- Reishi Mushrooms Prevent Obesity in Mice
- Why Are Mushrooms So Powerful?
- The Extraordinary Health Benefits of Mushrooms
- What Can You Do With This Knowledge?
- The Health Benefits of Mushrooms That Make Them One of the Hottest New Superfoods
- 11 Surprising Health Benefits of Mushrooms
- Health Benefit of Mushrooms #1: Powerful Anti-Cancer Fighters
- Health Benefit of Mushrooms #2: Strengthening the Immune System
- Health Benefit of Mushrooms #3: Protection Against Heart Disease and Stroke
- Health Benefit of Mushrooms #4: Fighting Disease-Causing Free Radicals
- Health Benefit of Mushrooms #5: Managing Blood Sugar Levels
- Health Benefit of Mushrooms #6: Helping to Manage Stress Effectively
- Health Benefit of Mushrooms #7: Enhancing Libido
- Health Benefit of Mushrooms #8: Improving Exercise Performance
- Health Benefit of Mushrooms #9, #10 & #11
- Article Summary
- 1. Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
- 2. Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
- 3. Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor, Coriolus versicolor)
- 4. Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
- 5. Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
- 6. Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis)
- Related posts (article continues below)
- Related post (article continues below)
- 2. Opt for a mushroom extract
- 3. Medicinal compounds must be stated on the label
- In conclusion…
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- The Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms
- 1. Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
- 2. Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
- 3. Cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps sinensis)
- 4. Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
- 5. Turkey Tail (Coriolus versicolor or Trametes versicolor)
Reishi Mushrooms Prevent Obesity in Mice
- Chang CJ, Lin CS, Lu CC, et al. Ganoderma lucidum reduces obesity in mice by modulating the composition of the gut microbiota. Nat Commun. 2015;6:7489.
- Cani PD, Possemiers S, Van de Wiele T, et al. Changes in gut microbiota control inflammation in obese mice through a mechanism involving GLP-2-driven improvement of gut permeability. Gut. 2009;58(8):1091-103.
- Sanodiya BS, Thakur GS, Baghel RK, et al. Ganoderma lucidum: a potent pharmacological macrofungus. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2009;10(8):717-42.
- Thyagarajan-Sahu A, Lane B, Sliva D. ReishiMax, mushroom based dietary supplement, inhibits adipocyte differentiation, stimulates glucose uptake and activates AMPK. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011;11:74.
- Li F, Zhang Y, Zhong Z. Antihyperglycemic effect of ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides on streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice. Int J Mol Sci. 2011;12(9):6135-45.
- Pan D, Zhang D, Wu J, et al. Antidiabetic, antihyperlipidemic and antioxidant activities of a novel proteoglycan from ganoderma lucidum fruiting bodies on db/db mice and the possible mechanism. PLoS One. 2013;8(7):e68332.
- Ridaura VK, Faith JJ, Rey FE, et al. Gut microbiota from twins discordant for obesity modulate metabolism in mice. Science. 2013;341(6150):1241214.
- Dethlefsen L, McFall-Ngai M, Relman DA. An ecological and evolutionary perspective on human-microbe mutualism and disease. Nature. 2007;449(7164):811-8.
- Backhed F, Ding H, Wang T, et al. The gut microbiota as an environmental factor that regulates fat storage. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004;101(44):15718-23.
- Turnbaugh PJ, Ley RE, Mahowald MA, et al. An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest. Nature. 2006;444(7122):1027-31.
- Goodman AL, Kallstrom G, Faith JJ, et al. Extensive personal human gut microbiota culture collections characterized and manipulated in gnotobiotic mice. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011;108(15):6252-7.
- Cani PD, Bibiloni R, Knauf C, et al. Changes in gut microbiota control metabolic endotoxemia-induced inflammation in high-fat diet-induced obesity and diabetes in mice. Diabetes. 2008;57(6):1470-81.
- Cani PD, Amar J, Iglesias MA, et al. Metabolic endotoxemia initiates obesity and insulin resistance. Diabetes. 2007;56(7): 1761-72.
- Wellen KE, Hotamisligil GS. Inflammation, stress, and diabetes. J Clin Invest. 2005;115(5):1111-9.
- Shi H, Kokoeva MV, Inouye K, et al. TLR4 links innate immunity and fatty acid-induced insulin resistance. J Clin Invest. 2006;116(11):3015-25.
- Nakamura YK, Omaye ST. Metabolic diseases and pro- and prebiotics: Mechanistic insights. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2012;9(1):60.
- Everard A, Lazarevic V, Derrien M, et al. Responses of gut microbiota and glucose and lipid metabolism to prebiotics in genetic obese and diet-induced leptin-resistant mice. Diabetes. 2011;60(11): 2775-86.
- Brun P, Castagliuolo I, Di Leo V, et al. Increased intestinal permeability in obese mice: new evidence in the pathogenesis of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2007;292(2):G518-25.
- Ley RE, Turnbaugh PJ, Klein S, et al. Microbial ecology: human gut microbes associated with obesity. Nature. 2006;444(7122):1022-3.
Higher doses of reishi mushroom might make bleeding more likely in people who have a very low platelet count.
Also, avoid using reishi mushroom if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, because there hasn’t been enough study on its safety in these circumstances.
Interactions. Reishi mushroom may increase the risk of bleeding. Talk to your doctor before taking reishi mushroom if you are using anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs such as:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Reishi mushroom may also interact with high blood pressure medications.
Also discuss possible interactions if you are taking other herbs or supplements that may prevent normal blood clotting or lower blood pressure. Ginkgo and fish oil are two examples.
Tell your doctor about any supplements you’re taking, even if they’re natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with medications or foods. He or she can let you know if the supplement might raise your risk.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate dietary supplements; however, it treats them like foods rather than medications. Unlike drug manufacturers, the makers of supplements don’t have to show their products are safe or effective before selling them on the market.
The reishi mushroom, also known as lingzhi in China, yeongji in Korea and linhchi in Vietnam, is well known to be a medicinal mushroom with numerous health benefits. In fact, it has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over two thousand years. Reishi mushrooms are said to be able to cure heart diseases, liver disorders, skin ailments, and even strengthen the immune system. However, what a lot of people do not know is that these mushrooms can also aid in weight loss.
In traditional Chinese, the reishi mushroom’s name literally means “supernatural mushroom.” It is one of the oldest medicinal mushrooms used to date. The mushroom can live in both temperate and tropical regions. Naturally, reishi mushrooms grow on the bases of deciduous trees. Estimates suggest that around two or three out of ten thousand aged deciduous trees have reishi mushrooms growing out of them, quite rare in the wild. Nowadays, these mushrooms are cultured for mass production.
