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Lecture Series: Scientist John Holliday Discusses MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS

The IMA is honored to host an evening with mycologist John Holliday!

Join us for samples of Cordyceps tea and and a wonderful lecture...

We're interviewing mycologist John Holliday on Monday. Here are the questions we're asking. What additional questions would YOU like us to ask?

Panel Discussion with Mycologist John Holliday moderated by Rebecca Fyffe
(FREE and open to the public)

1.) I know that you make no claims that mushrooms can cure or prevent any illness, but researchers have found some evidence that certain mushrooms are better or have shown more efficacy for certain conditions than others... for instance, I've heard that hericium may be a good choice for brain and memory... would you tell us what the following mushrooms have demonstrated efficacy for?
Cordyceps sinensis
Hericium erinaceus
Agaricus blazei
Trametes versicolor 
Pleurotus ostreatus
Ganoderma lucidum and Ganoderma applanatum 
Grifola frondosa
Inonotus obliquus 
Phellinus lintineus

2.) What's the difference medicinally between Ganoderma lucidum and Ganoderma applanatum?

3.) I know that you batch test your Agaricus blazei for the presence of agaritines, which is why I won't use or recommend A. blazei produced by anyone but you. There was a study recently, perhaps one too small to draw any definitive conclusions, but it was compelling none the less because "in one patient, liver functions recovered gradually after she stopped taking the Agaricus blazei, but she restarted taking it, which resulted in deterioration of the liver function again." Could this have been because of the presence of agaritines in the A. blazei in the study?

4.) I became deeply interested in medicinal mushrooms when I was diagnosed with a large tumor on my ovary. My physician, Dr. Ralph Kazer, head of reproductive endocrinology at Northwestern University Hospital recommended radical surgery, but I declined treatment and didn't return to his practice for a year. During that year, I consumed a regimen of daily medicinal mushrooms (both wild harvest and those produced by Aloha Medicinals), smoothies made of fresh turmeric and broccoli sprouts and ginseng. When I retuned to the doctor a year later, the tumor was gone. My doctor declared it a medical miracle, because he said that based on the way the tumor looked, he predicted that it could not go away on its own. He had said, "a tumor of this size and composition never goes away on its own." What is the mechanism by which tumors shrink and disappear? 

5.) I've heard that mushrooms combat cancer through the processes of antiangiogenesis and apoptosis... What are antiangiogenesis and apoptosis and does research indicate that there any other processes by which medicinal mushrooms convey anti-cancer benefits?

6.) Science is becoming more aware of the connection between HPV and head and neck cancers. Michael Douglas' public disclosure of his own HPV related cancer was very helpful in bringing the issue into the popular media. Since 80 percent of adults have been exposed to HPV, which mushroom regimen do you feel may show efficacy in future studies reducing the conversion of HPV into head and neck cancer? 

7.) What mushrooms do you take, and what effect do you hope they may have on you?

8.) When you look at the chemical composition of a mushroom in the laboratory, what indicates to you that it may be medicinal? ...and likewise, when chemically analyzing a mushroom, what compounds indicate that it may be toxic?

9.) What medicinal mushroom breakthroughs are you most excited about right now?

10.) If a healthy people want to begin incorporating medicinal mushrooms into their supplement program, what regimen would you recommend?

Cordyceps is a highly coveted medicinal fungus that only grows naturally on the heads of caterpillars living above 14,000 feet in the Himalaya mountains. We have John Holliday to thank for the fact that it can also be found in the United States.

While many may not understand the significance behind Holliday's ability to grow this unique fungus from tissue cultures, it is noteworthy to mention that many people around the world are enjoying health benefits from his products.

Holliday began his professional career as a mechanical engineer, spending some time building equipment for nuclear submarines in Hawaii. Cultivating mushrooms as a hobby since 1976, Holliday started Mushroom Maui in 1997. He sold the company to Aloha Medicinals in 2000 and became the president and head of research for the medicinal mushroom company.

Holliday leaned on his mechanical engineering background to build the equipment necessary to replicate the growth environment of the high Himalayas so that his company could produce Cordyceps, the earlier-mentioned fungus known around the world for its immune system-enhancing and infection-fighting properties in humans and animals. Holliday sells raw Cordyceps and mushroom medicinals to more than 700 drug and supplement companies around the world, in addition to selling some under the Aloha Medicinals name.

The company grows more than 75 percent of the world's supply of Cordyceps and sells it and other medicinal mushroom products to more than 30 countries. With sales growing to $3.6 million in 2008, Holliday expects them to balloon to $50 million soon, with the completion of an agreement to sell the company's Immune-Assist 247 product in Africa, where it has proven to be effective in helping HIV/AIDS sufferers.

Holliday, who is editor of the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in mycology from the Chinese scientific community for his research work on the medicinal effects of mushrooms; and he has lectured in more than 20 countries on the topic.

Holliday has developed a process that allows livestock producers to replace artificial antibiotic feed supplements with an organic compound made from mushrooms that produces healthier meat.

This would eliminate the need for antibiotic supplements which most health professionals have criticized for their role in accelerating the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. Beyond the health concerns, the European Union has banned the importation of meat from animals that are fed antibiotics.

