Medicine

3 New Reasons To Consume Medicinal Mushrooms

oystermushroombigschenleylearnyourlandMushrooms wear many hats.  No, not fedoras, stetsons, and top hats.

Think of these hats as metaphors, describing instead the roles these important species perform in their ecosystems.  For example, mushrooms are world-class decomposers, recyclers, bioremediators, parasites, pathogens, poisons, hallucinogens, and food.

Additionally, the fungal kingdom houses some of the world’s most powerful medicines.  What traditional cultures have known for centuries, modern research is continually discovering:  mushrooms contain potent medicinal compounds that can aid the human body in functioning optimally.

Recently, three new studies have been published demonstrating the medicinal benefits of three separate species of mushrooms…

Read the rest of the article (and watch a video!) at Learn Your Land.

New Event! “Wild Plants As Medicine” Workshop & Summer Foraging Hike

stjohnswort

I’m happy to announce that on Saturday, August 22nd, I will be leading the “Wild Plants As Medicine” Workshop & Summer Foraging Hike at North Park in Western Pennsylvania… and I would love for you to join me!

This time, we’ll be discussing how to develop a personalized medicinal strategy using the various wild plants of the Northeastern United States… including the species growing in your backyard!

I’m so excited to be leading this event, as this is a topic that is more important today than ever before.

Why, you may be asking?

Well, this may come as no surprise to anyone, though what I’m about to say is worth acknowledging:

We don’t exactly live in “ideal” times anymore.  Meaning…

Our air isn’t as clean as it used to be.  (Air quality recently measured at Beaver Falls was among the worst 10 percent of the nation’s monitors; in Lawrenceville, it’s among the worst 25 percent in the nation.)

Our water isn’t as clean as it used to be.  (A stream that feeds a water treatment plant in Greene County was recently found to contain 60 times the maximum amount of radiation allowed in drinking water. Yes, that’s 6-0.)

And our food certainly isn’t as clean as it used to be.  (Glyphosate, anyone?)

Throw in a diet that typically lacks bitter (read: medicinal) flavors, and the outcomes don’t look so hot.

Diabetes, headaches, insomnia, arthritis, cancer, dementia, heart disease, influenza and other viral infections… is it any wonder that these illnesses plague the human species (and not squirrels, snapping turtles, or snakes)?

Perhaps you currently experience one or more of the above conditions, and you’re looking for alternatives to the medications typically prescribed to you.

(There are local wild plants that address all of those illnesses by the way… for free!)

Or, perhaps you currently feel pretty good, though you’d like to take immediate action right now to reduce your chances of experiencing any of the aforementioned illnesses somewhere down the line.

The solution?

“Everything you need is growing in your backyard.”

Ever hear that before?

Listen…

Organic food is great… though it’s not enough.

Non-GMO? Fantastic!… though it’s still not enough.

Local, sustainable, meditated on and blessed by the Dalai Lama himself … sorry to say, this still may not be enough.

You see, for optimal health… ya know, the kind of health that beams outward from the depths of one’s 5-carbon sugared backbone we typically refer to as DNA… Homo sapiens require the wild medicines from the landscape.

And, I’d love to show you how to make it all happen in this 2-part event on August 22nd!

The first part will feature a presentation on personalizing a medicinal strategy using the wild plants of the Northeastern United States. We will also begin the process of making a medicinal tincture, which can be taken home for you to finish (sorry, no alcohol allowed in this park!). Part 2 will include a hike in the park as we identify and discuss late summer edible and medicinal plants and mushrooms.

By attending this program, you will learn:

  • The importance of developing a medicinal strategy based on wild plants
  • Medicinal benefits of specific wild plants, supported by research
  • How to make wild plant infusions
  • How to make tinctures
  • Wild plant field identification
  • Wild plant nutrition
  • Plant harvesting methods
  • Latin nomenclature

… and much more!

Each participant will receive the starting materials for a wild plant extraction (which we will start in the workshop), as well as an e-book with notes from the workshop, summer medicinal plant descriptions, medicine-making instructions, and more!

This program will entail light to moderate hiking, and will take place rain or shine.  Please note that in order to maximize your learning experience, space is limited and registration with payment in advance is required to secure your spot.  The exact class meeting location will be provided upon registration.

When:  Saturday, August 22nd
Where:  North Park, Allegheny County, Western Pennsylvania (13 miles north of Pittsburgh)
Time:  1:00 – 4:00 PM
Investment: $45

To register:  Please email Adam at adamharitan@gmail.com

Come enjoy an eventful mid-summer’s day in a beautiful park with a great group of foragers!  We look forward to seeing you there!

Thanks!
-Adam Haritan

Hunting Wild Reishi Mushrooms (Ganoderma tsugae) In Hemlock Forests

wildreasonsI imagine that choosing a favorite mushroom is a bit like choosing a favorite child.

(“Who would it be, Mom?”)

Impossible to do!  Why even ask such a silly question?

However, if I had to narrow down my selection of fungi to only a handful of desirable species, surely I could do that…

… and this one, the reishi mushroom (Ganoderma tsugae), would make the cut.

Why?

Okay… another difficult question, but I’ll try to answer.

Perhaps it’s the beauty to which I’m drawn, with its lacquered hues of yellows, oranges, and reds.  Or maybe it’s the way this mushroom makes me feel internally, knowing that ample research exists to support its medicinal benefits.