In the health and fitness industry, experts are in awe of the different weight loss properties of the reishi mushroom. For instance, the increase in metabolism the mushroom gives significantly helps individuals lose weight. Doctors and fitness experts alike agree that high metabolism is crucial in burning fats and weight loss. The reishi mushroom, with an apparent absence of side effects, increases metabolism to aid in safe and effective weight loss.
There are dozens of other weight loss supplements in the market today; however, none of them prove to be as safe and effective as the reishi mushroom. In addition, users of the reishi mushroom often have good digestion. Moreover, bad cholesterol and fat deposits are minimized. Consuming this mushroom also aids individuals excrete unwanted fats and toxins, making the user feel healthier than ever.
Linhzhi in Vietnam
Reishi mushroom capsules, along with a proper diet and sufficient exercise will work wonders for those who are overweight and obese. Of course, if you depend on supplements alone, the effects will be less apparent or even not apparent at all. You cannot depend on the reishi mushroom alone, extra effort on your part is essential. Make sure to eat healthy and hit the gym regularly to maximize its effect.
As the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.” You will need to do your part for the mushroom’s weight loss effects for to be effective. The reishi mushroom extract will be your key to quicker and faster success, with minimal or no side effects.
Fungi, including mushrooms, are peculiar forms of life. They pop up, seemingly overnight, out of nowhere. And unlike plants, they’re not green, they don’t have leaves or roots, and they never form flowers, fruits, or seeds.
Evolutionarily speaking, fungi are more closely related to humans than plants.
This fact may be why many of the components that help mushrooms defend themselves against their enemies also support your body’s defense mechanisms and are increasingly being seen as a legitimate means to enhance your health and well-being.
The ancient Egyptians believed eating mushrooms brought long life. And mushrooms have been used for thousands of years in cultures around the world, particularly in Asian countries.
Now, modern scientists are discovering some fascinating healing properties of mushrooms. And more than a hundred species of mushrooms are currently being studied across around the world today for their potential health benefits.
Why Are Mushrooms So Powerful?
Medicinal mushrooms got their name because they were used for the prevention and treatment of diseases.
All mushrooms contain beta glucans, which have been found to help fight inflammation and aid the immune system.
Mushrooms are thought to protect against breast and other hormone-related cancers because they inhibit an enzyme called aromatase, which produces estrogen.
Mushrooms also contain a type of lectins that recognize cancer cells and prevent these cells from growing and dividing.
(Lectins, a type of carbohydrate-binding protein, have gotten a bad reputation in certain circles. But some of them, such as the ones in mushrooms, can be highly beneficial.)
The Extraordinary Health Benefits of Mushrooms
More than 2,000 species of edible mushrooms exist on the planet.
This article discusses some of the more common medicinal mushrooms:
- Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
- Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
- Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor, Coriolus versicolor)
- Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
- Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
- Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis)
But even the commonly consumed button mushrooms are medicinal mushrooms!
Here are five health benefits of mushrooms that have been identified by extensive scientific research:
#1 – Increasing Antioxidant Activity
All available evidence indicates that, at high levels, free radicals damage various structures in your body’s cells. This cellular damage contributes to an increase in your risk for developing many health problems, including those related to aging. This is why decreasing or inactivating free radicals can lead to huge benefits for your health.
Dietary antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin A, selenium, beta-carotene, and others, counter the adverse health effects of free radicals.
Promisingly, many mushrooms also contain powerful ingredients that have been found to neutralize free radicals.
For instance, extracts of the medicinal and dietary mushroom Reishi have been shown to reduce free radical activity. Known in China as the “spirit plant,” Reishi is believed to relax and fortify both mind and body.
Another medicinal mushroom, chaga, is also known for its antioxidant properties — indeed, according to a report in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, a Chaga polysaccharide has been found to possess “strong antioxidant activity for scavenging free radicals.”
Chaga Mushrooms: “The king of medicinal mushrooms”
Similarly, the journal Carbohydrate Polymers reports that polysaccharides present in the fungus Cordyceps have been shown to “improve the antioxidation activity in immunosuppressed mice (and to) significantly increase… total antioxidant capacity.”
The great news is that Cordyceps not only helps to neutralize harmful free radicals, it also enhances the activity of your body’s innate antioxidant systems.
Cordyceps Mushrooms: A rare combination of a caterpillar and a fungus
#2 – Enhancing the Immune System
Every second of every day, your immune system is working overtime to clear away debris, to fight off cancer cells, and support your body achieve vibrant, healthy functioning.
It’s an extraordinarily complex and multifaceted system. And sometimes, especially as you age, your immune system can begin to wear down and function less effectively.
Mushrooms can help. They boost both the levels and activity of many vital components of your immune system — and may even “prime” immune cells so that they become more effective in responding to future infections and attacks.
Macrophages are a type of immune white blood cell that engulfs and digests cellular debris, foreign substances, microbes, cancer cells, and anything else in your body that does not appear healthy to the immune system.
A Chaga polysaccharide has been shown to induce rapid increases in macrophages in mice.
In another study, giving Chaga extract daily for 24 days to mice with compromised immune systems increased the numbers of protective white blood cells in their bone marrow.
Another medicinal mushroom, Reishi, has been shown to boost the production of many components of the immune system, including natural killer cells, which detect and destroy cancer cells and cells infected with viruses.
Reishi Mushrooms: “The mushroom of immortality”
In one study, 34 patients with advanced stages of cancer were treated for 12 weeks with a Reishi-sourced polysaccharide. The patients who were given the treatment showed substantial improvements in the effectiveness of their immune function.
Shiitake is one of the most popular and best-studied mushrooms in the world today. These mushrooms contain a polysaccharide known as Lentinan, which Cancer Detection and Prevention Journal has described as “a unique class of immunopotentiator” that helps to improve the quality of life and extend survival.
Shiitake Mushrooms: “The elixir of life”
In a 2014 study reported in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, researchers gave 52 healthy young adults either five or 10 grams of dried Shiitake mushrooms daily for four weeks. Consuming mushrooms was associated with a substantial increase in the number and effectiveness of both “T immune cells” and natural killer cells.
In just one month, eating the dried shiitake mushrooms was found to support both a stronger immune system and a marked drop in inflammation. The subjects who took ten grams of dried shiitake’s daily had the most positive benefits.
#3 – Managing Blood Sugar Levels
Mushrooms may also be useful in managing safe levels of blood sugar.
Compounds from the parasitic fungus Cordyceps have been shown to help support balanced blood sugar levels. For example, a study published in the journal Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin found that a Cordyceps polysaccharide showed “potent hypoglycemic (blood sugar lowering) activity in genetic diabetic mice,” while “plasma glucose level was quickly reduced in normal and streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice.”
