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Shiitake Mushroom Has Medicinal Properties

Cultivated over a thousand years ago in China, this species of edible mushroom is currently one of the most produced in the world. Discover the mysteries that hide this appreciated food. In their natural habitat, fungi tend to develop strategies of biological control in order to compete among the multiple microorganisms that cohabit their environment. One of the strategies is the production of certain chemical compounds that fungi can release into the environment in which they live.

These include, but are not limited to, antibiotic substances that are designed to reduce competing bacteria that may harm them in the fight against their energy sources for food. Throughout history, humankind has been able to take advantage of some of these components for its own benefit, as the emblematic case of the discovery of penicillin, from the fungus Penicillium notatum that revolutionized the history of medicine at the beginning of World War II.

Nowadays, there is a great interest for mushrooms with medicinal effects, as is the case of Lentinula edodes, designated xiangu in China, where it originates. Its name means aromatic mushroom. Xian means aroma and gu is equivalent to mushroom, better known by the Portuguese by shiitake, common name in Japanese. The cultivation of shiitake in wooden logs is the oldest of all edible mushrooms .

It originated in China about a thousand years ago, when it came to master the technique of mushroom production in the natural environment. Japan has specialized in selecting high quality varieties, where it is also produced on a large scale. Today, China continues to be one of the world’s largest producers, consumers and exporters of shiitake.

Originating in the temperate zone of northeastern Asia, this food, already present in many recipes made in national territory, continues to be one of the most produced species in the world. Over time, it has gained some fame in the West for its gastronomic and medicinal interest.
Recognized medicinal properties

This mushroom, besides being an excellent edible, over the years has been studied for its therapeutic properties, since it extracts some compounds with immunopotentiating effect, as is the case of lentinan, a polysaccharide that seems to favor the immune response of the our body. Clinical trials have been carried out especially in Asian countries.

With the use of lentinan in conjunction with chemotherapy treatments, the results point to increased life expectancy, improved immune system and improved quality of life of patients in treatment of some types of cancer. Although it is an area that has not yet been studied, science has also been interested in the possible beneficial effects of aqueous extracts of this mushroom in combating diseases caused by fungi and viruses, which cause great damage in the agricultural sector, in order to isolate the active substances that may benefits in the fight against these agents.

In sum, several studies have demonstrated the antibacterial, antifungal and also growth inhibitory activity of microorganisms, through various compounds isolated from this mushroom, revealing their high pharmacological interest.

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