What are Medicinal Mushrooms Good For? 5 Major Uses
You’ve likely heard the term “medicinal mushroom” if you clicked on this blog, but you might not know much about them. What are they good for? How can you take them? How often should you take them? The good news is that we have answers to all those questions!
Today’s blog will explore the world of medicinal mushrooms. Whether you’re just interested or want to find ways to incorporate them into your diet or daily wellness routine, this blog has the info you need. Keep reading to learn more.
What Are Medicinal Mushrooms?
Medicinal mushrooms are a type of edible mushroom you may find valuable due to their potential health benefits. These mushrooms have been utilized in traditional medicine practices for centuries, particularly in Asian countries like China, Japan, and Korea.
They are known for their potential immune-boosting, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cognitive-enhancing properties, which we’ll look at in closer detail in later sections of this blog.
Medicinal mushrooms contain bioactive compounds, including polysaccharides, beta-glucans, triterpenes, and other unique substances that contribute to their therapeutic effects.
Polysaccharides are complex carbohydrates made up of multiple sugar molecules joined together. They are a macromolecule found in many natural sources, including plants, algae, and fungi. In mushrooms, polysaccharides play a significant role in their structural integrity and vitality.
Beta-glucans are a type of polysaccharide found in the cell walls of bacteria, fungi, and certain plants. They are complex carbohydrates made up of glucose molecules joined together, giving them their unique structure and biological activity.
Triterpenes are a type of organic compound belonging to the terpenoid class. They are naturally occurring chemicals in various plants, fungi, and animals. Triterpenes are characterized by their structure, consisting of multiple isoprene units.
All of these compounds have been the subject of research for their potential to enhance immune function, reduce inflammation, combat oxidative stress, and provide neuroprotective effects. Different types of medicinal mushrooms may have distinct compositions of these compounds, which give rise to their specific health benefits.
Commonly used medicinal mushrooms include reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), shiitake (Lentinula edodes), maitake (Grifola frondosa), and lion's mane (Hericium erinaceus). These mushrooms have been studied for their potential to support immune health, improve cardiovascular function, enhance cognitive performance, and even exhibit anticancer properties.
Let’s look at the primary uses of these — and other — mushrooms.
5 Major Uses of Medicinal Mushrooms
1. Boosting the Immune System:
Medicinal mushrooms contain various bioactive compounds, including polysaccharides, beta-glucans, and triterpenes, which are believed to contribute to their immunomodulatory properties.
These bioactive compounds found in medicinal mushrooms have been shown to positively influence the immune system by stimulating and enhancing its response. Here are some ways medicinal mushrooms may help boost the immune system:
- Activation of immune cells: Medicinal mushrooms, such as Shiitake and Reishi, have been found to increase the production and activity of immune cells. This includes T-cells, which are responsible for recognizing and destroying harmful invaders, and natural killer (NK) cells, which help eliminate infected cells and tumors.
- Immunomodulation: Medicinal mushrooms possess immunomodulatory properties, meaning they can help regulate and balance the immune system. They can promote cytokine production, signaling molecules that facilitate communication between immune cells and help coordinate an appropriate immune response.
- Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects: As we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, medicinal mushrooms exhibit strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress can weaken the immune system over time, and the medicinal mushroom’s ability to combat these factors can indirectly support immune health.
2. Fighting Cancer:
Medicinal mushrooms have been studied for their potential role in fighting cancer. These mushrooms, including reishi, turkey tail, shiitake, and maitake, contain compounds like beta-glucans and polysaccharides that have shown immunomodulatory effects.
Beta-glucans can enhance the function of immune cells, such as natural killer cells and macrophages, which play a crucial role in identifying and eliminating cancer cells.
Taking medicinal mushrooms may lead to an increased immune response against cancer. Some studies suggest that these mushrooms may slow down the growth of tumors and induce apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells.
It's important to note that research on medicinal mushrooms and cancer is still ongoing, and more clinical studies are needed to fully understand their potential benefits and optimal use in cancer treatment.
It's recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating medicinal mushrooms into a cancer treatment plan.
3. Managing Stress and Anxiety:
While mushrooms like psilocybin-containing mushrooms have been studied for their potential to reduce anxiety and depression, it's important to note that these types of mushrooms have hallucinogenic properties and are not typically considered medicinal mushrooms in the traditional sense.
However, some adaptogenic mushrooms are believed to help reduce the effects of stress on the body and potentially support mental well-being. Adaptogenic mushrooms, such as reishi, lion's mane, and cordyceps, are believed to balance hormones and regulate the body's stress response.
For example, reishi mushrooms have been shown to have calming effects, supporting relaxation and reducing anxiety. Lion's mane mushrooms may improve cognitive function and support mental well-being.
Cordyceps mushrooms are suggested to help reduce fatigue and increase energy levels, potentially benefiting individuals experiencing stress.
It's worth noting that while anecdotal evidence and some scientific research support the potential benefits of adaptogenic mushrooms for managing stress and anxiety, more research is needed to fully understand their mechanisms of action and optimal usage.