The study also found that this same Cordyceps-sourced polysaccharide contributed to lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
One of the most common and devastating complications that can be caused by diabetes is diabetic nephropathy. Over time, the condition can cause the kidneys to malfunction and, eventually, to fail.
In one promising study, Cordyceps was shown to significantly reduce blood glucose levels, lower kidney breakdown markers, and preserve renal function in mice.
#4 – Supporting Brain Health
Lions Mane Mushrooms: The first “smart” mushrooms that may boost mood and memory
The ball-shaped mushroom with cascading icicle-like spines known as Lion’s Mane has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine. Once reserved for royal families, Lion’s Mane contains up to 20% protein and is considered to be a gourmet dish by many.
Potent compounds in Lion’s Mane have been shown to activate a very important peptide (a small protein) known as “nerve growth factor” or NGF. NGF is necessary for the growth, maintenance, and survival of the neurons in your brain.
These Lion’s Mane compounds stimulate your neurons to re-grow and trigger a process known as re-myelination, which helps to keep your neurons healthy and maintains their ability to conduct electrical signals efficiently.
In one small Japanese clinical study, elderly men and women with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) were given Lion’s Mane for 16 weeks. Throughout the study period, the mushroom-eating group showed significantly increased scores on a cognitive function scale compared with the placebo group. But if they stopped consuming the mushroom, their advantage disappeared.
Short-term memory refers to your ability to hold a small amount of information in your mind in a readily available state for a short period. Visual recognition memory is a measurement of your ability to recognize previously encountered events, objects, or people, and to “remember” them.
Both of these types of memory are often lost in people with age-related health conditions. And both of them appear to be supported by eating Lion’s Mane, which has been shown to help prevent the breakdown of spatial short-term and visual recognition memory and delay the onset of cognitive dysfunction.
#5 – Improving Exercise Performance
Mushrooms growing on a log
Mushrooms don’t just help you live longer. They can also help you live better — and stronger. Especially Cordyceps.
Cordyceps extracts have been shown to dilate the aorta — the main artery in your body that supplies oxygenated blood to your entire circulatory system — by up to 40%, thereby increasing blood flow and greatly enhancing endurance.
What’s more, Cordyceps contains adenosine and can stimulate the production of ATP — one of the main sources of energy in your body’s cells. This may be one of the reasons why it has been found to improve stamina in athletic performance.
In one Japanese study, supplementation with Cordyceps improved the performance of over 70% of long-distance runners.
In a 2010 double-blind, placebo-controlled study, a Cordyceps extract known as Cs-4 was given to 20 healthy elderly subjects three times per day for 12 weeks. Supplementation with Cs-4 was found to meaningfully improve their exercise performance and overall wellness.
What Can You Do With This Knowledge?
Mushrooms are potent health-boosters, and their documented benefits are extraordinary. The mushrooms discussed in this article are considered safe and relatively non-toxic.
But unless you’re a trained mycologist (an expert who specializes in the study of fungi), it is not recommended to begin harvesting them in the wild because some wild mushrooms are poisonous. There are so many varieties, species, and subspecies that a simple mistake could result in severe consequences or even death.
You may be able to find fresh shiitake or Lion’s Mane mushrooms in a local or specialty grocery store (and they’re both delicious!). But some of the most potent medicinal mushrooms can be bitter or may be difficult to find.
Plus, many health experts recommend combining multiple medicinal mushrooms for their synergistic effect.
If you’re going to take a mushroom supplement, you want to look for a manufacturer that offers 100% organic mushroom extracts and supplements, produced, stored, and packaged under strict guidelines to preserve their nutrient content and overall effectiveness.
And what about the common “table mushrooms” like button, crimini, portobello, or oyster? There is considerable evidence that all edible mushrooms, even the most common grocery store varieties, have potent health-boosting properties. But the most powerful may be the medicinal mushrooms described in this article.
So enjoy your mushrooms! Your body will thank you for the rest of your life.
Editor’s note: If you’re looking to take advantage of the health benefits of all the medicinal mushrooms described in this article, you might be interested in 7M+. This product combines fermented, organically grown Turkey Tale, Chaga, Shiitake, Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane, Reishi, and Fruit Body mushrooms — all in a daily tablet that makes it easy to get all these medicinal mushrooms benefits in one place. Find out more here.
Tell us in the comments: How do you enjoy medicinal mushrooms benefits?
The Health Benefits of Mushrooms That Make Them One of the Hottest New Superfoods
Photo: Rebecca Fondren Photo /
If you’re into trendy health foods, you’ve probably spotted mushroom-enhanced teas, smoothies, coffee, and chocolates touting benefits like reduced inflammation, less stress, and more energy. There’s even an LA-based café that specializes in mushroom-enhanced drinks and tonics.
But mushrooms aren’t exactly new news-so why are they booming right now? And are they worth trying if your goal is overall better health? We talked to nutrition and integrative medicine experts to find out.
Why Are Mushrooms So Trendy RN?
Popular “functional” mushroom varieties like reishi, cordyceps, and lion’s mane are technically adaptogens, which might be part of the reason they’re so big right now. (FYI, functional mushrooms are used for their medicinal properties rather than just their taste.) “Adaptogens have been on the wellness scene’s radar for quite some time,” notes Jaime Bachtell-Shelbert, a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Wholly Nourished.
“Many people are more familiar with adaptogenic herbs such as ginseng, licorice root, rosemary, aloe vera, and nettles. However, there’s a new class of adaptogens taking over the scene, and that’s mushrooms.” Adaptogens are thought to help manage stress by supporting the adrenal system, which helps to regulate your hormones, fight-or-flight instincts, blood sugar, and more. “Generally speaking, adaptogens reduce our overall response to stress, or help you to adapt,” says Bachtell-Shelbert.
Although adaptogens are trending right now, mushrooms are nothing new when it comes to treating health problems naturally. “For years, mushrooms have been used in many cultures as a healing food,” says Chelsey Schneider, a registered dietitian who works with cancer patients.
“There clearly has been a trend over the past few years of people seeking more information about health and nutrition,” says Schneider. “This goes one step further to ask ‘Okay, now how can I use food to manage stress or boost my immune system?'”
And while Schneider does think mushrooms have healing potential, she-like much of the mainstream medical community-isn’t completely convinced of their adaptogenic properties. “I think there needs to be more research to support claims of mushrooms and their adaptogenic properties, but there is plenty of research on the other healing abilities of mushrooms,” she says. Those abilities include things like reduced inflammation and better sports performance.
It’s hard to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between mushrooms and stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues, but based on the research that’s currently available, Schneider says there’s no reason not to give mushrooms a shot. “If there are no contraindications (check with your doctor), why not give them a try and see how they work?” (Related: Can Smelling This Magic Mushroom Really Make You Orgasm?)