Whatever the true reason, Ganoderma tsugae remains one of my favorite mushrooms to seek out and harvest, and I continue to be humbled — year after year — by its splendor.

If you are interested in learning more about the reishi mushroom, I encourage you to check out a brand new video I created.

In the video, I discuss the habitat, key identification characteristics, and medicinal benefits of this remarkable medicinal mushroom.

Enjoy!  (And if you have a second, I’d love to know what you think!)


Like what you’ve read and/or seen?  Sign up below to receive notifications for new posts, and don’t forget to check out the Facebook (facebook.com/wildfoodism) and Twitter (twitter.com/learnyourland) pages to learn more about wild food nutrition and identification!

Want to connect with naturalists in your area?  Some of them may even be reishi mushroom experts!  Check out Learn Your Land to learn more!

Thank you!
Adam Haritan

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Medicinal Mushroom Workshop and Summer Foraging Hike in Western Pennsylvania

wildreasonsGreetings!

I have some great news for you…

On Saturday, June 20th, I will be leading the Medicinal Mushroom Workshop and Summer Foraging Hike at McConnells Mill State Park… and I would love for you to join me!

If you’re interested in learning how to identify, harvest, and use medicinal mushrooms, this is the perfect event for you.  Additionally, the second half of the program includes a wild plant and mushroom foraging hike through the beautiful Slippery Rock Creek Gorge within the park.

But first, what the heck are medicinal mushrooms?

Well, picture those mushrooms that you find in the bins at the grocery store.  See them in your mind, feel them, smell them (okay, so they don’t exactly compare to lilacs).  Now imagine these fungi with several times the nutrients and medicine…

Hello medicinal mushrooms!

You see, medicinal mushrooms are the superstars of the fungal kingdom.  Plenty of research suggests that these mushrooms demonstrate powerful anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral properties, and many experts consider them to be top candidates for immune-system support.

But don’t take my word for it:

  • A 2012 study from ISRN Oncology found that Turkey Tail mushroom significantly improved the immune systems of breast cancer patients following conventional treatment.
  • Chaga mushroom is one of the richest sources of betulinic acid, a compound that has been shown to exhibit anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-HIV, anti-malaria, and antioxidant effects (Current Medical Chemistry, 2005).
  • A Maitake mushroom extract has been shown to demonstrate protection against diabetes by slowing glucose absorption in the body (Biotechnology and Applied Biochemistry, 2013).

…and the list of research goes on and on.

Now, are you ready for the best part?

Are you sure?  Positive?

Okay, here it goes…

Medicinal mushrooms grow in Western Pennsylvania!  In fact, they grow all over Pennsylvania.

That’s right… we’re talking chaga, reishi, turkey tail, lion’s mane, birch polypore, and dozens more.

Being a huge proponent of medicinal mushrooms myself, I’d love to show you how to properly identify, harvest, and create meals and medicines using these powerful mushrooms.

Additionally, if you’re interested in learning how to identify and harvest wild plants for food and medicine, I’ve got that covered, too…

The second part of the program (as I mentioned earlier) will include a hike through Slippery Rock Creek Gorge in the park as we identify and discuss the summer edible and medicinal plants.

By attending this program, you will learn:

  • The top 5 medicinal mushrooms of Pennsylvania and how to identify them
  • Medicinal mushroom health benefits
  • Where to look for medicinal mushrooms
  • How to harvest medicinal mushrooms
  • How to dry and store medicinal mushrooms
  • How to make decoctions
  • How to make tinctures
  • Wild plant field identification
  • Wild plant nutrition
  • Plant harvesting methods
  • Latin nomenclature

…and more!

When:  Saturday, June 20th, 2015
Where:  McConnells Mill State Park, Western Pennsylvania (39 miles north of Pittsburgh)
Time:  1:00 – 4:00 PM
Investment: $30

The program will entail light to moderate hiking (some rocks and steep hills), and will take place rain or shine.  Please note that in order to maximize your learning experience, space is limited and registration with payment in advance is required to secure your spot.  The exact class location will be provided upon registration.

To register, please contact me (Adam) at

adamharitan@gmail.com

Come celebrate the last day of spring in a beautiful park with a great group of foragers!  We look forward to seeing you there!

Thank you!
-Adam


Like what you’ve read?  Sign up below to receive notifications for new posts, and don’t forget to check out the Facebook (facebook.com/wildfoodism) and Twitter (twitter.com/learnyourland) pages to learn more about wild food nutrition and identification!

Want to connect with naturalists in your area?  Some of them may even be medicinal mushroom experts!  Check out Learn Your Land to learn more!

Thank you!
Adam Haritan

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Before You Buy Another Superfood, Check Your Backyard First

juneberryripe2wildfoodismI know what you’re thinking.  “Oh no, not another article on superfoods…”

Or maybe you weren’t thinking that at all, but now you are because I brought it up.

Or maybe I’m just looking into things a little too much.  Anyway…

I’m not here to proclaim that I have discovered a new miracle food – an ancient plant that sheds unwanted pounds, curbs your appetite, supercharges your immune system, and contains so many antioxidants that the concept of infinity seems miniscule in comparison.

Foods like that probably exist, but I’ll let someone else sell you on them.

Rather, my intention in writing this article is a bit different.

