Unlike many other health supplements which fall into the category of plants, mushrooms belong to a unique kingdom of fungi. Fungi are defined as a diverse group of organisms and microorganisms that are neither plants nor animals. Mushrooms are widely believed to rule the fungi kingdom.
There are more than 10,000 kinds of mushrooms, and at least 270 species are known to have various therapeutic properties. These are commonly referred to as medicinal mushrooms.
Historically, medicinal mushrooms were popular in traditional Chinese medicine and touted for their numerous health benefits. Today, mushrooms are making somewhat of a comeback. They’re taking over the wellness space for their ability to boost the immune system, reduce stress, lessen fatigue, improve sleep, and more.
Due to their increasing popularity, health and wellness brands are now selling mushroom supplements in various forms, including powders, teas, and mushroom capsules. Below we look at what exactly medicinal mushrooms are and why they may make an excellent addition to your health regime.
What Are Medicinal Mushrooms?
Often referred to as things like “the elixir of life” and “foods for the Gods,” medicinal mushrooms are packed with several health-boosting nutrients. While each mushroom is unique and has its own distinct set of health advantages, they all have a few things in common. This includes the ability to balance energy levels, boost the immune system, and aid digestion.
Typically, mushrooms are a rich source of vitamins and minerals (specifically B vitamins), fiber, and protein. Plus, they contain a high content of polyphenols, polysaccharides, beta-glucans, and antioxidant properties. All of these compounds work together to support the immune system.
Additionally, mushrooms are low in calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium, making them an excellent addition to any healthy diet.
While some mushrooms may be tasty and pleasant to eat, many are too woody and bitter to consume, which is why mushroom supplements are a popular way to consume these “health foods.”
So, what are the different types of medicinal mushrooms, and how can they benefit your health?
What Are the Best Medicinal Mushrooms?
There are numerous types of medicinal mushrooms, each with its own array of health benefits. While most should promote general health and wellbeing, some may help with certain medical conditions.
However, there are currently insufficient clinical trials to support most of these health claims. Most research to date consists of animal studies, and more human trials are needed to verify the efficacy of medicinal mushrooms. Nevertheless, research thus far is promising.
Here are five of the most renowned medicinal mushrooms.
Reishi is often touted as the “queen of mushrooms” due to its powerful adaptogenic effects on the body and mind. It’s rich in triterpenoids, which are naturally occurring compounds that may help reduce stress, decrease depression, and improve sleep, as seen in mice.
Plus, it’s packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds and has been praised as an immune and longevity tonic for thousands of years.
Chaga is a popular health tonic believed to assist the body’s natural capacity to resist stress. It’s packed with immune-boosting beta-glucans, a high antioxidant content, and rich in skin-protecting melatonin. Some regard it as an anti-aging mushroom, but it’s better known as an immune-boosting powerhouse.
Lions Mane Mushrooms
Lion’s Mane is most well-known for its potential benefits to the brain. It’s often marketed as a mushroom supplement that can help boost focus and memory. However, there are not many human studies to support this claim. It’s also high in antioxidants, which means it may help reduce inflammation in the body.
Cordyceps is arguably the most popular mushroom in the fitness world due to its ability to boost recovery and stamina. This is likely due to the mushroom’s ability to help the body utilize energy more efficiently and enhance blood flow, as reported in one 2013 study.
Turkey Tail Mushrooms
Turkey Tail could be deemed as the most controversial medicinal mushroom since it’s often reported to help fight cancer. This is due to a compound called polysaccharide-K (PSK), which is found in Turkey Tail mushrooms. PSK promotes immune function and is an approved anticancer prescription drug in Japan. Turkey Tail also has strong antiviral and antimicrobial properties, meaning it could help treat or prevent common colds and flu.
Final Thoughts on Medicinal Mushrooms
Medicinal mushrooms are an excellent way to support overall health and wellness and make a great addition to any healthy diet. There are many different types of mushrooms, each with its own distinct benefits, and the best type will depend on your reason for using them. For instance, if you’re looking to improve concentration, Lion’s Mane may help, while Reishi would be your best option for reducing stress and decreasing depression.
One of the most popular types of mushroom supplements comes in the form of capsules. Capsules are straightforward and easy to take since they can be consumed in the same way you take any other vitamin or supplement. Simply add it to your existing daily health regime and experience all the goodness that medicinal mushrooms have to offer.