A Guide to Medicinal Mushrooms: Lion’s Mane, Reishi, and More

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Medicinal mushrooms are popular – but do they really work?

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Mushrooms have officially taken over the spa and that goes way beyond the magical kind, or even the ones you find on your plate. Health enthusiasts put mushrooms in everything from coffee to smoothies to medicine cabinets, and it looks like this is just the beginning of the mushroom boom.

But not all mushrooms are created equal. Many of them have special (scientifically based) properties that are really impressive. One of the most useful types of mushrooms is functional mushrooms, which are quite different from the mushrooms you could add to a pasta dish (although these are good for you too).

“Functional mushrooms are mushrooms whose benefits go beyond the nutritional benefits of traditional mushrooms that we know from the kitchen,” says Alana Kessler, a registered nutritionist. “Functional mushrooms can be taken in capsules, powders, liquids (teas) and sprays,” says Kessler.

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With so many different types of mushrooms, how do you know which one is best for you? And which ones are worth buying in a tincture or supplement rather than just cooking and eating them? Read on for a full review of all of the healthiest mushrooms you can use – from the types you can eat to those that have health benefits when taken in a more concentrated supplement form.

Medicinal mushroom basics

You will find medicinal mushrooms in many forms, but one of the most common ways to supplement it is with a mushroom powder or extract (more on that later). While many mushrooms are ingested in supplements, powders, or other forms, some medicinal mushrooms are also eaten in their whole form. “Mushrooms are generally excellent diets and are low in calories. They provide selenium, B vitamins, vitamin D and potassium – necessary for energy and nutrient absorption, as well as beta-glucans, which are important for reducing inflammation and providing fiber. especially shiitake and maitake, “says Kessler.

An overview of edible medicinal mushrooms

Maitake: “Can be sautéed, cooked with dishes, or eaten cooked alone (usually not raw),” says Kessler. Maitake mushroom is an adaptogen, which means that it can help the body adapt to stress and stay balanced. It also has potential cancer benefits, in addition to helping improve cholesterol levels and type 2 diabetes.

Shiitake: “[Can be] cooked in all kinds of dishes, can be eaten raw, but usually cooked, “says Kessler. Shiitake mushrooms can help fight cancer and inflammation, and they contain beta-glucans, which can help lower cholesterol.

Lion’s Mane: “Usually not eaten raw and can be substituted for crab meat in recipes. [Helps] Support mood and memory, “says Kessler.

Oyster mushrooms: “Usually not eaten raw, can be sautéed or used in stir-fry dishes,” says Kessler. Research has shown that oyster mushrooms contain antioxidants and can help reduce the risk of certain diseases such as cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

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Lion’s Mane is known to improve focus and brain health.

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Functional medicinal mushrooms

While the list is not exhaustive, the following types of mushrooms are some of the most common types sold and marketed in diet supplements, extracts, powders, and other products today.

Lion’s mane

Lion’s Mane Mushroom is best known for its potential brain health benefits. Some supplements and products that Lion’s Mane market claim that it can help improve focus and memory. While there isn’t much clinical research on lion’s mane in humans, some animal studies have shown that it can boost memory and prevent diseases that affect cognitive function, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. Lion’s mane is rich in antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation in the body.

Reishi

Traditionally used in East Asian medicine, Reishi is a type of mushroom that is used for many reasons and has a long list of potential health benefits. It is currently used to help cancer patients in China who need help boosting their immune systems after having cancer treatment.

Reishi contains several polysaccharides that stimulate parts of the immune system, according to Kessler. “[Reishi] helps the body fight viruses and bacteria by stimulating the production of T cells, “says Kessler, slowing the spread of existing cancers,” says Kessler.

Reishi can also help reduce stress, decrease symptoms of depression, and improve sleep thanks to naturally occurring compounds called triterpenes.

Chaga

“[Chaga] Mushroom grows in colder climates and is high in fiber. Possibly this is one reason that while it is beneficial for immune function and provides antioxidants, it is also used as a complementary treatment for heart disease and diabetes as it helps lower blood sugar levels, “says Kessler. In addition to antioxidants and fiber, chaga also contains a variety of other nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin D, zinc, iron and calcium, among others.

Turkey tail

Turkey tail is best known for its potential immune system health benefits and has been studied to treat cancer along with other treatments.

“[Turkey tail] stimulates processes in the body that fight tumor growth and metastasis, including the production of T cells and “natural killer cells,” says Kessler. “Studies have shown that polysaccharide-K (PSK, a compound found in turkey tail) improves survival rates. of gastric and colon cancer patients and has shown promise in the fight against leukemia and some lung cancers, “says Kessler.

Cordyceps

Cordyceps is perhaps the most popular mushroom on the fitness scene and is valued by fitness enthusiasts and athletes alike for its ability to promote regeneration and endurance. “Cordyceps increases metabolism and endurance, accelerates regeneration by increasing ATP and improves the body’s use of oxygen,” says Kessler.

What to look for when buying mushroom products

Some mushroom supplements and products contain fillers and other ingredients that you need to avoid in order to find the best quality product. “When purchasing a mushroom supplement, make sure that starch is listed. Some supplements can be filled with ‘filler’ so make sure that only 5% of the recipe contains starch, ”says Kessler. Another tip from Kessler is to prefer a concentrated extract to powder form. She says to look for “hot water extracted” on the label or company website.

“Avoid supplements that contain mycelium – this means the supplements don’t contain beta-glucan, which gives it much of its medicinal quality. Look for labels that say triterpenoid compounds and active polysaccharides,” says Kessler.

Finally, remember that taking medicinal mushrooms takes patience and you won’t see any immediate benefits. “It takes at least two weeks to notice the effects of functional mushrooms, and it is recommended that you take a week off every four to six months,” says Kessler.


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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always contact a doctor or other qualified health care provider with questions about a medical condition or health goals.

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