Mushrooms are having a moment. They seem to be the “new”, hot botanical ingredient that everyone is talking about, and we are seeing them in products from tinctures, to capsules, to bars.
But, like many traditional remedies, using mushrooms as medicine is an ancient practice. Cultures throughout the world have relied on the diverse and powerful healing benefits of mushrooms for thousands of years. If you want a quick overview into this fascinating world, check out Fantastic Fungi, an accessible film about mushrooms, and how they can help save the planet.
Technically speaking, mushrooms are not plants, they are fungi. They do not grow by using the power of the sun like other plants do, but rather through their connected “root”, called mycelium. You could spend years learning about mushrooms and all of their uses, but let’s start with a simple primer on the powerful healing properties of some of the more common functional mushrooms.
- Shiitake: Often used in cooking, these flavorful mushrooms contain eritadenine, which encourages body tissues to absorb cholesterol and lower the amount circulating in the blood. Shiitakes also help the body to detoxify, and have antiviral and anticancer effects.
- Cordyceps: Best known for improving athletic performance, because they help elevate energy, vitality, and endurance.
- Enoki: Enoki mushrooms have significant anticancer and immune-enhancing effects.
- Maitake: This delicious Japanese mushroom is also called “hen of the woods” because it grows in big clusters that resemble the fluffed tail feathers of a nesting hen. Maitake helps support gut health and healthy blood sugar levels.
- Reishi: Strictly a medicinal mushroom, not a culinary one, reishi is woody, hard, and bitter. Reishi can improve immune function and inhibit the growth of some malignant tumors. It also shows significant anti-inflammatory effects, reduces allergic responsiveness, and protects the liver.
- Lion’s Mane: Lion’s Mane supports memory, improves focus and clarity, and helps with nerve health. It is a beautiful, fluffy white mushroom that looks like a lion’s mane.
- Turkey Tail: A purely medicinal mushroom with proven anticancer effects. It is one of the most researched mushrooms for immune support.
- King Trumpet: Contains master antioxidant L-Ergothioneine, a naturally occurring amino acid found only in a few sources
- Chaga: Extremely high in antioxidants (31 times more than blueberries!), chaga helps fight oxidative stress and free radicals. It is also anti-inflammatory, and supports a healthy immune system.
One note: with many of these mushrooms, the best benefits can be felt when using an appropriately high dose. Many of the products on the market that use mushrooms, use really low doses that don’t have much effect.
So, how do I use them??
Fortunately, there are many great products and easy ways to incorporate functional mushrooms into your life. There are mushroom capsules and powders you can take that incorporate different blends of mushrooms for heart health, brain health, beauty, energy, exercise, immunity, and more. Plant Society is now carrying a selection of functional mushroom products from OM, a company based in Carlsbad, CA, that we researched and fell in love with for their excellent growing processes, product quality, dosage amounts, and product selection.
A few suggestions to get started:
- Make a mushroom broth: mushrooms have an earthy quality, that make them yummy when they are warm, such as in a broth or soup. Use this premixed broth blend that includes 7g of protein and tasty spices, or add the Master Mushroom blend to any soup you are making.
- Switch to mushroom “coffee”: you have probably heard about this trend, but mushroom “coffee” substitutes coffee beans for mushrooms, usually chaga and lion’s mane, with cordyceps added in for energy. Some include caffeine as well. Mushrooms have a taste somewhere between coffee and tea. Try the yummy Mushroom Coffee from Om, that includes 4 mushrooms, plus ginkgo biloba and caffeine for energy.
- Supercharge your coffee: Can’t give up your morning coffee? That’s ok too. Try adding 1 tsp of Lion’s Mane powder with a full 2g of mushroom goodness to your cup to help sharpen and focus the mind. One customer says: “it’s like getting 2 extra hours of focus in my day”.
- Blend it in: Mushrooms are a great addition to almost anything you blend. Try a scoop of Master Blend in your morning smoothie, your child’s milkshake, even a summer gazpacho. Lion’s Mane is wonderful for helping with focus, so help your child stay focused at school with a dose in their morning oatmeal or smoothie.
Give mushrooms a try! It is easy to start feeling the benefits immediately, and you can go deeper and deeper into their healing as you learn. One of our Plant People, Broadway and television actor Clarke Thorell, talks about how he uses mushrooms here.
Written by: Shari Boyer
Check out our new mushroom selections: