For thousands of years, mushrooms have been used as food, medicine and as part of religious rituals across the world. They have also been used as a treatment strategy for various diseases, predominately in Asian countries. The Ancient Egyptians believed eating mushrooms bought longevity. Nowadays they have been intensively researched to reveal their capacity and have been shown to have diverse uses such as supporting the immune system, nervous system and brain health. All this from a fungus? Sign us up!
The main mushrooms you would have seen in your local health food store and in products used today are: Resihi mushrooms, Chaga mushrooms, Lions mane, Cordyceps and Shiitake mushrooms. In saying this, there are many different types of functional mushrooms, these however are the most popular.
WHAT ARE MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS?
Medicinal mushrooms are a fungi that produce medically significant substances to have a therapeutic effect.
Fun Fact: Ever seen a mushroom growing on the side of a street? On a tree? Or in your grass? Mushrooms are grown from spores, not seeds, which is why they need saw dust, grains, wood or liquid and prefer a dark, cool, moist and humid place to grow.
WHAT DO MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS CONTAIN?
Medicinal mushrooms boast a number of benefits and are a cut above some of your favourite veggies. They are fat-free, low in calories, and filled with vitamins, antioxidants and other nutrients. The main vitamins they contain are beta-glucan and vitamin D.
Beta-glucans are the fibres/polysaccharides found in these fungi and have been shown to help with lowering cholesterol, supporting weight issues and supporting the immune system. In one study it showed that beta-glucans aid in the improvement of the immune system defense by activation of macrophages which are natural killer cells (vital components of the immune system). Macrophages are involved in detecting and destructing bacteria and are involved in killing viral infected cells. Think of them as little superheroes protecting you from harm.
As stated above, the most common vitamin known in mushrooms is vitamin D. These little guys keeps muscles and bones strong, improves the defense of the immune system and support chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and more. We may live in a sunshine state (for those here on the glorious Gold Coast) but can you believe we are still highly vitamin D deficient? The easiest way to get vitamin D is sunshine, but we never seem to get enough. Luckily, a daily intake of mushrooms (or at least most days) could provide a tasty solution to your vitamin C deficiency.
WHAT DO MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS DO?
Medicinal mushrooms can increase antioxidant activity, enhance the immune system, support brain health, support the nervous system, reduce stress levels and support overall health and quality of life. See, fungi really can make you a fun guy!
In this modern age, stress is a common part of everyday life. Often to the point that some people don’t even call it stress anymore because it is their “norm”. Your body can still have negative effects to these stressors, hence why adaptogens are becoming more and more popular to support this process.
Adaptogens are substances that can help the body adapt to stressors such as physical, chemical and biological and can restore overall imbalance. Stressors can include exposure to toxins, unhealthy dietary habits, daily stress (obvs) and more. They support the nervous system, endocrine system and the adrenals which are in charge of supporting stress organization.
Some medicinal mushrooms have shown to improve nerve health within the brain and therefore help with concentration, memory and overall health of the brain. Stress also plays a vital role in reducing memory and concentration, mostly because of the nervous system being in survival mode, but also because of the vital nutrients being stripped, such as the B vitamins which are essential for brain health and energy.
THE MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS:
Chaga mushroom are found in the northern hemisphere such as China, Korea and Japan. They are otherwise known as Inonotus obliquus, primarily utilised for antioxidant and adaptogenic benefits. As an adaptogen, Chaga has demonstrated efficacy in increasing stamina and reducing fatigue.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the Reishi mushroom is known as being the most superior adaptogenic food and has been used as a treatment for a multitude of conditions. Reishi's polysaccharide rich content and antioxidants may help the body stay resilient to environmental toxins and stressors (thanks to adaptogens) and boosting overall vitality. In some studies, it was found that Reishi mushrooms improve macrophages (those little superheroes we mentioned earlier), therefore supporting the modulation of the immune system.
Lion's Mane Mushroom
Lion's Mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is abundant in phenolic compounds that act as antioxidants. Do you suffer from brain fog, wacky concentration and/or sleep disturbances? If so, you’ll be happy to hear that lion’s mane is known for its effect on protecting the neurons in the brain. Studies have shown that lion’s mane can improve the growth and diversity of neurons (especially in the brain), therefore supporting brain function, memory and concentration. Woohoo!
Shittake mushrooms are a great source of B vitamins which improve energy and brain health, helping you maintain focus and concentration all day long. Due to the antioxidant capacity of these medicinal mushrooms, skin health can also improve by the consumption of these. Studies have also shown that shiitake mushrooms have immune modulation effects by improving cell activation.
Cordyceps have been used with local folk healers and traditional healers for centuries for all sorts of aliments. This mushroom is well known for its adaptogenic effects and improving fatigue and endurance. Studies have shown that cordyceps have shown improvement in learning, retainment of information and memory by protecting the nervous system. (Brain) power to you!
ARE ALL MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS ADAPTOGENS?
The most common medicinal mushrooms (aforementioned) have been investigated and found to have adaptogenic effects. It is hard to say that every medicinal mushroom is adaptogenic as not all have been investigated this way.
ARE MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS SAFE?
Medicinal mushrooms are generally considered safe to take. In saying that, toxic amounts can still occur. Always consult your local health care professional for consumption if you are concerned.
HOW TO INGEST MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS:
The easiest way to get your daily mushroom intake is via a powdered form to receive their therapeutic benefits. In no way does this mean you should consume this in place of a wholesome diet. You can enjoy these types of mushrooms in our Shroom Brew, a coffee like alternative with the health benefits of these amazing medicinal mushrooms.
Make room for mushrooms in your day!