If you’ve felt confused over all the superfood hype – not sure which Amazonian berry should go into your morning smoothie; considering if it’s really worth spending $29.99 on 3 ounces of powdered fruit that contains more vitamin C than 12,000 oranges – I’m here to say, “It’s okay.”

Really, it is.  Your health can flourish with or without these products.

Phew, take a breath.  I just saved you some serious cash!

However,  I’m not going to let you off the hook that easily.  If I did, my writing would be done for the day, but I would also be doing everyone a big disfavor.

You see, while it may be easy to reject the whole concept of superfoods and much of what the movement stands for, there is some truth behind all the hype – enough that it may not be worth dismissing completely.  Unfortunately, though, this truth tends to become slightly twisted, causing mass confusion and ultimately… poor decision-making.

Did I just confuse you some more?  Let me explain…

Yes, superfoods are necessary

It’s true, which is why I have to pause and think whenever I hear someone declare that superfoods are bogus.

Critics will claim that our bodies can function quite well so long as they are fed by apples, bananas, oranges, cruciferous vegetables, and other items found in the grocery store’s produce department.  No need for superfoods, they say, as the true superfoods consist of our common fruits and veggies.

But therein lies the problem: “quite well” does not equate to “optimal” when defining health performance, and relying on a diet of heavily domesticated foods has never been shown to generate exceptional health, especially when analyzing health across multiple generations.

Let’s take a step back…

You see, many millennia ago, as the agricultural revolution commenced and subsequently accelerated, humans became very proficient at breeding many of the medicinal compounds out of the wild plants that once sustained our species.  What we lost in medicine we gained in taste and size.

Let’s look at an example…

The powerful medicines found in a wild plant – for instance, in wild cabbage (Brassica oleracea)protect the species from predation and consumption in the wild.  Through the process of breeding, these protective compounds are usually weakened and reduced in order to produce a tastier crop (think cauliflower).  Without the original bitter compounds, the cultivated organisms cannot defend themselves quite as well as their wild counterparts can, and as a result, they generally require the services humans provide, such as adequate sun exposure, water, food, fencing, etc.

Question:  Have you ever seen cauliflower growing in the wild?

No?  Why not?

Cauliflower is not strong enough to survive on its own.  Through years of domesticating the Brassicaceae genus, most of the protective bitter compounds have been removed.  Today we have “cauliflower,” or a subspecies of Brassica oleracea, and it absolutely requires the support of humans for its reproduction and survival.

Cauliflower tastes great and has a healthy nutrient profile.  It just doesn’t possess the same medicinal composition that a wild cabbage may contain.  Whenever we eliminate wild foods (like the wild mustards) from our diets, and instead consume only highly-domesticated species, our bodies do not receive the full spectrum of nutrition and medicine we require for optimal health.  As a result, we suffer.

Generalizing this example to our apples, oranges, bananas, and most other cultivated foods found in the produce department of our grocery stores, one can begin to see why these foods may not provide all that we need for optimal health, for they themselves are lacking in their full expression of all that they could be.

This is where the hype surrounding superfoods contains some merit.  Many of us understand the importance of a diversified diet built around high quality foods, and we look to species that generally contain not only vitamins and minerals, but potent medicines and phytonutrients as well.  Superfoods in the marketplace help us recognize that, yes indeed… an elevated class of food does exist!

However, before ending this piece and calling it a day, there is some information regarding location that I’d like to discuss.

And we’ll start by pondering this question:  Must we scour the jungles and mountains from lands far, far away to receive our superfood fix?

Superfoods – not as exotic as you’d think

To answer that question, I’d have to say “no, probably not.”

And here is where consumers tend to really get swept away by the hype.

Most species glorified as superfoods hail from far away lands – the rainforests of the Amazon, the hills of China, the mountains of Peru.

Let’s stop and think about this for a moment.  Isn’t it interesting that very few superfoods are species that naturally grow within our immediate ecosystems?

I mean, it’s as if a plant must grow at least 3,000 miles from our hometown in order to qualify.  Were the Shawnee natives deficient in beta-carotene because they didn’t have access to goji berries?  Are the Hadza hunter-gatherers lacking chlorophyll because they’re not drinking wheatgrass?

Listen, I know that most of the “superfoods” on the market are legit.  I enjoy goji berries as much as the next health-nut.  I’ve had great success introducing quality Theobroma cacao into my diet.  And wheatgrass… well, if you really enjoy the taste, more power to you.  There are more than 8,000 species of grass (Poaceae spp.) on this planet though, and why wheatgrass is the Chosen One is anyone’s guess.

But really, most of the currently marketed items are indeed quality products – if not in their plastic containers, then at least in their native habitats.  Many of the products’ claims are supported by adequate research, and most species have been consumed, in one form or another, by traditional cultures for centuries.

Surely, many people – past and present – have witnessed improvements in their lives through the consumption of these foods.  I’ve seen it happen with numerous individuals, and I’ve experienced it myself.

So it’s not as if we’re being sold bags of lies and containers full of deceit.  No, these products are fine.

It’s just that the inner-consumer inside of us can often be persuaded and tempted to purchase a novel product from a distant land – a must-have food that promises Health! Vitality! Longevity! – without pausing for a moment, taking a deep breath, and checking our backyard first.

