The market for medicinal mushrooms is set for a magical future, with growth in the next five to seven years expected to match or even surpass the medical marijuana industry. Craig Fourie, a mushroom maven with over 24 years’ experience, says the growth will largely be driven by Ganoderma lucidum, also known as Reishi, and by psilocybin-containing mushrooms.

Reishi is an ancient species with a long tradition of medicinal use, including cardiovascular support, bacterial and viral protection, improved energy levels and brain function, cholesterol reduction, and allergy relief.

Craig explains the significance of this mushroom. “The greatest benefit of the Reishi mushroom is in its ability to improve immune function. A pre-clinical trial of MG-LZ8, our Reishi extract, demonstrated a 43% increase in immune function over 48 hours, which is extraordinary. The extract was analysed by the world’s leading expert in glucan technologies, Dr Vaclav Vetvicka,” he says.

Treatment possibilities

The medicinal psilocybin mushrooms, also known as ‘magic mushrooms’, are illegal in South Africa and many countries around the world, as they contain controlled substances such as psilocybin and psilocin.

Based on research and trials already done by the likes of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, these same substances have shown potential to assist with the treatment of disorders such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, cluster headaches, as well addictions such as alcohol and smoking.

International research has shown a constant increase in the global demand for medicinal mushrooms in recent years, with a recent report indicating an expected compound annual growth rate of close to 13% for the period 2017 to 2023.

Local growing system

Craig says there are many ways to grow Reishi mushrooms, but he has chosen to explore methods that improve the natural production of pharmacologically active ingredients within the mushroom. His company, Mushroom Guru, has been cultivating its uniquely grown Reishi mushrooms since 2013 and has developed an extraction method that improves the active compounds found in the mushroom. Mushroom Guru’s MG-LZ8 extract has been processed into four products – a capsule, skin serum, targeted therapy drops, and a honey sachet.

“MG-LZ8 is the first pure and whole Reishi mushroom extract product in South Africa, and I believe it will soon be proven to be the most active medicinal mushroom extract in the world,” says Craig.

Benefits for livestock

Mushroom Guru is exploring the uses of MG-LZ8 in the livestock industry to create immune-boosting products. Craig has already had success in relieving colic in horses, mastitis in cows, tumours in dogs and even chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in cats. Mushroom Guru is looking to pioneer the development and use of medicinal mushroom extracts in this industry through collaborative ventures.

The South African market for medicinal mushrooms is still in its infancy. This, says Schalk van Rooyen, a natural scientist and technical consultant in the field of botanical extractions, plant feeding and the alternative use of plants at Laeveld Agrochem, contributes to a stigma towards mushrooms and the healing benefits they offer.

Schalk, who has many years’ experience in natural product chemistry from his stint at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, says the market for natural, medicinal products such as medicinal mushrooms, has massive scope.

Scalable farming is the future

Niche and micro-farming operations, such as Mushroom Guru, have grown significantly in South Africa. Corné Liebenberg, marketing director at Laeveld Agrochem, says although the group’s focus is primarily on the commercial aspects of agriculture, it also endeavours to get involved in niche farming practices that allow ordinary people to participate, and which do not necessarily require significant capital outlay and farming space.

“Niche farming is the answer to farming in South Africa and indeed worldwide, especially since climate change and its unpredictability will increasingly hinder efficient farming on a large scale. Niche farming normally involves greater scalability on a smaller area, and I believe it will increasingly become a model for future farming,” says Schalk. For more information, phone Craig Fourie on 021 854 5126 or send an email to info@mushroomguru.co.za. –Press release, Laeveld Agrochem