When you think of mushrooms, you probably think psychedelics, poison, and dirt. However, it’s time to ditch this negative impression of these incredible fungi and appreciate them for their true, medicinal power. Yes, mushrooms are chock-full of health benefits and loaded with vitamins and minerals that can help prevent cancer, improve your energy, relieve stress and so much more. In fact, shrooms have been used for thousands of years in Eastern medicine to balance the body and treat a number of ailments. Finally, Western researchers are catching on to the value of mushrooms, and the science to back up their medicinal use is becoming more and more prevalent. Here are a few of our favorite medicinal mushrooms and why you should add them to your diet today.
Do you ever have those days where you just can’t seem to focus on anything and feel like you’re stuck in a mental rut? While a nap certainly wouldn’t hurt, you can also try adding some powdered Lion’s Mane to your morning smoothie. This mushroom has been shown to help clear brain fog and contribute to mental clarity. It isn’t just a placebo effect either, as lion’s mane actually boosts the production of the bioprotein nerve growth factor (NFG) which is essential for the function of nerve cells and can seriously boost brainpower. It also aids in the production of myelin, a mixture of proteins that insulate nerve fibers to keep your brain protected and contribute to cognitive health. Certain animal studies show that lion’s mane could help reduce your chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and multiple sclerosis and actually increase memory and concentration.
If you’ve only heard of one medicinal mushroom, it’s probably reishi. This astonishing fungus is perhaps nature’s most powerful stress reliever. It is loaded with a compound known as triterpene that can alleviate anxiety, reduce insomnia, ease the symptoms of depression, and increase energy levels. There are also extensive studies proving the effects of reishi on the immune system and it has been shown to be a powerful ally in keeping you safe from disease and infection by increasing the production of white blood cells in your body.
Though all medicinal mushrooms are loaded with antioxidants, chaga is arguably the most beneficial for fighting oxidative stress and combating free radicals in the body. Antioxidants are essential for combating the effects of aging and keeping your skin and organs healthy while reducing inflammation in the body that contributes to chronic disease. Chaga is also being studied as a potential cancer treatment that prevents and slows the growth of certain cancer cells without harming healthy cells, unlike other treatments such as chemotherapy.
It is very possible that cordyceps is going to become your new best friend and workout partner. Seriously, this potent mushroom is loaded with compounds that will increase your energy, give you motivation and even increase your libido. This mushroom is a totally natural stimulant with zero side effects that can give you a noticeable boost in energy during workouts and help you exercise longer and harder while speeding up muscle recovery and improving oxygen efficiency.
Sometimes it seems like all health foods have “anti-cancer properties” and while this is usually true due to high levels of antioxidants, turkey tail medicinal mushrooms actually increase the survival rate of certain cancers and boost the system to help ward off cancer and keep it from developing in the first place. These incredible benefits are related to a compound in this fungus known as polysaccharide-K (PSK), which is an approved prescription cancer treatment in Japan. Studies have examined this mushroom’s effects against a variety of cancers including, leukemia, and breast, lung, and colon cancer. Remember, never stop cancer treatment or add other treatments without consulting your oncologist.
Shiitake is that innocuous mushroom that you can pick up that the grocery store that you would never assume has potent medicinal properties. It isn’t nearly as exotic as others on this list, but it is just as beneficial. This mushroom is specifically useful for boosting heart health and reducing the bad cholesterol in your body known as LDL cholesterol. The phytonutrients in shiitake are also helpful in preventing plaque build-up on your arteries and reducing your risk of heart disease.
How to enjoy mushrooms
While you can certainly add edible medicinal mushrooms to your stir-frys or enjoy them sauteed as a yummy side dish, the best way to reap the benefits of medicinal mushrooms is to buy them in powdered form from a reputable dealer. Look at your local health foods store or find a trusted online source. Mushroom powder is super versatile and can be incorporated into so many dishes and drinks including:
- Blended into juices
- Salad dressing
- Baked goods
Note: Though mushrooms are natural, they can have side effects when combined with prescription medication. If you are on medication, consult with your doctor or naturopath before adding large amounts of mushrooms or mushroom powder to your diet
-The Backyard Garden Team