Friday, 15 July 2011

No Class. Yet still doing homework...

So my next attempt at some homework. The Pharmacopeia... when I find the write book I want as well... which I will no doubt find when I go for a wander in Paperchase!

I like the idea of consumable herbal remedies, and not infusions! I may be the pickiest person in the world to try and get to eat things and drink things... so I figure, I am also the perfect person to find something that is not only herbally-infused and tasty but aesthetically pleasing. I believe herbal remedies have to be acceptable to the palate, acceptable to the majority, be fun to make and prepare, and be as easily accessible as pharmaceuticals. Because, lets be honest, pharmaceuticals, over the counter drugs and supermarket stock lists - they make everything easily accessible, to the point of its easier to go and buy some Paracetamol than even considering that your headache may be down to dehydration. They make for an easy fix. And the only major issue I see with herbal preparations, is that it may take some time before an effect can be clearly noticed, whether or not in the long run the herbal preparation is considerably more successful than any pharmaceutical medicines. It is a mindset of the times, that pharmaceutical medicines will always work and herbal preparations don't have that set success rate - whether or not that is actually true. As there is a lot of published evidence, for example, showing that anti-depressant are as successful as placebos when given to people with mild to moderate cases of depressions - so surely, this gives a herbal preparation a standing chance? As whatever "level" of depression is suffered by the patient, a herbal remedy can be concocted to suit the particular patient.

Anyways, slight diversion from the point there. Basically, instead of making a variety of creams, lotions and salves, I prefer to make cordials, syrups, treats and culinary delights to make herbal preparations accessible to all ages and, lets be honest, fun to make!

This will, of course, make its way into a proper Pharmacopeia with the relevant recipe and a range of photos to show the process - as that makes everything easier!

However, after my little collection day and drying day - Nettles, Mint and Rose Petals. I had an urge to create things. So using fresh Mint and the zest and juice of a Lemon, I made - what turned out to be - very scrummy little cupcakes.
Mint and Lemon cupcakes.

Iced and decorated Mint and Lemon cupcakes.

Then while pursuing through several recipe books, I found the delightful recipe for Green Tea drizzle cake - while searching the cupboards for Green Tea I came across a fabulous Neal's Yard mix - which I won't share with you just yet, as the cake has not been made yet, however I did make the syrup. After a failed attempt, I tried once more to make the syrup - success! Tinting it with some vodka to help preserve it, I shelved it next to my nice little glass jars filled with dried herbs - Practical Magic herb room here I come!

And my new idea... is to create a flapjack, and instead of using the standard golden syrup, to use a herbal-infused syrup. 

I know, they have the downside of being sweets, treats and confectionery - however, who doesn't like a cake? And if its filled with good stuff, makes it even better right?! 

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Final Day

The much feared and dreaded day arrived. 

As per usual I rolled into class late, mornings and me don't get on very well. Successful start to the day - almost crash into a Hort student in the corridor, crash into the locked door, then proceed to read aloud a note that has been left for Amy and myself on the floor, following this reading with a very loud "damn!" I turned around and marched up to the Nursery plots - all while the poor Hort student is behind me, crashing into me as I stop abruptly and then I can feel the "oh dear god" look as I read aloud. 

Rucksack included I marched up to the Nursery beds, to find the rest of the class presenting their beds - for the second week in a row to both Catherine and David this time, instead of Lee. We summarised, that Leigh had seen the bed's from a horticulturist point of view, while David was marking us on the herbal element of the garden, and our reasoning behind such. 

Sarah as always, due to the curse of being the first alphabetically by surname, stood first to explain her stunning garden.Calendula and wild Poppy's bloomed beautifully in abundance, while her garden had flourished in the - somewhat questionable - Scottish summer. The curse of being next in line in the alphabetical order, is I had to talk about my garden after Sarah - nightmare! I stammered and stumbled my way through explaining exactly why it looked the way it did, and why I'd done it that way - a debatable topic most of the time! Thankfully, having done the profiles for the garden the week before, I knew, if only vaguely what each plant kind of did. David was forgiving in his questioning and just wanted to prize any knowledge we had from our heads. 

