- Brain Fungus
- Cauliflower Mushroom
The cauliflower mushroom, scientific name Sparassis crispa, is a fungus part of the Sparassis genus that got its popular name from the shape very similar to a cauliflower. It is a very large species that starts from an underground base and then emerges in many separate stems. These usually have an irregular shape and are typically white at maturity but as the mushroom decays it might turn yellow. An alternative popular name for it is the cauliflower fungus.
It is a forest wild mushroom that is usually associated with pines, oaks and other hardwoods, growing from their base. Cauliflower mushroom is also sometimes found on stumps belonging to coniferous species. The cauliflower mushroom is known in Japan as the hanabiratake. It has a wide range all over temperate climates and grows in Europe, eastern North America, Korea and Australia.
The species is a popular edible mushroom and as a result it is currently cultivated in many countries in its native range. Cauliflower mushroom is very productive and a single one can grow to a weight of 5 kg in cultivation. The color is a good indicative of how fresh a mushroom is, the yellow decaying ones can lead to indigestion. Due to its large size, it can accumulate some dirt that must be carefully removed. Regardless of the recipe, only consume the mushrooms after properly cooking them.
Cauliflower mushrooms have the overall shape of a globe with a diameter up to 61 cm. Individual lobes are white or yellow and look similar to lasagna noodles due to their flat and curly surface. They grow on conifers and other hardwood trees, as both parasites and saprophytes. The mushroom’s shape closely resembles the head of a cauliflower, so it is named after the vegetable. It is also known as the brain fungus, again due to the similarity.
The species has short stems and a generally round but irregular shape. Just like the flesh, its spores can be white or yellow. Today, it is cultivated in many parts of the world, especially in the US, Japan, Korea and Australia.
It should be harvested while the flesh is still white and it is a popular and delicious mushroom. It remains edible even when it turns yellow with age but it shouldn’t be consumed because there is a risk of indigestion. Drying is a great preservation method, since the mushrooms retains its nutritional content as well as the cartilaginous texture.
Like most mushrooms, cauliflower mushroom has many uses in medicine. Modern studies have confirmed its effects as an anti-tumour, anti-microbial and anti-fungal agent. Consuming cauliflower mushroom boosts your immune system, repairs your skin and reduces the risk of strokes. Diabetic rats that were given supplements prepared from this fungus had a faster wound healing rate.
The species has an unusually high content of beta-glucan, which has been said to be as high as 43%. This exceptional feature has made it very popular as a medicinal mushroom. Cauliflower mushroom is also rich in active terpenoid compounds and phthalides with proven anti-tumour properties, as well as several antiseptic agents.
Many studies have used cauliflower mushroom on mice, revealing that it can trigger an overall raise of the level of hemoglobin due to some compounds in its composition. Red blood cells are permanently destroyed and replaced, so a higher production prevents diseases and makes the immune system stronger. Hemoglobin is the key element of the human blood that binds to oxygen and supplies it to all body cells.
Anemia is a disease that starts if the level of hemoglobin is not sufficient. It can be caused by severe bleeding, for example accidents or childbirth. However, there are many other possible causes. The body can be unable to produce enough of it due to diseases like leukemia or malaria that wasn’t treated for a long time. Several other conditions might lead to the destruction of red blood cells.
Anemia often has a combined cause, the body produces an insufficient number of red blood cells and some of them are destroyed. Acute anemia happens when the nutrients from food are not enough to allow the replenishment of blood. It can be treated with medication prescribed by a doctor; the worst cases are treated with blood transfusions.
Mushrooms are known to have anti-cancer effects and the cauliflower mushroom is no exception. Tests on mice proved its effectiveness against sarcoma 180. The impact of cytokine was especially revealed by these studies. A separate research performed in Japan on mice found that a five weeks treatment with cauliflower mushroom allowed the animals to live longer and their tumours decreased in size.
