Medicinal Mushroom Benefits
There are estimated to be over 5 million different species of mushrooms, yet only 270 are currently classified as ‘medicinal’ with their potent anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety and immune-enhancing qualities. Used for way over 3,000 years, medicinal mushrooms contain some of the most rejuvenating and nourishing health compounds of any substance on earth. From the performance enhancing goodness of cordyceps to the spiritually potent properties of reishi, each medicinal mushroom brings with it a myriad of benefits for the body and mind.
Medicinal Mushroom Nutritional Information
The fruiting bodies of medicinal mushrooms contain thin fibrous membranes called mycelium. Resembling nerves, mycelium display cellular intelligence and enable the mushrooms to be particularly adaptive to their environments. Each species of mushroom has its own medicinal ‘superpowers’, yet many of the mushrooms share several of the same health benefits. They are rich in bioactive compounds including beta-glucans, vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, folates, enzymes and organic acids, plus they all display strong immunoprotective properties.
While more medicinal mushroom research needs to be done, several clinical studies suggest that the active polysaccharides present in many medicinal mushrooms show promising anti-cancer and anti-tumor potential.
Chaga For Immune Support
Chaga is a much-loved medicinal mushroom which has over 215 health compounds and more antioxidants than goji berries, raw cacao powder and blueberries. It also contains the highest levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD) out of any substance. SOD acts as an antioxidant to neutralize free radicals and slow down the ageing process. It’s also a natural, vegan-friendly source of B vitamins, and it helps the body to better cope with physical and environmental stressors.
Reishi: A Mushroom for Spiritual Seekers
As well as providing immune support, reishi also has a calming effect on the mind. In fact, monks, yogis, and those on a spiritual path have long taken reishi to help quieten the mind and aid long periods of meditation. Throw in reishi's ability to naturally increase the body’s production of T-cells and macrophages, and it’s easy to see why reishi is nicknamed the elixir of life.
Cordyceps: Performance Enhancing Power
This small mushroom packs a big punch when it comes to naturally increasing strength and stamina. Once used by Tibetan herders to boost their energy levels, cordyceps is now a household name amongst athletes and bodybuilders. Cordyceps made it big when it was revealed that the Chinese track and field team smashed an Olympic World Record after taking a cordyceps mushroom tonic daily. Several high-profile studies reveal that cordyceps can help the body to increase the amount of oxygen that is taken into the lungs, plus it releases adenosine to extend the amount of time an individual can comfortably exercise for.
“We are more closely related to Fungi than to any other Kingdom”
–Paul Stamets, Mycomedicinals
Ten Health Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms
Immune-Strengthening: Provides powerful immune support
Antibacterial: Can protect against bacterial infections including streptococci
Vitamin D: A vegan-friendly source of vitamin D
Antioxidants: Many medicinal mushrooms score high on the ORAC scale
Adaptogens: Reishi, shiitake and maitake mushrooms help the body to better deal with stress
Lowers Blood Pressure: Triterpenes help to lower high blood pressure
Anti-Ageing: Antioxidants fight free radicals, while some species encourage elastic and collagen production
Neuro-Regenerative: Several species improve cognitive development
Anti-Inflammatory: Some mushrooms can relieve muscle aches and arthritis symptoms
Alleviate Allergies: Can help to limit histamine release
Different Types of Medicinal Mushrooms
Some of the most popular and powerful types of medicinal mushrooms include reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum), chaga (Inonotus Obliquus), cordyceps (Cordyceps Sinensis), tremella (Tremella Fuciformis), shiitake (Lentinula Edodes), maitake (Grifola Frondosa) lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) and turkey tail (Trametes Versicolor). Other lesser-known species include the ice man fungus (Fomes Fomentarius), suehiro take (Schizophyllum Commune), agarikon (Fomitopsis Officinalis), oregon polypore (Ganoderma Oregonense), and mesima (Phellinus Linteus) medicinal mushrooms.