Margaret followed me, with her perfectly organised garden, labelled and designed so as to include different areas of the body and botanicals that worked on such areas.
Then Ally with her garden based on old medicinal wheels - using an oval shape, she'd separated the garden into seasonal materia medica and duly pin-pointed North, South, East and West.
Christa then explained her Bees and Tea's garden - due to her love of weeds, she'd allowed the borage to have its run, creating a bright display of blue/purple flowers. And as I watered the garden, I noticed the array of half hidden saucers and cups that once filled with water provided baths and bars for the bees.
Finally Amy presented her garden for insomniac's, filled with nervines, that the last time I'd seen they'd been inches high but now flourished beautifully. Amongst her checkerboard-grass design, viola's created a carpet of purple.

The girls were pro's at presenting, each knowing exactly what to say and how to answer, after having faced Leigh's gaze the week before. Once completed and each plot water thoroughly, we trudged back down to the classroom - where, once again, the girls had completely and utterly shown me and my lack of preparation up! The back table was covered with different covers, flowers adorned each selection of work, small shelving units stood displaying the various green pharmacy concoctions, completed herbariums lay in immaculate condition next to herbal journals and pharmacopeias. I stood, shocked, mine was literally going to be a pile of printed paperwork, and a couple of green pharmacy preparations that we'd made in class!

(All photos are borrowed from Herbology 101)

The Herbologists at lunch - terrorising the cafeteria with our bursts of uncontrollable laughter.

After lunch we got back to the classroom before Catherine and David arrived, while the girls made tea, I quickly scattered my paperwork in a fan across the desk, sitting my dissertation (the only one to have been completed) in pride of place, with my green pharmacy preparations sitting behind - then, to try and make my display look slightly interesting, I scattered freshly picked Calendula flower heads across everything that wasn't moving. While the rest, as well as the wild Poppy I lay out on sheets of paper to dry. 

So we cracked open the champagne and began!

David and Catherine returned for the next bit of marking and explanation. Sarah as always was first, with her seaweed-themed creations. Her herbarium was a work of art, each seaweed carefully placed that they actually appeared to be ink drawings. 

Sarah's table top display

Margaret then followed, with her extended array of tinctures, her carefully handwritten herbal journal and pharmacopeia, and her herbarium. Followed with her homemade Seabuckthorn Gin - a potent mixture that with a lemonade mixer I could see becoming very popular! And her fantastic physic garden design, including deadly Schedule 3's fenced off in a fantasy-like idea, a garden that encompassed 'good' and 'bad'.

Margaret's table top display - and physic garden design

Christa then followed, her table covered in petals and flower heads, an vivid display of colour that covered her Nursery garden planting scheme, but that cleverly complemented the beautiful pictures she had chosen to be the covers for her herbal journal (first ever completed journal!) and her pharmacopeia. And despite a lack of patience at times, her herbarium was literally dancing off the pages!

Christa's table top display

Ally was next, with her spectacular display of embroidery, home-made herbal journal (her flatmates t-shirt had been well re-used), as well as a "how to" pharmacopeia - easily taking you through recipes, the herbologist's version of a dummies guide! Definitely a seller for sure! She had a large collection of tinctures, creams and green pharmacy preparations that she had prepared at home and used. 

Ally's table top display

Amy - even though she isn't graduating this year, took time away from her camera to show us some of the green pharmacy preparations she'd made. Including a Viola tincture where she'd managed to capture the very essence of the flower. 

Amy's Viola Sleep-Inducing Syrup

I was last to sum up the day with my paperwork and Powerpoint display, flickering through screenshots of this very blog - as it does constitute part of the homework!Then it was a case of explaining my very few green pharmacy preparations - getting put on the spot about Comfrey - and generally explaining in brief detail why I had such a pile of paperwork and no herbarium as of yet!

My table top display

And with that, came the end of our Herbology classes. Bearing in mind we still all have homework to finish and submit! So Sarah cracked open a bottle of Botanist gin, threw in some Spring Blast icecubes - slightly bitter I must add - and mixed us up with some tonic. Cheers to the end of our Herboloy Tuesdays!

Monday, 4 July 2011

(8) Depurative and Alterative Remedies

Using our Seasonal Materia Medica knowledge of the tonic blood cleanser herbs, we are to formulate, in theory only, a herbal preparation that one may refer to as “Wild Bear’s Medicine”.

A “Wild Bears Medicine” is effectively a Spring remedy, to re-mineraliser, re-energise, and regenerate after the Winter. The name for this medicine comes from the fact that after winter, wild bears come out of hibernation, and due to their need for nutrition they gorge on the wild Garlic that is growing at that time.

