Medicinal Mushrooms – What They Are & Why You Should Take Them
There are over 50,000 species of mushroom! (That includes yeasts and fungi.) Some are psychoactive, some poisonous, and some are beneficial to our health. Some even SAVE lives! Penicillin was developed from a fungus and has saved over 200 million lives. Mushrooms have consistently shown their use at least as far back as the time of the Egyptians.
But which mushrooms should you use? Of all the mushrooms that effectively boost our health, these six are universally considered to be the most powerful and beneficial: Reishi, Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, Chaga, Shiitake and Maitake. Each of these mushrooms have a unique history that we’re excited to share with you.
The mushrooms are saturated with triterpenes and polysaccharides.(2) Triterpenes reduce oxidative stress and boosts vital organ functions. Polysaccharides act as prebiotics in the digestive system, they are anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and immune boosting.(3) While it won’t make you immortal, Reishi mushrooms can help bolster the immune system and improve blood sugar levels, and may also reduce fatigue, depression, anxiety, and inflammation, and increase stamina.
There are a couple key ingredients in Lion’s Mane that enable it to boost your cognitive skills. Part of the power comes from the terpenoid compounds hericenones and erinacines. Both groups of substances easily cross the blood-brain barrier and have been found to have neurotrophic and in some cases neuroprotective effects.(4) In other words, these compounds stimulate the Nerve Growth Factor, which plays an essential role in the protection and maintenance of nerve cells, including brain cells.
Cordyceps are high in beta-glucans and contain compounds called Cordycepin. Both of these contribute to the Cordyceps anti-inflammatory, immunomodulating, and antiviral properties. Cordyceps may also help boost energy, libido, help with respiratory ailments and improve exercise performance. (5)
Not to be confused with its eerie look alike, the “black knot fungus”, the chaga mushroom has a beautiful golden core beneath its charcoal looking exterior. The charcoal exterior of the chaga mushroom has a high concentration of antioxidants, polysaccharides, flavonoids, and betulin. These give the mushroom its anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties. The soft inside contains lanostances, a bioactive compound that has anti-candida and antibacterial properties.
As it’s grown in popularity, shiitake has become the second most cultivated mushroom in the United States, but it’s been celebrated in Asia for over a thousand years because of its healing properties. Native to the mountains of China, Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia, Shiitake is a potent source of natural copper, a mineral known to support cardiovascular health, bones, and immunity. It also contains eritadenine, which lowers blood cholesterol, and lentinan, beta-glucan that can reduce tumors through its immunostimulant properties.
The Maitake mushrooms have a high concentration of antioxidants and beta-glucans which helps with immune support. Research has also shown that it may help to lower cholesterol, decrease blood pressure and help maintain or even lose weight – all of which are good for your heart.(6)
Each of these mushrooms have shown immune support benefits but also have their own unique flourish to help you heal the effects of age, brain, energy, and heart. Adding any of these mushrooms to your diet can be beneficial to your health, helping you heal and grow, internally and wholly.
2. Chiu HF et al. Triterpenoids and polysaccharide peptides-enriched Ganoderma lucidum: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study of its antioxidation and hepatoprotective efficacy in healthy volunteers. Pharmaceutical Biology 2017 Dec; 55(1) 1041
3. Friedman, Mendel. “Mushroom Polysaccharides: Chemistry and Antiobesity, Antidiabetes, Anticancer, and Antibiotic Properties in Cells, Rodents, and Humans.” Foods 5.4 (2016): 80. Crossref. Web. .
4. Wong, Kah-Hui et al. “Peripheral Nerve Regeneration Following Crush Injury to Rat Peroneal Nerve by Aqueous Extract of Medicinal Mushroom Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae).” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2011 (2011): 580752. doi:10.1093/ecam/neq062