Medicinal Mushrooms: What are they and why are they so good?
I drink a mushroom enriched coffee every morning, and my kids laugh and say it’s magic mushrooms. To be honest, it is a little magical but not in an illegal way! As a past chronic pain sufferer I have my ‘go to’ foods that I know help me to be the best I can be.
The Chinese have been using mushrooms for centuries, and here in the Western world we are only just catching on. Here is some information about some of the mushrooms that are making it into some everyday products, and their health benefits.
If you know how to use even a few different varieties of medicinal mushrooms, you can heal and recharge your body, reach your full potential, and become the best version of yourself.
The following medicinal mushrooms will balance and restore your immune system, increase oxygen flow to your cells, amp up your mental and creative acuity, regulate your blood sugar, lower your stress levels, ensure restful sleep, and cure myriad physical, emotional, and mental ailments.
Top 5 Medicine Mushrooms
- Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
Reishi has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for at least 2,000 years, with the first known written records dating from the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to A.D. 220). Reishi has the ability to boost the body’s immune system to protect it against pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites.
A functioning immune system will increase your overall health and wellness to the point where you can see the effects of aging being reversed—both physically and cognitively.
The compounds in reishi work externally and internally to keep you looking young by reducing dermal oxidation (when proteins on the skin are damaged, causing wrinkles and other signs of aging) and protecting your cellular DNA and mitochondria from oxidant damage, allowing you to remain energized and alert.
Another major benefit of reishi is how it works to achieve hormonal balance. When you have an optimally functioning hormonal system (and surprisingly few of us do—for lots of reasons, including the impact of environmental toxins and the overprescribing of prescription medications), your body can relax and recover during the night as it is meant to.
- Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
Chaga dates to 17th-century Russia.
Use chaga to:
- Ward off the common cold
- Have shiny, thick hair and glowing skin
- Lower inflammation caused by a busy, stressful life
If reishi is the queen of mushrooms, then chaga is the big daddy, the respected father of the mushroom world. The first recorded usage of chaga dates to 17th-century Russia, where it was widely used in folk medicine to treat everything from cancers to gastrointestinal issues.
Like reishi, chaga has astonishing immunomodulating powers. Chaga polysaccharides, specifically it’s beta-glucans, have the ability to boost the production of lymphocytes (white blood cell that regulates the immune response to infectious microorganisms and other foreign substances). Chaga is also a rich source of antioxidants. In fact, one dose of dual-extracted chaga (the typical amount found in a single cup of strong chaga tea) packs the same number of antioxidants as 30 pounds of carrots.
- Cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps sinensis)
Use cordyceps to:
- Perform better (both athletically and in the bedroom)
- Increase energy
- Alleviate asthma and bronchitis
Cordyceps is valued primarily for its extraordinary ability to increase energy and reduce fatigue. It’s been a centerpiece of traditional Chinese medicine for more than 1,300 years, with the first known record of its use dating back to the Tang Dynasty in A.D. 620.
Cordyceps is most notable for its energizing effects, due to it’s beta-glucans. Those present in cordyceps, like all other beta-glucans, deliver oxygen to the body on a cellular level, which not only decreases the occurrence of disease but also increases energy and stamina. Cordyceps also significantly boosts adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels in the body. ATP is the body’s main energy supply source and is required for all cellular processes. Cells need energy to activate our muscles and keep us moving.
Because it is so effective at increasing energy and decreasing fatigue, cordyceps is a popular and effective supplement for the elderly who are seeking to counteract the lethargy that often accompanies aging, as well as for athletes who are looking to perform at peak levels.
Cordyceps’ anti-inflammatory properties mean that it helps with blood flow, overall heart health, and lowering cholesterol.
- Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
Lion’s mane looks like a cluster of cascading white strands.
Use lion’s mane to:
- Improve memory
- Boost concentration
- Protect your nervous system
Lion’s mane earned its playful name because of its unique appearance. Unlike the typical shape of most mushroom fruiting bodies (a smooth cap and stem), lion’s mane looks like a cluster of cascading white strands. This waterfall-like “mane” has inspired all kinds of other fun nicknames for the mushroom, including “pom-pom mushroom,” “bearded tooth,” and “monkey head.”
History suggests that lion’s mane was used in traditional Chinese medicine specifically for treating stomach and digestive problems, including cancers. It was also used as a general restorative due to its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and immunomodulating properties. But lion’s mane’s effects on the brain truly distinguish it from other medicinal mushrooms and make it an utterly fascinating subject.
Lion’s mane has the ability to repair and regenerate neurons, resulting in improved cognitive function, and the mushroom has been known to mitigate and even reverse the effects of neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and dementia, among others.
So how does this happen? Your body contains nerve growth factors (NGF), proteins that protect existing neurons and stimulate new neuron growth. These proteins play a crucial role in maintaining the viability of the neurons required for the nervous system to function properly. Amazingly, lion’s mane stimulates the synthesis of NGF. It not only has the potential to help those suffering from neurological disorders, but through NGF stimulation, it can potentially reverse the cognitive deterioration that creeps up on many of us as we age. And unlike most pharmaceutical medicines that are used for cognitive function, lion’s mane has no known side effects.
Here are some of my favourite ways to get mushrooms in-
My early morning coffee (chaga and cordycelp mushroom) to decrease inflammation in my body. I have a customer with fibromyalgia- she swears by this coffee to help decrease her pain.
My early morning smoothie (with reishi mushrooms and hemp seed- (more on hemp next month!!)
A lovely drink for better focus, memory and an overall brain boost
If you are overstressed and having difficulty sleeping, reishi mushroom helps you relax and get a good night’s sleep.
and last but not least, not spoken about here but FUN to grow!! Great present for those hard to buy for, aged 4-99 years, grow indoors in the box. These oysters taste how mushrooms used to taste picked in the field!
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