The Magic of Medicinal Mushrooms
Updated: Nov 18
There is so much information out there about medicinal mushrooms these days, that it can be baffling and overwhelming trying to decide which one you want for what effect! We thought we’d try to take the sting out by breaking down a few of our favourites and giving you the facts in one handy reference guide! Oh and one universally handy fact before we begin – all mushrooms increase their level of vitamin D if left in direct sunlight before use! Formats You will have seen tablets, capsules, powders, teas, coffees and tinctures rampant in the shops over the past few years. The best way for you to take a mushroom is the one you’ll be consistent with. Bear in mind that mushroom coffee is (usually) made with arabica coffee and isn’t usually decaffeinated, so avoid it if you’re caffeine sensitive. Don’t forget that mushrooms are food as well! You can cook with a lot of medicinal mushrooms, please don’t cook with reishi or turkey tail though, they’re tough and bitter and you’re far better off taking them by other means! Which ‘part’ do I want? When you look at the packaging you will see words like ’fruiting body’ – the visible bit which we refer to as a mushroom, ‘biomass’, ‘mycelium or mycelial mass’ – the hidden bit which is usually underground or inside of rotting trees etc. All parts of the mushroom are valuable to us, but the fruiting body is usually where the more potent compounds are. A tincture or liquid will most likely be made by using a double extraction process or either fruiting body, mycelial mass or (more likely) both. This enables the maximum of beneficial compounds to be extracted from the mushrooms. Tinctures are usually highly concentrated and very dense in active compounds. They are also very readily absorbed by the body and as a result, you take less daily to get the effect you’re looking for. Powders and capsules are more likely to have been created from the young fruiting bodies and mycelial mass, they are often concentrated into a liquid extract, as per the tinctures, then dried into a powder. Capsules are also a great way to take mushrooms, especially if the flavour of the powders or tincture is off-putting for you. Usually, you will be taking multiple capsules, multiple times daily for maximum effect. Powders are easy to lose in a smoothie or stirred into a juice shot, they’re a really nice way to take your mushrooms. You can also just add them to hot water and drink as tea, or add them to your usual coffee as a way to have mushroom coffee with way more control over the flavour of your actual coffee! We’re not so keen on tablets here. The reason is, in a tincture, you will only have the alcohol used for extraction, in a powder you’ve only got the powder(!), in a capsule you will have a vegetable fibre shell. In a tablet, you are more likely to have additives a.k.a excipients which you might not want (and certainly don’t need), e.g. magnesium stearate. They act as binders and make the tabletting process easier through the machinery used. Which are the best medicinal mushroom supplements to use? Mushrooms can absorb contaminants, especially heavy metals, in the substrate they have grown on as well as the air they are grown in. For this reason, it’s important to buy high-quality, organically-grown mushrooms, and supplements from reputable sellers. Which mushrooms do I need? ALL MUSHROOMS ARE BIOACTIVE. There we go, we said it. Even the button, white and chestnut mushrooms in the supermarket have health benefits. They’re rich in fibre, beta-glucans and a lot of other terpenes, triterpenoids, inositols, ergosterols, sterols and myco-flavonoids. The ‘Exotic’ and ‘Woodland’ selections are even more so! We do know that you’re asking about the ones we know as medicinal though. The ones we’re going to break down (very briefly!) for you are commonly known as:
Lion's Mane Maitake
Chaga - Inonotus Obliquus
Chaga is hugely antioxidant, it’s extremely rich in superoxide dismutase which is one of
our master antioxidant compounds. That means it’s exceptional at fighting free radical damage and is protective against things like plaque building in arteries. It is also shown to have a beneficial impact on blood sugar and can be very helpful for metabolic issues. It’s an alkalising mushroom with lots of minerals. Chaga is also highly regarded as an adaptogen which means that it can help your body adjust to stressful circumstances ranging from extreme heat or cold to infections or trauma. Chaga mushroom benefits don't stop there; they are also anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-ageing and help to normalise cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Cordyceps - Cordyceps Sinensis
Useful for bronchitis, asthma, coughs, and emphysema, Cordyceps is known to support respiratory health and improve stamina, and endurance and reduce fatigue. It’s also a powerful immune booster. Cordyceps is also known for its ability to improve kidney function and support liver health. It also has a long history of supporting healthy hormone expression and is also known as ‘Himalayan Viagra’. Can be helpful for peri and post-menopausal women too.
Lion’s Mane – Hericeum Erinaceus
Lion’s Mane has been shown to have a wide variety of health benefits. It has some amazing neuroprotective
actions which may protect against dementia, reduce mild symptoms of anxiety and depression, and help repair nerve damage. It is also used to support the digestive system and can be wonderful for the microbiome as well as for mucosal support. It has also been shown to be a strong anti-inflammatory and has antioxidant, and immune-boosting abilities and to lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, ulcers, and diabetes.
Maitake – Grifola Frondosa or Hen of the Woods
Maitake can help reduce your cholesterol, improving artery function and overall cardiovascular health to lower your risk for heart disease. It can also help to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol without affecting your triglyceride or HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It’s another mushroom with a great impact on the digestive system, showing inhibition of ulceration and general anti-inflammatory action. May be good for those with inflammatory GI disorders such as IBD and colitis. It also has a role in supporting immunity by stimulating our immune cell production.
Reishi – Ganoderma Lucidum or Lingzhi
Reishi is known to enhance the immune system, reduce stress, improve sleep, and lessen fatigue. People also
take reishi mushroom for health conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, liver or kidney disease, respiratory diseases (such as asthma), viral infections (such as the flu), HIV/AIDS, cancer and support during chemotherapy, pain during and after a shingles outbreak, building strength and stamina and reducing fatigue (pairs well with Cordyceps for this). Reishi is also very useful for prostate and urinary health in men.
Shiitake – Lentinula Edodes
Shiitake (pronounced she-taak-ae) is great for our immune health and can both downregulate and upregulate our immune response. This means it can be helpful for bringing allergy symptoms down whilst at the same time, stimulating our immune response to infection! It can help to protect against hardening of the arteries and high cholesterol. It is also high in vitamin D and has been shown to be anti-fungal.
Turkey Tail - Trametes Versicolor
Another amazing immune booster, especially against viral infections. Turkey Tail is also a rich source of
probiotic fibre and can be helpful for inflammatory bowel conditions and potentially reduce the severity of expression of autism symptoms where GI health has been shown to have an impact. Some of the polysaccharides in Turkey Tail have been found to improve the response to certain types of chemotherapy (please discuss with your healthcare provider before starting if looking for complimentary support for cancers).
We have these on our shelves either in individual supplements or in pre-combined formulations, we also have some lovely coffees and cacao mixes.