And that is what I encourage you to do.  Check your backyard first.  Then check the nearby parks, fields, woodlands, forests, mountains, bogs, and so on.  No, not for bottles of açaí juice.  Not even for fields of green coffee beans.  We’re talkin’ ’bout the wild species that naturally inhabit these areas!

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The backyard – a treasure trove of “superfoods” (and spiders)

Remember, “superfoods” are found in all inhabitable ecosystems – not just ones characterized by 4 walls, automatic sliding doors, fluorescent light bulbs, beepin’ cash registers, and lots of manicured species on display.  As I alluded to before, true superfoods comprise the wild foods that inhabit the landscapes within which we live.

Examples, Adam, examples! 

Okay.  Here are a few.

In the past decade or so, health professionals have been geeking out over flax and chia seeds – two good sources of α-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) – shifting purslane, a wild green that thrives in disturbed areas, into obscurity.  It’s unfortunate, as purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is an excellent source of α-linolenic acid, containing between 300-400 milligrams per 100 grams of fresh material.  Purslane also contains impressive levels of potassium, magnesium, and calcium, while additionally providing gamma-linolenic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) and α-tocopherol (a form of vitamin E).

And then there are the mushrooms.  Yes, shiitake is an excellent food and medicine, and indeed it can be cultivated here in Pennsylvania.  The wild maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa), however, is truly a superfood in every sense of the word.  Research suggests that, in addition to providing the body ergocalciferol (vitamin D2), maitake can protect the body against various cancers.  Maitake has also been shown to support the immune system, regulate healthy blood sugar levels, and provide numerous dietary antioxidants.

In addition to these 2 species, the list goes on.

Morels?  Yes, they count.  Nettles?  Certainly.

So, we really do need superfoods, huh?

Yes, we do require superfoods for optimal health.  We need species that are strong, robust, wild, and very fit for their environments – species that contain their full spectrum of nutrients and medicines.

But no, we don’t necessarily need the ones that we’re tempted to purchase.  They may look flashy on the grocery store shelves, but that doesn’t mean our options are limited only to what a company can harvest, package, and sell.  It’s like getting all your information from the local TV news channel and believing that there’s nothing more to reality than what it broadcasts.  But if you turn off the TV and step outside, you’ll soon realize that there’s so much more to life than we’re being told.  (sold?)

The same goes for superfoods…

Step outside… they’re all around you! 

Well, not in a creepy kind of way.  But in a “Won’t you take me home?… I’d be happy to give ya some of those missing medicines” kind of way.

Anyway…

To summarize, while apples, oranges, bananas, cabbages, and collards are great foods to include in our diets (hey, you know I love and eat them too), they’ll never be enough. (*Note:  I believe animal products are necessary for optimal health as well, though because they’re not generally marketed as “superfoods,” I did not reference them in this article.)

We must supply our bodies with foods that not only provide macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals, but also with the medicines which, once upon a fruitful time, granted our species exceptional health.

Final thoughts

Yes, superfoods are necessary.  But let’s clarify…

The packaged ones on display?  Maybe.

Well, how about the ones in our ecosystem?  Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.  Yes, those wild and plentiful species are the true superfoods that our bodies desire and require.

Oh, and did I mention they’re free?  Because, well… they are!

Thanks for reading, and as always… happy foraging!


Like what you’ve read?  Sign up below to receive notifications for new posts, and don’t forget to check out the Facebook (facebook.com/wildfoodism) and Twitter (twitter.com/wildfoodism) pages to learn more about wild food nutrition and identification!

Thank you!
Adam Haritan

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The Health Benefits Of Drinking Maple Tree Sap

maplesapwildfoodismIf you’ve ever tapped a maple tree, surely you’ve tasted the fresh sap – unprocessed and unboiled – straight from the tree.

If you have never tapped a maple tree, perhaps you’ve got one of those nice neighbors who generously shares his or her bounty of maple sap.  Or perhaps you’ve even purchased and consumed any of the various “maple waters” on the market today.

And if you have no idea what I’m talking about (…tree sap? What the heck is that?), allow me to put this into context.

In late winter/early spring, sap rises in certain trees (i.e. maples and walnuts) due to temperature fluctuations – notably, the freeze/thaw cycle.  In other species (i.e. birches), sap flow is governed by root pressure that forms once soil temperatures reach approximately 50° Fahrenheit.  This sap contains water and dissolved nutrients (i.e. sugars) that travel up towards the branches, feeding the developing leaves.

If you’re interested in learning which trees produce sap during this season, check out this recent video I filmed.  In it, I discuss key identifying characteristics regarding 4 tappable trees, including 2 maples and 2 birches.

Let’s continue the story. 

Whenever these trees are wounded during this particular season, sap will flow from inside the trees (sapwood) out through their wounds.  Such is the case whenever we tap a tree by placing a hole into its bark.  This sap, after collection and prolonged exposure to heat, can be eventually reduced into syrup.

But wait!  Before we boil down our precious sap, transforming it into one of nature’s finest sweeteners, we can appreciate this subtly-sweet liquid for all that it is.

In other words, we can drink it.  Call me old school, but I like to drink sap unprocessed, consuming whatever I can at the source and storing the rest in containers.

Now, I am familiar with the warning that one ought to boil the sap first, as there’s a possibility that it may harbor pathogenic organisms.  If we’re managing a clean operation, however, I believe this fear isn’t always warranted.  Still, use your best judgement.