If you are considering using medicinal mushrooms for managing stress and anxiety, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and guidance.
4. Supporting Cardiovascular Health:
Consuming edible mushrooms may help lipid profiles, including LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides.
The Ganoderma lucidum mushroom may have a potential therapeutic effect on some primary cardiovascular disease risk factors. In addition, some medicinal mushrooms with adaptogenic effects, such as reishi and cordyceps, may support cardiovascular health by regulating blood pressure.
5. Improving Cognitive Function:
According to some studies, medicinal mushrooms may have neuroprotective properties and their consumption may be associated with improved cognitive function.
Lion's Mane Mushroom, in particular, has been shown in some research to potentially support cognitive function.
This mushroom contains compounds called hericium erinaceus polysaccharides (HEPs), which have been shown in animal studies to help stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF) production.
NGF plays a vital role in neuroplasticity, which is the brain's ability to adapt and change over time. Other medicinal mushrooms that may have cognitive support benefits include Reishi and Cordyceps.
How to Incorporate Medicinal Mushrooms into Your Diet
Maybe you understand how beneficial mushrooms are, but you aren’t sure how to incorporate them into your diet to get those benefits. It’s understandable; it can be overwhelming to add something new. Well, this section has you covered!
Practical Tips and Recipes for Everyday Meals:
Soups: Add sliced or diced medicinal mushrooms like shiitake, maitake, or reishi to your homemade vegetable or chicken soup. They will impart a rich, earthy flavor to the broth.
Stir-fries: Include a variety of sliced mushrooms, such as shiitake or lion's mane, in your stir-fried vegetables or protein dishes. They add a meaty texture and absorb flavors well.
Smoothies: Blend powdered medicinal mushrooms into your favorite smoothie recipes for a nutritional boost. Start with a small amount, such as one-half to one teaspoon, and increase gradually.
- Teas: Brew dried or powdered medicinal mushrooms in hot water to make a flavorful and healthful tea. Add some honey or lemon for taste, if desired.
Different Forms of Medicinal Mushrooms and Choosing the Right Form:
Whole Mushrooms: Fresh or dried whole mushrooms, such as shiitake or maitake, can be used in recipes to add texture and flavor. You can find them in the produce section or at specialty grocery stores.
Extracts: Mushroom extracts are concentrated forms that often come in liquid or powdered form. They are convenient for adding to beverages, smoothies, or baked goods. Follow the instructions on the product label for the recommended dosage.
Powders: Mushroom powders are made by grinding dried mushrooms into a fine powder. They are versatile and can be added to various recipes, such as smoothies, soups, sauces, or even sprinkled over roasted vegetables. Start with a small amount and adjust to your taste preferences.
- Supplements: Medicinal mushroom supplements, available in capsule or tablet form, offer a convenient way to incorporate mushrooms into your daily routine. Choose a reputable brand and follow the recommended dosage instructions on the package.
When purchasing medicinal mushrooms, look for high-quality products from trusted sources. You can find them at health food stores, specialty grocery stores, or online retailers.
If you're unsure about dosages or have any specific health concerns, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional.
Remember, the flavor and potency of different mushrooms can vary, so it's worth experimenting with various types and preparations to find the ones you enjoy the most. Incorporating medicinal mushrooms into your diet can be a creative and flavorful way to introduce their potential health benefits into your daily routine.
Taking Medicinal Mushroom Supplements
Taking medicinal mushroom supplements can be a convenient way to incorporate the health benefits of mushrooms into your routine. This can be especially helpful if you don’t like the taste of mushrooms and would rather swallow a pill. Here are some key points to consider when taking medicinal mushroom supplements:
Quality and Source:
- Choose reputable brands that follow good manufacturing practices and source their mushrooms from reliable suppliers.
- Look for supplements that undergo third-party testing for quality, purity, and potency to ensure a reliable product.
Mushroom Species and Extracts:
- Different mushroom species have unique properties and potential health benefits. For example, reishi is often chosen for its calming and immune-enhancing properties, while lion's mane is known for its potential cognitive benefits.
- Pay attention to the mushroom species used in the supplement, and check if it aligns with your health goals.
Dosage and Recommendations:
- Follow the recommended dosage instructions provided by the supplement manufacturer. Dosages can vary depending on the specific mushroom and extract concentration.
- Start with a lower dosage and gradually increase it if needed, while monitoring how your body responds.
- Consider consulting with a healthcare professional, especially if you have any underlying health conditions, are on medication, or are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Potential Side Effects and Interactions:
- Medicinal mushroom supplements are generally considered safe for most individuals when taken as directed. However, some people may experience mild side effects such as digestive discomfort, allergic reactions, or skin rashes.
- If you experience any adverse reactions, discontinue use and consult a healthcare professional.
- Medicinal mushroom supplements may interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners or immunosuppressants. As we mentioned, talking to your healthcare provider if you take any medications is important to assess potential interactions.
