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  • Writer's pictureKaitlyn Zorn

Medicinal Mushrooms for Immune health and Stress

Mushrooms are not only delicious, but also nutritious and beneficial for health. They contain various vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other bioactive compounds that can support the immune system, brain function, energy levels and more. In this blog post, we will explore the health benefits of seven medicinal mushrooms that have been used for centuries in traditional medicine and are now gaining popularity in the modern world.

Lion's Mane: The Mushroom for the Brain/Mind

Lion's mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a beautiful mushroom that looks like a white waterfall of shaggy spines. It is known for its ability to support healthy brain function and neuron regeneration. Research suggests that lion's mane contains compounds called hericenones and erinacines that can stimulate the production of nerve growth factor (NGF), a protein that is required for the survival and growth of nerve cells. NGF can help protect against neurodegeneration, improve cognitive function and enhance memory. This makes Lion's Mane helpful for nerve and brain-related conditions (Neurological disorders, Dementia/Alzheimers, Concussions/TBIs and Depression).

Reishi: The Mushroom of Immortality

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is a red, shiny mushroom that has been known as a symbol of longevity and wellness in Asian cultures for thousands of years. It is considered an adaptogen, a substance that can help the body cope with stress and restore balance. Reishi can modulate the immune system, support cardiovascular health, promote liver detoxification and protect against oxidative damage. Reishi may also have calming effects on the nervous system and mood. These properties make Reishi great for supporting immune health and also helping the body cope with stress/burnout. Reishi spores may also be helpful in helping to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation by helping to keep the immune system and energy up during treatment.

Cordyceps: The Caterpillar Fungus

Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris) is a unique fungus that grows on the larvae of insects. It has a long history of use in Tibetan and Chinese medicine as a tonic for vitality and stamina. Cordyceps can boost energy levels by increasing the production of ATP, the molecule that fuels cellular activity. Cordyceps can also enhance oxygen utilization, improve blood flow, support respiratory health and protect against fatigue. This is a good one if energy and adrenal fatigue is the main health concern.

Chaga: The Mushroom that's not a Mushroom

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is not actually a mushroom, but a sclerotium, a hard mass of fungal mycelium that grows on birch trees. It has a dark, charcoal-like appearance and a rich, earthy flavor. Chaga is one of the most antioxidant-rich foods on the planet, containing melanin, betulinic acid, polyphenols and other phytochemicals that can scavenge free radicals and prevent cellular damage. Chaga can also support immune function, lower inflammation, balance blood sugar and protect against viral infections (HPV, Herpes, HIV). If you are looking for immune support and also deal with blood sugar issues/prediabetes, Chaga might be a good choice for you.

Turkey Tail: The Mushroom of Multiple Colors

Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) is a colorful mushroom that grows in clusters on dead wood. It has a fan-shaped cap with concentric rings of different hues, resembling a turkey's tail. Turkey tail is one of the most researched mushrooms for its potential to enhance immune system activity, especially against cancer cells. Turkey tail contains polysaccharopeptides (PSP) and polysaccharide-K (PSK), two types of complex carbohydrates that can stimulate natural killer cells, macrophages and T-cells (important immune system cells). Before incorporating into supportive cancer treatment, consult with a healthcare provider.

Shiitake: The Fragrant Mushroom

Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) is a brown mushroom with a meaty texture and a savory flavor. It is one of the most popular edible mushrooms in the world and a staple ingredient in Asian cuisine. Shiitake is rich in protein, fiber, B vitamins, selenium, copper and other nutrients. Shiitake can also support cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol levels, blood pressure and inflammation. Shiitake may also have antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Maitake: The Dancing Mushroom

Maitake (Grifola frondosa) is a large mushroom that grows at the base of oak trees. It has a cluster of overlapping caps that resemble a hen's feathers or a dancer's skirt, hence its common names "hen of the woods" or "dancing mushroom". Maitake is delicious and nutritious, containing beta-glucans, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants. Maitake can help regulate blood sugar levels, enhance insulin sensitivity and prevent diabetes complications. Maitake can also stimulate immune function, inhibit tumor growth and modulate hormone balance.

How to Use Medicinal Mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms can be consumed in various forms, such as fresh or dried mushrooms, mushroom powders, mushroom extracts or mushroom supplements. Depending on your preference and purpose, you can choose the best way to incorporate medicinal mushrooms into your diet and lifestyle.

Mushroom extracts are concentrated forms of mushrooms that have been extracted using hot water, alcohol or both. Ensure that mushrooms are hot-water extracted and that the fruiting body is used (except for Cordyceps and Reishi spores). Mushroom extracts are standardized to contain a certain amount of active compounds, such as beta-glucans, polysaccharides or triterpenes. Mushroom extracts are easy to use and measure, but they may be more expensive and less natural than mushroom powders.

What to Look for When Buying Medicinal Mushrooms

Choose mushrooms that are standardized to contain a certain percentage of active compounds, such as beta-glucans, polysaccharides or triterpenes. Avoid mushrooms that do not disclose their potency or use vague terms such as "full spectrum" or "whole mushroom". Avoid mushrooms that contain fillers, additives, preservatives, allergens or heavy metals.

Medicinal mushrooms are amazing superfoods that can support your health in many ways. They can boost your immune system, improve your brain function, increase your energy levels and more. You can enjoy them in various forms, such as fresh or dried mushrooms, mushroom powders, mushroom extracts or mushroom supplements. However, you should be careful when buying medicinal mushrooms and look for the best quality and benefits. By choosing organic, extracted and standardized mushroom products from reputable sources, you can reap the most benefits from these wonderful fungi.

On October 14th I had the pleasure of being interviewed by CHOK 103.9 Radio and Blue Water Nutrition about this topic.


(click October 14th recording):

Do you want some support on which Medicinal Mushroom is best for your health needs?

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