Healthy Mushrooms You Should Know
“What makes reishi so special is that it’s a natural balancer and is considered to be an adaptogen that aids in reducing physical and mental stress-related symptoms,” says Sandra Carter, Ph.D., integrative medicine expert and founder of Om Mushrooms. “In Eastern Medicine, they’ve called it the “Mushroom of Immortality” and the “Elixir of Life.'”
And because reishi has been the subject of so much research-over 1,500 scholarly articles-it’s the one most experts recommend starting with. “The bioactive compounds in reishi have been shown to affect a wide variety of therapeutic health benefits including support of immune function, heart health, healthy inflammation response, and modulation of allergenic responses,” says Carter.
How to eat: Reishi cannot be eaten in mushroom form but can be added to virtually anything via its powdered form. Tea and supplement forms are also available. There are also several pre-mixed reishi smoothies, coffees, and tonics on the market. Try: Check out Four Sigmatic’s Reishi Mushroom Elixir Mix ($69; foursigmatic.com).
“Cordyceps is another mushroom variety that has been used for many years as a medicinal mushroom,” says Schneider. It also has a decent amount of research to support its perks. “The benefits of Cordyceps are wide-reaching, including improving respiratory and renal disease, weakness, and also like reishi, strengthening the immune system.”
If you’re concerned with sports performance, cordyceps might be your best bet. “Today, cordyceps is highly regarded by sports professionals, recreational athletes, and fitness enthusiasts for its ability to increase endurance capacity and its anti-inflammatory effects,” Carter says. Less inflammation means faster recovery.
Research has also shown that cordyceps may help increase levels of oxygen in the body, which translates into higher VO2 max and better endurance. (BTW, here’s more info on the potential health and fitness benefits of adaptogens.)
How to eat: “It is unlikely to find whole cordyceps in your local grocery store, so use it in powdered or pill form,” recommends Schneider. Carter suggests mixing a spoonful into your avocado toast, blending it into a smoothie bowl, or adding it to your cup of coffee. Try: Om Mushrooms’ cordyceps powder ($25; ommushrooms.com)
“Chaga is definitely rising in popularity as one of the must-have functional mushrooms, particularly among women, because its antioxidant compounds may support anti-aging properties that can help retain a youthful vibrancy,” says Carter.
“In research studies, chaga has been shown to have health benefits such as immune-stimulating effects (which is linked to benefits for cancer patients), anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, antiviral benefits, and so many more,” explains Schneider. One thing to be cautious of, though, is that chaga is high in oxalates, which are naturally found in some foods and may interfere with absorption of minerals like calcium, according to Schneider. (Related: 9 Adaptogens That Might Boost Your Fitness Performance Naturally)
How to eat: “Chaga has a smooth, nutty flavor and is a great addition to beverages,” says Carter. “It’s easy to add a teaspoon to a cup of coffee or tea, smoothie or recipes like dips, sauces or soups.” Try: Add Moon Juice’s chaga powder ($48; moonjuice.com) to virtually any dish.
Turkey Tail mushrooms (sometimes referred to as “PSK”) are also believed to have medicinal benefits. “Clinical trials of patients with gastric cancer show potential benefits of PSK, as well as some promising studies in breast, lung, and colorectal cancer patients,” says Schneider.
How to eat: These are also best consumed in the form of a powder, supplement, or tincture, says Schneider. Try: Make a tasty chai latte with Four Sigmatic’s Chai Latte Mushroom Mix ($20; foursigmatic.com), which contains both turkey tail and reishi.
Also known as “the smart mushroom,” lion’s mane is thought to help support nerve health and cognitive function. “Lion’s mane is known as a nootropic, a substance that can help enhance cognition and nerve conduction, which helps with agility and coordination,” says Carter. “Nootropics are also an increasing focus in sports performance and training. For athletes wanting to increase their competitive edge, improved agility and coordination are key components.” (If you’re curious about nootropics, you’ll want to read up on biohacking.)
How to Eat It: Lion’s mane comes in powder form and can be added to virtually any food or drink. Try: For a quick fix, try Ancient Apothecary’s Lion’s Mane Capsules ($35; draxe.com).
What to Know Before You Try
In general, mushroom supplements are safe-but like any other supplement, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor before incorporating them into your diet in highly concentrated forms.
“Mushroom varieties may induce blood thinning,” says Schneider. “If you have any history of this, consult with your doctor before taking mushrooms.”
Certain other medications like chemotherapy can also interact with some mushrooms. If you are on medication or in treatment for any conditions, it’s a good idea to rule out any interactions ahead of time. Finally, “it’s always best to consult with your doctor or dietitian to see if and which types of medicinal mushrooms would benefit you,” says Schneider. As natural options are becoming increasingly popular and well-researched, more mainstream physicians are beginning to see their benefits.
With mushroom coffee, I feel energized and alert without feeling anxious, restless, or experiencing an accelerated heart rate. I feel grounded, too, and even find myself sleeping quite well, even on days when I have a cup of coffee at 3 or 4 p.m., which usually would have sabotaged my 10 p.m. bedtime and delayed my ability to fall asleep until well after midnight. I also don’t seem to have any digestive discomfort, another side effect I experienced while I was a regular coffee drinker. Even though the medical community needs more clinical trials to come to a research-backed conclusion, I’ve come to a verdict.
As for what the science currently says, mushrooms like chaga, reishi, lion’s mane, and cordyceps are anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, gut-friendly, contain high amounts of antioxidants (more than acai, blueberries, and cacao), and support our liver in flushing out toxins. Mushrooms are also adaptogens–healing plants that, well, heal. World-renowned integrative medicine guru Andrew Weil, MD, describes adaptogens as being able to bring the body back to homeostasis. It’s no wonder medicinal mushrooms have been used for centuries. Studies confirm they mitigate the effects of stress by supporting our adrenals–the glands responsible for balancing our hormones, and regulating things like our energy levels, emotions, metabolism, and brain function. And although an 8-ounce cup of mushroom coffee has around 50 milligrams of caffeine, about half that found in regular coffee, it is enough to keep you alert.
I’ve definitely enjoyed welcoming mushroom coffee into my mornings. If you’re someone who, like me, enjoys the taste and smell of coffee, but feels caffeine-sensitive, I’d encourage you to try it. It’s pretty cost-effective too. A cup averages to less than $1. It also comes ground, if instant coffee isn’t your thing. Alternatively, you can find mushroom powder alone and use it with any beverage, smoothie, or soup. Gwyneth does.
There are better tasting coffees, but I have found it’s one wellness trend that has lived up to the hype.
