glucans stimulate the activity of macrophages - versatile immune cells that ingest and demolish invading pathogens and stimulate other immune cells to attack. Macrophages also release cytokines, chemicals that when secreted enable the immune cells to communicate with one another. In addition, beta glucans stimulate lethal white blood cells (lymphocytes) that bind to tumours or viruses, and release chemicals to destroy them.
Oyster Mushrooms have a natural cholesterol reducing effect similar to lovastatin, (a synthesized drug that treats patients with excessive blood cholesterol). These mushrooms have been widely studied for their effect on modulating blood cholesterol levels and evidence shows that Oyster Mushrooms have the ability to reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.
It has also been found that Oyster Mushrooms contain erogothioneine, a lesser known antioxidant amino acid that protects the cells of the body, reducing triglycerides which can cause cardiovascular disease.
Finally, the rich nutrient content of these mighty mushrooms can reduce high blood pressure – another pre-cursor to heart disease and damage to the coronary arteries.
“The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” published a study in 1997. The results showed that Oyster Mushrooms have significant antibacterial activity due to an active compound, “benzaldehyde”, which was shown to reduce bacterial levels in the body.
It seems that the compounds released by the mushroom to digest organic material from nature to use it for food are also the same compounds that can help combat infections in the body.
Folklore and history
Although the Oyster Mushroom has been in use as a medicinal mushroom for centuries in China there are few ethnobotanical stories concerning its discovery. In the scientific world Oyster Mushrooms were first classified by Joseph Freiherr von Jacquin in the 18th century who designated this fungi under the ‘Agarius’ family. His hypothesis was that because of the gills exhibited under the cap the mushroom must belong to the same as all other gill fungi.
In 1871 German mycologist Paul Kummar reassigned the mushroom under the family of ‘Pleurotus’, a new genus created from his own research. During World War I Germany grew Oyster Mushrooms as a subsistence food which later led to the discovery of the antibiotic properties of the mushroom.
Oyster Mushrooms are continuing to be researched as a means of a biodynamic remedy to waste. Mycologist Paul Stamets found that the mycelium of a special strain of Oyster Mushroom released enzymes which were powerful enough to break down PAH’s (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) found in oil and its refined state of petrol. In one experiment soil contaminated with oil was inoculated with Oyster Mushrooms which began to effectively feed off the oil and brought life back to the patch of earth. With the mushrooms came flies which attracted birds who then deposited seeds and brought the area back to its original state. Some of the mushrooms reached 1 foot in diameter!
With a rich traditional history stretching back at least 3,000 years in Asian cultures, the Oyster Mushroom was seen as a culinary delight as much as a medicinal fungi. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this mushroom is prescribed for muscle, joint and tendon relaxation, to strengthen veins and increase kidney function.
According to mycological genius Paul Stamets, the Oyster Mushroom is “The Workhorse of Gourmet Fungi”. This is due to the fact it has been discovered that not only are they an exceptional ally to our health, these mushrooms have the seemingly unique ability to degrade environmental toxins, especially hydro-carbon based contaminants. Their role as guardians of the biosphere is becoming clear as new research into their complex biochemistry proves their potential to combat hunger, improve immunity and clean up polluted lands.
Most commonly this mushroom is consumed as a food. Add the powder to smoothies, or to soups, stews and mushroom dishes to give depth of flavour.
Beta-gulcan Polysaccharides, Antioxident Amino Acids (Ergothioneine), Lovastatins, Minerals, Range of B vitamins and High in Protein.