Medicinal Mushrooms and Spagyric Preparations

My love of mushrooms started at an early age after being inspired by a beautifully pictorialized small hardcover book on mycology.  Just recently, my mother and I told one another that this our favorite book in our home library and it still resides there to this day.  I don’t emphasize enough, the amazing health benefits of mushrooms with my patients and students, so here is a brief overview of their medicinal attributes.  In general, most medicinal mushrooms are known as adaptogens, which means that they help the body deal with stress. They also stimulate the immune system, help fight cancer, and reduce inflammation.  They are most often used in Chinese medicine. My preference is to consume them as a spagyric tincture.  Very simply put, a spagyric tincture is one that is supercharged because it contains the minerals of the plant (by plant I mean either an herb or a fungi-mushroom).  Spagyric preparations are made when the ash of the plant is reunified back to the tincture from whence it came.  It is also called herbal alchemy, because it contains the aspects of Mercury, Salt, and Sulphur.  In a chemistry sense, the mineral salts neutralize the organic acids of the plant and this changes it from oil soluble to water soluble, thus making it more bioavailable and non-toxic.  I order my tinctures from feralfungi.com and my favorite is Lion’s Mane.  As with any pharmaceutical or natural product, caution and guidance must be honored.

Lion’s Mane – This mushroom is nootropic (benefits the brain) and optimizes cognitive function.  Dr. Terry Wahls recommends it to those with Progressive MS.  It is also anticarcinogenic and cardioprotective.

Reishi –Often referred to as “God of Fungi” for its anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, and liver detoxifying abilities.  It is highly adaptogenic.

Shiitaki – Often used in cuisine, shiitaki is cardioprotective, antioxidative, and reduces cholesterol.

Cordyceps – It is like the ginseng of the mushroom kingdom.  It increases energy and stamina and therefore anti-aging.

Chaga – Chaga is very popular right now and being consumed as a tea.  It holds its place as having one of the highest scores on the ORAC scale.  The ORAC scale shows which foods are the most antioxidative.

Nitrates: Harmful or Healthful?

Most health conscious people know that nitrates and nitrites are not healthy for us and can potentially cause cancer.  There are some nuances to this and so the blanket statement that they are harmful, is not completely true.

What are Nitrates and Nitrites?

A nitrate is a nitrogen atom plus 3 oxygen atoms and a nitrite is the same except it only has two oxygen atoms.  Nitrates and nitrites can occur naturally in some vegetables, such as beets, but they are also added to deli meats as a preservative, flavor, and color enhancer.  They are also produced by our body and circulate between our saliva and digestive tract. Nitrates are converted into nitrites when ingested by our saliva and digested .  Nitrites can either convert into nitric oxide (NO) which is healthy or nitrosamines which are carcinogens.  Nitric oxide is antimicrobial in the digestive tract and is a signaling molecule that dilates blood vessels. Nitrosamines are converted from nitrites when they are heated to a very high temperature in the presence of amino acids or when reacting to stomach acid.  The key here is high heat.  We typically heat meat at high temps compared to vegetables.  Just think how harmful cured hot dogs are, when heated to high temperatures on the grill.  Also, processed meat companies are required to add Vitamin C which interferes with nitrosamine production (4). Most vegetables and fruits naturally contain Vitamin C (6).

Nitrate Food Sources

Sodium nitrate cannot be added to food products that are labeled organic.  Instead organic foods and products choosing to be “naturally uncured” use sea salt, celery juice, or celery salt instead. Vegetables that are high in nitrates can mix with your saliva and can convert to nitric acid or NO. Nitric oxide remember is good for you, and I’ll explain why in a minute. It is therefore, a good idea to incorporate nitrate laden vegetables into your diet.  Beets, celery, arugula, spinach, and iceberg lettuce are all very high in nitrates (5). Fruits are less nitrate dense, with strawberries trumping the list (6).

Benefits of Nitric Oxide (NO)

Cardiovascular Health

Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow thus improving cardiac health.  In one study, dietary flavonoids and nitrates were shown to lower blood pressure depending on the availability of NO, which is dependent on the conversion of nitrate to nitrite via salivary enzymes (3).

Male Sexual Performance

For men, NO can increase testosterone and enhance erectile quality.  NO is a vasodilator, so increased blood flow to the penis.  In fact, the key ingredient in Viagra and Cialis is NO (5)

Exercise Performance

Athletes are using vegetable nitrate supplements for increased endurance and exercise performance.  Beetroot juice and potassium nitrate are popular supplements.  One study showed that a high NO diet decreased oxygen used during moderate intensity cycling, increased muscle work during fatigability tests, and improved agility in repeated sprinting tests (2).