I believe, that for a Spring remedy that is to rejuvenate the body after a long winter, a tonic, concentrated down into a cordial would be the most appropriate remedy. Making a cordial, therefore allows, that the tonic can be consumed over a longer period of time, it also gives the option of consuming some when you’re feeling a bit low and in need of a boost.

Botanicals I would include in this cordial would be:
  • Nettle – Urtica diocia
  • Lemon Balm – Melissa officinalis
  • Herb Robert – Germanium Robertianum F geraniaceae
The three botanicals have their own distinct taste, some not as pleasant as others, so to mask the less pleasing tastes, you could add orange and lemon zest, to boost the flavour of the Lemon Balm – so as the over-riding flavour would be sharp and tangy.

The reason I wanted Nettle in the cordial is for its diverse array of benefits, it is not only a nutritious blood tonic and re-mineraliser – yielding high quantities of calcium, iron and vitamin C, but and eliminative and detoxifier, anti-rheumatic, hypotensive, hypoglycaemic and galatogogue. However, the most interesting aspect of the Nettle is its natural anti-histamine properties.
If taken in a Spring cordial, the Nettle would provide natural anti-allergy protection, this would be hugely beneficial, especially for those that suffer hayfever. As whether or not you suffer from the symptoms of hayfever, all can feel the effect of a high pollen count – it would also help to nullify the “summer cold” symptoms. All-in-all the Nettle included would bring a huge boost to the cordial’s potency.

The use of Lemon Balm in the cordial, is not only for its over-riding flavours which will make the cordial pleasant to drink, but for its ability to soothe low spirits, calm and relax the nerves and alleviate stress. It can be compared with the effectiveness of mint in the soothing effect it has on the stomach and the positive effect it has on the digestive system. It contains volatile oils, including citronella and citrals A and B, which can be noted for Lemon Balm’s soothing and sedative properties. Lemon Balm’s antioxidant properties show to improve memory and attention span, they would also improve the body’s internal condition.
Finally, using Herb Robert in the cordial – little information is available on the constituents, however this herb is an outstanding enhancer of the immune system. Full of volatile oils, a natural bitter, high quantities of vitamin A, B complex and C, as well as the minerals: calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and germanium – which makes oxygen available to the cells. It is also anti-viral, an antioxidant, antibiotic, anti-cancer, digestive, diuretic, astringent and a sedative.
It is known nowadays primarily for its anti-cancer properties. However it also improves the function of the liver and gallbladder. The Doctrine of Signatures, due to the red stems of the herb, believed it was good for regenerating blood, and some of its uses show that it alleviates the symptoms of cold’s – sore throats etc.

Making the cordial is a simple process, requiring no specialised equipment, everything can be found in your kitchen cupboard – spare the fresh herbs of course.

Firstly you will need: 1 big pan, an available hob, 1 wooden or plastic spoon, one fine sieve or muslin, and a storage bottle or ice cube container – personal preference.

For the ingredients you will need:
  • 2 handfuls (rough estimate) of fresh Nettle leaf (preferably the top, soft leaves)
  • 3 handfuls (rough estimate) of fresh Lemon Balm leaf
  • 1 handfuls (rough estimate) of fresh Herb Robert leaf
  • 1 litre Water
  • ¾ lb Raw Cane Caster Sugar
  • Zest and Juice 1 Orange
  • Zest and Juice 1 Lemon
 The zest and juice volume may alter dependent on personal preference.

The procedure of making the cordial is fairly simple:
  1. Dissolve the Sugar and Water together in a large pan
  2. Gently bring this syrup-mixture to the boil
  3. Boil rapidly for 7-10 minutes
  4. Remove from the hob and add the rest of the ingredients – not all leaves may fit at once so add in batches
  5. Allow to steep (infuse) for 5-10 minutes – removing burnt leaves as applicable
  6. Strain through a fine sieve or muslin
  7. Bottle and clearly label
Keep the cordial refrigerated and use within a couple of weeks of preparation. Alternatively, freeze in an ice cube container and defrost as required. Remember to add water to drink. 

Sunday, 3 July 2011

(7) Ethnomedica: Remembered Remedies

For the ethnomedica project I will give an overview of the points mentioned within the interview, before selecting one botanical and conducting a separate in-depth profile.

The interviewee’s were Charles Cooper, born in 1934, and Jennifer Cooper (maiden name: Wallwork), born in 1937.

