Maybe you haven’t noticed, but mushrooms are currently having a moment. We’re seeing them take over multiple industries, such as food, wellness, and even fashion. The popularity of mushrooms has seen a growth of more than 60% since 2019 alone. While, in that same period, interest in the mushroom business has grown by more than 20%. This is thanks to the multitude of positive benefits that mushrooms can potentially offer. Regardless of your reasons for looking into mushrooms, you’ll want to be fully aware of their uses, potential benefits, and everything else they can offer.
What Are Medicinal Mushrooms?
Fungi, or mushrooms, as they’re commonly referred to, have been around for quite some time. So long that a few years ago, scientists unearthed fossilized fungi scientists unearthed fossilized fungi that date back one billion years. Yet, they have only been used in traditional medicine for a couple of thousands of years. Not nearly as long as they’ve been around, but a lengthy amount of time, nonetheless. They are the foundation for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and are featured in the mythical Herbal Classics, the ancient Chinese equivalent of the Materia Medica. There are even stories of cancer-ridden monkeys in ancient Japan that were cured by feasting on Lentinula edodes, or shiitake mushrooms, as they’re better known.
Now, fast forward to present day, and mushrooms have soared in popularity here in the states as a result of their use in various supplements. This didn’t happen overnight, mind you. Scientists have been experimenting for decades, trying to understand the potential healing properties of mushrooms. The science is still developing, therefore more research is necessary to determine exactly how they might affect particular diseases.
In essence, medicinal mushrooms are macroscopic fungi that are frequently consumed as a powder or extract for their potential health benefits. And when compared to non-medicinal mushrooms, medicinal mushrooms boast a greater concentration of polysaccharides, which, when consistently consumed, can offer a wide range of possible health benefits. Heck, one of the most revolutionary antibacterial drugs of the last century, penicillin, was derived from fungi. It is worth noting that the science is still evolving, so how medicinal mushrooms affect specific diseases still needs more exploration.
What Are Mushrooms Good For?
Sure, mushrooms are great sauteed in a pan or stuffed like a Portobello, but they have other fantastic uses as well. Unlike in ancient Egypt, when the pharaohs declared that only the royal family may eat them. Today, they are plentiful and readily available to everyone. And besides being a great addition to any meal, mushrooms can change how we dress, how we construct buildings, and how we take care of ourselves.
Mushrooms and your Health
Studies have shown that mushrooms may be beneficial for your health. It’s their strong immune-boosting effects that account for the majority of their possible health benefits. However, depending on their particular chemical composition, each persons body will respond to mushrooms differently. We will discuss the potential health benefits of mushrooms in more detail in the next section.
Do Mushrooms Have Potential Health Benefits?
Yes, we realize that we just answered this question in the previous section. However, we felt it was necessary to go into more detail on some of the potential health benefits that mushrooms can bring to the table. They can help promote gut health, promote weight loss, and they may even help protect your brain health. We’ll go over these benefits, along with a couple of others, so you can decide if mushrooms can aid in your wellness journey.
Can Mushrooms promote Gut Health?
If you’re not familiar with the microbiome in your gut, it is home to trillions of bacteria and organisms that play a huge part in your mood and health. And consuming mushrooms can help populate and keep your GI tract healthy, as well as enhance your immune system with the correct balance of bacteria. Mushrooms also contain the nutrients that probiotics feed off of, prebiotics, which aid in the growth of beneficial bacteria. Probiotics are bacteria or live microorganisms that can help with digestion as well as generate nutrients to help benefit the body.
Then there’s their most abundant carbohydrate, polysaccharides (long-chain carbs that are the gut bacterias favorite thing to snack on), which stimulate healthy bacteria growth. This is contrary to a good portion of the other foods that require the assistance of stomach acid to break them down. The mushroom polysaccharides can travel through the stomach and reach the colon completely unaffected. Once they have reached the colon, it’s here where they can help promote bacteria growth. This is crucial, given that a healthy gut plays a pivotal role in preserving the body’s immune defenses. A healthy gut can also help with the digestion of brain communication as well, via nerves and hormones.
Mushrooms and Cancer
Another one of mushrooms possible health benefits that seems to come up fairly often is how they can possibly reduce the risk of cancer. They’re a wonderful source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which can provide an excellent source of vitamin D. It’s even been said that vitamin D boasts anti-cancer behaviors against several cancer types. It’s these antioxidants that protect cells from damage that can cause cancer.
The body produces some of these antioxidants on its own but still relies on vegetables, fruits, and grains to attain the necessary number of antioxidants it requires. The soluble fiber beta-glucan is found in mushrooms and it can help boost the immune system, which can aid the body in fighting cancer, other diseases, or infections of any type. They even conducted a study that shows eating mushrooms daily can reduce your risk of cancer by almost 50%. In the study, they reviewed seventeen cancer studies dating back to 1966 and up to 2020. What the research found was that when you consume 1/8 cup of mushrooms daily, you cut your risk of cancer almost in half.
