6 Medicinal Mushrooms That Promote a Healthier Body and Mind

Of the many edible mushroom varieties, there are six that top the list when it comes to giving you the most health benefits.

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When you hear the word fungus or fungi, you may think of mold or fungal infections — yuck! But some fungi are quite tasty, nutritious, and good for your health. Mushrooms are indeed savory fungi, and people have been eating them for thousands of years.

Various types of mushrooms are known and used in many dishes around the world. If you like pizza, then you must have eaten a lot of mushrooms, specifically the common button mushrooms. Besides being a great choice for a pizza or pasta topping, certain types of mushrooms are used in traditional medicine and have been shown to possess therapeutic properties.

Of the many edible mushroom varieties, there are six that top the list when it comes to giving you the most health benefits. If you are looking to enhance your health in a natural way, you should start getting more of these healthy and nutritious fungi in your diet.

Shiitake

Asian cultures have long revered shiitake mushrooms for their health and longevity-enhancing benefits. This is one that is relatively easy to find in your local supermarket, and you can incorporate it into soups and main dishes to give you a boost of natural goodness.

Shiitake mushrooms contain different nutrients, including B and D vitamins, as well as copper, selenium, and other minerals. With proven antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, shiitake mushrooms have been used to fight tumors and cancer.[1] They are also used to lower cholesterol levels and boost immunity.[2] If you are worried about getting sick during cold and flu season, start piling these on your plate.

Reishi

If you have troubles with stress and anxiety, reishi mushrooms can soothe your mind, body and soul. This mushroom has antidepressant, anti-inflammatory and adaptogenic effects.[3] Many people use it to help them cope with fatigue, improve mood and sleep better.

Reishi mushrooms are best when steeped into a tea. Drink a cup of it when you need to relax or get some sleep.[4] It is also widely available in powder form as a dietary supplement.

Cordyceps

cordyceps mushrooms growing on a forest floor with fallen leaves around them

This woody mushroom is fantastic for boosting your body’s cellular oxygen absorption. For asthma sufferers and elderly people, it helps keep the body energized, increase stamina and combat fatigue. For athletes, it helps increase exercise capacity, and may also help recover from a vigorous workout.[5]

Cordyceps has many suggested uses in traditional medicine, although there is no scientific evidence to support most of the claims. Some men and women use it as an aphrodisiac. It is also believed to have age-defying properties, so if you want to keep people guessing about your age, this mushroom may be worth trying out.

Chaga

When it comes to major diseases and chronic illnesses, inflammation is the common thread between them. By reducing inflammation in your body, you are boosting your overall health. Studies have shown that chaga extract provides significant anti-inflammatory[6] and antiviral[7] benefits.

Chaga mushrooms contain a high concentration of antioxidants that keep free radicals from doing their damage. In one study, it was shown that this mushroom has the potential to reduce oxidative stress, as well as improve cognitive functions, like memory and learning.[8]

Lion’s Mane

Feeling forgetful? Lion’s mane mushroom is ideal for stimulating the production of the nerve growth factor (NGF),[9] a neuropeptide that has a key role in the growth and survival of nerve cells (neurons). Without it, you are at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. If you have been feeling like you can’t remember things or are in a creative slump, lion’s mane mushroom could be your ticket to better cognitive function and sharper memory.[10]

Turkey Tail

This mushroom not only boosts immunity, but it also contains prebiotics[11] your body needs to fuel the healthy bacteria in your gut that help you have better digestion, mood, and health overall. With its remarkable antiviral and antimicrobial effects, turkey tail is a great fungus to add to your wellness arsenal.

Wood-based fungi, like turkey tail and cordyceps, aren’t winning any awards for flavors, plus they are not something you will usually find in your local supermarket. You will mostly want to buy these mushrooms from nutrition or supplement stores in powder form so you can easily incorporate them into your meals or drinks to reap the many health benefits they possess. Whether you cook with them, make a tea, or take them in a supplement, make sure all mushrooms you buy are organic to get the best quality without pesticides and toxins that would otherwise undo all their goodness.

References:

[1] Fang N, Li Q, Yu S, Zhang J, He L, Ronis MJ, Badger TM. Inhibition of growth and induction of apoptosis in human cancer cell lines by an ethyl acetate fraction from shiitake mushrooms. J Altern Complement Med. 2006 Mar;12(2):125-32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16566671/

[2] Dai X, Stanilka JM, Rowe CA, Esteves EA, Nieves C Jr, Spaiser SJ, Christman MC, Langkamp-Henken B, Percival SS. Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults. J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(6):478-87. doi:10.1080/07315724.2014.950391. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25866155/

[3] Matsuzaki H, Shimizu Y, Iwata N, Kamiuchi S, Suzuki F, Iizuka H, Hibino Y, Okazaki M. Antidepressant-like effects of a water-soluble extract from the culture medium of Ganoderma lucidum mycelia in rats. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013 Dec 26;13:370. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-13-370. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3879659/

[4] Cui XY, Cui SY, Zhang J, Wang ZJ, Yu B, Sheng ZF, Zhang XQ, Zhang YH. Extract of Ganoderma lucidum prolongs sleep time in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Feb 15;139(3):796-800. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2011.12.020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22207209/

[5] Chen S, Li Z, Krochmal R, Abrazado M, Kim W, Cooper CB. Effect of Cs-4 (Cordyceps sinensis) on exercise performance in healthy older subjects: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 May;16(5):585-90. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0226. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3110835/

[6] Mishra SK, Kang JH, Kim DK, Oh SH, Kim MK. Orally administered aqueous extract of Inonotus obliquus ameliorates acute inflammation in dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis in mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Sep 28;143(2):524-32. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2012.07.008. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22819687/

[7] Shibnev VA, Mishin DV, Garaev TM, Finogenova NP, Botikov AG, Deryabin PG. Antiviral activity of Inonotus obliquus fungus extract towards infection caused by hepatitis C virus in cell cultures. Bull Exp Biol Med. 2011 Sep;151(5):612-4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22462058/

[8] Giridharan VV, Thandavarayan RA, Konishi T. Amelioration of scopolamine induced cognitive dysfunction and oxidative stress by Inonotus obliquus – a medicinal mushroom. Food Funct. 2011 Jun;2(6):320-7. doi: 10.1039/c1fo10037h. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21779570/

[9] Lai PL, Naidu M, Sabaratnam V, Wong KH, David RP, Kuppusamy UR, Abdullah N, Malek SN. Neurotrophic properties of the Lion’s mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2013;15(6):539-54. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24266378/

[10] Mori K, Inatomi S, Ouchi K, Azumi Y, Tuchida T. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2009 Mar;23(3):367-72. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2634. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18844328/

[11] Pallav K, Dowd SE, Villafuerte J, Yang X, Kabbani T, Hansen J, Dennis M, Leffler DA, Newburg DS, Kelly CP. Effects of polysaccharopeptide from Trametes versicolor and amoxicillin on the gut microbiome of healthy volunteers: a randomized clinical trial. Gut Microbes. 2014 Jul 1;5(4):458-67. doi:10.4161/gmic.29558. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25006989/


Adrian Flume has been researching and writing about various health topics for several years, particularly in the mental health arena. He writes at Breezy Brain about brain health, mental enhancement and nutritional remedies.

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