 Charles Cooper:
  1. A homemade remedy to cure warts. When a Crowfoot plant is broken, it leaks a milky coloured liquid – this would be dropped directly onto the wart and after 2-3 applications the wart died.
  2. For stomach upsets, cramp or nausea. Drink a strong infusion of Peppermint tea, made with the fresh leaves.
  3. To stop diarrhoea. Eat fresh Tomatoes.
  4. For stomach ache. Chew on Liquorice root – “it’s like chewing on an old piece of wood”
  5. For toothache. Chew on Cloves.
Jennifer Cooper:
  1. To promote hair growth and thickness. Given a thick liquid made with Olive oil and extract of Rosemary.
  2. Facial cream for women. Chamomile leaves and extract were mixed with lanolin – very greasy though.
  3. For rashes, measles etc. Chamomile was used – however it was combined but these herbs are not remembered.
  4. For fevers or to ease a chesty cough. Borage tea infusion was given.
  5. For stings and bites. Lavender was rubbed directly onto the sting/bite.
  6. To keep clothes fresh over the winter. Pomander filled with dried Rose petals, Lavender, Clove, and if possible Lemon Balm or Rosemary.
  7. To control acne. A strong Dandelion infusion, to be taken daily.
  8. To cure bad breath. Chew on pieces of fresh Thyme.
  9. For tonsillitis. A concentrated Thyme and Lemon Balm infusion was given – strong tasting so sugar was used to sweeten.
  10. For greasy hair. Rinse with Nettle tea.
  11. For headaches and aching joints. A Feverfew infusion was given.
I will be doing a profile on Liquorice.

 Liquorice Root

Liquorice is the common name for Glycyrrhiza glabra, it is also called “Mulaithi” in Northern India, and is also known as licorice and “sweet root”. A member of the Fabaceae family – a legume, related to beans and peas, it is not related to anise, star anise, or fennel, which are the sources of similar-tasting flavouring compounds. It is native to southern Europe and parts of Asia. Typically liquorice grows best in deep valleys, well-drained soils with full sun, and is harvested in the autumn, two to three years after planting.

It is a herbaceous perennial, growing to 1 metre in height, with pinnate leaves about 7-15 cm long, with 9-17 leaflets. The flowers are 0.8-1.2 cm long, purple to pale whitish blue, produced in loose inflorescence. The fruit is an oblong pod, 2-3 cm long, containing several seeds.
The flavour of liquorice comes mainly from a sweet-tasting compound called anethole – an aromatic, unsaturated ether compound also found in anise, fennel, and several other herbs. Much of the sweetness in liquorice comes from glycyrrhizin, a compound sweeter than sugar.

The root of G.glabra is used, shredded or powdered.

Active Constituents
Volatile oil, coumarins, chalcones, triterpenes, flavonoids, isoflavones (phytoestrogens), glycosides (glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhizinic acid), saponins, bitter, asparagine, oestrogenic substances.

Expectorant, demulcent, anti-inflammatory, adrenal agent, anti-spasmodic, mild laxative, glycogen-conservor, adrenal restorative (due to the glycosides that have a similarity to body steroids), ACTH-like activity on adrenal cortex, female hormone properties, regulates salt and water metabolism, anti-stress, anti-ulcer, anti-viral, increases gastric juices by up to 25% without altering pH, aldosterone-like effect, liver protective, anti-depressive, diuretic, tonic, emenagogue laxative.

“Liquorice is recorded as a cancer remedy in many countries”
J.L.Hartwell, Lloydia, 33, 97, 1970)

Liquorice is one of a group of plants that have a marked effect upon the endocrine system. The glycosides present have a structure that is similar to the natural steroids of the body. They explain the beneficial action that liquorice has in the treatment of adrenal gland problems such as Addison’s disease, as Liquorice has sodium-retention properties. It has a wide usage in bronchial problems such as catarrh, lung troubles, bronchitis and coughs in general. Liquorice is used in allopathic medicine as a treatment for peptic ulceration – as it reduces gastric juice secretion, a similar use to its herbal use in gastritis and ulcers – such as mouth ulcers and duodenal ulcers. It can be used in the relief of abdominal colic, as well as lesser causes, such as an inflamed stomach. It can also be used in cases of hypoglycaemia. In the absence of more effective remedies of value, it can be used to treat mild cases of food poisoning. And finally, can also be used to prevent urinary tract infections.

