Covering the Spread: A Word with Dr. Refael on the Mushrooms of Medicine Box Wellness
By now, you’ve heard a lot about mushrooms in the wellness world: their role as adaptogens, the mycelium that stretches on for miles and miles underneath our feet and perhaps even their ability to remediate whole swatches of contaminated soil. From physical to mental health, mushrooms are definitely having their moment. But you don’t have to take it from the wellness people. So this week, we’re bringing back our Glad Scientist, Dr. Refael Aharon, to discuss mushroom supplements and their role in reshaping the world’s Medicine Box going forward
Q: Have you ever worked with mushrooms before at any point in your career? If so, when?
I’ve worked with mushrooms for the last 20-plus years. During these years, I formulated and manufactured many products that contain mushrooms or mushrooms ingredients. I started as a student with Mycorrhiza (a type of mushroom that develop symbiotic relationships with plants and trees) and its relation to plant-plant communications. After that I worked with Mediterranean mushrooms in [my former company] Green LTD., then I used mushrooms for an appetite-suppressant product.
Twenty-first century consumers know a lot more about mushrooms and their benefits than when I started, of course. So I’m working with few other partners on products containing medical mushrooms. The market demand has gone higher due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, product developers must adhere to strict regulations and compliance. Some people have strong allergies to certain types of mushrooms, so one should consult their doctor before using such products and stop if they notice any side effects.
Q: Talk to me about the specific choices to work with reishi in two tinctures (Happy Belly and Vital Recovery [VR]) and chaga, maitake and shiitake for Vital Recovery. How do these mushrooms combine with these herbs?
In Happy Belly, a gastrointestinally-targeted product, we used Red Reishi as a minor ingredient alongside oils, seeds and herbs. Starting with the Chinese, humans have cultivated Red Reishi for over 2000 years, making it the oldest continually used medicinal mushroom in the global pharmacopoeia. It’s often referred to as “the god of fungi.” Confirming this ancient wisdom are modern scientific studies that explore Red Reishi’s effects on health and digestion.
With VR, medicinal mushrooms are the major active ingredients. Their inclusion in our formulary converts it into a versatile superfood. We made a gentle combination of four medical mushrooms that have specific effects over our immune system. In particular, studies showed that Reishi mushrooms benefit and boost the immune system, assist anti-viral infections such as the flu (influenza), swine flu, and avian flu, and also help with lung conditions, including asthma and bronchitis. We also used Chaga mushrooms because studies show that Chaga supports healthy immune function. anti-Inflammatory response, heart health and healthy blood sugar. Recent research in animals and cells suggest that Chaga mushrooms may boost the immune system, fight inflammation, protect cells from free radicals, and reduce the symptoms of diabetes. We also used Maitake mushroom – aka the dancing mushroom — because studies show that besides its great mineral profile, Maitake has a positive effect on overall immunity. We also used Shiitake mushroom because studies show it supports immune function and combats many diseases by providing important vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Shiitakes are also unique because they contain all eight essential amino acids, along with other active ingredients that have a positive effect on our immune system.
Q: Talk to me about the “ancient wisdom” and heritage of these mushrooms. Reishi and Shiitake, for instance, have been used for years in Traditional Chinese Medicine. What intrigues you about the unique stories of these mushrooms?
Traversing human civilization, one can find different cultures using mushrooms for dietary, medicinal and religious purposes. I find it amazing that only 3000 mushroom species have been investigated out of millions of species of mushrooms that exist. Mushrooms play an important role in nature – from symbiosis and biodegradation to communicating between living trees and plants. I think that we are just starting to understand the powers that mushrooms and their associated compounds possess. Especially when the folklore from these cultures is corroborated with recent scientific consensus, then I’m intrigued.
What intrigues you the most about mushrooms? How are they different from herbs as a healing tool? What unique effects do they have combined with cannabis?
Both herbs and mushrooms contain vital compounds that have health benefits. Plants are primary producers – they don’t need other living things or dead organisms to survive. Mushrooms can be very small or very big. The biggest and oldest living organisms in the world are mushrooms. They have a unique multi-nuclear structure and asexual and sexual reproduction. Mushrooms can also adapt to many different environments and conditions. Moreover, mushrooms contain a variety of compounds that can handle tough viruses, microbes and other bad fungi.
Cannabis has its own unique benefits for health and digestion, via the CB1 and CB2 receptors in our brain and body. Alongside some active terpenes, we used a specific combination of cannabinoids that have shown benefits to health, immune and metabolism. These two groups of compounds (mushrooms and cannabinoids) synergize, each targeting different cell components. Our manufacturing process ensures the vitality of these special herbs and mushrooms.
Do you plan to work with any other mushrooms in the future?
Sure. I’m working today with other mushrooms, some rare and exotic, as a matter of fact. We’re still scratching the surface on what these amazing organisms can achieve. At Medicine Box Wellness we plan to follow up with teas derived from the formulations we already developed. This will allow our customers to get the distinct benefits of water and oil extraction — the whole real mushrooms experience, if you will.
for all of us to maintain our everyday lives, yet many adults suffer from some sort of sleeping disorder and don’t get as much rest as they should. According to the American Sleep Association , 50 to 70 million U.S. adults suffer from one form of a sleeping disorder or another.