Joanna Townsend is a licensed psychotherapist and holistic health coach based in the Washington, D.C., area. She is passionate about wellness, real food nutrition, and mental health. Follow her for more wellness tips and tricks on Instagram.
11 Surprising Health Benefits of Mushrooms
N Nutrition Reading Time: 10 minutes
Originally used in the East as both traditional medicine and food, many mushroom varieties have been studied intensively for their therapeutic properties over the past few decades. In fact, all edible mushrooms seem to possess both medicinal and nutritional qualities, although they must be prepared properly to release their full benefits.
Modern scientific evidence shows that medicinal mushrooms typically act to help strengthen the immune system, lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, and help our bodies fight against free radicals, mutagens, and toxins.
These health benefits of mushrooms seem to exist mainly because of the presence of polysaccharides (complex sugar molecules) called beta glucans in their cell walls. Beta glucans are also present in cereal grains, algae, bacteria, fungi, and yeast. Early human clinical trials with beta glucans have confirmed that they have an immune-strengthening effect and are safe to consume, with minimal to no side effects for most people.
Along with boosting immunity, many of these potent mushrooms have other health benefits as a result of their actions on our bodies. Let’s take a closer look at what researchers have found…
Health Benefit of Mushrooms #1: Powerful Anti-Cancer Fighters
Brewed for thousands of years as a medicinal tea in China, turkey tail mushroom (known scientifically as Trametes versicolor or Coriolus versicolor) is used extensively in Asia to fight cancer.
One notable use is a turkey tail mushroom extract known as PSK (protein-bound Polysaccharide Krestin) that is widely used to boost the immune system when treating many types of cancer in Japan.
Multiple studies have confirmed that PSK prevents cancer cell growth with minimal adverse effects, while also simultaneously reducing side effects of standard anti-cancer therapy such as fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and pain.
For instance, PSK has been shown to act powerfully against lung cancer and strengthen the immune systems of lung cancer patients, helping them to cope better with the consequences of toxic and invasive anti-cancer treatment.
Additionally, PSK has been shown to ease tumor-associated symptoms, and extend lifespan in patients undergoing radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Along with all this, turkey tail mushroom extracts have also been found to:
- Slow breast cancer cell growth, reducing tumor weight by 36% and lowering metastasis to the lungs by 70.8% in a mouse model of metastatic breast cancer.
- Slow the growth of human esophageal cancer cells by reducing their survival time and increasing their rate of apoptosis (also known as programmed cell suicide).
- Target cancer stem cells, preventing the formation of prostate tumors in a mouse model of prostate cancer – with an incredible efficiency of 100 percent and no side-effects whatsoever!
Red reishi is another popular medicinal mushroom. Known scientifically as Ganoderma lucidum, this potent “mushroom of immortality” is known as ling zhi in Chinese and reishi in Japanese.
Reishi may help patients to beat cancer in multiple ways. First, it stimulates the immune system, helping the body fight more effectively against cancer.
Second, a bioactive compound known as canthaxanthin (and possibly others) in reishi have been shown to help slow down tumor growth. Third, beta glucan – another bioactive compound – helps immune cells to bind more effectively to tumor cells and kill them more easily.
Because of these powerful anti-cancer abilities shown by reishi in both laboratory research and clinical usage, the Japanese government officially recognizes it as an anti-cancer therapy.
However, if you’re thinking of adding a reishi supplement or extract to your daily regimen you should first discuss the appropriate dose for your specific health condition with a qualified healthcare practitioner. Doses of commercial reishi products can vary widely and may not align with the research dosages studied.
Health Benefit of Mushrooms #2: Strengthening the Immune System
Along with helping to prevent abnormal cell growth, turkey tail mushroom extracts have been shown to help repair weakened immune systems in breast cancer patients after they had undergone standard chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
These mushroom extracts appear to do this by boosting the number and activity of natural killer (NK) cells and “cytotoxic T-cells,” which likely attack and kill off any remaining cancerous cells that are left after conventional anti-cancer therapies.
Scientific research also shows that bioactive polysaccharide compounds in reishi mushrooms boost the immune system by increasing the number of macrophages.
As already described above, a bioactive beta glucan compound in reishi helps immune cells bind more effectively to tumor cells and kill them more easily.
All of these immune-boosting actions of reishi have major implications for people suffering from bacterial and viral infections, as well as people with AIDS and other diseases that directly weaken their immune system. No wonder the patented turkey tail mushroom extract PSK (protein-bound Polysaccharide Krestin) has been widely used in Japan as a complementary immunotherapy for treating many different types of cancers since the early 1980s.
Health Benefit of Mushrooms #3: Protection Against Heart Disease and Stroke
Reishi appears in studies to offer a remarkable level of protection against heart disease and stroke, because it supports the body against many risk factors for these conditions.
Health experts now believe that bioactive compounds in reishi known as ganoderic acids and others such as coumarin, mannitol, and polysaccharides act to:
- Lower triglyceride levels
- Remove excess cholesterol from blood
- Lower blood pressure (BP)
- Reduce platelet stickiness, preventing the formation of dangerous blood clots that can lead to heart attacks or strokes
- Help to correct arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythms)
According to one study reported in the book Alternative Medicine to Heart Disease by Burton Goldberg in the late 90s, taking reishi extract three times a day for four weeks lowered blood pressure (BP) in 54 people with hypertension, who were otherwise unresponsive to medication.
Health Benefit of Mushrooms #4: Fighting Disease-Causing Free Radicals
Oxidative stress and other forms of free radical-induced damage to cellular structures in our bodies are believed to increase the risk for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure (BP), diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other age-related conditions.
Free radicals are highly unstable chemical compounds which attack the nearest stable molecule and “steal” its electron. When the “attacked” molecule loses its electron in this way, it becomes a free radical itself, beginning a chain reaction.
If this process cascades, the growing numbers of free radicals can damage vital structures in your body such as the outer protective membrane of your body’s cells, cellular proteins, and even your DNA.
When you are exposed to excessive amounts of free radicals – for example, because of exposure to toxic chemicals, infections, and diseases – and your body’s detoxification systems are no longer able to cope, it can lead to the unhealthy situation known as “oxidative stress.”
Promisingly, a 2015 study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms showed that consumption of reishi extracts for 2 weeks was able to restore some of the innate antioxidant enzyme activity in a rat with diabetes.
Similarly, in a laboratory mouse experiment reported in the journal Scientific Reports in 2015, a polysaccharide peptide isolated from reishi was seen to counteract oxidative stress caused by kidney damage, leading to lower levels of free radicals known as “reactive oxygen species” (ROS) and improved kidney function.
Some health researchers suspect that reishi may not have antioxidant compounds of its own, but rather it stimulates production of a free radical fighter that already exists in our own bodies; the innate antioxidant enzyme system known as superoxide dismutase (SOD).