Anti-platelet

Nitrates converted to NO were shown to reduce platelet reactivity but only in males, according to one study.  This is promising for more future studies as a concomitant to anti-platelet drug therapy (1).

My Advice Regarding Nitrates

Bacon is best cooked in the microwave to reduce nitrosamine production or cook it on a lower temperature for a longer period of time. Children have a very hard time processing excess amount of nitrates, so limit their exposure to hotdogs and processed meats (4).  My recommendation for any age, is to buy cold cuts sparingly and when you do, buy them nitrate free or uncured.  Also, when eating out, don’t order meals with cured meats, like a BLT for instance, unless the menu specifically says uncured bacon.  As a precaution, NO can give some people migraines.

  1. Velmurugan S, Kapil V, Ghosh SM, Davies S, McKnight A, Aboud Z, Khambata RS, Webb AJ, Poole A, Ahluwalia A. Antiplatelet effects of dietary nitrate in healthy volunteers: involvement of cGMO and influence of sex. Free Radic Biol Med. 2013 Dec;65:1521-32.
  2. Porcelli S, Pugliese L, Rejec E, Pavei G, Bonato M, Montorsi M, La Torre A, Rasica L, Marzorati M. Effects of a Short-Term High-Nitrate Diet on Exercise Performance. Nurtrients. 2016 Aug 31;8(9)
  3. Lovegrove JA, Stainer A, Hobbs DA. Role of flavonoids and nitrates in cardiovascular health. Proc Nutr Soc. 2017 Jan 19:1-13
  4. Gunnars, Chris. Are Nitrates and Nitrites in Foods Harmful? 2017. Healthline 4 June 2017. <https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/arenitratesandnitritesinfoodsharmful?.html.>
  5. Kuoppala Ali. 5 Food High in Nitrates to Blast Your Nitric Oxide Levels Through the Roof. 2014. Anabolic Men. <https//www.anabolicmen.com/amp/>
  6. Dubois, Sirah.  Fruits and Vegetables That Are High in Nitrates. 2017. Livestrong 3 October 2017. <https://www.livestrong.com/article/5413.

Coriander and Cilantro: A Nutritional Prospective

My friend Leslie is the one who told me that coriander and cilantro come from the same plant, Coriandrum sativum.  I had no idea, so I decided to research this, especially to see how they differ nutritionally. Cilantro is the green leafy part and the coriander is the seed. Cilantro is the spanish word for […]

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The Slick Truth About Cooking Oils

When cooking with oils, there are a few important things to consider. What are you using the oil for: frying, sautéing, or drizzling on food? Also, from a culinary standpoint, what flavors are you looking to enhance your food? For example, when I cook Asian cuisine I like to use sesame seed oil. I love […]

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Genetically Engineered Food- Is it Safe?

Here’s the scoop about GMO’s.  GMO stands for genetically engineered organism.  Are they safe?  The verdict is still out. In rat studies, massive tumors were exhibited at age 13 months old in rats that were fed a small portion of their diet (11% being Genetically modified). In humans this study equates to tumors showing up […]

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My Tips for Traveling with Low Back Pain

Let’s face it, it’s hard to drive long distances with back pain.  The ideal situation would be to get out of the car every 20-30 minutes to stand, move around, or stretch, but that’s not too practical, especially traveling long distances.  Here’s my tricks to try to bring relief to the low back pain sufferer. […]

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My Protocol for Getting Rid of Poison Ivy Naturally and Quickly

Since my daughter was little, she has been extremely allergic to poison ivy.  I’ve had to come up with a method that was both safe and natural to get rid of it quickly.  Poison ivy can be contracted from direct contact with the plant or also from contaminated clothes, garden tools, and even pets. 1) […]

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Lamb Meatballs

Marc and I made these delicious lamb meatballs last night using Sabra’s hummus and tzatziki sauce.  Here’s our recipe. Enjoy with cut up veggies with hummus and roasted asparagus. Ingredients -1 lb of ground lamb (we bought lamb shoulder and trimmed and ground it ourselves with one onion) -2 oz of Sabra classic hummus -1/2 […]

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Natural Remedies for the Common Cold

This past fall I had the honor of teaching at Western Connecticut State University and I wrote and taught a class never been offered before on food as medicine, supplements, herbs and homeopathy.  I taught each section individually and then at the end of the semester, as a class, we used all of what we […]

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Stress and the Effect on One’s Health

   The key to optimal health is the avoidance of stress (see types of stress below) and the implementation of healthy habits.  One of the most important jobs I have as a chiropractor is to help people discover their sources of stress and eliminate them or help improve them.  I also, teach people healthy habits […]

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