Medicinal Mushrooms: All you need to know

By: Nutrition expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.

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Mushrooms are filamentous fungi with fruiting bodies showing a huge number of pharmacological aspects in human health. They are considered one of the delicious foods and are commonly produced worldwide. They have been an essential part of the human diet and are used as both food and medicine for centuries.

Nutritional content:

They are a rich source of nutrients and bioactive compounds such as carbohydrates, fibers, proteins, vitamins, minerals and have enormous medicinal attributes such as antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, anti-cancerous, and hypocholesterolemic which are valuable for human health.

The mushrooms are rich in protein and carbohydrate content, whereas low in lipid content. They contain essential amino acids, which help in meeting the needs of these amino acids in the human body. They are also rich in many essential unsaturated fatty acids, such as linoleic and oleic acids, which are necessary for the proper functioning of the body. Apart from this, they contain many essential minerals, which are responsible for the proper metabolism of many pathways. Mushrooms, unlike plants, lack chlorophyll, therefore, they grow on decayed organic matters, rich in lignin, cellulose, and other important carbohydrates (1).

Medicinal properties:

  • Anti-cancer effect

Extracted polysaccharides from various medicinal mushrooms show anti-cancerous activity in human cell lines. Extracted polysaccharides are compounds of β-glucan family. They boost cellular immunity against tumour, because of anti-tumorigenic property (1).

  • Anti-diabetic effect

Ophiocordyceps sinensis is an edible and medicinal mushroom which has been used as novel nutraceuticals drug for diabetes mellitus and anti-hyperglycemic activity (2). Phytochemical screening from Pleurotus florida extracts reveal the presence of phenols (61.85 mg catechol equivalent), flavonoids 2.78 mg, alkaloids 1.92 mg, terpenoids 0.08 mg, tannins 0.52 mg, saponins 0.05 mg and glycosides 0.12 mg in 100 g dried powder of mushroom, which shows anti-diabetic activity by reducing blood glucose level (3).

  • Against CVD

The crude extract of the fruiting body of Agaricus bisporus and Tricholoma matsutake has bioactive inhibitory peptides that inhibit the function of angiotensin, which converts the enzyme responsible for hypertension and cardiovascular diseases (4), (5).

The ethanol extract of Hericium erinaceus improves lipid metabolism by inhibiting platelet aggregation, which is induced by collagen. It also works as a therapeutic agent for various vascular diseases including myocardial infarction and also helps reducing the stock levels of LDL and TGA while increases HDL level and has a hypocholesterolemic effect (6).

  • Improves immunity

Immune stimulation by medicinal and edible mushrooms occurs via innate immunity and is typically done by phagocytic cells. Recent studies showed the effect of mushroom extracts on immune function by inhibiting tumour growth. These cells ingest invading pathogens and interact with pathogen components or bioactive element for further stimulation of innate immunity and adaptive immunity by secretion of cytokines and chemokine (7), (8).

  • Hepatoprotective effect

Extracts of the medicinal and edible mushrooms Pleurotus florida, Ganoderma lucidum, Pleurotus sajor-caju and Phellinus rimosus possessed significant antioxidant activity in liver, measured as radical scavenging activity (9).

  • Antiviral

Extracted lectin of Pleurotus citrinopileatus shows antiviral activity against HIV-1 (10).

  • Bone health

Medicinal mushroom contains many bioactive compound nutrients which take part in bone metabolism in human health, which prevents osteoporosis. Mushrooms play a major role in osteoclastogenesis, i.e. reduced break down of bone cells.

  • Anti-aging

Many extracted ingredients from the fruiting body of medicinal mushroom such as polysaccharides, polyphenolic, phenolics, terpenoids, selenium, vitamins, and volatile organic compounds show tremendous antioxidant, anti-ageing, anti-wrinkle, skin whitening, and moisturizing effects (11), (12).


The administration of an extract of medicinal mushrooms can help to treat the patients or protect people from a large number of diseases. The extract of mushroom can be incorporated into the diet as a nutritional supplement. The bioactive compounds in both fruiting bodies and mycelial extract of medicinal mushroom show positive response in human health.

*Note of caution: Always consult your physician before incorporating any supplement to improve any present medical condition.


  2. Sirisidthi K, Kosai P, Jiraungkoorsku W. Antihyperglycemic activity of Ophiocordyceps sinensis: a Review. Indian J Agric. 2015;49:400–406.
  12. Mushroom cosmetics: the present and future. Cosmetics 3 (3): 22 YZ Wu, MH Choi, JS Li, HT Yang, HJ Shin – 2016

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