Similarly, scientific evidence indicates that the amazing mushroom cordyceps – known scientifically as Cordyceps sinensis – also has potent antioxidant activity, which is believed to be partly responsible for its purported anti-aging, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory effects.
Health Benefit of Mushrooms #5: Managing Blood Sugar Levels
Cordyceps grows in the Himalayas and on the Tibetan plateau and has a very interesting, if slightly bizarre life cycle.
Its spores land on the caterpillars of a particular moth species and enter its body. The caterpillar then buries itself into the soil before it dies. In summer, the fungus emerges like a plant from the caterpillar’s head, looking like a thin, orange finger.
Multiple studies discussed in the textbook Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects (2nd edition) demonstrate that cordyceps can lower blood glucose levels. For instance, one study showed that consumption of a cordyceps extract known as CS-4 for 25 days increased insulin sensitivity, while reducing the insulin response to a carbohydrate challenge in normal, non-diabetic rats. These results indicate that CS-4 can potentially lower diabetes risk.
Similarly, in another study, normal rats given CS-4 for 17 days showed significant reductions in their fasting blood glucose and fasting plasma insulin levels.
While cordyceps did not affect fasting insulin levels in diabetic rats, they improved their weight, fasting blood glucose levels, and glucose tolerance (an indicator of diabetes risk) in these animals.
These and many other results from multiple studies indicate that cordyceps is likely to be useful in keeping blood sugar levels under control in patients suffering from diabetes.
Health Benefit of Mushrooms #6: Helping to Manage Stress Effectively
Reishi is an adaptogen – one of many plant forms that help to balance, restore, and protect the body. Specifically, adaptogens enhance the body’s overall ability to cope more effectively with stress and resist its unwelcome consequences, perhaps by actions on the body’s adrenal system, which is responsible for stress management.
Adaptogens exert a normalizing and tonic influence, neither over-stimulating nor interfering with normal body function, and help to counter the effects of chronic stress, anxiety, and insomnia on our bodies.
Many herbs, including Chinese or Korean ginseng, ashwagandha (Indian ginseng), astragalus, licorice root, holy basil, and mushrooms such as cordyceps and reishi are known adaptogens.
The philosophy of Eastern medicine states that our bodies need to defend themselves against threats to their “equilibrium.” Physical threats include viruses and bacteria, while mental or emotional threats (including stress) lead to anxiety and other unpleasant emotions that depress the immune system and overall functioning of the body.
Whatever the threat, reishi’s reputation is that it helps the body keep its innate balance and defend against threats to its equilibrium. Since diseases like heart disease and cancer are also clear signs that the body is out of balance, practitioners of traditional forms of Eastern medicine believe that an equilibrium-enhancing remedy such as reishi can help to treat these and many other ailments.
Health Benefit of Mushrooms #7: Enhancing Libido
Testosterone is necessary for normal sperm development. Cordyceps has traditionally been used for enhancing sexual function in many Eastern societies.
Evidence from laboratory experiments on animals confirms that cordyceps can both improve reproductive activity and restore impaired reproductive function.
Indeed, consumption of cordyceps has been shown to enhance libido and sexual activity, and restore impaired reproductive function in both men and women – likely by enhancing testosterone release in the body.
Health Benefit of Mushrooms #8: Improving Exercise Performance
Cordyceps made international headlines after Chinese runners broke two world records by huge margins at the Asian Games in 1993. According to their coach, the secret to their remarkable athletic performance was the so-called caterpillar fungus, Cordyceps sinensis.
A 2010 study reported in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that supplementation with the cordyceps extract CS-4 for 12 weeks improved exercise performance and contributed to overall markers of wellness in 20 healthy elderly adults.
One way cordyceps likely improves physical abilities and stamina is because it contains adenosine – a critical component of ATP – thereby stimulating production of ATP, one of the primary sources of energy in the cells of our bodies.
A 2007 study out of Hong Kong found that higher production of ATP by cordyceps helped athletes maintain intense workouts while also extending the length of time they were active at a high intensity.
A number of studies have also shown that supplementing with cordyceps can lower heart rate, which explains why people say they can train harder for longer periods when taking cordyceps supplements.
Health Benefit of Mushrooms #9, #10 & #11
Japanese researchers have found that certain bioactive compounds present in reishi act as natural antihistamines, providing strong anti-allergic benefits.
If you suffer from muscle aches or arthritis, some health experts claim that reishi is as powerful and as effective as hydrocortisone for relieving inflammation and pain, but with fewer side effects.
Finally, reishi mushrooms are traditionally believed to be able to calm the mind, along with improving memory, concentration, and focus.
Medicinal mushrooms act to strengthen the immune system, lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, and help our bodies fight against free radicals, mutagens, and toxins.
11 health benefits of mushrooms:
- Powerful anti-cancer effects
- Strengthening of the immune system
- Protection against heart disease and stroke
- Fighting free radicals
- Managing blood sugar
- Managing stress
- Enhancing libido
- Improving exercise performance
- Antihistamine properties
- Relieving inflammation and pain
- Improving memory, concentration, and focus
With today’s technology making medicinal knowledge better, more and more supplements are discovered.
Green tea, fish oil, grapeseed, and others – name it, and you can find a supplement for it.
So, it’s no wonder that medicinal mushrooms are being turned into a supplement.
In fact, the pharmacological potential of mushrooms is supported by this scientific review published in the US National Library of Medicine.
They are called medicinal mushrooms because they have been used historically for the prevention and treatment of diseases. Even ancient Egyptians believed eating mushrooms led to a longer life span.
Now here are the most commonly used medicinal mushrooms in mushroom supplements:
1. Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
The chaga mushroom grows on birch trees native to the northern hemisphere. It resembles a dark clump of dirt more than a mushroom. But, it has an orange tissue that differentiates it from the rest.
A Russian study claims that Chaga Mushrooms can help treat patients with HIV. The chaga was also discovered to have antiviral properties that could protect against the virus, as well as flu and smallpox.
Among its other benefits:
- slowing the aging process
- lowering cholesterol
- preventing and fighting cancer
- lowering blood pressure
- supporting the immune system
- fighting inflammation
- lowering blood sugar
- preventing drug side effects
2. Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
Reishi is also known as Ganoderma or Lingzhi. It is one of the most popular because it has been used in Chinese medicine for almost 2000 years.
Not only do Chinese people use it, but its popularity also extends to Japanese and Korean medicine. Now it has made its way to the west.
Reishi has been proven to have anti-oxidative effects when supplemented. Additionally, it has a therapeutic effect on insulin resistance and is well known for its anti-cancer effects.
According to a study, it is able to activate natural killer cells. Ganoderma mushrooms have F3 polysaccharides which can induce antibodies to kill antigens associated with tumors or cancer cells.
