The mushroom kingdom is a vast one, and has much to offer us beyond omelette fixings. Proponents of medicinal mushrooms love and laud them for their host of health benefits, and tend to quickly become fungi evangelists. The power of their influence is real – the global mushroom market value is expected to exceed 50 billion USD in the next seven years due to growing demand, according to Grand View Research. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and Gwyneth Paltrow claim to ingest the superfood in supplement and powder form, and Whole Foods included medicinal mushrooms on their list of top food trends for 2018. So, should you be jump on the ‘shroom bandwagon? Here’s what you need to know.
What Are Medicinal Mushrooms?
According to 2014 research from the International Journal of Integrative Medicine, mushrooms have been used medicinally since at least 3000 BCE, and are reported to have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular-protective, antidiabetic and anticancer properties. Hence, these forest-floor treasures have many health benefits to offer, ranging from an ability to boost cognitive function to stimulating gut flora growth.
It is said that evolutionarily, fungi are more closely related to humans than they are plants, which is why the components that help them to defend themselves against enemies can also support our body’s defense measures. Whether you believe that or not, medicinal mushrooms have the science to prove that they can do the body good. (This adaptogen elixir recipe has the benefit of two types of medicinal mushrooms.)
Take note: When we say medicinal mushrooms, these won’t get you high – it’s psilocybin mushrooms that possess psychedelic properties, not the superfood ‘shrooms you’ll find in hot chocolate mixes in health food stores.
Popular Types of Medicinal Mushrooms and Their Benefits
The following five types of medicinal mushrooms can be found in most natural health food stores in Canada as well as online at well.ca in the form of supplements or drink mix powders.
This mushroom has been called ‘nature’s Xanax’ due to its ability to help us manage stress. According to 2011 research from Herbal Medicine, Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, reishi can help ease insomnia and help us make the most of our waking hours. Unwind with a cup of reishi hot chocolate at the end of the day and wake up on your game. (This hormone balancing adaptogen blend can also help reduce stress.)
If you’re trying to break the cycle of caffeine spike and then crash, try cordyceps. Where coffee simply stimulates the nerves and adrenals, research from the Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine showed that cordyceps helps people struggling with fatigue by increasing energy levels and physical endurance naturally – without the crash. Try it in the morning for a more sustainable boost.
This mushroom is a favourite among fungi fans for its neuroprotective properties. 2018 research from Behavioural Neurology found lion’s mane to be effective in improving mild cognitive impairment in 50- to 80-year-old patients. Take it for increased daily focus – and your long term nerve and brain health. This ‘shroom could be your best career ally.
If you experience digestive issues or could use a boot on your weight loss journey, consider turkey tail. This mushroom may be the most common one in North American woods, but it was proven in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences to be a prebiotic that can help stimulate the growth of our gut microbiota. Swap it for your daily prebiotic supplement for a natural alternative.
Chaga is an antioxidant power-house, according to research from the The Journal of Bioscience and Engineering. This free-radical ‘scavenger’ may be an anti-aging secret weapon. Add to your morning smoothie for a super-clean start or try chaga tea. Another reason to consider chaga? Research also points to cellular protection benefits meaning it could have anticancer potential.
Learn about more herbs that have healing benefits.