The accumulated secondary metabolites in medicinal mushrooms have been widely accepted as sources of safe and effective nutraceuticals, cosmeceuticals, and pharmaceuticals. Medicinal and edible mushrooms are foods appreciated for their exquisite flavor and medicinal properties. The nutritional values and biologically active compounds in mushrooms have immense potentials for producing new drugs of great health benefits to mankind. In recent times, medicinal mushrooms are being exploited for new and natural compounds that could modulate immune cell’s response, and possess antimicrobial, antioxidants, and anticancer properties. In Nigeria, where there is vegetation that supports the luxuriant growth of varieties of naturally occurring macrofungi, some of the wild macrofungi have not been properly identified, adequately studied, and fully harnessed for their potentials as food and medicine. It is therefore pertinent to bring to limelight the nutraceutical potentials of some of these wild macrofungi that are currently underutilized.
- medicinal mushrooms
Medicinal and edible mushrooms are mostly found in the higher basidiomycetes, and they usually have a saprophytic and aerobic growth habit, which allows them to grow on different lignocellulosic materials . Fungi as a kingdom have very diverse group of living organisms found across all ecosystems . Fungi are eukaryotes; they have microscopic organelles within their cells called nuclei which contain genetic materials in the form of threadlike chromosomes and enable hereditary characters to be passed on to subsequent generations . The Basidiomycetes make up a colossal variety of fungi. Their taxonomic determination has been controversial and sometime challenging due to limited distinguishing characters and disagreement in features characteristics to be adopted for separating the different species . The use of fruit body morphological characteristics such as appearance, color, dimension, spores and form of the fungus on pure culture, physiological factors, and environmental growth preferences can often mislead the identification of macrofungi without the use of microscopic examination coupled with molecular tools . Therefore, the advancement and upsurge in the use of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) technology has proven to be a powerful tool for traditional taxonomic methods by solving the challenges of taxonomic chaos . The rapid development with the use of versatile molecular techniques has provided easy approach, which is already being used to identify unknown basidiomycete isolates by comparing their DNA profiles with those fruit bodies that have been authenticated in GenBank. DNA techniques for the identification of fungi have been widely used in human and veterinary medicine; it is rapid and displays the accurate identity of pathogenic fungi in order to select appropriate treatment. They have also been applied to food quality control for the detection of contaminants . The body or thallus of the basidiomycete fungus (the mycelium) is normally hidden within the substrate, and it is generally only the fruit body or basidiocarp that is visible at the surface. For this reason, the fruit body tends to show the greatest morphological variation. Conventional mycologists rely on a number of macroscopic and microscopic features of the fruit body to distinguish between macrofungi species .
Mushrooms are foods that are commonly consumed since earliest history; ancient Greeks believed that mushrooms are a source of strength for warriors in battle; the Romans regard mushrooms as the “Food of the Gods” served them only on festive occasions. For centuries, the Chinese culture has treasured mushroom as a health food, an “elixir of life” . Mushrooms are originally defined as macrofungi with a distinctive fruiting body, which is large enough to be seen with the naked eye and picked by hand . They do not have the green pigment called chlorophyll that enables the plant to utilize energy from sunlight to change chemical into substances necessary for growth, a process commonly known as photosynthesis instead mushroom produces a wide range of extracellular enzymes . This enables them to degrade complex organic matter into soluble substances, which can be absorbed for nutrition and stored as secondary metabolites . The growth and fruiting of an individual mushroom species on particular substrate will depend upon their ability to produce enzymes that degrade the major component of the substrate such as cellulose, hemicelluloses, and ligin .
Macrofungi produce valuable enzymes and bioactive molecules with different therapeutic effects. Therefore, they are considered as flourishing organisms to develop different healthcare and biotechnological products . Mushrooms have been a part of the human culture for thousands of years with considerable interest in civilization history because of their sensory characteristics and medicinal properties; they have been recognized for attractive culinary with low calories, carbohydrates, fat, and sodium with no amount of cholesterol [12, 13]. It has been estimated that there are about 140,000 species of mushrooms present on earth and only 5% are explored for uses, while 7000 were undiscovered species that could be of medicinal value to mankind . With recent advances in medical and nutrition sciences, natural products from both edible and nonedible mushrooms have received extensive attention from individuals and health professionals due to the presence of biologically active compounds with denoted health benefits .