Lingzhi mushrooms are focused on moderating the immune system. When the immune system is overstimulated, it reduces the system’s activity. On the other hand, it boosts the immune system when it is weakened.
3. Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor, Coriolus versicolor)
Turkey tail is a mushroom that contains compounds known to benefit health. It is called turkey tail due to its striking colors.
It is packed with antioxidants such as phenol and flavonoid which promotes immune system health. It also reduces inflammation and stimulates the release of protective compounds.
Additionally, it may improve the immune functions in people with certain types of cancer.
4. Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
Shiitake mushrooms are good for overall health. Not only are they used for supplements, they are also for their rich and savory taste.
They are edible mushrooms native to East Asia and are tan to dark brown in color. They have that distinct umami flavor which makes them an essential in some Chinese dishes.
Shiitake mushrooms have long been used in Chinese medicine, as well as in Japan, Korea, and Eastern Russia.
Here are the benefits of shiitake mushrooms supplements:
- Helps lower cholesterol
- Improves heart health
- Boosts immune system
- Fights cancer
- Antibacterial and Antiviral Effects
- Helps strengthen the bones
5. Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
Lion’s mane mushrooms are also known as hou tou gu or yamabushitake. They are large, white, shaggy mushrooms that resemble a lion’s mane as they grow, hence the name.
They have both culinary and medical uses in Asian countries. They can be enjoyed raw, cooked, dried or steeped as a tea. Their flavor is “seafood-like,” like crab or lobster
A study revealed that it contains two special compounds that can stimulate the growth of brain cells: hericenones and erinacines. It also appears to boost mental functioning.appears to boost mental functioning.
Here are other benefits of Lion’s mane:
- Protects against dementia
- Relieves mild symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Speeds up recovery from nervous system injuries
- Protects against ulcers in the digestive tract
- Reduces heart disease risk
- Helps manage diabetes symptoms
- Helps fight cancer
- Reduces inflammation and oxidative stress
- Boosts the immune system
6. Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis)
This type of mushroom comes from a genus of parasitic fungi that grows on the larvae of insects. When these fungi attack their host, they replace its tissue. Long, slender mushroom stems grow outside the host’s body.
Interestingly, the remains of the insect and fungi are hand-collected, dried and used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is given to people suffering from fatigue, sickness, kidney disease, and low sex drive.
Other benefits of Cordyceps include:
- Boosts exercise performance
- Anti-aging properties
- Anti-tumor effects
- Helps manage type 2 diabetes
- Good for heart health
- Helps fight inflammation
There’s no doubt that mushroom is a superfood.
It has become one of the biggest and fastest growing trends in natural health and wellness today.
But before you buy a mushroom supplement, here are some things you need to know:
Related posts (article continues below)
This is the first and most important thing you should know.
Mushroom supplements made with mycelium can never be full spectrum supplements.
Related post (article continues below)
Although a mushroom and its mycelium are made of similar tissues, there’s a huge difference. If it is mycelium, then it’s a sterile, lab-grown (usually in cheap plastic bags), vegetative part of the fungal organism.
It means it is grown on grains and is significantly less favorable and lacks in beta-glucans. Beta-glucans are the active, beneficial compound in medicinal mushrooms. Without this, the mushroom supplement is just trash.
So before you buy, check the labels. Even if the front label says “mushrooms,” you need to look at the Supplement Facts panel.
For example, it should say “Reishi mushroom” and not “Reishi mushroom mycelium”. You have to be careful because some companies do not source their product from actual mushrooms, but from mycelium instead.
Here’s a video that will expose the truth about mycelium:
2. Opt for a mushroom extract
Apart from avoiding mushrooms that are made with mycelium, choose concentrated extract over mushroom powders.
2000 years ago, mushroom powders were not available. In traditional Chinese Medicine, mushrooms and herbs are made into a tea for optimum consumption.
It is because tea is a simple water extract. Thousands of years ago, traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners will boil herbs for long periods of time to extract the medicinal compounds.
Especially for mushrooms, hot water extract is the best way to make them more bioavailable.
In some mushroom varieties like the Reishi and Chaga, alcohol and water is combined for the extraction since some of their compounds are not water soluble.
Sad to say, many companies will use only an alcohol extract, which makes it an inferior supplement.
When choosing a company to buy from, make sure that the labels say “hot water extracted”.
So if they don’t state it, don’t buy it.
3. Medicinal compounds must be stated on the label
The compounds found in mushrooms are what makes them potent. Aside from the beta-glucans, they also have triterpenoid compounds and active polysaccharides.
These compounds should be listed and quantified. The higher the number, the better.
But don’t be fooled by high polysaccharide numbers if the company is vague in indicating the “active” compounds.
Polysaccharides can simply be starch, which is an alpha-glucan and a major component of grain or mycelium. (see number 1)
As a potential buyer, you have all the right to know what you are buying and how they are made. Knowing these facts will help you choose the best product for your health.
Treat these truths as a guide in choosing mushroom supplements to avoid being fooled.
Because in the name of money, there will always be companies out there that mislead customers about their products and their potency.
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The fact that mushrooms can be both poisonous and delicious is fascinating and indicative of their complexity.
I grew up in Finland on a farm that has been in my family for at least 13 generations. Much of my youth was spent outdoors, learning from and living off the land. These days, when I tell people—strangers, friends, family members, possible love interests—that I am passionate about fungi, the reactions I get are anything but dull. They’re confused, surprised, skeptical, intrigued. Some are even disgusted—I can almost see the thoughts emerge from their heads like a cartoon bubble: “Mushrooms must be big in Finland.” “Just another hipster forager.” “He must be a chef! I’ll ask him about morels!”
These are all valid reactions. People hear the word “mushroom” and often have surprisingly specific ideas of what they think the larger conversation must be about. We’ve all heard cautionary tales about the poisonous potential of mushrooms, and we’ve seen elation spread over the faces of world-famous chefs as they extol certain varietals of fungi in an almost evangelical manner.
The fact that mushrooms can be both poisonous and delicious is fascinating and indicative of their complexity; the kingdom is such a vast and complete entity that both the yin and yang exist in equal measure. Fungi have the capacity to change your life in an immediate, powerful, and exponentially beneficial manner. I know this because I see it happen daily. Mushrooms will blow your mind, just as they blew mine.
The Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms
The following medicinal mushrooms will balance and restore your immune system, increase oxygen flow to your cells, amp up your mental and creative acuity, regulate your blood sugar, lower your stress levels, ensure restful sleep, and cure myriad physical, emotional, and mental ailments.
