Medicinal mushrooms: 4 science-backed benefits

Gone are the days when alternative diets are considered pretentious or too “hipster.” Nowadays, our society is actually more encouraging when it comes to discovering new ways to cultivate a healthy body and mind.

For this reason, there has been a rising interest in one particularly neglected and forgotten food source – fungi.

Particularly, a class of foods from the fungi kingdom collectively known as medicinal mushrooms.

You see, before fast foods and manufactured produce, humans spent centuries living off the land. Our diets consisted of anything we can forage and not only did it help us survive, but it made us strong.

In fact, fungi are actually more closely related to humans than plants. Our cells are almost constructed the same way, the only difference being the fungi walls.

This close genetic similarity is what allows many of medicinal mushroom’s defense characteristics to work as a legitimate means to increase our body’s immune system.

What exactly are the fascinating healing properties of mushrooms and why should we incorporate it into our diets?

What makes medicinal mushrooms so powerful?

Medicinal mushrooms are particularly important in Taoist ancient herbal systems for their fascinating health benefits. They are extremely effective in creating a powerful immune system and in helping our bodies with hormonal adaptability.

But most importantly, it allows us to go to a state of homeostasis — a process that allows any living thing to adapt to its environment in an optimal capacity.

Here are 4 fascinating benefits that make medicinal mushrooms so powerful.

1. They are a “superfood” for the immune system.

Your immune system is constantly working overtime to protect your body from harm. It also works tirelessly to ensure your body is working in perfectly healthy conditions.

Suffice to say, it’s crucial to ensure that your immune system gets the support it needs.

Medicinal mushrooms enhance your immune system’s overall performance levels and activity. It may even help “prime” your immune system to better defend itself against future attacks and infections.

“Mushrooms may support healthy immune and inflammatory responses through interaction with the gut microbiota, enhancing development of adaptive immunity, and improved immune cell functionality. They are a rare source of ergothioneine as well as selenium, fiber, and several other vitamins and minerals. Clinical studies suggest impacts of mushrooms on cognition, weight management, oral health, and cancer risk.”

2. They are an antioxidant powerhouse.

One of the magical benefits of medicinal mushrooms is that they are jam-packed with anti-oxidants.

In one case study performed on mice, scientists found that the consumption of white button mushroom after a skin injury does wonders for skin regeneration. This is particularly because mushrooms help increase the production of collagen fibers, which are our skin’s primary structural protein.

Antioxidants are important in keeping you look and feel healthy as you age. Medicinal mushrooms contain vitamin C, vitamin A, selenium, beta-carotene, and other nutrients that counteract aging.

3. They make your brain healthy.

Do you ever feel brain fog? Or instances when your thinking and comprehension skills are a tad too slow? Medicinal mushrooms are excellent foods for the brain.

Lion’s Mane is one of the most popular types of medicinal mushrooms and it is particularly known for increasing brain power. This is because Lion’s Mane contains nerve-regenerative properties. 

Two classes of Nerve Growth Factors (NGFs) – “hericenones” and “erinacines” are found in this globular-shaped mushroom. And these NGFs stimulate nerve regeneration.

Still doubtful? One study shows real results with significant benefits from lion’s mane. 30 Japanese patients suffering from mild cognitive impairment showed remarkable improvement after taking this medicinal mushroom for 16 weeks.

4. They are effective in fighting off tumors and cancer.

All of these amazing benefits can be life-changing. But one other superpower medicinal mushrooms has is its ability to fight off cancer.

Mushrooms are believed to have antineoplastic properties that effectively regulates tumor genes and slows tumor growth. This can also boost the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

In fact, medicinal mushrooms have been used as a type of alternative cancer treatment.

Mushrooms are known to inhibit an enzyme called aromatase, which produces estrogen. For this reason, medicinal mushrooms are used against breast and other hormone-related cancers. 

One study even saw amazing results in the daily consumption of button mushrooms, having been linked to a staggering 64 percent decrease in the risk of breast cancer.