Despite being a fungus itself, cauliflower mushroom has antifungal effects and will kill other fungi, which is useful against many types of diseases. Fungal attacks are as severe as the infections caused by bacteria or viruses but usually harder to cure, especially if ignored for some time, because fungi are more difficult to destroy. There are many types of fungal diseases, usually classified according to the part of the body that is affected. The most common of them are known as superficial mycoses, which are fungal infestations of the skin. This type of infection is painless but can be very uncomfortable, especially for aesthetic reasons. It can change the color of the skin and give it a distinctive patchy look, with several different nuances. If located on the face or another very visible area, this can be extremely embarrassing.
Dermatomycoses, also known as cutaneous mycoses, penetrate the skin and nails deeper than the superficial infections. Ringworms and athlete’s foot are some of the most common examples of such conditions. Onychomycosis is another widely encountered fungal disease of the nails that gives them a very dark and unhealthy color. Dermatophytes are the most common fungus that starts such infections, although yeasts or some other strains of moulds might be the culprits. It is important to establish quickly the strain of fungus involved in an infection, so a sample is usually sent to a lab. Don’t make the mistake to just buy some drugs from the pharmacy and try to treat yourself by trial and error. The advantage of a treatment based on the cauliflower mushrooms is that it can kill most types of fungi.
Subcutaneous mycoses are even deeper infections that spread on the tissues under the skin or can even reach the bones, with severe consequences. However, the worst types of infections are those that attack internal body organs. If the fungus has expanded that far into the body, the condition can be fatal. Serious fungal infestations are usually started by other conditions, for example as a result of surgery or other invasive procedures. People who suffer from leukemia are particularly vulnerable to fungal attacks and most of the lethal cases are when the two diseases combine.
Cauliflower mushrooms have been consumed in Asia for a very long time and are especially popular in the cuisines of Korea and Japan. Recently, the very high beta-glucan content of the mushroom has put it in the spotlight. It has now become a very popular medicinal mushroom in North America and Europe and is available in stores all over the world.
Other benefits of cauliflower mushroom have been identified as well. It is an effective antiseptic and might be useful in the fight against cancer, since two compounds in its composition, terpenoid and phthalide, were found to be active against tumours.
Cauliflower mushroom has been investigated as a weapon in the treatment of cancer in many tests in vitro and in vivo. The results have proven that its active components are powerful anti-tumour agents. Their mechanism of action is quite complex, they limit metastasis and angiogenesis while activating macrophage and dendritic cell functions and increasing haematopoietic response. In one research study, the cauliflower mushroom was consumed by cancer patients for 15 months, combined with other therapies. People who suffered from cancers of the colon, lung, breast, ovaries, stomach or prostate have reported an improve quality of life at the end of the trial.
The natural anti-bacterial and anti-microbial effects of the cauliflower mushrooms have been reported for the first time in 1923. However, recent tests have established that cauliflower mushroom is more powerful against pathogens than previously known and able to kill germs that resist most types of medication. Of particular interest is the ability of some chemical compounds in its structure to stop the growth of some strains of Staphylococcus aureus and MRSA that are resistant to methicillin. The extracts might also have high levels of possible resistors for HIV-1, but this requires additional testing.
Research on healthy individuals has revealed that cauliflower mushroom can greatly reduce water loss while boosting the level of synthesized collagen. An interesting feature of consuming the cauliflower mushroom is that skin tans and gets dark slower, due to come compounds that inhibit the production of melanin. It is also useful in reducing allergies, in particular symptoms such as itching or inflammation. Cauliflower mushrooms can improve wound healing for people who suffer from diabetes, who usually heal very slowly.
The cauliflower mushroom also has the ability to reduce the risk of having a stroke and even allow people who are prone to strokes to live longer. However, this effect is poorly known and understood. Some of the bioactive elements in its composition are able to prevent strokes by boosting the cerebrovascular endothelialdys function and reducing high blood pressure.
Habitat and cultivation
In the wild, the cauliflower mushroom is found growing on the base of pines and other conifer trees. Cauliflower mushroom is rarely found in dense forests and enjoys forest edges and clear areas such as tracks.