Medicinal mushrooms have been used in medicine for thousands and thousands of years. Mushrooms are packed with nutrients and compounds that can drastically improve health. They are a rich source of vitamin D, protein, fiber, vitamins, and trace minerals. They are also full of antioxidants that have been shown to protect against a wide range of inflammatory diseases and chronic conditions. Each medicinal mushroom is different and has its own set of unique benefits. Let’s get to know four of the most popular medicinal mushrooms and what makes them nutritional powerhouses.
Chaga mushroom is one of the more popular medicinal mushrooms. Chaga is a fungus that grows mostly on birch trees in colder climates throughout the northern hemisphere. It takes around 15 years until it is a hard mass attached to the tree, and ready to be used for its medicinal properties. Because chaga is loaded with beta-glucans, antioxidants, polyphenols, melanin and so much more, it offers phenomenal benefits.
One of chaga’s well-known benefits include supporting a healthy immune system. This is mainly due to compounds called polysaccharides found within the chaga mushroom (1). Many that are looking to boost their immunity turn to chaga. Chaga is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Research continues to show that this powerful mushroom can support healthy inflammation systems all while supporting immune cells (2). Moreover, chaga has been widely recognized as a mushroom for the heart. Because this mushroom can bring down inflammation, it has been shown to support the heart by bringing down inflammation around this vital organ. It has also been found that chaga supplementation can aid in healthy blood sugar levels (3). Lastly, chaga is an adaptogen, and therefore can help the body to cope with both physical and psychological stress through supporting the adrenal glands. Many notice with supplementation they feel calmer, less fatigued, and balanced.
Lion’s Mane is very popular in tradition Chinese medicine and has been used for centuries by Buddhists, monks, and practitioners. These mushrooms grow on broadleaf trees in the late summer and fall months. They are native to North America, Europe, and Asia.
Lion’s mane is mostly known for its contribution to brain health. Studies have shown that this magical mushroom has the ability to stimulate the growth of brain cells (4). Optimal brain cell growth can boost cognitive function, improve anxiety and depression, and improve overall memory (5). This is why lion’s mane is quite popular when it comes to both preventing and treating dementia. A study done in 2009 in older adults with mild cognitive impairment found that consuming 3 grams of powdered lion’s mane mushroom daily for four months significantly improved mental functioning. These benefits disappeared when supplementation was discontinued (6). Lion’s mane is also known for its digestive benefits and its ability to optimize digestive function. Studies have shown this mushroom to be antibacterial and encourage the growth of good bacteria within the gut (7). There is also research that shows lions mane can protect against stomach ulcers by inhibiting the growth of H. pylori (8). Lion’s mane has also been shown to improve heart health, fight cancer, lower inflammation, and boost immunity.
Turkey Tail mushroom is a fungus that has been used since as early as the 15th century in China. These mushrooms grow on dead and fallen trees all around the world, making them one of the most common mushrooms! These mushrooms have quite a history in Asia and have been used in Chinese medicine to promote general health and longevity.
Let’s start by talking immunity, something turkey tail is greatly known for. Polysaccharide-K (PSK) and polysaccharopeptide (PSP) are the two compounds found in turkey tail which have been proven to support immune health. Research shows that turkey tail may treat and prevent certain cancers. PSK is approved for use in Japan as an additional treatment in standard cancer treatment (8). It is believed that turkey tail may boost cancer-fighting cells as well as build up immunity. Turkey tail is also known for its ability to improve digestion. This is because turkey tail is a prebiotic, which essentially means it provides nutrients needed to grow a healthy gut microbiome. Studies show that turkey tail extract modified gut bacteria composition by increasing populations of beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus while reducing potentially harmful bacteria, like Clostridium and Staphylococcus (10).
Reishi is definitely one of the more well-known medicinal mushrooms on the market. Reishi has been used for hundreds of years, mainly in Asian countries. It is commonly referred to as the “king of mushrooms”. Reishi is usually found on dead or dying hardwood trees and slumps all over the world.
Along with many of the other medicinal mushrooms, reishi is widely known for its ability to strengthen the immune system. This is because reishi has been shown to positively affect the genes within our white blood cells, which play a huge role in immunity (11). Studies also show that reishi mushrooms can increase the number of white blood cells, even in cancer patients (12). Moreover, reishi has been seen to improve fatigue, anxiety, and depression, and therefore improve quality of life. A study that ran in 2012 found that after only 4 weeks, fatigue was reduced, and quality of life improved drastically in a group of breast cancer survivors (13). People in this study also experienced a decrease in both depression and anxiety. In addition to immune and mood support, there is a lot of promising evidence that show reishi mushroom can improve heart health, lower inflammation, and protect against many diseases and chronic conditions.
Not sure which mushroom is the best fit for you? Or maybe you just want to reap the benefits of all these mushrooms! If so, House of Wellness has you covered. Our Super Mushroom gummies from SUKU contains all 4 mushrooms discussed and is one of the most popular mushroom supplements on the market!
If you're looking for a vegan capsule, our HEAL+CO super mushroom complex is also a fabulous option!
Written by Allison Sherkin, RHN, CHNC
Allison is the in-house nutritionist at House of Wellness. She is a registered holistic nutritionist with experience in weight loss, mental health, hormonal balance, and digestion. She is passionate about helping others elevate their health and truly discover their highest potential! Allison believes in products made with integrity and focuses on effective solutions to help her customers and clients.
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2.Park YM;Won JH;Kim YH;Choi JW;Park HJ;Lee KT; (n.d.). In vivo and in vitro anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive effects of the methanol extract of Inonotus obliquus. Journal of ethnopharmacology. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15905055/.
3.Wang C;Chen Z;Pan Y;Gao X;Chen H; (n.d.). Anti-diabetic effects of Inonotus obliquus polysaccharides-chromium (III) complex in type 2 diabetic mice and its sub-acute toxicity evaluation in normal mice. Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28087233/.
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6.Mori K;Inatomi S;Ouchi K;Azumi Y;Tuchida T; (n.d.). Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytotherapy research : PTR. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18844328/.
7.Liu JH;Li L;Shang XD;Zhang JL;Tan Q; (n.d.). Anti-Helicobacter pylori activity of bioactive components isolated from Hericium erinaceus. Journal of ethnopharmacology. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26364939/.
8.Wang M;Konishi T;Gao Y;Xu D;Gao Q; (n.d.). Anti-Gastric Ulcer Activity of Polysaccharide Fraction Isolated from Mycelium Culture of Lion's Mane Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes). International journal of medicinal mushrooms. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26853960/.
9.National Cancer Institute.Medicinal Mushrooms (PDQ®). October 5, 2020.
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12.Monitoring of immune responses to a herbal immuno-modulator in patients with advanced colorectal cancer. International immunopharmacology. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16428086/.
13.Spore Powder of Ganoderma lucidum Improves Cancer-Related Fatigue in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Endocrine Therapy: A Pilot Clinical Trial. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22203880/.