Mushrooms are an absolute staple in my weekly meal and supplementation plan (and I’m not talking about the type that make the clouds look like they’re coming to pummel your @ss).
I’m also not talking about the basic b*tch white button mushroom variety either. I’m talking about medicinal mushrooms.
I just love medicinal mushrooms. Now that tons of wellness brands are starting to take note of the numerous health benefits, you can find them at almost every health foods store. Because of this, all of us wellness obsessed folks are adding medicinal mushrooms to our list of superfoods to try.
But a lot of us don’t really know all the reasons why we should be adding medicinal mushrooms to our diet, we just see that big wellness brands say it’s the latest thing in superfoods so we all jump on the bandwagon.
WELP I’m here to share with you all the reasons why medicinal mushrooms are so hot right now. Here we go:
What makes a mushroom “medicinal”
Medicinal mushrooms have been around since ancient times to support various functions, especially keeping the immune system healthy. There are 6 mushrooms that I’m discussing today, and here’s why they are so FREAKIN FAB and considered “medicinal”.
— Filled with antioxidants & anti-inflammatory compounds
— Contains alpha-glucans and beta-glucans which are responsible for supporting a healthy immune system
— Contains antiviral properties
— Boosts brain power
— Helps balance hormones
— Can alleviate digestive problems
The types of medicinal mushrooms to try
Reishi: Being one of the most popular medicinal mushrooms out there, reishi is supposedly thriving with an abundance of wellness benefits. It’s been used in Chinese medicine for centuries and is the most sought after holistic remedy. It’s commonly used to calm out a stressed and frazzled mind, and the specific compound, triterpene, is responsible for these stress reducing properties. This compound has been studied and shown to help improve sleep, mood, focus and in some cases help with depression and anxiety. Reishi also is known to help with weight management, hormone balance and of course, boosting the immune system. OH and an extra bonus? It is also known to help with aging! The antioxidant content in reishi when applied topically can help prevent the one sign of aging we all hate, wrinkles. When taken internally it protects us at a cellular level to keep us feeling “young” on the inside.
Cordyceps: This mushroom is known for its energy boosting and stimulating properties and is commonly used as a supplement to add to “coffee free” lattes if that’s your thing. The beta glucans in cordyceps are responsible for the energy burst (without the jitters that you may get from coffee) as they help carry oxygen throughout the body and also help with blood flow. The way that cordyceps supports blood flow is also great for those who work out regularly and athletes as it helps boost athletic performance and recovery. You may find cordyceps as an ingredient in herbal pre-workout supplements.
Chaga: This mushroom is most commonly used for its antioxidant properties and the ability to help combat catching a cold, lower inflammation and may even help lower bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol). It works to protect our immune system by supercharging white blood cells (which are responsible for fighting off any sickies you may catch). Many folks I’ve talked to who supplement with chaga say they haven’t had a cold since (and these are wellness peeps who’ve been using it for a few years + now!).
Shiitake: Now this is one mushroom that you can easily find in the produce section of your local grocery store. I love cooking with it for many reasons. One reason being that shiitake has all 8 essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein), it also has dietary fiber that helps you feel fuller longer and reduces fat levels in your body. This medicinal mushroom is also known to help lower bad levels of cholesterol and can improve heart health because of its phytonutrient content that helps with blood flow. Shiitake has b vitamins that helps increase energy, reducing brain fog, and can also help balance hormones.
Lions mane: This medicinal mushroom has a beautiful display of white cascading strands (hence, its name). It has been used in ancient times to help with digestive issues, brain health, and protecting the nervous system. It has been studied to show its effects on boosting neurons in the brain and protect against degenerative disease like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Some animal studies have shown that lions mane helps reduce anxiety and can improve the part of the brain that regulates emotional response, but studies on humans are still not plentiful in this topic.
Turkey tail: This specific medicinal mushroom is extremely interesting to me because of the studies done relating to combating/preventing cancer. All of the medicinal mushrooms discussed here help boost immunity, but this one has a special beta-glucan called polysaccharide-k (PSK). PSK has been studied in correlation with anticancer treatments (studies are linked at the end of the article), and its effects on the immune system. It has such a strong way of stimulating the immune system that in Japan it is used as an anticancer prescription drug! Studies show its results with increasing the survival rate of those with specific cancers and how it strengthens the immune system of patients who are undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
How to add medicinal mushrooms to your diet
Typically, these medicinal mushrooms are most commonly consumed in powdered form (with the exception of shiitake mushrooms if you decide to cook with them), but there are so many various ways that you can incorporate them into your tonics/recipes and more! Usually, the brands that create medicinal mushroom tinctures and supplements have formulated a way to make the products essentially tasteless, so your juices or tonics that you add these to won’t taste…mushroomy.
You can add these powders or liquid form of medicinal mushrooms to your coffee, smoothies, your porridge, or by itself in capsule form. If you decide to add powdered mushrooms to soups or stews, just add a spoonful as you don’t want to overdo it (yes it is possible!). Keep the amount to about 2 tablespoons per day to play it safe. As always, consult your doctor before trying any new ingredients or supplements! If you want to look into a few options – here are some that I recommend! AND as always – consult your doctor first!!
If you want to learn about a few other ingredients that help combat colds and keep your immune system up, you can also take a peek at these articles too: Elderberry to fight colds. & probiotics to boost your immune system.
Links to studies:
Main image source: @timothycdykes