Dr. John Holliday, president and founder of Aloha Medicinals, has been researching the antibiotic and anti-viral compounds present in fungi for many years. His company has pioneered a process to mass produce cordyceps, a very rare mushroom that grows only in Tibet. Inside their facility in Carson City, the company now produces more cordyceps than are harvested in the wild in the entire world.
Penicillin, the first antibiotic and the model for all that came later, originates from fungi. Bacteria, viruses and fungi occupy the same link in the food chain. Because bacteria and viruses multiply faster, fungi have evolved to produce compounds that fight off these competitors in order to survive.
It was the isolation of one of these compounds that became Penicillin. And according to Holliday, that was where medicine took a wrong turn.

"When (Dr. Alexander) Fleming discovered Penicillin in 1928, science went down a very narrow path, trying to isolate single molecules that would have the active properties that we were looking for," Holliday said. "If we look at using the whole, naturally occurring antibiotic instead of the single isolated molecule, we have better efficacy, lower costs and far less toxicity or side effects."

Aloha Medicinals has proven that feeding livestock these mushroom compounds does a better job of fighting off diseases without the dangers posed by using artificially produced antibiotics and anti-viral drugs.

Holliday said they have run trials on more than 60,000 head of cattle.Aloha Medicinals in Carson City has begun a program to provide post-doctoral instruction in biopharmaceutical manufacturing that is attracting students from several different countries.
Company founder and chief scientist Dr. John Holliday said the program was born out of a lack of hands-on educational opportunities for researchers in the growing field of biopharmaceuticals.

"The value we are offering to these post-doctoral students is they are able to come here and put the theoretical knowledge they learned in the universities into day-to-day practice,"Holliday said. "Getting a PhD doesn't teach you how to make things. It just gives you the idea of how a thing can be made."
Aloha Medicinals manufactures a variety of compounds from mushrooms that are used in medicines and dietary supplements.
"We invented so much of this field," Holliday said. "When we started 10 years ago, it was a concept that no one had really put into practice. And we have been leading the way since, and now there is an emerging worldwide industry based on this concept of non-toxic, naturally derived functional medicines."

Aloha Medicinals has 33 employees at their 33,000 square foot facility in Carson City. The company was recently named the Small Business Exporter of the Year for Nevada by the Small Business Administration, and also received the 2007 Governor's Industry Appreciation Award, and the 2008 Nevada Excellence in International Business Award.

The IMA is comprised of mycologists and laypeople from all walks of life who share a common interest in the study of mushrooms. Individual members often have specific areas of interest and expertise, including mushroom foraging, taxonomy, cultivation, mycoremediation, mycorrhizas, medical mycology, yeasts, lichens, food spoilage, fermented foods, plant diseases, symbioses with animals, and edible, poisonous, and entheogenic fungi.

If you are new to mushrooming, joining a mushroom club will give you the opportunity to learn about the fungal diversity found during the annual cycle in Chicagoland and how to identify species properly and safely. Whether you’re an experienced mycophile or are new to the Kingdom of Fungi, we welcome your knowledge and companionship.

For non-IMA-members, there is a $5 suggested donation to attend our lecture series events. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. Please join us! Membership in the IMA is only $20 per year and includes participation in our monthly members-only forays. While our lecture series is open to the public, forays into the woods are limited to members only. This is because the IMA is a scientific and educational nonprofit that holds a scientific collector's permit to pick wild mushrooms for research and education. That's why only club members can come on forays. Club members also receive a great digital monthly newsletter with articles, recipes, research, art and information on additional events. You can become an IMA member at any IMA lecture series event, or by clicking here

North Park Village Nature Center is located at 5801 North Pulaski Road, Chicago, Illinois 60646. From the intersection of North Pulaski Road and West Ardmore Avenue, go east into the North Park Village Campus. Drive past the booth, you do not need to stop. At the T-junction, turn left. Then take a quick right. You will see the forest of the nature center on the left. Shortly you'll arrive at a parking lot on your right as you approach the front of the nature center building. The road between the parking lot and the main entrance may be blocked, but the center will still be open and accessible.

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  • max

    I love this group; wonderful people, the lectures are always interesting and mushrooms are crazy gorgeous

    October 3, 2013

  • Jennifer H.

    I've really enjoyed the lectures attended so far.

    October 3, 2013

  • Vadim

    It sounds really interesting. I wish I could make it but I will be almost the entire October in California...

    September 12, 2013

  • Nessie

    Look here for more on Cordyceps and it's effectiveness and side effects:

    March 18, 2013

  • rebecca

    Dr. John Holliday, president and founder of Aloha Medicinals, has been researching the antibiotic and anti-viral compounds present in fungi for many years. His company has pioneered a process to mass produce Cordyceps, a very rare medicinal mushroom that grows only in Tibet. They now produce more cordyceps than are harvested in the wild in the entire world! Join the Illinois Mycological Association at North Park Village Nature Center as we host an an evening with this scientist to discuss the efficacy and methodology of medicinal mushroom cultivation. Join us for samples of Cordyceps tea and and this wonderful lecture!

    January 2, 2013

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