Owing to the increasing demand of natural bioactive compounds as an option to replace some synthetic drugs or additives in the pharmaceutical and food industries, the interest in fungi (medicinal mushrooms) has risen in recent years. The potential uses of the mushrooms have appeared as a nutraceutical, nutritional therapy, phytonutrients, phytotherapy, and pharmaceutical due to the accumulated number of secondary metabolites . Several biologically active compounds such as polysaccharides (beta 1-3, 1-4, 1-6 glucans, hetero-beta glucans, proteo-glucans), krestin, lentinan, coriolan, schyzophillan, sesquiterpenes, quinones, hydrophobins, galectins, sterols, ergothionin, tri-teripenes, sterols, germanium, nucleotide, drosophilin, armillasin, amphalone, eloporoside, and volatile (skatole) were reported in medicinal mushrooms . Mushrooms are the producers of extracellular proteolytic enzymes with fibrinolytic and thrombolytic activities . Thus, the available information about bioactive molecules and enzymes in medicinal mushrooms suggests that they are promising candidate of choice microorganisms to develop health-enhancing biotechnological products. The presence of wide biomolecules in medicinal mushrooms has been attributed to different therapeutic effects such as antibacterial, antifungal, cytotoxic, antiinflammatory, insecticidal, nematocidal, and antioxidant .
2.1 Lifecycle of higher fungi (macrofungi)
The lifecycle of basidiomycetes includes special stages such as the alternation of generations . Spores from basidium are generally produced for sexual reproduction, rather than asexual reproduction . The club-shaped basidium carries spores called basidiospores. In the basidium, nuclei of two different mating strains (− and +) fuse (karyogamy), giving rise to a diploid zygote that then undergoes meiosis as shown in Figure 1. The haploid nuclei migrate into basidiospores, which germinate and generate monokaryotic hyphae. The mycelium that results is called a primary mycelium. Mycelia of different mating strains can combine and produce a secondary mycelium that contains haploid nuclei of two different mating strains. This is the dikaryotic stage of the basidiomycetes lifecycle, which also referred to as dominant stage. Eventually, the secondary mycelium generates a basidiocarp, a fruiting body that protrudes either above the soil (epigeous macrofungi) as the basidiocarp bears the developing basidia on the gills under its cap at depths of 10–20 cm or below the soil surface as hypogeous macrofungi or truffles. In the phylum Basidiomycota, sexual reproduction is often dictated by two independent sets of mating-type specific genes, which control the stages of the sexual cycle. The genes encode premating lipopeptide pheromones and their cognate receptors mediate the recognition of mating partners, cell fusion, and homeodomain transcription factors, which form heterodimers to regulate postmating behavior. Sexual reproduction in many fungal species has a central role in pathogenic development, promoting genetic variation, adaptation to fluctuating environments, and a long-term survival .
3. Examples of some wild and medicinal mushrooms
It is a polypore mushroom, which grows on wood.
The fungi form many white, somewhat flattened mycelia strand of 1–2 mm thick that grow on and adhere strongly to the surface of the root bark.
It is an important genus of mushroom containing both edible and poisonous species with over 300 members worldwide. The genus includes the common (button) mushroom (
It is a polypore mushroom that grows in clusters at the base of trees, particularly oaks. The fruiting body of
It is a genus of fungi in the family Polyporaceae and widely spread in subtropical regions .
The three synonymous wood-rotting fungi, namely:
4. Health benefits of edible and medicinal mushrooms
4.1 Nutritional benefits
Mushrooms contain the amino acids, vitamins, macro, microelements, and a substantial amount of dietary fibers. Higher Basidiomycetes have much insoluble dietary fiber bound with chitin, hemicellulose, mannans, glucans, glycogen, and trehalose in their cell wall. Cheung  has reported the health benefits of dietary fiber, which include the following: relieves of constipation, prevention of colon disease and hemorrhoids as well maximize the viscosity of the food matrix, slowdown of digestion, lower blood glucose, and strengthens immune system with antitumor activity. Mushrooms are excellent sources of dietary fiber, which can be used for the enrichment of biopharmaceutical products . Mushrooms are known to possess complexes of polysaccharides and protein, which enhance innate and cell-mediated immune responses and exhibit antitumor activities in animals and humans . Edible and medicinal mushrooms contain considerable amount of essential and nonessential amino acids. Essential fatty acid (linoleic acid), a precursor of 1-octen-3-ol, has been the principal active compound that contributed to the aroma and flavor of mushrooms. The bioavailability of mineral in medicinal mushrooms, except sodium in low concentrations, has made edible mushrooms choice of food that regulate blood pressure, maintain cellular function, and promote the availability of metalloenzymes, biochemical processes, and metabolic growth [51, 52].
The nutrient contents of various edible mushrooms play a vital role in maintaining the normal function of human body . The utilization of macrofungi as a nutritional source provides opportunity to fulfill the protein-energy demand and thus balance the problem of nutritional deficiency . Hence, it has been well proven and documented in the world literature that mushrooms provide definite nutrition and health benefits for humans. Nowadays, people eat mushrooms as functional foods, food-flavoring material in soups or sauces due to their unique and subtle flavor with devoid of undesirable side effects. The reason behind the consumption of mushrooms since ancient times is due to their nutritional benefits, organoleptic values, and pharmacological applications . Badalyan  reported a significant reduction of blood cholesterol levels when lovastatin from submerged mycelia of
4.2 Immunomodulatory activity
The combination of vitamins A, B, C complex, fiber, minerals, and other bioactive compounds in mushroom is a basic healing requirement to improve the human immune system against bacteria, fungi, and virus infections.
