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Chinese Science Bulletin, Volume 63, Issue 13: 1180-1188(2018) https://doi.org/10.1360/N972018-00188

Archaeological evidence suggests earlier use of Ganoderma in Neolithic China

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  • ReceivedMar 16, 2018
  • AcceptedApr 10, 2018

Abstract

Herbs and fungi, which have always been the principal form of medicine in developing countries, have regained popularity in the developed world as people strive to stay healthy in the face of chronic stress and pollution and treat illnesses with medicines that work in concert with body’s defense. There are several age-old books originating from various countries that record diversified herbal medicine. In China, the earliest text to record medicinal herbs and fungi is the “Shennong’s Herbal Classic”, which appeared more than 2500 years ago. The saying “Shennong tasted one hundred herbs” comes from the ancient China and the famous “Divine Husbandman” known as “Shennong” who is said to be the first to collect and use medicinal plants in China. Shennong is esteemed for transmission and emergence of ancient China’s agricultural practices dating back to 4000–5000 BC, although there is evidence for the use of medicinal plants dating back up to 60000 years before present. However, owing to the lack of reliable archaeological evidence, it has been highly debated when prehistoric farmers began utilizing wild herbal medicine and how long it took for this practice to spread. Here, we examined the morphology of spores excavated from 5 Ganoderma samples (G1−G5) in three archaeological sites located in Tianluoshan, Yuhangnanhu, and Qianjintadi that date back to the Neolithic era. Dating using 14C isotope revealed that the use of G1sample began about 6817±44 years BP in the Hemudu society, G2 sample began about 5379±59 years BP and G5 sample began about 4508±50 years BP in the Hemudu society and liangchu society. The comparison of morphological characteristics of spores from the prehistoric samples and spores of the present-day, modern Ganoderma species confirmed that the G1–G5 samples belong to the genus Ganoderma. Hemudu society is one of the birthplaces of Chinese civilization, and people had started using reed mats and planted tea and rice. The prehistoric Ganoderma was unearthed with the cultural relics, such as wood carving headornaments, jade articles, and so on. It was speculated that the witch had been using Ganoderma at that time. The earliest dates for the lower Yangtze River areas Neolithic indicate that it expanded the archaeobotanical records of herbal medicine (Ganoderma) exploitation in China to 6800 years BP. With the formation of early agriculture, people have continued exploration and utilization of fungi with Ganoderma appearance. In the course of the history, the ancient Chinese people gradually documented its value and extolled its purpose. This opinion is related to the legendary events of “Xuanyuan gifted with Ganoderma” and “Shennong gathers Ganoderma” in the mythological era of China. Further research in this region should help clarify the trajectory of herbal medicine origination in China.


Acknowledgment

感谢中国科学院微生物研究所真菌学国家重点实验室张小青副研究员、浙江江南水乡博物馆陆文宝、湖州市文保所陈云、中国科学院地质与地球物理研究所许冰高级工程师在样本收集和实验中的指导和帮助.


Interest statement

Equally contributed to this work


Contributions statement

同等贡献


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  • Figure 1

    The image of Shennong (What in his right hand is Lingzhi)

  • Figure 2

    The pileus surface and basidiospore morphological characteristics of ancient Ganoderma samples. The pileus surface of G1 (a), G2 (b), G3 (c), G4 (d), G5 (e); (f) the basidiopores of G1 are long ovoid, 5.4−7.3 μm long×3.5−4.8 μm width; (g) the basidiopores of G2 are long ovoid, 5.3 μm long×4.1 μm width; (h) the basidiopores of G3 are oblong, 5.3 μm long×3.1 μm width; (i) the basidiopores of G4 are oblong, 5.4−6.2 μm long× 3.5−4.6 μm width; (k) the basidiopores of G5 are peer-shaped, 4.9−5.7 μm long´3.0−4.3 μm width; the scale bar of (a) is 1.0 cm, the scales of (b) to (e) are 5.0 cm, the scales of (f) to (k) are 2 μm

  • Figure 3

    The morphological characteristics of Ganoderma basidiospore. (a) G. lucidum; (b) G. sinese; (c) G. duropora; (d) G. pfeifferi; (e) G. boninense; (f) G. applanatum; (g) G. australe; (h) G. shangsiense; (i) G. philippri; (j) G. adspersum; (k) G. incrassatum; (l) Ganoderma spp.