Supplement vs. Whole Mushrooms:
- While supplements offer the convenience of consistent dosages and easy consumption, whole mushrooms provide additional nutritional benefits, such as dietary fiber and micronutrients.
- It's beneficial to incorporate a variety of whole mushrooms into your diet alongside supplements for a more comprehensive approach.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are many frequently asked questions about all types of mushrooms, including the medicinal kind. Read this section to learn more about these mushrooms' different aspects and how to identify a poisonous mushroom, a concern for many individuals who want to try mushrooms.
1. Do medicinal mushrooms actually work?
Yes, medicinal mushrooms actually work! As we mentioned in this blog, mushrooms have been used for centuries in traditional medicine practices. To this day, more and more research proves how effective they are. From balancing blood sugar to brain health and cognition, and multiple other benefits, medicinal mushrooms truly do work.
We highly recommend trying them for yourself and seeing how they can benefit your health!
2. What are the 10 Medicinal Mushrooms?
There are 10 primary types of medicinal mushrooms, including maitake, reishi, chaga, cordyceps, lion’s mane, shiitake, turkey tail, agaricus, tremella, and oyster.
- Maitake mushrooms support the immune system and are particularly rich in Vitamin D.
- Reishi mushrooms support cognition, strengthen the immune system, and help relieve stress.
- Chaga mushrooms are high in antioxidants and have potential anti-aging benefits.
- Cordyceps help enhance stamina, improve athletic performance, and support the immune system.
- Lion’s mane also helps with cognition, supports breath health, and helps with memory function.
- Shiitake mushrooms help support the immune system and have the anti-inflammatory effects we’ve discussed in this blog.
- Turkey tail mushrooms also strengthen the immune system and contain antioxidants.
- Agaricus mushrooms support immune health and healthy blood sugar, tremella mushrooms promote skin health and hydration, and oyster mushrooms have antioxidant and immune-modulating effects
3. What are the Best Medicinal Mushrooms for Healing?
If you want to avoid getting sick or want to get better faster, maitake, reishi, shiitake, and turkey tail are some of your best options, as these all boost the immune system.
4. What is the King of Medicinal Mushrooms?
The Chaga mushroom is considered the king of medicinal mushrooms because of its reputation and the wide range of potential health benefits that it touts.
Chaga contains high levels of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory components, and immunity-boosting compounds.
While Chaga is amazing, it’s not the only mushroom that can help support your overall health.
5. Can You Take Medicinal Mushrooms Daily?
Yes, you can. As we discussed earlier in this blog, you can eat mushrooms or take them as a dietary supplement.
However, it’s not advisable to take a ton at once. Add one new mushroom at a time at the recommended dosage. If you aren’t sure about the recommended dose, look at the mushroom source’s website or ask your healthcare provider.
6. How Can You Tell a Mushroom is Poisonous?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions we see online. And it’s no wonder. Since there are poisonous types of mushrooms, you’d naturally want to know how to identify them so you can avoid them and stay far away.
First, be cautious of the mushroom's color. Many poisonous mushrooms, such as certain species of Amanita, are often found in shades of red, orange, yellow, white, or grey. However, it's important to note that color alone cannot be used as the sole indicator of toxicity.
Examine the cap and stem characteristics. Pay attention to the shape, texture, and features of the mushroom cap and stem. Some mushrooms may have distinctive characteristics like wavy, funnel-shaped caps with no gills. The stem may vary in length, thickness, and whether it is hollow or solid.
It is important to mention that accurately identifying mushrooms, especially poisonous ones, can be challenging and potentially dangerous.
It is highly recommended to consult expert mycologists or mushroom identification guides to ensure proper identification. They can provide detailed information about the specific characteristics and features to consider when evaluating mushrooms for toxicity.
Always exercise caution and seek expert advice when foraging or if you’re unsure about the edibility of a mushroom.
7. What is the #1 Most Poisonous Mushroom?
The most poisonous mushroom is generally considered to be the Death Cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides). This mushroom is highly toxic and has been responsible for numerous cases of fatal poisoning worldwide.
Death cap mushrooms are found in various regions, including North America, Europe, and Asia. While the mushroom may have different shades of green or yellow color, the characteristic features that distinguish it include the bell-shaped cap with a distinctive epidermoid sac and the white gills and spores.
Because wild mushrooms can be poisonous, purchasing them at your local grocery store or online from a reputable source is best.
Get Your Mushroom Supplements From Avodah Wellness
If you read this blog all the way through, you’re probably convinced that it’s best to consume mushrooms you bought at the store or purchased online through a reputable source. If you’re looking for a quality manufacturer of mushroom supplements, you’ve come to the right place.
Avodah Wellness uses only the highest-quality ingredients and fruiting bodies to produce supplements you can trust as part of your daily regimen. We have supplements that can help with cognition, bones and joints, energy and muscle, gut health, and eyes.Take a look at our shop, and try one of our supplements! And if you have any questions before purchasing or at any point, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.