Mushrooms seem to be all the rage right now, but did you know they’ve been consumed since earliest history. The Greeks believed that mushrooms provided strength for warriors in battle, the Romans perceived them as the “Food of the Gods.” and the Chinese treasured mushrooms as an “elixir of life.”
More than 2,000 species of mushrooms exist in nature, but around 25 are widely accepted as food. Mushrooms in general, provide important nutrients, including selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D, proteins, and fiber. Mushrooms defined as “medicinal” however, are those mushrooms that contain immune activating beta glucans and other polysaccharides within their indigestible cell walls. When properly extracted with hot water these polysaccharides are used in supplemental form as immunoregulators to maintain, protect and support immune health.
There’s some other pretty bold claims out there claiming mushrooms are not just high antioxidant, but anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, blood sugar balancing, anti-aging, neuroprotective/nootropic, kidney and liver protective, hormone balancing and also aphrodisiac and libido enhancing!
Let’s have a look at some of the most popular mushrooms and their benefits backed by science.
In short, as a reference:
Reishi: for immune health, sleep, emotional support, focus ‘Xanax of the mushroom world’
Changa: for immune, aging, inflammation, digestion, adaptogenic (ability to regulate and modulate the body’s stress-response system)
Lions Mane: immune, cognition, memory, concentration
Cordyceps: immune, energy, athletic performance
REISHI (GANODERMA LUCIDUM)
There are over 400 bioactive compounds in this powerhouse mushroom (1). However, research suggests that the main substances responsible for the immune and liver protecting benefits of Reishi mushrooms are triterpenes. The triterpenes specific to Reishi are called ganoderic acids. Clinical studies demonstrate that ganodermic acids have an inhibitory action on the release of histamine in mast cells (meaning ganodermic acids reduce inflammatory response) (2)(3). The unique proteins found in Reishi mushrooms have also been shown to protect the liver by reducing oxidative stress. The triterpene also give Reishi a calming effect and they are said to be the Xanax of the mushroom world. These mood-boosting compounds may alleviate anxiety, ease depression (4) and encourage better sleep (5), as seen in mice.
CORDYCEPS (CORDYCEPS MILITARIS)
Cordyceps extracts provide immuno-modulating beta glucans that support immune health and also contain adenosine, cordycepic acid, cordycepin and other related compounds that help with adrenal fatigue and adrenal depletion, and by doing so, can increase energy levels and stamina and endurance. It is the adenosine and the other related compounds that may help to balance the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis), acting primarily through the adrenal glands, and by doing so, can be helpful to people suffering from prolonged exposure to stress. Cordyceps can help the body utilize oxygen more efficiently and enhance blood flow (6) , and has been shown to not only improve exercise (7) and athletic performance + also speed up post-workout muscle recovery.
CHAGA (INONOTUS OBLIQUUS)
Research has shown that Chaga mushrooms actually possess the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) of any natural food on the planet! High ORAC means antioxidant powerhouse to protect your cells from highly reactive molecules known as free radicals. When we experience chronic, excessive oxidative stress from things like pro-inflammatory foods and exposure to environmental toxins, you become prone to many health conditions.
LION’S MANE (HERICIUM ERINACEUS)
Lion’s Mane extracts are what some researchers are calling “Neural Nourishment”. They may enhance cognitive functions such as memory and concentration, promote or accelerate the growth of the myelin sheath (also called myelination). In vitro research suggests that certain compounds found in Lion’s mane, namely hericenones and erinacines, may help induce Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) synthesis in nerve cells (8).
There’s many more types of mushrooms available including Turkey Tail and Shiikaki, but the first 4 meet most people’s needs. Due to NZ regulations, most websites selling mushrooms cannot make health claims, so check out the research I’ve linked at the bottom and do your own research into the studies of these powerhouse foods, along with the traditional use to treat certain ailments.
How to take: Stir ½ tsp into your morning coffee or cacao drink, add to porridge, smoothies or bliss balls and slices. If you’re sensitive, it might pay to start at 1/4 tsp and work up.
BRANDS I LOVE:
FLOW STATE ~ A cool NZ company started by Dave and Rachel, they even link all the research on every page of their website, super informative. Use code ‘nourished20’ for 20% off
SUPERFEAST mushroom powders and capsules. An Australian company started by Mason Taylor, Australia’s first tonic herb company to seek TGA compliance for our entire range. I get mine from A Nourishing Notion, use code ‘nourished10′ for 10% off
MISTY DAY PLANT POTIONS ~ another gorgeous NZ based company, Misty does mushrooms and may other gorgeous powders. Misty is giving you 15% off, use the code ‘NICKY15’
MOTHERMADE MUSHROOMS~ NZ high school friends Emily and Jessica started this company, their mushrooms are potent, 100% organic, include no fillers or additives and are most importantly, 100% natural.
- María Elena Valverde, Talía Hernández-Pérez, and Octavio Paredes-López. 2015. Edible Mushrooms: Improving Human Health and Promoting Quality Life, Int J Microbiol. Feb 15;139(3):796-800 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4320875/
- Khoda, H., Tokumoto, W., Sakamoto, K., Fujii, M., Hirai, Y., Tamasaki, K., Komoda, Y., Nakamure, H., Ishihara, S. & Uchida, M. (1985). The biologically active constituents of Ganoderma lucidum (Fr.) Karst. histamine release-inhibitory triterpenes. Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 33: 1367-1374
- Min, B.-S., Nakamura, N., Miyashiro, H., Bae, K.-W. & Hattori, M. (1998). Triterpenes from the spores of Ganoderma lucidum and their inhibitory activity against HIV-1 protease. Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 46: 1607-1612.
- Antidepressant-like effects of a water-soluble extract from the culture medium of Ganoderma lucidum mycelia in rats, BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine Volume 13, Article number: 370 (2013) https://bmccomplementmedtherapies.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6882-13-370
- Extract of Ganoderma lucidum prolongs sleep time in rats, J Ethnopharmacol, 2012 Feb 15;139(3):796-800. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22207209/
- Ng, T. B., & Wang, H. X. (2005). Pharmacological actions of Cordyceps, a prized folk medicine. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 57(12), 1509-1519.
- Hardeep S. Tuli, Sardul S. Sandhu, and A. K. Sharma, (2014) Pharmacological and therapeutic potential of Cordyceps with special reference to Cordycepin. 3Biotech, Feb; 4(1): 1–12.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3909570/
- Lai, P. L., Naidu, M., Sabaratnam, V., Wong, K. H., David, R. P., Kuppusamy, U. R., Abdullah, N., & Malek, S. N. (2013). Neurotrophic properties of the Lion’s mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia. International journal of medicinal mushrooms, 15(6), 539–554. https://doi.org/10.1615/intjmedmushr.v15.i6.30