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Fungi and Mushrooms

Fungi constitute an entire kingdom among the flora of Earth and include about 144,000 species of organism known to humans. It implies that there might be more undiscovered species of fungi present on Earth. These are neither plants nor animals, but not as simple as bacteria either. One prominent characteristic of fungi is that they have a eukaryotic cell membrane which makes them complex species. 

Fungi are of 4 main types with unique and complex characteristics. Molds, rust, smut, yeast, and mushrooms are included in this kingdom.

Role of Fungi in our lives:

Fungi provide many benefits to all living organisms, including plants, animals, and humans. In the following section, we will see their role in different fields of our world.

  • Soil: 

Fungi work as decomposers and break down the complex and difficult-to-digest organic matter into the smaller and easily digestible matter. This, in turn, provides many other organisms with nutrition. The fungus also increases the soil’s water-holding capacity by holding the soil particles together. This creates stable soil aggregates that have proved to be very beneficial. Fungi also have proven to increase the availability of phosphorus to plants. 

  • Agriculture:

Fungi provide many extracellular enzymes, and their ability to regulate carbon and nutrient level in the soil has played a massive role in agriculture. In farmlands, fungal activity helps grow plants by 70%. Fungi also contribute to the process of degeneration of plant and animal matter.

  • Biotechnology:

Fungi find an important place in the industry as well. Species of this kingdom are used to produce vitamins, enzymes, pigments, lipids, glycolipids, polysaccharides, polyhydric alcohols, etc. Recombinant DNA technology uses yeasts and other fungi as hosts have improved the market for microbial enzymes. 

  • Food Industry:

Yeast is used for the fermentation of wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages. It is also used for the production of many kinds of cheese along with other fungi species. Filamentous fungi are used for food processing as these are the primary source of enzymes. These also enhance the quality of the final product. 

Mushrooms are frequently used in many dishes. These are eaten because of their nutritional value, taste, and medicinal benefits. These provide us with antioxidants, proteins, and high calories. 

  • Lion’s mane mushrooms:

Yamabushitake or lion’s mane mushroom is a white, sizeable shaggy mushroom that looks like a lion’s mane as it grows. It is known for its medicinal and culinary purposes in Asian countries such as Japan, China, Korea, and India.

This mushroom has bioactive substances which are beneficial for the gut, heart, brain, and body. Apart from these, lion mane’s mushroom is also known for protection against dementia, helpful for depression and anxiety, and speedy recovery from nervous system injuries. It is also beneficial for stomach and other digestive issues.

  • Reishi Mushroom:

This mushroom grows in many hot and humid areas in Asia. In Eastern medicine, it has been a staple for a long time because it boosts the immune system, has anti-cancer properties, helpful for depression and fatigue, and helps in sleeping. It can be used in powdered form as well as consumed fresh.

The majority of fungi have benefits for humans and serve us in various ways. Thank you for reading!


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Importance of Fungus

Fungi are all around us. They inhabit our world as frequently as plenty of other creatures do and also serve an essential purpose. They are present in our food, clothes, rivers, lakes, trees, soil, and even in the air. Their function is to break down organic matter so that other tiny organisms, including bacteria, can consume it. As a result, fungi and bacteria release Phosphorus, Nitrogen, Oxygen, and Carbon into the soil and atmosphere.

The fungus also occupies a special place in our kitchens. We use them to make cheese, bread, wine, and bake different items.

Some morels, truffles, and mushrooms also constitute a considerable portion of our cuisines. Mushrooms are most commonly seen on pizzas and other fast food. Certain mushrooms are considered epicurean delicacies and are a rich source of protein.

  •  Our co-dependence:

Humans are co-dependent on fungi for wholesome living as they provide us many great things. If we need to ferment anything, we require yeast – a fungus. Fungi are also a huge source of medicines. They work as great to fight off bacteria.

  • As Food: 

Agaricus campestris, the humble meadow mushroom, is a part of several dishes. Many group members of Penicillium are used to several ripe kinds of cheese. These are completely organic as they are produced in nature. Hence, they do not contain any hazardous chemicals. Morel mushroom and Agaricus are also edible and frequently used in cuisines.

  • Commercial Uses:

Secondary metabolites of fungi are famous for their commercial uses. To kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria, antibiotics are used, which are the natural products of fungi. Penicillin and Cephalosporins have been obtained from fungi, which caused a breakthrough in medicine. Cyclosporin is a valuable immunosuppressant drug used to prevent rejection after an organ transplant; is obtained from a fungus. Ergot alkaloids are used to stop bleeding, and some precursors of steroid hormones are also obtained from fungi. This indicates that fungi are essential for our wholesome living because they help us combat diseases and achieve other tasks efficiently.

  • Mushrooms as Herbal Supplements:

Supplements obtained from mushrooms and available in the form of pills or powder are termed mushroom supplements. These supplements are made from a special kind of mushrooms, called adaptogenic mushrooms. Adaptogenic mushrooms have unique health-boosting properties. These supplements are used for various purposes; some reduce stress while others increase energy levels. Shiitake is one such supplement, which is said to have terpenoids, sterols, and polysaccharides. All these compounds lower the cholesterol level and boost the immune strength.

  • Mushrooms with medicinal values:

Turkey Tail mushroom has been used in Asia for thousands of years due to its ability to strengthen the immune system. It has also proved to be helpful in the cancer and some other diseases’ recovery. Similarly, Maitake, an edible mushroom, has been a part of Asian cuisine for centuries. It has been used in traditional medicine for the sport of normal blood pressure and diabetes. Recent evidence suggests their use in the maintenance of a healthy liver. Maitake mushrooms are believed to alter lipid metabolism by elevating serum lipid and inhibiting the accumulation of liver lipids.