Maple sap, depending on the species, contains varying levels of sugars – notably sucrose.  Sap from the sugar maple (Acer saccharum), for example, is approximately 2% sugar.

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For the wild food chemists:  Sucrose, commonly known as “table sugar” — the predominating sugar in maple sap.

For this reason, maple sap imparts a delicate, sweet taste to the palate, one that becomes extremely concentrated during the sap’s conversion into syrup.  While I certainly enjoy maple sap for its delectable late-winter sweetness, I also appreciate its content of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, polyphenols, and other health-promoting compounds.

You see, many people are aware that maple syrup confers numerous health benefits, typically dependent to some degree on color.  In this article, I’d like to explore the health benefits associated with its often overlooked forebear, a mystifying substance that surely deserves more attention.

Introducing…

The benefits of maple sap

But first, a little history…

While maple syrup is certainly beloved by its largest producer, North America, perhaps no other country utilizes and appreciates maple sap more so than South Korea.  It is here where villagers climb the hills every year to collect sap from a maple tree known as “Gorosoe” (Acer mono).  This tradition spans almost an entire millennium.  Traditionally, villagers would create V-shaped incisions into the trees and channel the sap away with bamboo leaves.  Today, the operation is much more modernized, incorporating plastic spouts, tubing, and large holding tanks.  Unlike in North America where most sap is turned into maple syrup, Koreans drink the sap with no further processing, or instead use it as cooking water.

Okay, now onto the benefits…

Maple sap improves osteoporosis-like symptoms

“Gorosoe” translates to “the tree that is good for the bones.”  Sure, the name sounds promising, but is there any truth to it?

For starters, sap from Acer mono has been shown to contain an impressive mineral analysis, including 16 times the potassium, 37 times the calcium, and 3.9 times the magnesium contents of spring water.  All 3 of these minerals are essential for optimal bone health.

To test the bone-supporting effects of maple sap on biological systems, researchers carried out experiments where they put mice on low-calcium diets and supplemented them with various concentrations of A. mono sap (1).  Mice who were supplemented with both 50% and 100% maple sap concentrations retained normal serum calcium levels, compared to the lower serum calcium levels of mice fed spring water only and 25% maple sap.

Additionally, in the spring water-fed and 25% maple sap-fed groups, thigh bone density and length were significantly reduced, compared to the mice fed higher concentrations of maple sap.  The researchers concluded that 50% sap solution could mitigate osteoporosis-like symptoms induced by a low-calcium diet, and they attributed its mechanism to calcium ion absorption.

Maple sap prevents gastric ulcer formation

Injury to the mucosal lining of the stomach can lead to stomach ulcers.  Common causes include infection by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen, and excessive consumption of alcohol.  If stomach ulcers are left untreated, they can eventually lead to gastric cancer.

Can something as simple (and tasty) as maple sap prevent these conditions from occurring?  Researchers think so.

To test their hypothesis, researchers subjected mice to a procedure intended to cause stress-induced gastric lesions (2).  Before the researchers carried out their experiments, however, the mice were pretreated with various supplements:

  • One group received L-arginine, an amino acid known to prevent stress-induced gastric mucosal lesions.
  • A second group received omeprazole, a prescription drug used to treat stomach ulcers.
  • A third group received a freeze-dried powder of Acer mono sap.
  • A fourth group (the placebo group) received a single saline administration.

Results were … well … quite impressive!

After being subjected to the stress experiments for 6 hours, the mice in the placebo group displayed abundant lesions, on average 1-2 mm in size.  The mice who received L-arginine and omeprazole developed very few lesions.  Remarkably, the mice who received maple sap prior to the stress experiments did not present any small or large sized corrosions.

(!!!)

In other words, not only was maple sap effective, it was more effective than L-arginine and omeprazole in protecting against gastric mucosal lesions.  The mechanism behind maple sap’s protective effects seems to be related to its ability to significantly lower the mRNA expression of iNOS and nNOS, two enzymes that have been shown to play key roles in the formation of gastric lesions.

Researchers concluded that A. mono sap can be used as an ulcer remedy or for other preventive and nutraceutical purposes.

Maple sap lowers blood pressure

Like Acer mono, Acer okamotoanum is another species of maple found in Korea.  Sap concentrations of calcium, potassium, and magnesium are 37, 20, and 3.9 times higher than the levels found in spring water.  Just as calcium and potassium are two minerals that function in supporting optimal bone health, they also play a role in regulating blood pressure.

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Acer okamotoanum, a species of maple native to Korea. Source: http://www.asianflora.com

To test the blood pressure-lowering effects of A. okamotoanum sap, researchers fed hypertensive rats spring water supplemented with 25%, 50%, or 100% maple sap (3).  Compared to the rats fed only commercial spring water, the rats supplemented with all concentrations of maple sap experienced reductions in blood pressure.

Researchers attributed the blood pressure-lowering effect of A. okamotoanum sap to its concentration of potassium ions.  As an added benefit, body weight also decreased in the rats fed 50% and 100% maple sap concentrations.

Maple sap prevents hangovers

Originally, the title of this section was “Maple sap facilitates alcohol metabolism,” which is probably the more accurate phrasing of what I’m about to describe.  But hey, sometimes you just gotta use sensationalism to capture your audience’s attention!  Anyway…

As previously stated, A. okamotoanum sap contains various electrolytes (the dissolved mineral ions of calcium, magnesium, and potassium).  Because alcohol consumption has a physiological effect on the absorption, elimination, and serum concentrations of electrolytes and minerals, researchers wanted to see what effect, if any, A. okamotoanum sap had on alcohol metabolism in rats.

