Home' Nova National : July 2011 Contents HEALTH NATUROPATHY
© NOVA JULY 2011
JEREMY HILL: NDAdv, HMAdv, NutAdv
AS A CHILD GROWING up on a farm in
the Avon Valley one of the highlights for
me was mushroom season, calling for
pocket knives to be drawn and buckets
at the ready as we kids would hang off
the edge of the old farm ute and set out
for the “mushroom hunt”. As hunts go this
was a tame event, given that the like-
lihood of a mushroom taking flight or
fighting back was... well, unlikely. Finding
the mushroom “herd” wasn’t really hard
either – they were most prolific in the
non-arable rocky ridges and hills that rose
up to serve as geographical boundaries.
These were areas where I would spend a
great deal of my childhood horse riding,
running with my dog, jumping from
rocks, splashing and digging in the natural
spring and searching for (and often
finding and catching) a small army of
runners and wrigglers, most harmless and
some not so harmless. Often, I would
simply find a high vantage point and just
sit and think; sometimes I would take a
pencil and paper to sketch the glorious
views. These memories are precious indeed.
I think much of the joy of my child-
hood must have been due to the fact I was
living a life that was so deeply connected
to nature, perhaps also driven by some
primitive urge to hunt and gather, from
which I confess my inner caveman
derived a great deal of satisfaction.
Mushroom hunting was an integral part
of this and very productive too – we often
didn’t have enough buckets.
Later that day the house would be
full of the glorious smell of mushrooms
stewed en masse with butter, pepper, salt,
a little flour and some milk in the biggest
pot in the house. This much loved dish
would be served on toast, usually with a
side of homegrown eggs and tomatoes.
I still love my big breakfasts, although
these days my mushrooms come in brown
paper bags and they tend to be lightly
sautéed, not stewed.
Not that long ago an advertisement for
mushrooms spruiked this fungal delight
as “meat for vegetarians”. This rather non-
specific claim was probably a reference
to the fact that bacteria on the surface of
mushrooms appear to provide a small
amount of active and bio-available vitamin
B12, a nutrient normally only present
in foods sourced from animals such as
meats, dairy, eggs and seafood. The amount
of B12 that can be sourced from eating
mushrooms still seems to fall well short
of the required daily amount needed to
maintain health, so B12 supplementation
is strongly recommended for vegans and
most vegetarians. As a meat replacement,
mushrooms also fall well short in protein
content, with my quick calculations
putting meat at around eight times richer
in protein than mushrooms, gram for
Regardless, mushrooms are still terrific
sources of nutrition, providing a number
of essential micronutrient vitamins and
minerals, as well as being extremely high
in antioxidants. Mushrooms are also full
of water and have a not inconsequential
amount of fibre, as well as being very low
in carbohydrates and fat. And they have
very few calories, thus providing an ideal
way for the weight conscious to fill up
without fattening up.
From the therapeutic perspective,
mushrooms have a strong history of use
as medicinal foods in traditional Asian
medicine, with the Shiitaki, Reiishi,
Coriolus and Cordyceps (a fungi which
grows underground by using a caterpillar
larvae as its unfortunate host) among
the better known examples. The uses of
these remedies range from tonics for
the immune-compromised, to immune
balancing effects for various autoimmune
disorders, to dampening down inflam-
matory immune responses, as well as
playing roles in clearing upper respiratory
infections and even treating certain
therapeutic mushrooms include enhanc-
ing energy levels in the fatigued and
assisting in recovery and convalescence
from illness. Recently, the simple button
mushroom has also shown promise as
an immune stimulant and an inhibitor of
enzymes, which are known to promote
hormonally sensitive cancers, although
more research has been done on the
more exotic mushrooms.
There is a wide variety of mushrooms
available in many supermarkets these
days in either the fresh form or dried
and ready for storage in the pantry.
We use these dried forms a lot in our
house, frequently adding them to soups,
stir fries and casseroles. There are also
several blends of standardised therapeutic
extracts available in supplement form by
naturopathic prescription for those who
require more specific treatments.
Depending on your needs, there are
several members of the fungi family you
can choose to incorporate into your
routine. At the very least, I suggest
you eat more simple and tasty button
mushrooms, but if you want to get a little
more adventurous with your cooking,
the evidence suggests you may get a lot
more out of the effort than just a tastier
Good health, Jeremy Hill.
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