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Abstract

The ethnopharmaceutical approach is important for the discovery and development of natural product research and requires a deep understanding not only of biometabolites discovery and profiling but also of cultural and social science. For millennia, epigeous macrofungi (mushrooms) and hypogeous macrofungi (truffles) were considered as precious food in many cultures based on their high nutritional value and characterized pleasant aroma. In African and Middle Eastern cultures, macrofungi have long history as high nutritional food and were widely applied in folk medicine. The purpose of this review is to summarize the available information related to the nutritional and medicinal value of African and Middle Eastern macrofungi and to highlight their application in complementary folk medicine in this part of the world.

 Introduction

From early stages of civilization, desert macrofungi in forms of mushrooms and truffles have been used as food and medicine. Originally, these types of organisms were associated with Mediterranean region and were first recorded as poem in Egyptian temples as follows: “Without leaves, without buds, without flowers: yet they from fruit; as a food, as a tonic, as a medicine: the entire creation is precious.” Thus, macrofungi were considered as food and medicine for royalty, and that no normal citizens were allowed to consume this precious food. During Greek and Roman eras, they were imported from Libya and sold in southern part of the European continent [1]. In the southern part of African continent, the nomadic people of Kalahari Desert used truffles for millennia [2].

Mushrooms are visible to the naked eye as they grow above the earth, whereas truffles grow underground in depth between 5 and 10 cm. Truffles are usually collected by specialists who have special skills and experience to explore this type of flora. Sometimes, truffle collectors use some animals such as pigs and dogs to discover this type of underground fungus. This is based on their high sensitivity to the characteristic truffle volatile compounds. Traditionally, mushrooms and truffles are taken as type of precious food and consumed either raw or cooked. In addition, they have been also applied as main component of folk medicine. This was based on the fact that they are rich source for proteins, amino acids, fatty acids, fiber, minerals, vitamins, terpenoids, sterols, flavor compounds, and carbohydrates as reported by many authors [35].

In general, not all types of macrofungi are able to grow in the harsh environmental conditions of desert. The term “Desert Macrofungi: Mushrooms and Truffles” is related to the nature and distribution of those species which can grow under arid and semiarid conditions. Thus, the geographical distribution of desert truffles in Africa and Middle East is related to countries around the Mediterranean such as Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Israel in addition to the countries of the Arabian Peninsula such as Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Bahrain, and Kuwait. However, some types of desert truffles were also found in South Africa and Botswana [6]. Generally, the growth of desert truffles requires an annual rainfall range between 50 and 380 mm. In North Africa, good yields of truffle are usually obtained if the rainfalls range between 70 to 120 mm. In addition, the time, quantity, and distribution of the rainfall play an important role in the quality of desert macrofungus growth. For example, to obtain good truffles in North African and Middle Eastern regions, it needs to get rainfall no later than the beginning of December whereas, in southern Europe it should not be later than the beginning of October [7].

For centuries, it was proposed that most of the wild macrofungi are not cultivable. However, with the increased knowledge of mushroom and truffles physiology, nowadays, it is possible to cultivate many types of macrofungi. Mushrooms were successfully cultivated in green houses and in submerged culture fermentation. Whereas, based on the symbiotic behavior of truffles as typical ectomycorrhiza, they were cultivated in soil with their host plant in truffle green houses in semiarid area [67]. With the rapid growth of bioprocess technology industries, it was possible to cultivate many macrofungi in submerged culture under fully controlled conditions to produce the desired biotherapeutic compounds in high concentrations, in shorter production time, and under fully sterile conditions according to cGMP [810].

This review outlines the current status of knowledge on the macrofungi bioactive compounds and their applications in complementary and alternative medicine in different African and Middle Eastern cultures.

What is Truffle?

What is Truffle?

Truffles are an underground mushroom from the Tuber genus, many of which are extremely valuable for their potent flavor and culinary applications. [1] Although not everyone enjoys mushrooms, truffles have a unique and delectable taste and are particularly well represented in French cuisine. Most truffle varieties form a symbiotic relationship with certain types of trees, ranging from oak and hazelnut to pecan and beech trees.

Nutrition Facts

Truffles

Serving Size : 100 g1 61667 (13 g)1 90000 (21 g)

NutrientValue

Total lipid (fat) [g]31.93

Carbohydrate, by difference [g]49.61

Energy [kcal]511

Water [g]10.07

Caffeine [mg]17

Theobromine [mg]170

Sugars, total including NLEA [g]43.09

Fiber, total dietary [g]2.8

Calcium, Ca [mg]167

Iron, Fe [mg]1.96

Magnesium, Mg [mg]53

Phosphorus, P [mg]181

Potassium, K [mg]323

Sodium, Na [mg]86

Zinc, Zn [mg]1.94

Copper, Cu [mg]0.41

Selenium, Se [µg]4.2

Retinol [µg]125

Vitamin A, RAE [µg]126

Carotene, beta [µg]15

Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.62

Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]0.2

Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]5

Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]0.1

Thiamin [mg]0.1

Riboflavin [mg]0.28

Niacin [mg]0.33

Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.04

Folate, total [µg]11

Vitamin B-12 [µg]0.65

Choline, total [mg]41.1

Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]5.4

Folate, food [µg]10

Folate, DFE [µg]10

Cholesterol [mg]41

Fatty acids, total saturated [g]20.02

4:0 [g]0.49

6:0 [g]0.22

8:0 [g]0.18

10:0 [g]0.4

12:0 [g]0.43

14:0 [g]1.66

16:0 [g]8.82

18:0 [g]7.27

18:1 [g]6.71

18:2 [g]1.27

18:3 [g]0.13

20:4 [g]0.01

16:1 [g]0.46

20:1 [g]0.01

20:5 n-3 (EPA) [g]0

22:5 n-3 (DPA) [g]0

Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]7.82

Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]1.45

Sources include : USDA [2]

 

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