4.3 Anticancer properties
Cancer is medically known as malignant neoplasm—a disease involving unregulated cell growth . Cancer is a devastating disease that may spread to more distant parts of the body through the lymphatic system or bloodstream. It afflicts many people around the world because it is the second leading cause of death after heart disease . Several studies from Asian countries show that edible and medicinal mushrooms played an important role in the prevention and treatment of cancer . In Eastern Europe, fruiting bodies of
Mushrooms prevent breast and prostate cancer due to the presence of beta-glucans and conjugated linoleic acid . Anticarcinogenic effects of linoleic acid had been attributed to the ability to suppress estrogen .
4.4 Antimicrobial properties
The development of new synthetic antimicrobial compounds has led to a drastic increase in bacterial resistance and the subsequent evolution of multidrug-resistance among microorganisms . In the quest for effective and sustainable antimicrobial substances against pathogenic microorganisms, a new group of microorganisms has been increasingly studied, among which mushrooms have emerged as a viable source of new antimicrobials . Mushrooms need antibacterial and antifungal compounds as a defensive tool to survive in their natural environment. It is therefore not surprising that antimicrobial compounds could be isolated from many mushrooms for human benefits . Sesquiterpenoid and hydroquinones produced by the
Studies carried out by Karacsonyi and Kuniak  revealed that beta-D Glucan (pleuran) isolated from fruiting bodies of
4.5 Antioxidant properties
The interplay between free radicals, antioxidants, and cofactors is important in maintaining stable health and age-related diseases . Free radicals induce oxidative stress, which is balanced by the body’s endogenous antioxidant system with input from cofactors and by the ingestion of exogenous antioxidants . When the generation of free radicals exceeds the protective effect of antioxidants and some cofactors, it can cause oxidative damage, which can result in aging and other diseases such as cardiovascular, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders . The progressive severe and chronic disorders caused by free radicals have led to alternative sources of antioxidants compounds from wild mushrooms, which could be a remedy to dietetic aliments . Hence, there is an emerging interest in the use of naturally occurring antioxidants for the preservation of foods, in other to manage a number of pathophysiological conditions.
Epidemiological studies have consistently shown that a high dietary intake of mushrooms is strongly associated with the reduced risk of developing chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease . This suggests that changes in dietary intake and consumption of natural foods provide desirable health benefits beyond basic nutrition to reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Medicinal mushrooms such as the species of
Mushroom is an ideal low energy diet for diabetics; it has no fats, no cholesterol, very low carbohydrates, moderate protein, vitamins, minerals, dietary fibers, and a lot of water . Moreover, mushrooms contain natural insulin and enzyme that break down sugar or starch .
4.6 Antidiabetes properties
Many medicinal mushrooms have been found to be suitable for diabetic and heart patients due to low starch and low cholesterol content. Several mushroom species have been reported to be effective for both the control of blood glucose levels and the modification of the course of diabetic complications. This is because they are known to contain bioactive components that help with the proper functioning of metabolic organs such as the liver, pancreas, and other endocrinal glands, thereby promoting the formation of insulin and related hormones that ensure healthy metabolic functioning . Mushrooms contain polysaccharides such as beta-glucans which can restore the function of pancreatic tissues eventually triggering increased insulin output by beta-cells, thus leading to decrease blood glucose levels. Beta-glucans have been shown to improve the sensitivity of peripheral tissues to insulin .
5. Underutilization of medicinal mushrooms in Nigeria
Most of the wild macrofungi found in Nigeria Figure 2 are similar to mushrooms reported to possess anticancer properties . One of the wild mushrooms from Nigeria—
Despite the millennial existence and empirical documentation of mushrooms, the ethnological knowledge of macrofungi, historical uses of mushrooms as food, medicine, source of income, and sociological impacts are apparently dawdling the ethnomycology research drive in Nigeria . The poor identification and documentation of medicinal and edible mushrooms have created some degrees of inconsistencies in their usages relatively to the medicinal practice, food, and mythological beliefs . The random utilization of mushrooms, the limited scope of taxonomic consistencies of the existing mushroom, anthropogenic, ethnographic, ethnoecological, and religion have hindered the correct estimate of macrofungi for proper utilization and exploration in Nigeria and Africa.
The relevance of medicinal mushrooms in modern-day pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals is an innovative conception in medical fields and food industries. The positive transformation of mushrooms into edible foods or products requires government support by sponsoring programs to assist agricultural development in mushroom isolation, identification, cultivation, and utilization. This could be a means to diversifying into food production to solve the food insecurity and as well deconcentrate the economic reliance on crude oil.
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