Some of my favourite mushrooms

 

They’re delicious and full of nutrients, but did you know that mushrooms have many health giving properties, too?

Even the plain button mushroom is a great source of fibre, protein and antioxidants, and nutrients such as potassium, zinc and selenium. We should all have at least a couple of mushrooms every day.

Speciality mushrooms, such as oyster, ceps and chanterelles each have their own spectrum of nutrients, and I’d highly recommend having some when you can get them.

And we can share all of these with our dogs, too.

Cats can also have mushrooms, but let’s face it: most cats will probably turn up their nose.

 

Mushrooms are great either finely sliced and raw, or gently cooked.

Here’s a simple and delicious way I like to prepare mine:

Slice mushrooms very finely and arrange on a plate.

Drizzle with a little lemon juice and olive oil, and season with pepper and a little salt.

Leave to marinate for a few minutes, then enjoy- maybe sprinkled with some finely chopped parsley.

Another way to harness their health giving goodness, is by using medical mushrooms.

 

What are they?

These are specific mushrooms that have been grown and processed to have maximum health giving properties.

I use them for my patients all the time, both cats and dogs.

People often give me ‘funny looks’ when I first mention medical mushrooms. But of course I’m not talking about the hallucinogenic types.

The advantage of using medical mushroom products is, that they have been grown and produced to give the maximum health benefits, they contain standardised amounts of mushroom extracts (so there’s no guesswork), and they come as a convenient capsule or powder, that is usually very easy to give to our pets.

As always, you need to find a good supplier, who you trust.

 

Let’s have a look at some of my favourite ones:

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)

The most famous medical mushroom.

It helps with so many ailments: including cancer, allergies, liver disease, high blood pressure, insomina/ anxiety, is an anti inflammatory and neuroprotective.

Reishi is traditionally known as the ‘mushroom of immortality’.

Careful when using for pets that are on anti- coagulant medication. It would also be prudent to stop taking Reishi for a few days before and after any surgery.

Turkey Tail (Tramametes versicolor/ Coriolus versicolor)

The most extensively researched medical mushroom, with impressive results in terms of effectiveness against a variety of cancers.

Possibly the best known medical mushroom in veterinary medicine.

It also has anti viral properties and protects the liver.

Cordyceps (Cordyceps species/ Cordyceps sinensis)

The caterpillar fungus.

Cordyceps species are unique amongst the medical mushrooms, in that they grow on caterpillars (either as a parasite, or symbiotic) rather than on plants. Fear not though, these days, the mushroom is commercially grown on plant substrate, and analyses show that their chemical profile, and therefore their efficacy, is still the same. No caterpillars are harmed.

Cordyceps is known to support elderly patients, and this recovering from a long illness. It improved brain function, cardiovascular function, and is an anti oxidant. It helps to regulate the blood sugar, and supports the liver, kidneys and respiratory system.

It also has anti cancer properties (but caution with hormone dependant cancers such as mammary gland, testicular and prostate cancer, as Cordyceps can increase the levels of oestrogen and testosterone).

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)

Also known as the ‘Hedgehog Mushroom’

The mushroom for the nervous system.

Lion’s Mane has the ability to stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF).

It’s useful in cases of nerve damage, for example following injury or degenerative processes, and also with dementia, anxiety and depression.

It can also help the healing of gastric ulcers.

Careful with asthma and other allergic conditions.

There are many more!

 

How do they do all this?

Extensive research has been done around the impressive health benefits of medical mushrooms.

Here are some of the nutrients that have been identified:

Polysaccharides (the best known of these are Beta- Glucans)

There are extensive studies that show the anti cancer effects of these. Different mushrooms have different types of polysaccharides, which then have different anti cancer activities.

It’s often recommended to use a mixture of mushrooms for the broadest effect.

Proteins/ Triterpenes/ Phenols/ Sterols/ Statins/ Indole Compounds/ Chitin and Enzymes

Between them, they have various biological activity, including:

Immune modulation (improving and normalising the immune system)

Anti- viral

Anti- fungal

Anti- bacterial

Anti- allergic

Anti- histamine

Anti- inflammatory

Anti- oxidant

Calming

Hypotensive

Mushrooms are real powerhouses!

They are generally very safe to use and tend to have no side effects.

 

And they can be given alongside most conventional medications and supplements (though it’s always best to check first).

As long as your pet is not allergic to mushrooms, in most cases, you’re good to go.

However, do check the individual mushrooms against the condition you want to support, and if in any doubt please check with your vet. Some mushrooms shouldn’t be used in the presence of some ailments (see above for some examples of this).

Which one are you going to try?