First off, they are not a plant or an animal. They are fungi!
And the fungi kingdom is one of the most underappreciated kingdoms of life. It is instrumental in decomposing dead plants and animals. Therefore, they play a huge role in the nutrient cycle.
By transporting essential nutrients, they are in a symbiotic relationship with plants that enables them both to thrive. And because of this, they are not only food but medicine too.
Now, when people think about mushrooms as a food they usually either cringe or salivate. They either love it or hate it. And often, if they hate it, it is because of the texture. Fortunately, when using medicinal mushrooms for health benefits, it is usually in a tea, powdered, or tincture form.
Finally, many fear different types of mushrooms because they are afraid that they are poisonous. Because all of these medicinal mushrooms can be foraged, there is a risk. Do not forage for wild mushrooms unless you are a professional and can correctly identify mushrooms. There are a lot of lookalikes, and it is not worth the risk. If you want the try medicinal mushrooms to improve your health, please buy them from reputable sellers where they are packaged and labeled.
Health Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms
The wide-ranging healing effects of medicinal mushrooms are becoming more mainstream. Various companies are taking advantage of them and putting them into different teas and supplements. And for a good reason! Companies like Four Sigmatic even have mushroom coffee and many other products.
The incredible benefits include helping your brain promote neurogenesis, getting better sleep, supporting mental health, and boosting your immune system. The four medicinal mushrooms that are listed in this article are some of the less well-known varieties, but they definitely pack a punch when it comes to your health.
1. Reishi Mushrooms
Over time, the reishi mushroom has earned the nickname the “mushroom of immortality”. There is evidence that traditional Chinese healers began using this mushroom for its medicinal properties over 2,000 years ago!
This mushroom is filled with nutrients and antioxidants. In a study on rats, these were shown to have an anti-aging effect by protecting DNA against damage from free radicals.(1) But the long list of benefits don’t end there.(2) It also helps to balance hormone levels and fight inflammation. Click here to find the full list of ways to reduce inflammation.
Because of its polysaccharide content, it is best to consume it by extracting it in hot water. Because of this, many people make reishi tea. This is done by cutting up the dried mushroom into small pieces or by using a powder to simmer the brew for 2 hours. If you buy powders like this one, the extended extraction is not necessary because it was already done for you.
Most do not use it in food because it is very bitter and doesn’t taste great.
Use Reishi For:
- Powerful antioxidant and potent anti-inflammatory
- Antibacterial and Antiviral
- Boosting the immune system
- Regulating Blood Sugar Levels
- Increasing mental energy
2. Turkey Tail
These thin and colorful mushrooms grow on the side of dead logs. Its scientific name is Trametes Versicolor, but it got its common name because of the colorful stripes resemble a turkey tail. And they are an anti-cancer powerhouse.
It’s disease prevention properties have been known in the East for thousands of years.
In Chinese medicine, they use it because it can fight disease while strengthening the body at the same time. And in Japan, polysaccharide-k (PSK) extracts are used in clinical applications for cancer therapy. PSK is an active compound in these mushrooms. Among other things, it is known to create an increase in natural killer (NK) cells that fight cancer.
As the western world conducts more studies on this exotic mushroom, we will learn more about its health benefits. And if you are interested in a powdered supplement, this one is great.
Use Turkey Tail For:
- Anticancer properties
- Immune system support
This black medicinal mushroom often looks like an abnormal growth or nest growing on birch trees and is actually a parasite to them. They can be hard to find, but if you can locate one and harvest it, you will be grateful that you did.
Due to their preference for growing in colder forests, Russia has been using Chaga mushrooms for their benefits since the 17th century. And they affectionately call it the “king of mushrooms”.
The black color is from the high content of melanin, which helps to improve the quality of the hair, skin, nails, and eyes. For this reason, it helps maintain a youthful appearance.
Also, one of the other benefits of Chaga is that is an adaptogen. An adaptogen is a natural substance that assists the body in returning to balance. Some of the things adaptogens help with include assisting the body cope with stress, improve digestion, and improve cardiovascular health. And research shows that all of that and more equals helping to prevent cancer.(3)
Use Chaga For:
- Lowering LDL Cholesterol
- Fighting colds
- Boost your immune system
- Improving skin quality
4. Lion’s Mane
This white tooth fungus naturally boosts your brain. Hericium erinaceus, or better known as Lion’s mane, is a hair looking medicinal mushroom. While the previous three mushrooms do have a good flavor and are not widely used in cooking, Lion’s mane is delicious.
Eating it will help you get smarter and prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. Studies show that it is great at stimulating neuron growth as well as protecting the brain. (5)
Use Lion’s Mane For:
- Brain health
- Improving digestion
- Sleeping better
Getting over our fear and ignorance of the fungi kingdom and mushrooms is a crucial step in the process of creating better health.
Doctor Leanna J. Standish said it best, “They’re incredibly important as nutrition and also medicine. Humans co-evolved with mushrooms. They are probably far more important in our biology than we imagine. North America is kind of fungi-phobic, and it may be contributing to our lousy health.”(4)
Medicinal mushrooms can be a fantastic tool to incorporate into your diet and nutrition plans to get healthy. Do not use this article to replace your doctor’s advice and care plan. Side effects and allergies to certain mushrooms may exist, and if you notice any issues cease using them immediately.