Do Medicinal Mushrooms Really Work? What you need to know about lion’s mane, reishi, and more
Mushrooms have officially taken over the wellness area, and it goes way beyond those you find on your plate. Mushrooms are found in everything from coffee and smoothies to your medicine cabinet, and it seems like this is just the start of the mushroom boom.
But not all mushrooms are created equal. Many of them have special properties (backed by science) which are really impressive. One of the most beneficial types of mushrooms is called functional mushrooms, which are quite different from button mushrooms that you might add to a pasta dish (although these are also good for you).
“Functional mushrooms are mushrooms that have benefits that extend past nutritional benefits found in traditional mushrooms that we know from cooking,” explains Alana kessler, registered dietitian. “Functional mushrooms can be taken via capsules, powders, liquids (teas) and sprays,” says Kessler.
With so many different types of mushrooms, how do you know which ones are right for you? And which ones are worth buying in a tincture or supplement rather than just cooking and eating them? Read on for a full rundown of all of the healthiest mushrooms you can use – from the types you can eat to those that have health benefits if you take them in a more concentrated complementary form.
You’ll find medicinal mushrooms in many forms, but one of the most common ways to supplement is with a mushroom powder or extract (we’ll get to that later). While many mushrooms are taken in supplements, powders, or other forms, some medicinal mushrooms are also consumed in their whole form. “Mushrooms in general provide excellent nutrition and are low in calories. They provide selenium, B vitamins, vitamin D and potassium – necessary for energy and nutrient absorption, as well as beta. glucans which are important for reducing inflammation and providing fiber, especially shiitake and maitake, ”says Kessler.
An overview of medicinal edible mushrooms
Maitake: “Can be sautéed, cooked in dishes, or eaten on its own (not usually raw),” Kessler explains. Maitake mushroom is an adaptogen, which means it can help the body adapt to stress and stay in balance. It also has potential anticancer benefits, in addition to helping to improve cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes.
Shiitake: “[Can be] cooked in all types of dishes, can be eaten raw, but usually cooked, ”says Kessler. Shiitake mushrooms can help fight cancer and inflammation, and they contain beta-glucans, which can help lower cholesterol.
Lion’s mane: “It is not usually eaten raw and can be replaced in recipes with crab meat. [Helps] support healthy mood and memory, ”says Kessler.
Oyster mushrooms: “Usually not eaten raw, can be sautéed or used in stir-fries,” Kessler explains. Studies have shown that oyster mushrooms contain antioxidants and may help reduce the risk of certain diseases like cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Medicinal functional mushrooms
Although not an exhaustive list, the types of mushrooms below are some of the most common types that are sold and marketed today in supplements, extracts, powders and others. products.
The lion’s mane mushroom is best known for potential brain health benefits. Some supplements and products that market lion’s mane claim that it can help boost focus and memory. While there isn’t much human clinical research on lion’s mane, some animal studies have been shown to help boost memory and may help prevent diseases that affect cognitive function like Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease. The lion’s mane is rich in antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation in the body.
Traditionally used in East Asian Medicine, reishi is a type of mushroom that has been used for many reasons and has a long list of potential health benefits. It is currently used to help cancer patients in China who need help strengthening their immune system after cancer treatment.
According to Kessler, reishi contains several polysaccharides that stimulate parts of the immune system. “[Reishi] helps the body fight viruses and bacteria by stimulating the production of T cells, ”says Kessler. Reishi may also have cancer-fighting benefits because “polysaccharides cause a significant increase in ‘natural killer’ cells, which destroy cancer cells, shrinking tumors slows the spread of existing cancers,” says Kessler.
Reishi can also help reduce stress, decrease symptoms of depression, and improve sleep, thanks to natural compounds called triterpenes.
“[Chaga] fungus grows in cooler climates and is high in fiber. It is possible that this is one reason why, although it is beneficial for immune function and provides antioxidants, it is also used as a complementary treatment for heart disease and diabetes, as it helps lower blood sugar, ”explains Kessler. In addition to antioxidants and fiber, chaga also contains a variety of other nutrients like B vitamins, vitamin D, zinc, iron and calcium, among others.
Turkey tail is best known for its potential immune health benefits and has been studied to treat cancer alongside other treatments.
“[Turkey tail] stimulates processes in the body that fight tumor growth and metastasis, including the production of T cells and “natural killer” cells, says Kessler. “Studies showed that polysaccharide-K (PSK, a compound found in turkey tail) improved survival rates in patients with gastric and colorectal cancers and showed promise in the fight against leukemia and certain lung cancers, ”Kessler explains.
Perhaps the most popular mushroom in the fitness world, Cordyceps is adopted by fitness enthusiasts and athletes for its ability to increase recovery and endurance. “Cordyceps boosts metabolism and endurance, speeds recovery by increasing ATP, and improves the way the body uses oxygen,” says Kessler.
What to look for when buying mushroom products
Some supplements and mushroom products contain fillers and other ingredients that you need to avoid in order to find the best quality product. “When purchasing a mushroom supplement, make sure the starch is listed. Some supplements may be filled with ‘filler’, so make sure only 5% of the recipe includes starch.” , explains Kessler. Another tip from Kessler is to choose a concentrated extract rather than a powder. She says to look for “extracted hot water” on the label or the company’s website.
“Avoid supplements that say mycelium – this means that the supplements are devoid of beta-glucan which gives it much of its medicinal quality. Look for labels that state triterpenoids compounds and active polysaccharides,” says Kessler.
Finally, keep in mind that taking medicinal mushrooms takes patience and you won’t see the immediate benefits. “It takes at least two weeks to notice the effects of functional fungi, and it’s recommended that you take a week off every four to six months,” says Kessler.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute health or medical advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have about a health problem or health goals.