For thousands of years, people have celebrated the medicinal purposes of mushrooms. There are no special powers to these marvelous little fungi. They are simply the source of life’s most fundamental elements that are needed to thrive and grow. It is now clear that they are making a comeback as a source of medicinal mastery. The list of benefits from fungi is lengthy and well rounded. We are all familiar with the antibiotic penicillium, which is a fungus that is very important to a few different aspects of our culture. From it, we get penicillin, which is a molecule that fights off bacteria growth, and from other species, cheese is created from it. I thought it would make sense then to look at a few different mushrooms and the benefits they carry
The first mushroom we will look at is the Reishi mushroom or Red Reishi. You can almost call this nature’s Xanax. This is probably one of the most versatile and sought after fungi that we will be looking at. It aids in weight loss, keeps the immune system in check, and studies have shown that what is in Reishi will fight cancer aggressively. These mushrooms contain complex sugars called beta-glucans. Lab studies show that these compounds may help stop the growth and spread of cancer cells. Even more specific, this has attested to be particularly effective against prostate cancer. Reishi might as well be the zen master of the mushrooms because it contains triterpene. This mood-boosting compound can alleviate anxiety, depression, and encourage better sleep. Triterpenes have an incredibly positive effect on the Central Nervous System. Along with overall healing and something to sharpen your focus Reishi Is an astonishing fungus.
Next up, my personal favorite is Lion’s Mane. Lion’s Mane is a focused mushroom. In my opinion, one of the more fascinating mushrooms to look at. This is a pure, straight forward, uncensored, power food for your brain. Like all medicinal mushrooms, it has antioxidants to help your immune system. What makes this one unique is that it fosters the production of the bio protein Nerve Growth Factor (NFG). Both NFG and Myelin are vital to brain health and when not balanced they can lead to Alzheimer’s and Multiple Sclerosis. This fierce mushroom can also help with cognitive function and memory and help with anxiety as well. Lion’s Mane is perfectly paired with Niacin and Psilocybin to make up what Paul Stamets calls the perfect trio when it comes to neurogenesis.
Chaga Chaga choo choo! Chaga is the little train that could defeat all the free radicals. These are packed full of powerful antioxidants that fight off free radicals and helps stop inflammation. This little black mushroom combats oxidative stress, which is correlated to skin aging. Like many fungi, it also helps stop or slow the growth of cancer cells. One that I found surprising is that it has shown to lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) which is very cool for a little shroom. Overall this is a mushroom to eat. They have all sorts of delivery options for these mushrooms. Plus Chaga happens to go great in coffee as a supplemental powder.
You heart shiitake! So will the rest of your body because this will help your heart to keep that blood moving around! Shitake mushrooms are very common in many dishes that we eat, plus my advice is to add more. These also lower LDL and contain compounds that inhibit the absorption and production of cholesterol in the liver. Like the others, this will also aid in keeping your immune system healthy. Unique in the shitake are the phytonutrients that prevent plaque buildup and keep the blood circulation robust. And last but not least, shitake is exceptionally strong in the fight against COVID-19 with its level of vitamin D.
It’s named Turkey Tail because that is exactly what it resembles. Now, this mushroom is like all the others assisting with the immune system. I guess it wanted to one-up the rest because it contains polysaccharide-K (PSK. PSK stimulates the immune system. Japan had even approved this as an anti-cancer drug. I think turkey tail may have a big future in the prevention and end of cancer altogether. It has proved to improve the survival rate of those with cancer and fight leukemia cells. In a very positive study, it helped improve the immune system of patients going through chemo.
Here comes the fire! That is right if you need a pick me up, forget the cup of coffee, get a full dose of Cordyceps. Now here is a fascinating fungus. This guy lives and grows on the host body of caterpillars. When fully mature it will grow out of the host and stop it dead in its tracks. As an athlete, this is exciting in that it helps the body to utilize oxygen more efficiently while enhancing blood flow. So for your endurance athletes and your powerlifters, this is one to take notice of. Not only will this increase your performance, but this will also help combat PEMS and DOMS post-workout. Still get in your BCAA’s but throw this in your shake when you are leaving the gym.
The benefits are numerous plus the flavors are tasty. As I said previously, there are many ways to get your mushrooms in. Powders, oils, raw, teas, sprays including just cooking them. I encourage you to start looking at them, learning about this in-between plant and animal species that we are still learning so much on.