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The Magic Of Mushrooms

Holy shiitake! That--in short, unscientific terms--is the reaction of researchers hunting for potential new medicines in mushrooms. Tests in lab dishes indicate that fabulous fungi with names like lion's mane and turkey tail harbor novel antiviral and antibacterial compounds. Even the NIH is interested, funding the screening of mushrooms for agents to fight SARS and West Nile virus. "It's completely irrational that we haven't looked here before," says Dr. Andrew Weil, the nation's leading proponent of integrative medicine. "The greatest success of the pharmaceutical industry in the 20th century--antibiotics--came from molds, which are closely related." No new drugs have emerged yet from the research. But use of supplements is, excuse us, mushrooming, with sales of general immune-boosters like maitake, shiitake, reishi and cordyceps up as much as 300 percent since last year. Better yet, says Weil, try a blend like Host Defense from New Chapter. With flu season at hand, it couldn't hurt.