Medicinal mushrooms offer many benefits for overall health. We share about 50% of our DNA with fungi, and they are a very bio-available medicine to us. Cultures around the world have used them for thousands of years to promote health and modern-day scientific research is now beginning to back up their healing properties.
All medicinal mushrooms contain immune-supporting polysaccharides including beta-glucans. They are immune-modulators, so suppress or stimulate as needed, and support many key components of the immune system. Many mushrooms also have strong antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal compounds. All medicinal mushrooms have immune system benefits, but they also contain a range of differing compounds which makes them unique and suitable for different uses.
We’ve been living in very unusual and highly stressful times, and stress can have a major impact on many aspects of our health, including immunity, digestive function and cognitive health. Mushrooms immune benefits, as well as their function as adaptogens, make them an ideal addition to your daily diet to support overall well-being during this time. Here are some of our favourite medicinal mushrooms for the modern world:
Reishi has a long history of use in ancient China for reducing stress, calming the mind, and combating sleep issues. It is the most anti-inflammatory of the mushrooms and reducing inflammation enables better brain functioning and performance, with more blood and oxygen flowing to the brain, ideal if you are suffering from brain fog or poor concentration during this time. Reishi mushrooms (and particularly reishi spores) are rich in triterpenes which are a calming compound, its effects can be useful to help us unwind and support deeper restful sleep which can be hard to achieve if your mind is racing. Early research suggests the polysaccharide and triterpenoid compounds in Reishi are responsible for its stress lowering capacity and it may offer benefits for anxiety and depression as well as have significant neuroprotective effects for the brain.
Cordyceps like Reishi is an adaptogen, helping to regulate our physiology and bring us back into balance. Studies have shown participants were better able to withstand stress when they took cordyceps compared to when they didn’t. It’s not a stimulant, but instead, an adaptogenic mushroom which supports the adrenal glands and helps the body produce and maintain consistent energy levels.
Lion’s Mane has cognitive benefits and can support the nervous system and overall brain functioning. Lion’s Mane has a traditional history of use by Buddhist monks to enhance brain power and heighten focus during meditation. It stimulates the production of nerve growth factor (NGF) which helps to maintain the neurons, which are the brain cells responsible for helping us to process and transmit information, supporting learning and memory.
Chaga is a prized tonic mushroom, it contains high amounts of the antioxidants including antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) which neutralizes damage done by free radicals which we face in our environment, and from our diet and lifestyle choices on a daily basis. Chaga also has benefits for helping the body deal with everyday stressors as well as protecting it from damage and disease.