Researchers administered concentrations of 25%, 50%, and 100% maple sap to rats, 30 minutes prior to receiving alcohol (4).  Compared with the rats fed alcohol without any maple sap, the rats who were pretreated with maple sap demonstrated significant reductions 5 hours later in the blood concentrations of both alcohol and acetaldehyde – a toxic byproduct of alcohol metabolism.

Additionally, mRNA expression of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), two liver enzymes necessary for alcohol metabolism, was significantly increased in the rats pretreated with maple sap (increased is a good thing in this case).  The results suggest that, at least in rats, consuming maple sap prior to ingesting alcohol can increase the rate at which alcohol is metabolized in the body.  The researchers also concluded that maple sap may reduce oxidative stress associated with alcohol consumption.

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Should’ve consumed maple sap first!

Maple sap supports a healthy immune response

Whenever our bodies are exposed to pathogenic microbes, our immune systems heed the call to action.  In particular, white blood cells known as neutrophils congregate at the site of infection and engulf (think swallow) the offending microbes.  Once the pathogens are engulfed, enzymes within our bodies generate substances known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) that, through oxidation, eliminate the bad guys.

This latter process – of generating reactive oxygen species –  is necessary in order to remove pathogens, but it can also inflict damage inside our bodies.  Oxidation is an on-going process, but too much of it can be a bad thing.  Regulation, therefore, is necessary in order to balance this delicate dance between eliminating pathogens while minimally damaging host tissue.  Maple sap (A. okamotoanum) may indeed help.

To test this hypothesis, researchers treated mice, rats, and canines with a compound known to impair the immune system, then administered increasing concentrations of A. okamotoanum sap (5).  Results showed that treatment with maple sap stimulated the activity of neutrophils (immune cells) in mice, rat and canines.  Additionally, the sap enhanced the last step in this process – the elimination of microbes using ROS.

While this study was performed on animals, the researchers concluded that A. okamotoanum sap may have potential antimicrobial effects for patients with infection.

Maple sap contains antioxidants

As mentioned previously, oxidation is a natural process in the human body that, if left unchecked, can result in conditions such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease (just to name a few).  Antioxidants combat the process of oxidation, and can be produced internally as well as provided externally through the consumption of antioxidant-rich foods – for example, the sugar maple.

The sugar maple (Acer saccharum), a species native to North America, yields the highest volume and concentration of sap, making it a superior candidate for tapping.  Its sugar content is approximately 2.0%.

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Sugar maple (Acer saccharum).  Credit: Albert Herring

Antioxidants within the sap of A. saccharum have the ability to scavenge the superoxide radical (6) – a potentially destructive molecule that has been implicated in numerous diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease (7, 8).

Out of 10 compounds analyzed in sugar maple sap for their antioxidant effects, only 3 of these are found in maple syrup from the sugar maple.  What this means is that several antioxidant compounds are seemingly lost in the transformation from sap into syrup.  Perhaps this is one of many benefits to consuming maple sap in its fresh form.

Summary of health benefits:  Sap from various maple trees has been shown to provide support for osteoporosis, prevent gastric ulcer formation, lower blood pressure, mitigate alcoholic hangovers, support a healthy immune system, and offer dietary antioxidants.

Now, I understand that most of the research cited in this article involved animals as test subjects.  We – Homo sapiens –  are animals, sure, though clearly not of the mouse, rat, nor dog type.  Therefore, the academic in me will say that “though certainly promising, we cannot entirely extrapolate these findings to humans.”  Very dry, I know.  But really, researchers will claim that just because maple sap lowers blood pressure in rats doesn’t mean that it’ll do the same to you and me.

Also, I understand that most of the research on maple sap pertains to species of maple that aren’t native to the continent that produces the most maple syrup.  Out of the 6 primary research articles I reviewed, only one used the species of maple nearest and dearest to most American tapping enthusiasts – the sugar maple, Acer saccharum.  Therefore, we cannot definitively say that the sap from all species of maple will produce the exact same effects on biological systems.

However, the benefits outlined in this article should not be dismissed solely because animals were the test subjects, or because geographically-irrelevant tree species were used.  That’s nonsense.  There is no doubt that all maple sap, regardless of species, possesses an array of physiologically-active compounds including vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, and antioxidants that all confer important health benefits.

For example, sap from both the sugar and red maple (A. rubrum) has been shown to contain compounds that demonstrate anti-cancer effects (9).  Sap from the sugar maple has also been shown to inhibit nitric oxide formation, a process implicated in numerous diseases (10).

If you ask me, I’d say that all maple sap possesses therapeutic potential, and I certainly wouldn’t limit the benefits to only a handful of species.

Additionally, I feel that not only can one acquire substantial benefits by consuming pure maple sap – straight from the tree, no further processing necessary – but I feel there’s another level of therapy to be gained through the actual process of harvesting the sap oneself.  No middle man or woman… just you and the maple tree, joined together in communion by the elixir that imbues life to both it and you.