The 5 Best Medicinal Mushrooms

Now that you know some of the most amazing things medicinal mushrooms can do for your health, it’s time to know which ones to take. Here are 5 of the best medicinal mushrooms known to have amazing health benefits.

1. Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) – Best for antioxidant properties

Our bodies can produce free radicals, which are unstable atoms that damage our cells. These cells cause illness and aging.

Chaga mushrooms are excellent in fighting free radicals. They help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol. Chaga also fights off oxidative stress, which is primarily linked to skin aging.

One cup of strong Chaga tea essentially contains the same number of antioxidants as 14 kilos of carrots. Not only is it good for your internal organs, but it also makes your skin have that youthful glow.

2. Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) – Best for relieving stress

Considered the ‘queen of mushrooms,’ reishi has some pretty spectacular health benefits. It can boost your immune system and can basically reverse aging. It is also known for its cancer-fighting properties.

But Reishi takes the cake with its ability to relieve stress.

It is most unique because of its calming properties. Thanks to its abundance in compound triterpene, Reishi can alleviate anxiety, promote better sleep, and even ease depression.

Not only that, but it has a powerful and overall positive effect on your nervous system. Reishi boosts your cognitive skills, helping you become more mentally focused.

3. Turkey Tails (Coriolus/Trametes versicolor) – Best for fighting cancer

Medicinal mushrooms are known for their anti-cancer components. However, Turkey Tails excel in this particular arena.

Turkey tails contain a compound known as polysaccharide-K (PSK).

Think of PSK as a soldier with a very specific skill set – combating cancer cells. Basically, it boosts your immune system that it quadruples your regeneration of white blood cells.

In Japan, PSK is an approved anti-cancer prescription medicine. It is currently being used alongside surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Turkey tails also help in the production of T-cells, macrophages, and natural killer (NK) cells that help your body annihilate pathogens.

(To learn more about natural remedies and herbal powerhouses, check out our The Lost Book of Remedies review).

4. Cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) – Best for optimum physical performance

Cordyceps is popularly known for its ability to reduce fatigue and increase energy levels.

If you want to perform better athletically, increase your workout gains, and even in bed, taking cordyceps is a natural way to do it. This mushroom is also known to speed up post-workout muscle recovery.

Cordyceps contains beta-glucans, which deliver oxygen to our bodies on a cellular capacity. Simply put, beta-glucans are components that help increase energy and stamina.

It’s a perfect pick-me-up if you’re prone to lethargy and you’re feeling physically demotivated.

5. Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) – Best for increasing brain performance

If you’re studying for an important exam, you might buy yourself some Lion’s Mane tea or extract.

This pretty-looking mushroom improves concentration, bolsters memory, and generally protects and maintains your nervous system’s health.

Aside from your typical mushroom benefits like cancer prevention and restorative health properties, Lion’s Mane has the unique ability to repair, regenerate, and power up neurons. Consistent Lion’s Mane intake can dramatically improve cognitive function.

In fact, Lion’s Mane is recommended for people who are suffering from neurological illnesses like Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.

Medicinal mushrooms can magically improve and maintain your physical and mental health

Look good and feel better — something we are all striving to do in this challenging and oftentimes stressful world.

You probably haven’t heard much about the superpowers of  medicinal mushrooms, but there is a wealth of research and facts to confirm just that.

If one spoonful of medical mushroom powder can help you achieve that, then why not?

All of these magical benefits are yours for the taking. Starting today, you should make it a daily habit to get some medicinal mushroom intake.

But don’t forget to do your research first. Consult your doctor for the proper dosage and to ensure that it is safe to include it in your diet.

Genefe Navilon

Genefe Navilon

Genefe Navilon is a writer, poet, and blogger. She graduated with a degree in Mass Communications at the University of San Jose Recoletos. Her poetry blog, Letters To The Sea, currently has 18,000 followers. Her work has been published in different websites and poetry book anthologies. She divides her time between traveling, writing, and working on her debut poetry book.

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