Jordan Douglas, MS, HHC
Medicinal mushrooms are having a serious moment. The past few years have seen a ‘shroom boom, with plenty of options on the market for high quality mushroom supplements. Shrooms are also making their way into all manner of functional foods and beverages, from coffee and matcha, to chocolate and nut butter, to popcorn and jerky. You probably know medicinal mushrooms for their immune supportive properties, primarily attributed to their high levels of beta-glucans polysaccharides. These are immune modulators that help to make sure your immune system is operating at its fullest potential. However, mushrooms have so much more to offer us in terms of maintaining optimal health and vitality. Let’s explore five of these fantastic fungi in greater detail:
- Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum): Reishi is known as the Queen Healer of the mushroom kingdom due to its profoundly healing impact on the entire body. Reishi has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 2000 years as an elixir of life, equipping the consumer with longevity and vitality. Reishi improves circulation and protects against oxidative stress, thus supporting a healthy heart and youthful glow. Improved sleep quality, balanced blood sugar, and greater ease in managing and adapting to life stressors are other benefits of taking reishi.
- Chaga: The King to reishi’s Queen, chaga provides powerful support to the immune system and is one of our richest sources of antioxidants. Chaga provides deep cellular protection from free radicals, thus reducing inflammation and helping to protect us against a broad spectrum of chronic conditions. Rich in superoxide dismutase, melanin and zinc, chaga helps to support healthy skin, hair and eyes. With a bold, rich flavor, chaga can serve as a morning coffee substitute.
- Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus): Lion’s mane has a unique affinity for nourishing healthy cognitive function. This shroom helps to regenerate neurons by stimulating nerve growth factor (NGF), a protein necessary to protect existing neurons and encourage new neuronal growth. Lion’s mane is a great mushroom to consider for anyone looking to increase focus, concentration, memory, and mental clarity. Widely available in supplemental form, lion’s mane is also a delicious culinary mushroom (try a sauté with a bit of avocado oil, cumin, coriander, salt and lemon juice!).
- Cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps sinensis): Cordyceps is the go-to mushroom for reducing fatigue and increasing energy levels. Cordyceps helps to oxygenate the cells and increases ATP, our cells main source of energy. While many of us might benefit from the boost cordyceps brings, it’s especially supportive to athletes or anyone who has a more physically or mentally demanding lifestyle. Cordyceps also supports a healthy respiratory system, protects the cardiovascular system, and increases libido.
- Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor): Turkey tail (pictured above) is deeply restorative and nourishing to the immune system. Turkey tail contains two unique beta-glucans polysaccharides – polysaccharide krestin (PSK) and polysaccharide peptide (PSP). PSK and PSP help to regenerate white blood cells and promote T-cell, natural killer cell and macrophage activity. Turkey tail is a great mushroom to have on hand for immune support, healing and lowering inflammation.