How to Buy the Best Medicinal Mushrooms
There are several things to take into consideration when buying medicinal mushrooms. For maximum potency, pick a medicinal mushroom concentrated extract powder. These powdered blends concentrate raw mushrooms into an extract powder that can contain 10 times or more nutrients than the raw mushroom. Avoid buying any edible mushroom powders or products which have been mixed with additives, fillers or gums as they will greatly diminish the potency of the product. You may also want to buy medicinal mushrooms which are organic, wild-crafted, ethically sourced, and in some instances, traditionally prepared.
If you can't decide on one type of mushroom then you can blend several mushroom powders together, or you can purchase a mushroom complex blend that contains highly effective mix of medicinal mushroom powders. Medicinal mushroom supplements are also available in tablet, tincture and capsule forms.
Modern Uses of Medicinal Mushrooms
One of the most popular ways to use any type of mushroom is to make it into a tonic tea. While raw mushrooms require special preparation in order to transform them into palatable products, powdered mushrooms can be instantly dissolved into warm water to make mushroom tea. Medicinal mushroom powders can also be added to soups, dips, sauces, raw chocolate, protein balls and bars, smoothies, fresh juices and much more. Aside from their nutritional benefits, medicinal mushrooms will also add some extra flavour to any dish or beverage. You can blend in natural sweeteners and spices to adjust the medicinal mushroom tonics and dishes to your tastes.
Mushrooms work synergistically, both with other species of medicinal mushrooms as well as with tonic herbs. Try experimenting and making tonics with he shou wu, schizandra berry, turmeric, pine pollen and other herbs and spices.
Medicinal Mushroom Recipes
Reishi Chocolate Latte
Dissolve a teaspoon of reishi extract powder into a mug of warm water. Add two teaspoons of raw cacao powder, half a teaspoon of cinnamon, a dash of any nut milk and your choice of natural sweetener. Blend until smooth, and then enjoy instantly.
Coconut Chaga Tonic
To reap chaga’s immune-strengthening properties, dissolve one teaspoon of chaga concentrated extract powder into warm water. Blend in coconut milk, coconut cream and a teaspoon of raw, virgin coconut oil and then consume when still warm.
Medicinal Mushroom Complex Blend Truffles
These gooey mushroom truffles will be sure to bust those chocolate cravings and provide immune support and aid digestion to boot. Gently melt 60 ml of raw coconut oil over a pan of warm water, then add 170 grams of raw cacao powder, 1 tsp of water, 1 tbsp of turmeric and 2 tbsp of a raw medicinal mushroom complex powder. Place the bowl into the fridge until the mixture begins to harden. Sprinkle a tray with raw cacao powder, then scoop out a heaped teaspoon of the truffle mixture, roll it into a ball and then dust with the cacao powder. The mushroom truffles will last for up to 5 days when stored in the fridge.
Medicinal Mushroom Side Effects
All medicinal mushrooms are non-toxic and safe to use, although several have some associated side effects, typically when taken in larger doses. Seek advice from your doctor before taking any type of medicinal mushroom if you are on medication or if you are pregnant.
Medicinal Mushroom Overview
Medicinal mushroom benefits are too long to list in one article, so for a deeper insight into their nutritional makeup we recommend the book, Mushrooms for Health and Longevity, by Ken Babel. Medicinal mushrooms are ancient healing remedies for many of today’s ailments, and they make an excellent daily superfood supplement to increase longevity and vitality.
Medicinal Mushroom References
Medicinal Mushroom Books
Wolfe, David: Chaga, King of the Medicinal Mushrooms, North Atlantic Books, 2012
Stamets, Paul: Mushrooms, the Hwarang & the Martial Arts, 2001
Stamets, Paul: Mycomedicinals: An informational Treatise on Mushrooms, My Comedia, 1999
Petre, Marian:Mushroom Biotechnology: Developments and Applications