What do you think?  Maple sap for the win?  If you’ve never imbibed, I highly encourage you to try it.  One sip could change your whole life (sorry, no research to back that up). 🙂


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FREE Guide to Medicinal Mushrooms!

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What Agaricus silvaticus, The Blushing Wood Mushroom, Does For Cancer Patients

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Credit: Holger Krisp, Ulm, Germany

I’d like to begin this article with 2 very important statistics:

The chance of an American man developing cancer in his lifetime is 1 in 2.

The chance of an American woman developing cancer in her lifetime is 1 in 3.

Pause and think about that for a moment…

…no really.  Think about it.

How did we get here?  Is it bad luck that plagues our species?  (Interestingly enough, a recent study suggested that the majority of cancer cases are due to bad luck, 1)

To me, that seems just a bit nutty, though I’ll leave it at that for now.

Browsing the scientific literature, it’s apparent that numerous variables are involved in cancer development, including pesticides, asbestos, synthetic chemicals in our food, genetics, cell phone exposure, and weight.  The list goes on (2).

Needless to say, many Americans will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime.  And many will take action by seeking conventional medical treatment.  Fair enough.

This is not a website telling people what they should or should not do regarding their health.  I write articles that provide information based on evidence.  What people do with this information is up to them.

Having said that, there’s a mushroom that individuals with cancerous conditions may find interesting.  This particular fungus is known as the blushing wood mushroom (Agaricus silvaticus) – a species that can be harvested from the wild in North America and Europe.  It’s a popular edible mushroom (reported to be quite tasty, though I’ve never partaken), and many people know it only as such.

There’s more to the blushing wood mushroom than just a tasty meal, however.

Agaricus silvaticus helps individuals cope with cancerWe’re not talking about rats, nor cellular cultures in petri dishes.  We’re talking about real human beings – people with cancer who have directly improved their outcomes by consuming this mushroom.

Sounds too good to be true,  huh?

I hear ya.  Before we write this off as alternative medicine quackery, however, let’s take a few minutes to explore this a little further, shall we?

The therapeutic effects of the blushing wood mushroom

Many mushrooms have exhibited anti-cancer effects in numerous studies.  Reishi, cordyceps, and Antrodia salmonea are just a few examples.  The blushing wood mushroom is unique, however, in that most of its research involves its effects on the treatment of individuals with cancer.

For example, a study spanning two years involving breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy found that the patients who ingested Agaricus silvaticus tablets improved their nutritional parameters and experienced less side effects from drugs, including bowel dysfunction, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and fever compared to the placebo group (those who did not receive the mushroom).

Some of the specific results are quite astounding (3):

  • In patients with 3 chemotherapy cycles, 30% of patients in the placebo group reported a reduction in appetite, compared to 0% of patients consuming A. silvaticus after 3 months of treatment.
  • In patients with 6 chemotherapy cycles, 80% of patients in the placebo group reported poor appetite, while reports of poor appetite reduced with time in the A. silvaticus group after 6 months of treatment.
  • After 6 months of treatment, 70% of patients in the placebo group experienced fever, compared to 0% of patients consuming A. silvaticus.

This randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial demonstrated not only the effectiveness of A. silvaticus in patients undergoing treatment for breast cancer, but the safety of its ingestion as well.

In addition to breast cancer, additional studies have analyzed the effects of A. silvaticus on the treatment of colorectal cancer.  The lifetime risk of acquiring colorectal cancer is 1 in 20, and of the cancers that affect both men and women, it is is the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related-death in the United States (4).

Enter the blushing wood mushroom …

A series of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials demonstrated the therapeutic effects of A. silvaticus on patients undergoing treatment for colorectal cancer in Brazil.

  • One study found that colorectal cancer patients who consumed A. silvaticus (30 mg/kg/day) while recovering from surgery experienced a significant reduction in fasting blood glucose levels that remained in the healthy range.  Blood glucose levels in the placebo group increased, however, nearing prediabetic levels (5).
  • A second study in this series found that patients consuming A. silvaticus (30 mg/kg/day) while recovering from surgery experienced a significant reduction in fasting plasma glucose, total cholesterol, and blood pressure levels, compared to patients in the placebo group.  Overall, the researchers concluded that supplementation with A. silvaticus provided metabolic benefits to biochemical, enzymatic, and blood pressure parameters of post-surgical colorectal cancer patients (6).
  • A third study found that supplementation with A. silvaticus (30 mg/kg/day) produced significant benefits in hematological (blood and bone marrow) and immunological parameters of colorectal cancer patients in the post-surgical phase.  Patients in the placebo group experienced no significant changes (7).
  • And yet another study in this series discovered that supplementation with A. silvaticus (30 mg/kg/day) improved overall quality of life in post-surgical colorectal cancer patients, compared to the placebo group.  Such improvements included better mood and appetite with reduced complaints regarding restless sleep, gastrointestinal (GI) issues, and nausea.  These improvements were not seen in the placebo group (8).

What makes Agaricus silvaticus so beneficial?

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how the blushing wood mushroom imparts its beneficial effects on cancer patients.  If we look at the nutrient and chemical composition of A. silvaticus, however, we may discover pertinent clues.

The blushing wood mushroom comprises approximately 36% carbohydrates, 7% lipids (fats), and 41% protein – the rest being water, ash and fiber.  For a mushroom – and in fact for any edible food – this is an extremely high proportion of protein.

