Medicinal Mushrooms and Why They Should Be A Part Of A Healthy Life
Take a trip into your local health food store and it’s likely you’ll see first hand just how quickly our interest in mushrooms is growing. Our favorite fungus comes in so many delectable varieties we know and love to eat but now there’s also the supplement section of the store that’s filled with mushroom capsules, powders, extracts and liquid solutions. Move over to the food isles and you’ll see items such as mushroom coffee (highly recommended!), mushroom chocolate (the taste jury is still out on this one) and even mushroom jerky.
Although mushrooms for food is still our favorite way to consume them, taking advantage of their many medicinal qualities in various forms is like, the mushrooms themselves, growing fast. Mushrooms as medicine is now a trend but they’ve used by humans as both food and medicine for 1000’s of years. Mushrooms as medicine have many different qualities to offer us but are particularly known for their immune boosting benefits.
MUSHROOMS, STRESS AND IMMUNE HELATH
Mushrooms are made up of a type complex carbohydrate named beta-glucans. It’s known to stimulate the immune system and blunt the growth of tumors in our bodies. Beta-glucans stimulate and boost antibodies and natural killer cells within us. They also promote healthy cell growth.
Certain varieties such as shiitake, turkey tail and cordyceps are known to boost our immune system helping fight off viruses and bacteria. Other mushrooms offer similar but different health benefits. It goes without saying that if you haven’t done your research and started to include medicinal mushrooms in your life, you might want to read on and get to know what you’re missing.
6 MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
Number 1 through 6 and in no particular order, here’s a quick breakdown of some popular medicinal mushrooms:
Common uses: antioxidant protection and immune system health
The Chaga mushroom looks like a burnt hunk of wood — if you didn’t know better, you might not guess it’s a mushroom at all. It has traditionally been considered a tonic that helps overall wellness, works as a blood purifier and pain reliever. It contains potent antioxidant properties. Tough to cook, the medicinal benefits mush be extracted.
Common uses: adaptogen; energy, stamina and endurance; immune health
Cordyceps was used to increase stamina and vital energy in ancient China. These properties have made it amongst athletes. As an adaptogen and a tonifying herb, cordyceps is used to boost stamina and restore energy. The benefits are especially handy after you’ve been ill or beaten down and exhausted. Other major benefits are supporting healthy aging and having major boost in your sex drive.
Common uses: memory, concentration and nerve health
This mushroom gets it’s name from its shaggy mane like appearance. It’s a nootropic, or cognitive enhancer. Lion’s Mane helps boost creativity, motivation and memory, as well as brain function. Its qualities make it another mushroom prized by athletes.
Common uses: GI health, blood sugar and healthy weight
Maitake (hen of the woods) offer immune system support. It has been shown to help reduce blood glucose levels. It is also showing potential for liver protection, regulating blood pressure and cholesterol.
Common uses: adaptogen; longevity, sleep and immune health
Reishi — classically known as the mushroom of immortality — helps protect our immune systems by regulating natural killer cells and cytokine responses. It works as a strong antioxidant. Reishi is perhaps the most versatile mushroom, with 4,000 years of use in Asia. Its most common uses are for sleep, stress and general immune health and vitality. As an adaptogen, it is used to support endurance and the endocrine system. This mushroom must also be extracted, as it’s too tough to cook.
Common uses: immune health, cholesterol, antioxidant protection, skin health, liver support
The Shiitake mushroom has been used as a food and as a medicine for many thousands of years in Asia. Specifically Japan and China. It has a long history as an immune booster for everything from colds to cancer. Studies have supported its antiviral and anti-cancer properties, and it offers a boost for white blood cells and protects the immune system from oxidative stress. It’s been used to regulate the immune system, protect the liver (thereby also promoting healthy skin) and support the cardiovascular system. As a huge bonus, it’s delicious and easy to cook with!
I would highly recommend doing some research into the myriad of health benefits mushrooms can provide. Start with a trip to your local health food store for expert advice on how these fungi can improve your life. Mushrooms, not just for dinner anymore!