Nature’s Magic: Medicinal Mushrooms
Mushrooms have played a long-standing role in natural medicine. Medicinal mushrooms are different than their culinary cousins that are commonly found in the produce section of your grocery store.
Just to clarify – medicinal mushrooms are not the psychedelic version. The only thing you may “experience” is better health. However, their proven ability to help combat infections, boost immunity and brain health, increase energy and more is nothing short of magical.
Think of medicinal mushrooms as “supplements”—and remember that everyone’s needs are different and unique, so do your research and when in doubt, check with your Functional Medicine Practitioner!
Here are five common medicinal mushrooms and their benefits:
Reishi mushrooms are best known for reducing stress and anxiety, boosting energy and alertness, and promoting balance within your hormonal system.
Good news for seasonal allergy sufferers. Relief of symptoms has been noted with daily supplementation of these powerhouses.
Shiitake mushrooms contain lentinan, which has strong anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic properties. Their claim to fame is combating inflammation.
This is one of the few medicinal mushrooms that tastes good. They are readily available at most grocery stores in both fresh and dried versions and can easily be incorporated into your favorite recipes.
A little goes a long way. Just one large fresh mushroom (about 1 oz.) can lower markers of inflammation in the blood after a single meal.
This mushroom’s superpower lies in its ability to repair and regenerate neurons. Research indicates that it stimulates Nerve Growth Factor (NGF).1
Lion’s Mane can help improve memory and focus, protect the nervous system, and relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. It may also help prevent and reverse neurological diseases that affect the brain and spinal cord, like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and dementia due to its regenerative qualities.
Cordyceps boosts energy. It works by increasing adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP provides the energy for all of your body’s functions.
Cordyceps have also been used for centuries to treat sexual dysfunction and fertility. Recent clinical studies demonstrate cordyceps ability to improve libido, as well as increase sperm count, survival rate and quality. 2
Chaga is a “superfood”. These mushrooms have touted one of the highest antioxidant concentrations of any whole food. More antioxidants than turmeric, acai berries, blueberries and green tea. To help put this in perspective, one 8 oz. cup of chaga tea boasts more antioxidants than a 30 lb. bag of carrots per Tero Isokauppaila, the author of Healing Mushrooms: A Practical and Culinary Guide to Using Mushrooms for Whole Body Health.
Chaga is powerful adaptogen or immune system modulator. These mushrooms have been shown to improve the immune response, regulate blood sugar(3) and fight cancer.
Medicinal mushrooms may sound unfamiliar to you, but people all over the world have been using them for hundreds of years their folk and natural medicine practices. Even so, it is wise to consult your Functional Medicine Practitioner before using, especially if you are on prescription medication, have an autoimmune condition, diabetes, kidney disease, a bleeding disorder, are pregnant or nursing or intend to have surgery.
Mushroom coffee and tea are common ways to consume medicinal mushrooms. Four Sigmatic and Mud\Wtr are popular brands for pre-made blends.
If you are fortunate enough to get your hands on some responsibly-sourced whole chaga, try making your own tea.
Kitty’s Minnesota Chaga Iced Tea
· 3 golf ball size pieces of chaga
· 1 cinnamon stick
· 3 whole cloves
· 1 gallon near boiling water
Combine and let steep for a few hours. Remove the chaga, cinnamon and cloves – you can reuse the chaga and cinnamon multiple times. Refrigerate when cool. Serve over ice. Tastes just like sun tea made with traditional black tea, but without the caffeine.
1. Zhang, C.-C.; Cao, C.-Y.; Kubo, M.; Harada, K.; Yan, X.-T.; Fukuyama, Y.; Gao, J.-M. Chemical Constituents from Hericium erinaceus Promote Neuronal Survival and Potentiate Neurite Outgrowth via the TrkA/Erk1/2 Pathway. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2017, 18, 1659.
2. iraungkoorskul K, Jiraungkoorskul W. Review of naturopathy of medical mushroom, Ophiocordyceps sinensis, in sexual dysfunction. Phcog Rev 2016;10:1-5.
3. Sun JE, Ao ZH, Lu ZM, et al. Antihyperglycemic and antilipidperoxidative effects of dry matter of culture broth of Inonotus obliquus in submerged culture on normal and alloxan-diabetes mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008;118(1):7-13. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2008.02.030