In the land of superfood trends, medicinal mushrooms are quite the rage. If you’re curious to learn a bit more before you spend a pretty penny testing them out, this is the post for you. I too was curious as these fungi lore you in with lofty health claims and a lofty price tag to boot. So, I’ll share some facts and you can decide for yourself. That being said, ‘ll leave you with this as you start to read…there is no one (or ten) super foods that can heal you. Our health is holistic – a balanced plate, balanced mind and balanced life will serve you best. Medicinal mushrooms have been used for healing dating back to ancient Chinese civilizations. Over the past couple of decades, fungi has even been incorporated into modern medicine. Did you know that 10 out of the top 20 prescription medications use fungi? Pretty cool, right.
There’s much more to mushrooms than the popular varieties like button and cremini, that we use in day to day cooking. While these mushrooms are highly nourishing, there are some lesser known fungi with even more impressive properties.
Medicinal Mushrooms Worth Getting to Know
Reishi: Stress and Inflammation
Reishi mushrooms, also known as the “King of Mushrooms, are native to parts of Asia, including China, Korea and Japan. They are touted to reduce systemic inflammation and improve energy levels. They have anti-cancer benefits and they promote cardiovascular health to boot. Reishi mushrooms are considered to be adaptogenic, supporting endocrine function, improving mood, decreasing stress, and helping to balance our hormones. Best used in ground, tea or tincture form.
Blueberries, acai, and pecans are a couple examples of antioxidant-rich foods, yet chaga blows them away with it’s antioxidant content. It mainly grows on the outside of birch trees in very cold climates. Grown wild in places like Siberia, northern Canada, Alaska, and some northern areas of the continental United States , chaga has strong anti-cancer, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Like Reishi, it has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. Best used to make tea or consumed ground and mixed with other foods. Also available in supplement form.
Cordyceps are harvested in high mountain regions of the world, like the Himalayas in China. They are a parasitic fungus that grows on the backs of caterpillar, eventually consuming the host. Considering, they used to be quite rare and costly. Considered an energetic adaptogen, they may improve stamina and endurance. Like Reishi and Chaga, Cordyceps boasts immune boosting properties. They also aid in bolstering detoxification pathways. Cordyceps are available in powder and supplement form. The powder can be used in teas, soups and stews.
Lion’s Mane: Brain Health
Known in Latin as Hericium erinaceus, lion’s mane is native to North America, Europe and Asia, although it’s not cultivated widely in areas outside of Asia. With an appearance similar to a shaggy lion’s mane, this fungus has been studied for its neuroprotective benefits (brain health!) as well as it’s anti-cancer, antibiotic, anti-viral and overall anti-inflammatory properties. Unlike the other mushrooms, Lion’s Mane can be eaten as part of a meal though it’s hard to come by. Supplements, powders and teas are available at health food stores.
How to Use Medicinal Mushrooms
Just like tea or coffee grounds, you tend not to munch on medicinal mushrooms by themselves. This may make the idea of incorporating them into your routine more palpable. Many times the mushrooms are ground to a powder, and can be steeped into a tea, or blended into coffee. They can also be added to smoothies and even hot cocoa.
The Take Home
While medicinal mushrooms boast many health benefits and they may worth giving a try, they’re not the be-all-end-all for your health. Also, it’s important to remember what is good for me may not be good for you. Listen to how your body feels. Even everyday foods don’t always agree with us – that’s our body saying, “not for me, please!”. Lastly, most plant based foods have super qualities so be sure to include a variety of them on your plate for optimal wellness!
Curious to Try Them? Here are a few of my picks.