What Medicinal Mushrooms Do For (and To) Your Body. . . and 7 Medicinal Mushrooms to Try
There seem to be two types of people in the world: Those that hate mushrooms and those that love them. But. . . there’s good news! it doesn’t even matter which camp you’re in because you don’t have to even like them in order to enjoy the health benefits of medicinal mushrooms. 🍄 Mushroom haters rejoice!
A mushroom belongs to the Fungi Kingdom (and biologically speaking, a Kingdom is ginormous, we’re talking 1.5 million different types). As with algae (see our post on seaweed) which runs the gamut of toxic algae blooms and superfood seaweeds, there are edible mushrooms and do not eat avoid at all cost mushrooms. With such an enormous variety, the mushroom kingdom contains poisons and antidotes, toxins and medicines, food sources and stranger things that can even eat plastic. . .
While we typically think of fungi as a mushroom, the mushroom is actually the fruiting body of fungi. It’s like the apple on the apple tree. The mycelium is below the surface – or in the trees. A large percentage of mushrooms are cultivated from trees. Did you know that fungi aren’t plants?
According to Four Sigmatic’s Mushroom Academy, humans share a whopping THIRTY TO FIFTY PERCENT of our DNA with fungi. Whoa. Obviously, in the world of DNA, even a single percentage point is significant, but in terms of health, this crossover allows our bodies to use the compounds in mushrooms much more easily than others.
The Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms
For mushrooms that humans can safely consume, there are edible mushrooms and medicinal. You’ll recognize edible varieties from portobello to shiitake to the common brown mushrooms. But what sets medicinal mushrooms apart is that in order to absorb the compounds, the mushrooms need to go through a thorough extraction process. Simply eating them won’t give the results that you’re after and in fact, you wouldn’t want to since their texture may be more like tree bark than the mushrooms you’re familiar with.
Unlike many plants, using heat and fats actually increase the bioavailability of mushroom compounds rather than destroying them. (Remember, mushrooms aren't plants.)
Medicinal mushrooms are a form of biomedicine that are being extensively studied by drug companies and research universities. An impresive 40 percent of pharmaceuticals are derived from fungi (penicillin, anyone?).
The following short list of mushrooms has documented health benefits that you just might want to start adding to your routine.
7 Medicinal Mushrooms That You May Want to Add To Your Wellness Arsenal
Chaga is known as the King of Mushrooms. It’s a unique mushroom that grows on birch trees and it looks very much like the tree bark itself. Chaga is a powerhouse, containing very high levels of antioxidants, especially SOD (superoxide dismutase) and is also the highest source of melanin.
It’s also packed with betalin and betalinic acid, which is a very potent antiviral. Chaga has a high mineral level content (even more than other medicinal mushrooms) and is highly anti-inflammatory.
✅And as a hefty immune system booster, it’s a good idea for travelers who may be in contact with germs and stress.
Cordyceps doesn’t grow on trees like many medicinal mushrooms, but instead. . . grows on bugs (but is now cultivated on fermentation and is #veganfriendly). Cordyceps is a fantastic mushroom for sport recovery and energy boosting. It’s also an adaptogen which supports oxygen uptake and ATP production. (Pssst. It’s also nicknamed “Cordysex” for its blood flow and stimulating properties.)
✅Great for athletes and those trying to wean off coffee.
3. Lion’s Mane
Lion’s Mane is the most unique of the medicinal mushrooms, and possibly the most interesting as a safe neutropic (a natural “smart drug”). If you can get it fresh, it’s also a delicious edible mushroom! Lion’s Mane nerve regeneration capability is being researched to treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons.
Oyster mushrooms can be found in your local supermarket and can even be grown at home on coffee grounds! As with Shiitake, Lion’s Mane, and Maitake, it’s also an edible mushroom.
✅It’s an effective natural mood booster due to its high B-vitamin content (especially B6). Oyster is also a cholesterol reducer.
Maitake, also known as Hen of the Woods is both an edible and medicinal mushroom. It balances blood sugar which is great for diabetes and weight management. Like Chaga, this is also healing to the digestive tract.
✅Great for gut health and digestion.
Reishi is known as the Queen of Mushrooms and is the most well researched of all the mushrooms, so basically she’s the Beyoncé of fungi. Reishi’s magic is its adaptogenic properties (which can help soothe and calm your body and even help you sleep deeper) and liver detoxification (which occurs during the night). Also has anti-histaminic properties which are great for those with allergies. It’s also one of the mushrooms that’s actually good for fighting candida.
✅When you think of Reishi, think stress relief, anti-histamine, and deeper sleep.
Holy Shiitake, Batman! Shiitake mushrooms are both edible and medicinal, which makes them even easier to incorporate into your daily life. You can get them at your grocery store and use them in your dinner recipes. They’re packed with amino acids, enzymes, minerals, and polysaccharides which support energy production.
✅Shiitake has been used traditionally for liver detoxifying, improved circulation, and skin health.
You Can Drink Your Mushrooms?
With extracts, powders, and brews, you can incorporate medicinal mushrooms into your life on a daily basis and consume what would otherwise be unpalatable.
If you’re a coffee drinker, you can make a simple swap of regular coffee for lower caffeine mushroom coffee blends that also supports your adrenals.
You can get or make your own:
- Mushroom lattes.
- Mushroom turmeric drinks.
- Mushroom coffees.
- Mushroom hot chocolate.
- Mushroom supplements.
And speaking of mushroom lattes, this recipe by the Minimalist Baker might just rock your world.
A Quick Note ABout Medicinal Mushrooms and Candida
While candida diets caution against eating mushrooms, there are a few that are okay to consume and some that are recommended to consume. Not all fungi are created equal. As mentioned above, Reishi actually helps fight candida albicans overgrowth.
Learn More About Fungi and Medicinal Mushrooms
- Did you know that you can take a free mushroom online course? Sign up for the free Mushroom Academy created by Four Sigmatic.
- Read about the latest research on medicinal mushrooms' anti-cancer uses.
- Have a listen to this informative interview with the founder of Four Sigmatic on the power of mushrooms.
- Blow your mind with this 6 ways mushrooms can save the world TED Talk by Paul Stamets