A traditional Chinese remedy is to use Liquorice against tuberculosis. In TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), Liquorice is commonly used in herbal formulae to “harmonise” the other ingredients in the formula and to carry the formula to the twelve “regular meridians” and to relieve a spasmodic cough. The meridian is a path through which the life-energy known as “qi” is believed to flow.

Throughout Japan, the compound glycyrrhizic acid, found in Liquorice, is routinely used for the treatment and control of chronic viral hepatitis, and there is a possible transaminase-lowering effect.

However there is a toxicity limit when consuming or using Liquorice. Excessive consumption can be toxic to the liver and cardiovascular system, and may produce hypertension and edema. Also if over-consumed, it may result in low potassium levels, high blood pressure and falls in renin and aldosterone. Where taken for a long period, increase intake of potassium-rich foods. May also cause fluid retention of the face and ankles which could be tolerated while primary disorder is being healed.

Recurring pattern of Use
There has been a long history of traditional usage in Chinese medicine, for a variety of reasons, mainly for strength and longevity.

The reason I did a profile on Liquorice is due to an interviewee mentioning that they remembered, as a child, being given the root to chew to relieve stomach ache. This is a legitimate claim, as unlike most popular ulcer medications, such as cimetidine, liquorice does not dramatically reduce stomach acid; rather, it reduces the ability of stomach acid to damage stomach lining by encouraging digestive mucosal tissues to protect themselves from the acid.
Dr. Robert Rister, in his book, “Healing Without Medication”, suggests eating liquorice root to reduce stomach pain. He explains that liquorice works to ease stomach aches in two ways: it stimulates the regeneration of the mucous membranes of the stomach, and acts as an anti-inflammatory on the stomach lining.
 However, there is evidence to show that excessive consumption will cause, amongst other symptoms, stomach pains.

2.       Bartram, T., “Bartram’s Encycolpedia of Herbal Medicine”, Robinson, 1998
3.       Hoffmann, D., “Holistic Herbal”, Thorsons, 1990
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(5) Medicinal Fungi Profile

Fungi (yeasts, moulds, mushrooms) have played an important role in Chinese culture for at least 4000 years, with oral tradition dating back perhaps 7000 years. Written and oral accounts refer to the healing powers of several varieties of medicinal fungi, the spores of the common puffball were probably the most widely used initially, applied externally to heal scalds, burns, and general pains of the body, while the giant Agarikon fungi was widely chosen as a curative for stomach ailments.
Fungi and its various medicinal applications began being listed in Chinese medicinals, particularly the Shen nung Pen ts’ao king, and the Ming I pie lu, about 3000 years ago, and were even mentioned in classic Chinese literature. One family of fungi referred as a chi (quite possibly the reishi), has several entries in both volumes, including the green variety which is said to “brighten the eye, strengthen the liver, quiet the spirits, improves the memory, and prolongs life”, while the yellow variety is said to “act on the spleen as a tonic and constructive”.
Similarly, a number of other varieties of fungi are listed for their purported healing properties. Among those, three varieties in particular, Hoelen (a mushroom cultivated on the roots of the Chinese red pine trees), caterpillar fungus, and ergot are currently drawing broad interest from the Western medical community. Interest that has led to the discovery of exactly why these plants are beneficial to human health.

One of the greatest findings in recent years concerning the natural curative powers of plants is scientific proof that fungi contain a number of compounds that can stimulate immune function and inhibit tumour growth in humans.
Among these compounds, those termed polysaccharides, which are large, complex chains of molecules constructed of smaller units of sugar molecules, are also found in lichens (a symbiosis of fungus and green alga), bacteria, and even from the cell walls of yeast (a carbohydrate called zymosan). These immune-activating polysaccharides are similar to those found in more complex plants such as Echinacea and astragalas (a widely used Chinese herb) – these have been found to do amazing things to our body.
These giant polysaccharide molecules are similar to ones found in the cellular membranes of bacteria, and thus, trick our immune system into believing it is being invaded, and accordingly, it mounts an immune response. While this perceived threat poses no actual danger to our bodies, this immune response triggers the increase of a number of powerful immune activities including macrophage and “killer” T-cell (white blood cell) activity. Polysaccharides are not the only active components found in fungi, nor is immune and anti-tumour activity the only influence they have.

