JS writes: “I was wondering if you could advise me on the use and consumption of milk/kefir made out of the Tibetan mushrooms.”
The four varieties of Tibetan mushrooms – cordyceps, chanterelles, boletus and lion’s mane – have shown some promise in laboratory studies for their nutritional value. They contain varying amounts of minerals such as copper, zinc, iron and silenium, as well as healthy fatty acids and vitamins A, D, and E. Besides all this, they are naturally low in calorie and high in fiber.
According to this article appearing in sfgate.com, these mushrooms are mostly grown in the Tibetan plateau and are fermented to make kefir, a probiotic drink.
Some studies, such as one appearing in the February 2011 edition of Cancer Management and Research found that kefir was able to control the growth of various types of cancer such as Leukemia. Another study, published in October 2010 in the Journal of Food Science, found that kefir possesses anti-allergic properties.
“Kefir also contains sugar, lipids and proteins that bind together to form polysaccharide grains,” writes Rebecca Howard for sfgate. “These grains have aphrodisiac properties that may enhance your mood. Since kefir is brewed by fermenting the mushrooms in yeast, the resulting mixture contains low amounts of alcohol. This is responsible for the warm, dizzy feeling that drinkers report experiencing. Tibetan mushrooms also possess anti-aging properties, according to a research study by Chinese scientists published in March 2012 in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.”
Specifically, the Cordyceps or “caterpillar” mushroom variety is considered to be the most important medicinal mushroom of Tibet.
“In a review of research published in the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis in 2000, researchers from National Yang-Ming University determined cordyceps has significant health benefits, as demonstrated in a range of studies,” writes Joel Le Blanc for Livestrong.
“Cordyceps is antioxidant, immune stimulating, anti-tumour, anti-fatigue, hypocholesterolemic, adrenal tonic and energy enhancing. This edible mushroom has a wide range of uses in human health and is an important product to the economy of Tibet, as wild Tibetan cordyceps is regarded as the best to use.”
Chanterelles are the most popular edible mushroom in the U.S. and Europe with several species native to Tibet. Studies have found this variety to contain as much as 2,500 international units of Vitamin D per 100 grams of dried chanterelle.
The boletus variety – aka Porcini mushroom – grows wild throughout Asia and Tibet and has been found to contain antibacterial, antiviral and anti-tumor activities which may benefit the human immune system.
The Lion’s Mane variety is the most rare of the four types. Laboratory studies have found that extracts of Lion’s Mane have a medicinal effect on the nervous system.
“In a double-blind clinical study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2009, researchers from the Mushroom Laboratory in Japan studied the effects of Lion’s Mane mushroom in patients. Those given the mushroom noticed a significant improvement in cognitive function compared to placebo. More research is still required to test the effects of Lion’s Mane in patients suffering from multiple sclerosis and other conditions affecting damaged nerves and myelin,” Le Blanc writes.
A more detailed study of Tibetan mushrooms can be found here.
Although it is generally thought to be safe and nutritious, WebMD does warn that kefir can cause constipation (especially when beginning to use) and stomach cramping. There is also concern that persons with compromised immune systems might develop infections from the bacteria and yeast that are naturally found in kefir.
“The appropriate dose of kefir depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for kefir. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.”