  • Figure 4

    Fungal tube morphology of prehistoric Ganoderma samples. The tube of G1(a), G2(b), G3(c), G5(d), and the cuticle of G1(e). The (f) is the enlarged view of (e)

  • Figure 5

    Ganoderma basidiospores size. (a) Prehistoric samples (G1−G5). (b) Modern samples (A, G. philippii; B, G. applanatum; C, G. austral; D, G. incrassatum; E, G. adspersum; F, G. shangsiense; G, G. spp.; H, G. sinese; I, G. duropora; J, G. pfeifferi; K, G. boninense; L, G. lucium). (c) The fitted morphological curve of Ganoderma basidiospores between prehistoric G1 and modern G. austral and G. applanatum samples

  • Table 1   Modern samples

    编号

    物种

    标本号

    担孢子

    采集地

    长度(L)(μm)

    宽度(W)(μm)

    L/W

    1

    Ganoderma philippii

    HMAS 133186

    6.0±0.34(n=40)

    4.3±0.27(n=40)

    1.4

    海南

    2

    G. applanatum

    HMAS 130288

    6.4±0.7(n=38)

    4.4±0.4(n=38)

    1.4

    河北

    3

    G. applanatum

    HMAS 130289

    6.2±0.5(n=37)

    4.5±0.4(n=37)

    1.4

    河北

    4

    G. applanatum

    HMAS 130285

    6.4±0.7(n=38)

    4.5±0.4(n=38)

    1.4

    新疆

    5

    G. applanatum

    HMAS 130018

    6.7±0.5(n=61)

    4.7±0.3(n=61)

    1.4

    新疆

    6

    G. australe

    HMAS 86596 m

    9.6±0.5(n=39)

    6.1±0.3(n=39)

    1.6

    英国

    7

    G. australe

    HMAS 251312 m

    8.1±0.6(n=22)

    5.1±0.3(n=22)

    1.6

    英国

    8

    G. incrassatum

    HMAS 242664

    6.9±0.4(n=50)

    4.8±0.2(n=50)

    1.4

    海南

    9

    G. incrassatum

    HMAS 251180 m

    6.8±0.4(n=20)

    4.8±0.2(n=20)

    1.4

    海南

    10

    G. incrassatum

    HMAS 130819 s

    6.6±0.4(n=34)

    4.4±0.3(n=34)

    1.5

    海南

    11

    G. adspersum

    HMAS 251305 m

    8.3±0.4(n=44)

    6.0±0.4(n=44)

    1.4

    英国

    12

    G. adspersum

    HMAS 251308 m

    8.8±0.6(n=30)

    6.3±0.5(n=30)

    1.4

    英国

    13

    G. adspersum

    HMAS 251311 m

    7.9±0.7(n=21)

    5.3±0.5(n=21)

    1.5

    英国

    14

    G. shangsiense

    HMAS 29739 m

    6.8±0.5(n=30)

    5.7±0.4(n=30)

    1.2

    广东

    15

    G. shangsiense

    HMAS 29741 m

    7.6±0.5(n=40)

    6.3±0.4(n=40)

    1.2

    广西

    16

    G. shangsiense

    HMAS 130030 m

    7.9±0.5(n=30)

    6.4±0.4(n=30)

    1.2

    海南

    17

    G. spp.

    NRCT004

    5.8±0.4(n=50)

    4.3±0.5(n=50)

    1.3

    海南

    18

    G. sinense

    HMAS 251310 m

    10.2±0.5(n=16)

    6.5±0.3(n=16)

    1.6

    广东

    19

    G. duropora

    NRCT003

    10.7±0.5(n=50)

    6.6±0.3(n=50)

    1.6

    湖南

    20

    G. pfeifferi

    HMAS 35657 m

    9.2±0.5(n=40)

    6.7±0.4(n=40)

    1.4

    英国

    21

    G. boninense

    250026 m

    9.3±0.5(n=30)

    4.7±0.4(n=30)

    2.0

    海南

    22

    G. boninense

    HMAS 250020 m

    8.8±0.7(n=40)

    4.4±0.4(n=40)

    2.0

    海南

    23

    G. lucium

    NRCT007

    8.0±0.4(n=50)

    5.0±0.3(n=50)

    1.6

    北京

    24

    G. lucium

    NRCT052

    7.9±0.5(n=50)

    5.0±0.4(n=50)

    1.6

    山东

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