You see, protein is an essential macronutrient, not just for maintaining balanced health, but particularly for recovery from trauma, i.e. surgery (9).  In the instance of surgery, extra protein is required for tissue maintenance and wound repair.  Surgical outcomes can be improved with a higher protein diet, and perhaps the supplementation of a high protein fungus – in this case, A. silvaticus – helps to achieve this goal.

What’s more, the blushing wood mushroom is a complete protein source with high biological value (easily used by the human body).  Of course, elevated protein needs cannot be met with A. silvaticus consumption alone, though as shown in the aforementioned studies, it may help.

Looking deeper into the nutritional profile, the blushing wood mushroom contains a very high concentration of iron, zinc, copper, and potassium, with adequate amounts of calcium and magnesium, among other minerals.  It is also a good source of vitamin C (10).

In addition to its nutritional value, the blushing wood mushroom may aid the body by imparting antioxidant effects.  In a study evaluating the antioxidant potential of 5 Agaricus mushroom species, A. silvaticus demonstrated the highest “antioxidant power” of all species tested (11).  In corroboration with this discovery, the antioxidant-rich blushing wood mushroom has previously been used to reduce oxidative stress in children with HIV (12), and to prevent the development of atherosclerosis in rabbits (13).

Research has repeatedly shown the benefits of consuming an antioxidant-rich diet, especially for its role in protecting against cancerous conditions (14).  Perhaps it is this large “antioxidant power” of the blushing wood mushroom that, in addition to reducing oxidative stress and preventing atherosclerosis, also helps individuals cope with cancer.

Locating and identifying the blushing wood mushroom

By now you may be asking, “Where do I find such a mushroom?”  As it turns out, I have yet to find any A. silvaticus supplements, or any retail supermarkets selling this mushroom (if your experiences differ, please let me know!).

It’s a good thing we discuss the foraging lifestyle here at Wild Foodism, else we’d be shrugging our shoulders, calling it a day.

The blushing wood mushroom grows in the coniferous woods of North America and Europe, generally from summer through autumn.  Aptly named, its cap and stem quickly turn red when bruised, and its gills – initially pink – become darker with age.  A. silvaticus produces a brown spore print.  For a detailed description of this mushroom, check out the entry created by Rogers Mushrooms.

Let’s bring it all together

In summary, the blushing wood mushroom (Agaricus silvaticus) is an edible fungus whose utility extends beyond the arena of food into the realm of cancer treatment.  Studies have shown that ingesting A. silvaticus supplements can improve the nutritional parameters, biochemical markers, and overall quality of life in individuals with breast and colorectal cancers.  Its high protein and mineral content, in addition to its antioxidant power, may contribute to its physiological benefits.  Pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say?

Mushrooms for the win, yet again!

Thanks for reading, and as always … happy foraging!


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Adam Haritan

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Waorani Hunter-Gatherers, Excellent Eye Health, And Wild Foods

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Credit: Tom McElroy

A new study was published in the journal, Nutrition Research, comparing the excellent eye health of the Kawymeno Waorani hunter-gatherers in Amazonian Ecuador to the deteriorating eye health of the neighboring indigenous Santa Teresita Kichwa farmers.

The title of the article is “A phytochemical-rich diet may explain the absence of age-related decline in visual acuity of Amazonian hunter-gatherers in Ecuador,” and the abstract can be found here.

There are several key takeaways that I’d like to discuss, as many of them (if not all) can apply to the choices modern humans face.  Some of them seem obvious, while others may surprise you.

Key Takeaways

•The Waorani hunter-gatherers consume an average of 130 animal and plant species as part of their diet. The Kichwa farmers consume about 64.

•It appears that phytochemicals in the wide variety of plant foods confer the most benefits toward eye health in the hunter-gatherer population.

•Fruits (about 76 different species) provide the majority of phytochemicals to the Waorani diet.

•According to one Waorani hunter-gatherer, “Wao do not like vegetables, we only like fruit.” They even express disgust when they see vegetables being consumed. Their food system has no other vegetables other than 3 species of starchy tubers – cassava (Manihot esculenta) and sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas, Pachyrhizus angulatus) – one wild grain/root, and wild peanuts (Arachis sp.).

•This is a big one: Even though the Kichwa farmers consume a diet rich in organic, agriculturally produced vegetables, it’s still not enough to preserve eye health, which begins to show signs of deterioration in the 40-49 age range.

•These results are fascinating particularly because the Kichwa farmers do not read, use the computer, or do close visual work, which are all variables that contribute to vision problems in modern societies. Yet the Kichwa still show signs of eye diseases similar to what we see in Western populations.

•How is the general health of the Waorani hunter-gatherers as they age? According to the researcher’s field journal, “He [a young man] was astounded that a 72-year-old woman could run faster than he could, as we could tell from his expression, when she hit him in the testicles while he was sprinting.”

•This isn’t the first study showing a stark contrast between excellent eye health in hunter-gatherer populations, compared to deteriorating eye health in nearby agrarian communities (1, 2).

Once again, we are provided evidence that a hunter-gatherer lifestyle is anything but deprivation, hardship, and famine. What can we learn from this study?

  • Even organically raised food may not be enough to protect against age-related vision problems.
  • Eat a variety – a very, very large variety – of foods rich in phytochemicals.
  • Don’t fear (wild) fruit.

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Thank you!
Adam Haritan

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