Smaller compounds such as terpenes and steroids present have also been shown to resist the growth of tumours, and a number of what are called “protein-bound” polysaccharides have even shown to have antibiotic and anti-viral properties, as well as the ability to lower blood pressure and reduce blood-level lipids (fats) and sugar. These properties make fungi especially useful in treating infections, flu, diabetes, various heart conditions, and according to many studies, perhaps the HIV. But as research into these fascinating plants continues, there’s no doubt but that other benefits will be discovered.

I will be looking at the background and medicinal uses of the Shiitake mushroom.

Lentinula edodes, common Japanese name, Shiitake, is an edible mushroom, which is now cultivated and is the second most commonly produced edible mushroom in the world. It grows naturally on fallen wood of broadleaf forests and according to a Chinese physician of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Wu Juei, it preserves health, improves stamina and circulation, cures colds and lowers blood cholesterol.

Published evidence finds that the anti-tumour claims are substantiated, especially those of the lentinan polysaccharide isolated from Shiitake - the most highly researched bioactive molecule isolated from shiitake is the pure b(1à3)-D-glucan lentinan. Lentinan is also found to be an immunomodulator, although the medicinal value of these findings are yet to be reliably established. Cholesteremic effects were shown but there was disagreement over the details of the effects. It was concluded that Lentinula edodes does have much potential in medicine but further research is needed.

As an anti-cancer drug, it has proven effective in prolonging the survival of cancer patients, particularly those with gastric and colorectal cancer. Work in both human and murine models has shown both Shiitake and lentinan extract to be effective anti-tumour agents, and extensive work in Japan has lead to them pioneering the use of lentinan in clinical medicine. The results are very promising but until more clinical studies are conducted particularly with randomised controlled trials, it seems unlikely that lentinan will be accepted into Western clinical medicine.
Active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) is an α-glucan-rich compound isolated from Shiitake. In Japan, AHCC is the second most popular complementary and alternative medicine used by cancer patients. In addition, animal research has shown that AHCC may increase the body’s resistance to pathogens as shown in experiments with the influenza virus, West Nile encephalitis virus, and bacterial infection. Animal research has shown AHCC may enhance immune function.

Oral indigestion of whole mushroom extracts has shown to modulate certain immune functions, although the oral administration of the polysaccharide lentinan is ineffective. The differences in effectiveness between Shiitake and the lentinan extracted indicates that other constituents of the mushroom may have a bioactive role – the mechanisms are yet unclear.
Other significant effects of Shiitake’s immunomodulatory effects are increased host resistance to bacterial and viral infections. Lenthionine, a sulphur containing peptide from Shiitake has anti-bacterial and anti-funal activity and bis[(methylsulfonyl)methyl]disulphide, a derivative of lenthionine, has strong inhibitory effects against Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis and Escherichia coli. The chloroform and ethylacetate extracts of the dried mushroom have bactericidal activity against both growing and resting Streptococcus mutans and Prevotella intermedia. Only a few studies have explored Shiitake’s antibacterial components, and these have concentrated on their potential in terms of oral origin – there is a lack of significant studies in this area.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has shown some weakness to Shiitake extracts in several experiments. Some studies have shown several fractions of LEM (an aqueous extract of the Shiitake and its solid culture medium) caused inhibition of the infectivity and cytopathic effect of HIV – although there has not been much further progress with these findings. Most reported results have been conducted in vitro and as yet no studies on human participants have been established. Therefore the possibility of Shiitake extracts being used in HIV treatment is not yet in reach.

Cardiovascular (CV) disease is the biggest cause of mortality worldwide and high blood cholesterol levels are on important risk factor in development of CV problems, so any hypocholesteremic effects are of great importance.
Shiitake’s ability to lower cholesterol was first reported in the 1960’s. It was found that a diet supplemented with the dried ground sporophores lowered average plasma cholesterol when fed to rats. In spontaneously hypertensive rats dried Shiitake decreased both the VLDL (very low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels and therefore prevented blood pressure increase in hypertension, and in human testing, serum cholesterol was decreased in groups of women fed fresh, dried of UV-irradiated Shiitake.

Recently studies have noted that Shiitake mushrooms contain high amounts of vitamin D after brief exposure to sunlight or UV light.

The whole fruiting body of the Shiitake mushroom is used, and the best remedy is to ingest the entire mushroom. However, caution should be taken, as consumption of raw or slightly cooked Shiitake mushrooms can cause “an erythematous, micro-papular, streaky, extremely pruriginous rash” that occurs all over the body including face and scalp, which appears about 48 hours after consumption and disappears after 10 days. Thorough cooking eliminates the effect.