Mushrooms are also a formidable source of the antioxidant and amino acid known as ergothioneine, which slows down or prevents cellular damage. Some types of mushrooms boast even higher ergothioneine amounts. However, the researchers discovered that integrating any assortment of mushrooms into your daily diet can help lower your cancer risk.
Can Mushrooms Support Immune Health?
We have briefly discussed the immune system and the possible advantages of including mushrooms in your diet. However, we haven’t explained how medicinal mushrooms go about doing so. To start, they’re able to assist your immune response by helping to support and strengthen its natural defenses.
Mushrooms feature active polysaccharides such as a soluble fiber known as beta-glucan. This soluble fiber can be found in mushroom cell walls and may help combat bacteria and pathogenic microbes, not to mention viruses. Plus, these beta-glucans are what appear to tell the immune system to get up off its butt and step up its defense systems. This not only activates several parts of the immune system but also plays a pivotal role in their production. Natural killer cells (NK cells), T cells, B cells, cytokines, antibodies, and macrophages are among the parts that benefit the most from this polysaccharide boost.
By activating these parts of the immune system, you’re increasing your body’s ability to fight infection in addition to possibly stopping the growth or progression of tumors. There was even a clinical study conducted at the University of Florida Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, which made an insightful discovery. You may be able to improve your immunity in a way, unlike any available pharmaceutical drugs that are currently available by merely adding shiitake mushrooms to your daily diet.
Do Mushrooms promote Weight Loss?
A typical misconception about mushrooms is that they are a vegetable. Sure, we may classify them as a vegetable, but they’re technically not part of the plant family. Instead, mushrooms belong to the fungi kingdom. They do share some qualities with plants, and even animals, to a certain extent. However, it’s their fungal properties that can aid in weight loss due to their high levels of fiber and protein.
Their vitamin D-boosting qualities that we previously touched on can also help contribute to weight loss. There are very few edible vegetables that boast such a high level of this crucial vitamin. And just like when we expose ourselves to sunshine, mushrooms synthesize vitamin D in the same manner. Another promising weight-loss aspect of mushrooms has to be their ability to help people feel “full” for longer. They conducted a study in 2017 at the University of Minnesota, which concluded that eating mushrooms can allow you to feel “full” for longer. They can do this while also being a more nutritional alternative to other less healthy items that can easily fill you up. Which makes them an ideal choice for anyone looking to lose weight and unsure of how to deal with said hunger pains. Furthermore, all the nutrients in mushrooms help manage glucose levels in your blood. This can help you stay energized throughout those long workdays or fuel you through your next workout.
What Are the Best Medicinal Mushrooms?
They have used mushrooms for medicinal purposes, dating back thousands of years in Eastern medicine. While in Western medicine, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to fungi research. However, an increase in interest in holistic health and functional medicine as of late has led to a newfound adoration of mushrooms and the wealth of potential benefits they can offer. It is important to note that they aren’t “magic remedies” that can fix you up in one fell swoop. They’re more of a sidekick that can help raise your immune system’s performance. We’ll discuss five of the most popular medicinal mushrooms that can aid in your wellness journey.
Hericium erinaceus, often known as lions mane, is an edible mushroom that is native to North America, Asia, Canada, and Europe. And once you’ve seen their appearance, it becomes rather clear how they earned their name, given that they resemble that of a lion’s mane. And similar to other mushrooms, lion’s mane boasts antioxidants to help boost the immune system. Along with modulating the immune system, lion’s mane may also be able to help with depression and anxiety.
They actually conducted a study on the anti-inflammatory effects of lion’s mane in depressive mice. They found that lion’s mane can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in mice. However, they still need to conduct more studies on lion’s mane and its effect on humans before we go all in on how beneficial it can be. They did conduct a study with menopausal women, which had promising effects. They found that eating cookies that contained lion’s mane mushrooms every day for a month helped to reduce feelings of anxiety and irritation.
There was even some preliminary research that suggests lion’s man may be able to protect against cancer. A 2011 study concluded that lion’s mane may have therapeutic potential against leukemia cells. We also wanted to reiterate that more research needs to be conducted on humans to fully realize how beneficial lion’s mane can be for us.
Commonly referred to as the “mushroom of mortality” or “king of mushrooms,” the reishi mushroom is undoubtedly one of the most popular medicinal mushrooms you’ll find. Chinese Taoist monks even wrote about the calming properties they can have, along with their ability to help enhance meditation. Chinese royalty would use reishi mushrooms to help promote longevity, holding the mushroom in high esteem. Some will say that they’re the most cherished for all the benefits they can offer. This is due to their versatility concerning losing weight, modulating the immune system, and helping to fight cancer cells.