“Mushrooms will balance and restore your immune system, increase oxygen flow to your cells, amp up your mental and creative acuity, regulate your blood sugar, lower your stress levels, ensure restful sleep, and cure myriad physical, emotional, and mental ailments.”
1. Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
Reishi has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for at least 2,000 years.
Use reishi to:
- Sleep better
- Stress less
- Cure seasonal allergies
Reishi has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for at least 2,000 years, with the first known written records dating from the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to A.D. 220). Reishi has the ability to boost the body’s immune system to protect it against pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Even when pathogens aren’t present, an optimally functioning immune system will exponentially increase your overall health and wellness to the point where you can witness the effects of aging being reversed—both physically and cognitively.
The compounds in reishi work externally and internally to keep you looking young by reducing dermal oxidation (when proteins on the skin are damaged, causing wrinkles and other signs of aging) and protecting your cellular DNA and mitochondria from oxidant damage, allowing you to remain energized and alert.
Another major benefit of reishi is how it works to achieve hormonal balance. When you have an optimally functioning hormonal system (and surprisingly few of us do—for a slew of reasons, including the impact of environmental toxins and the overprescribing of prescription medications), your body can relax and recover during the night as it is meant to.
Reishi in Action
One of the most powerful ways I’ve seen reishi in action was with one of my colleagues who suffered from severe seasonal allergies. When exposed to allergens, the body releases histamines, which then cling to cells and cause them to swell and leak fluid—hence the sneezing and runny noses. He started taking just 1,000 mg of reishi daily, and almost immediately his allergy symptoms disappeared entirely. That was nearly four years ago, and thanks to reishi, he can now wake up and smell the roses—literally.
2. Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
Chaga dates to 17th-century Russia.
Use chaga to:
- Ward off the common cold
- Have shiny, thick hair and glowing skin
- Lower inflammation caused by a busy, stressful life
If reishi is the queen of mushrooms, then chaga is the big daddy, the implacable and respected father of the mushroom world. The first recorded usage of chaga dates to 17th-century Russia, where it was widely used in folk medicine to treat everything from cancers to gastrointestinal issues.
Like reishi, chaga has astonishing immunomodulating powers. Chaga polysaccharides, specifically its beta-glucans, have the ability to boost the production of lymphocytes (white blood cell that regulates the immune response to infectious microorganisms and other foreign substances). Chaga is also a rich source of antioxidants. In fact, one dose of dual-extracted chaga (the typical amount found in a single cup of strong chaga tea) packs the same number of antioxidants as 30 pounds of carrots.
For me, chaga has proven itself to be a health miracle. I travel extensively for business, so I am constantly exposed to different kinds of germs. Whenever I feel the inkling of a cold coming on, I double my daily dose of chaga (which is 1,000–2,000 mg of strong chaga extract). As a result, I haven’t been sick in almost a decade. I’m not claiming to be superhuman, but chaga has been remarkably effective at protecting me against the common cold.
See Also Maitake Vanilla-Almond Frozen Latte
3. Cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps sinensis)
Cordyceps is most notable for its energizing effects, due to its beta-glucans.
Use cordyceps to:
- Perform better (both athletically and in the bedroom)
- Increase energy
- Alleviate asthma and bronchitis
Cordyceps is valued primarily for its extraordinary ability to increase energy and reduce fatigue. It’s been a centerpiece of traditional Chinese medicine for more than 1,300 years, with the first known record of its use dating back to the Tang Dynasty in A.D. 620.
Cordyceps is most notable for its energizing effects, due to its beta-glucans. Those present in cordyceps, like all other beta-glucans, deliver oxygen to the body on a cellular level, which not only decreases the occurrence of disease but also increases energy and stamina. Cordyceps also significantly boosts adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels in the body. ATP is the body’s main energy supply source and is required for all cellular processes. Cells need energy to activate muscles and keep the body moving.
Because it is so effective at increasing energy and decreasing fatigue, cordyceps is a popular and effective supplement for the elderly who are seeking to counteract the lethargy that often accompanies aging, as well as for athletes who are looking to perform at peak levels.
Cordyceps’ anti-inflammatory properties mean that it helps with blood flow, overall heart health, and lowering cholesterol.
4. Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
Lion’s mane looks like a cluster of cascading white strands.
Use lion’s mane to:
- Improve memory
- Boost concentration
- Protect your nervous system
Lion’s mane earned its playful moniker because of its unique appearance. Unlike the typical shape of most mushroom fruiting bodies (a smooth cap and stem), lion’s mane looks like a cluster of cascading white strands. This waterfall-like “mane” has inspired all kinds of other fun nicknames for the mushroom, including “pom-pom mushroom,” “bearded tooth,” and “monkey head.”
History suggests that lion’s mane was used in traditional Chinese medicine specifically for treating stomach and digestive problems, including cancers. It was also used as a general restorative due to its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and immunomodulating properties. But lion’s mane’s effects on the brain truly distinguish it from other medicinal mushrooms and make it an utterly fascinating subject.
Lion’s mane has the ability to repair and regenerate neurons, resulting in improved cognitive function, and the mushroom has been known to mitigate and even reverse the effects of neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and dementia, among others.
See Also Guide to Adaptogenic Herbs
So how does this happen? Your body contains nerve growth factors (NGF), proteins that protect existing neurons and stimulate new neuron growth. These proteins play a crucial role in maintaining the viability of the neurons required for the nervous system to function properly. Amazingly, lion’s mane stimulates the synthesis of NGF. It not only has the potential to help those suffering from neurological disorders, but through NGF stimulation, it can potentially reverse the cognitive deterioration that creeps up on many of us as we age. And unlike most pharmaceutical medicines that are used for cognitive function, lion’s mane has no known side effects.
5. Turkey Tail (Coriolus versicolor or Trametes versicolor)
Turkey tail’s Latin name means “of several colors.”
Use turkey tail to:
- Treat the common cold and flu
- Aid digestion
- Help heal infections
Turkey tail earned its name due to the mushroom’s fan shape, which resembles the tail end of Thanksgiving’s favorite bird. Its Latin name means “of several colors,” which is also fitting, as this mushroom can be identified by the concentric circles of varying colors that appear on its fruiting body.
Like many other mushrooms, turkey tail is full of polysaccharides and triterpenes that give it its immunomodulating properties, providing overall immune support and regulation. But what sets turkey tail apart are two of its unique beta-glucans: PSK and PSP.
PSK has received national media attention for its anticancer properties. PSK and PSP in turkey tail have the ability to regenerate white blood cells (which are necessary to ward off infection) and stimulate the activity and creation of T-cells, macrophages, and natural killer (NK) cells, enabling the immune system to once again ward off and destroy pathogens. PSK is the best-selling anticancer drug in Japan, and is used in combination with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Try our Shiitake Carpaccio recipe!