Medicinal mushrooms- what are they and how do they benefit your health?
For me, autumn has always been the time when I draw my attention more to forest and to mushrooms- searching and picking them, then savouring them in a hearty mushroom soup, just frying mushrooms in a pan with butter, adding them to a shabu-shabu or pickling them for winter months. Over the years I have also discovered a wonderful world of medicinal mushrooms.
What are medicinal mushrooms?
Medicinal mushrooms are a specific type of fungi that are scientifically proven to have a wide range of health benefits in your body. While there are couple of thousands species of edible mushrooms in our forests, only a few have notable properties that categorise those mushrooms as 'medicinal'.
Best known medicinal mushrooms
Below are the most studied and potent medicinal mushrooms.
Chaga mushrooms are known as 'The Gift from Heaven' by shamans in Siberia and they are growing on birch trees. Chaga has the ability to stimulate the immune response, thanks to its high melanin and betulinic acid content. It’s highly regarded by natural healers and is considered to be one of the most sacred medicinal substances there is.
photo: Wikimedia Commons
Chaga mushrooms are rich in vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants- all good for heart health and longevity. One cup of Chaga mushrooms equals 0.4kg of carrots when it comes to antioxidants.
Chaga mushrooms help to:
reduce inflammation in the body and speed up recovery
support health in a stressful times
prevent skin, hair, eyes from ageing prematurely
Chaga mushroom can be consumed as a tea where you simply add a teaspoon of Chaga mushroom powder to a cup of boiled water and mix it thoroughly.But you can also add it to your morning coffee.
Cordyseps are considered as one of the superheroes in thee fungi world as they really help with many health challenges- energy, appetite, libido, stamina, sleeping.
photo: Wikimedia Commons
Cordyceps mushrooms increase endurance and cellular performance, which is why they are great for athletes- they also help to lower recovery times.
They promote healthy adrenal glands and help with brain performance
Lower LDL cholesterol
Protect against premature ageing and illnesses as they neutralise free radicals
Add Cordyseps mushrooms powder to a cup of boiled water to make a nutritious tea or add it to your morning coffee.
Lion's Mane mushroom
Lion's Mane mushrooms have been used several centuries by monks as they help with focus during meditation and improve general health. They also used to increase cognitive abilities and brain function in general.
photo: Wikimedia Commons
Lion's Mane mushroom:
Reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety
Restores damage nerves and improves nerve health
Protects stomach lining from damage and lowering your chance of developing stomach ulcers
For consumption, it's best to add lion's mane to soups and stews and also make a cup of mushroom tea following the same principles as with the other medicinal mushrooms.
Reishi mushroom, also known as the mushroom of immortality, is believed to nourish our spiritual essence of being. Reishi was originally used for its anti-aging properties and for its benefits on immune system.
Eases anxiety, reduces stress and calms the mind
Improves your sleep, especially deep-sleep
Improves skin appearance and health
Lowers blood pressure
Boosts immune health as is anti-inflammatory
Fights allergies and asthma
I drink Reishi tea in the evening before going to sleep, mixing it either into water or almond milk and adding some spices, such as cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg, clove, ground ginger. But you can also add it to soups and broths.
Shiitake mushrooms, also known as 'Elixir of Life', are used often in Asian cuisine. They are full of beneficial vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Offers protection against inflammation in the body
Helps with blood circulation and blood pressure
Improves immune response
Boosts brain function and overall energy
Supports heart health
Helps with liver detoxification
You can use Shiitake mushrooms in a wide variety of ways in your kitchen to get the instant umami flavour for your food- in sauces, with scrambled eggs, sautéed vegetables. But of course you can mix it into boiling water for a nice and earthy tea.
Turkey Tail mushroom
Known for being able to combat powerful pathogens, turkey tail has been used to cultivate a strong immune system. Turkey tail is also believed to enhance body's energy, improve bone health, boost digestive health.
Turkey Tail mushroom:
Decreases your chances of coming down with cold or flu
Helps to grow healthy bacteria in your gut
Assists in recovery from various types of cancers, such as breast cancer
As with the other medicinal mushrooms, mix turkey tail with boiling water and enjoy as a tea.
When do consume what medicinal mushroom for increased benefit for the body?
Morning: take Lion's Mane or Chaga
Afternoon: take Cordycepts for a boost in energy
Evening: Reishi and Trukey Tail to calm the mind and the body
Majority of the mushrooms are not meant to be eaten raw as us people don't have the enzymes necessary to digest them, so it's best if you fry them in a pan or cook them in a soup.
Medicinal mushrooms are sold in powder, tincture or supplement form. Powders and tinctures are more concentrated, which means you need to use less to get the health benefits.