Other mushrooms do share some of the same characteristics, but reishi mushrooms boast calming properties that the others don’t. This is all thanks to the mood-boosting compounds known as triterpene, which are more than plentiful in reishi mushrooms and the reason for their bitter taste. These compounds can help alleviate depression and anxiety, in addition to encouraging better sleep patterns. The benefits of triterpenes on your nervous system don’t end there. They can help promote healing together by sharpening your focus for the 1-2 punch. Reishi mushrooms also feature polysaccharides which are associated with immune function. When taken over time, they can provide a significant boost to the immune system, help improve sleep, and can support respiratory and lung health, amongst a slew of other benefits.
Sometimes referred to as chaga chonk, birch mushrooms, or Inonotus obliquus, chaga mushrooms, in reality, aren’t even a mushroom at all. They are actually a type of woody canker that grows in the Northern Hemispheres colder climates. The highly prized, dark brown, and black fungus primarily grows on birch trees. So, several medicinal compounds found in the tree, such as betulinic and botulin acid, can also be found in chaga mushrooms. The outer black layer of the canker comprises high levels of melanin, which can be quite beneficial for our skin.
The first documented medicinal use of chaga was around the 16th century in Russia. In the mountain region of Siberia, they would enjoy some chaga tea daily. They would also use it topically (put it on their skin) to reap the benefits of that melanin we just spoke of. And it’s no surprise that chaga mushrooms have long been regarded as superb natural beauty supplements given that they can aid in reducing oxidative stress, a component in aging. They can also help maintain your skin health and help promote youthfulness. Thus, why countless people are turning to chaga as a natural supplement to incorporate into their wellness programs.
Now we’ve come to the most beloved mushroom in the entire world, the shiitake mushroom. Referred to as Xiang gu (香菇) in China, which means “fragrant mushroom,” the shiitake mushroom has been cultivated for centuries in Japan. This is where it receives its name, from the tree that they’re typically found growing on, the shii tree. During the Ming Dynasty in China, they were referred to as "the elixir of life."
The majority of the health benefits that shiitake mushrooms can offer are thanks to their vast nutritional profile. They’re an ideal substitute for meat since they’re low in calories and boast similar amino acids to that of red meat. Shiitake mushrooms are high in fiber, in addition to other nutrients that are not commonly found in other foods. Some of the vitamins and minerals they bring to the table are niacin, thiamin, potassium, vitamin D, iron, and magnesium, to name a few. For instance, ½ a cup of shiitake mushrooms can provide you with 72% of your DRI (Daily Recommended Intake) of copper. They also contain special compounds that are studied for their role in maintaining the immune system. Sterols, terpenoids, polysaccharides, lipids, and other beta-glucans are a few of these helpful compounds.
Trametes Versicolor, or turkey tail as it’s commonly referred to, is a fairly common mushroom that grows on dead logs all over the world. The polypore mushroom (a class of fungi that produces big fruiting bodies with pores or tubes underneath) gets its name from its brown and tan rings that resemble that of a turkey’s tail. Easily one of the most researched of all the functional mushrooms, turkey tail stands a step above the rest thanks in part to its powerful polysaccharides; polysaccharide K (PSK) and polysaccharide peptide (PSP). These are what support the inflammatory response at the cellular level and help maintain a strong and healthy immune system. In a 2007 study, the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine analyzed 8,000 patients and concluded that when they combined PSK with chemotherapy, the patients survival rate increased in the wake of a stomach cancer procedure. Other conditions that can benefit from turkey tail are joint pain, hemorrhoids, and breathing difficulties. PSK’s are so efficient at what they do, Japan has even approved it as an anticancer prescription.
Where to Buy Medicinal Mushrooms
As the beneficial properties of functional mushroom products becomes more widely accepted, it’s important to know your options and make an informed decision, before your first purchase. Not all products are grown or created equally, which is why MyShroom mushrooms are grown in a sterile environment on proprietary organic substrates. All the strains of mushroom species are grown, processed and packaged in sterile clean rooms in the USA.
While MyShroom products are available locally in the San Diego, CA area, purchasing medicinal mushrooms directly from our website is a more convenient option for many of our customers.
Order Powdered Mushroom Supplements Online
We’ve optimized our online mushroom store for easy ordering based on the benefits you’re hoping to experience. The performance mushrooms we offer are intended to aid immune, neural, liver, and blood sugar health. All of our powdered mushrooms blends are available in three different quantities; 20.8 oz, 10.4 oz, and 6.9 oz, so you can easily order the amount that is right for your needs.
Shop the best medicinal mushroom blends available and know you’re getting the best selection of products at the most reasonable prices when you order from MyShroom. Our current blends include Immune Health, Neural & Cognitive Health, Liver Health, and Blood Sugar Health.