6 powerful medicinal mushrooms

by Hannah de Gruchy November 04, 2022

6 powerful medicinal mushrooms

Many foods contain rich nutritional profiles, that have been shown, with robust research, to contain nutrients and compounds that are beneficial to our health. Stand-out, so-called superfoods include broccoli, kale, and blueberries.

Medicinal mushrooms have been prized for thousands of years in Eastern cultures for their nutritional prowess, and now the West is catching up. Research on the health benefits of medicinal mushrooms has been happening for some time now, with positive results.

Medicinal mushrooms are mushrooms or fungi that contain high levels of nutrients not usually found in the ‘standard’ white and button mushrooms seen in most supermarkets. They contain types of fibre that benefit the gut and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that support good mental and emotional health.

6 best medicinal mushroom supplements

CBD oils

Highlights

Capsules

Amount per capsule

Price

Lion’s Mane capsules

Certified organic, no fillers or preservatives.

60

1000mg

£19.99

Maitake capsules

Certified organic, no fillers or preservatives.

60

1000mg

£19.99

Cordyceps capsules

Certified organic, no fillers or preservatives.

60

500mg

£19.99

Chaga capsules

Certified organic, no fillers or preservatives.

60

400mg

£22.99

Turkey Tail capsules

Certified organic, no fillers or preservatives.

60

400mg

£22.99

Reishi capsules

Certified organic, no fillers or preservatives.

60

400mg

£22.99

Most beneficial medicinal mushrooms

There are many different mushrooms that can be used medicinally, each with its own nutrient profile, taste, and preferred growing conditions. The six most beneficial mushrooms are Lion’s Mane, Maitake, Cordyceps, Chaga, Turkey Tail and Reishi.

They may have somewhat intriguing sounding names, but they also have health benefits to match. These have made research scientists take notice, with many studies looking into their rich nutritional profiles.

What are medicinal mushrooms used for? 

For millennia, ancient medical systems such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda, an Indian medicinal practice, have made use of mushrooms. They’re all being used due to various benefits ranging from “healing and balance” to “longevity, stamina, immortality and vigour”.

It would appear that they were correct, with numerous researchers attributing health benefits to medicinal mushrooms. These benefits include immune health, gut support, and anti-inflammatory and antioxidant support for good overall wellbeing, both physical and mental.

How to take medicinal mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms aren’t always easy to come by, nor do they always taste particularly pleasant. Some can be bitter and wood-like in texture, making them difficult to consume or use in cooking.

How to take medicinal mushrooms

For this reason, some medicinal mushrooms are harvested, dried, and turned into a tincture or powder that can be made into drinks. Perhaps the best way to reap the benefits of these nutritional mushrooms is in supplement form.

We’ve tried many different types of mushroom supplements and have become big fans of those from Mushrooms 4 Life.  We like their products because they are certified organic, only use the highest quality ingredients and are mindfully harvested from farms respectful to the environment and the people farming them.

Mushrooms 4 Life supplements also contain the mycelium of the mushroom along with the fruiting body. The mycelium is the complex network of fungal threads that grow underground while the fruiting body is the part of the mushroom that’s visible above ground. Using both ensures each supplement contains the maximum level of nutrients.

Taking a medicinal mushroom supplement is simple, convenient, and easy - usually a serving size of one or two capsules a day. They’re more concentrated than consuming fresh mushroom or mushroom tea and contain more beneficial nutrients. Another benefit of supplementing with medicinal mushroom supplements is they are also free from the sometimes bitter, unpleasant taste.

The 6 most powerful medicinal mushrooms

These are the 6 most powerful medicinal mushrooms available today and their health benefits.

1. Lion’s Mane – anti-inflammatory to support brain and heart health

The Lion’s Mane mushroom gets its name from its appearance – it looks distinctly like the shaggy mane of a majestic lion. White in colour, Lion’s Mane mushrooms are native to Japan, China, Europe and North America and grow on dead and dying trees, often to the size of a football 

Lions Mane capsules

These mushrooms can be used in cooking and medicinally and have been used for generations in China, Japan and India. They have anti-inflammatory properties and can be eaten raw or cooked, brewed into a tea or dried and used in supplement form. They’re often described as having a delicate seafood-like taste.

Research has found that Lion’s Mane mushrooms support good cognitive function, helping to improve memory and concentration. This has led some researchers to suggest they could be helpful in preventing the neuronal damage caused by amyloid plaques in the brain that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

Different studies have discovered that Lion’s Mane mushrooms can reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering levels of dangerous fats called triglycerides and improving fat metabolism.

We recommend supplementing with organic Lion’s Mane mushroom capsules from Mushrooms 4 Life which contain concentrated, beneficial nutrients from a mix of the young fruiting bodies of the mushroom and the mycelium. They are rich in beta-glucan, a heart-healthy fibre.

2. Maitake – adaptogenic immune support

In Japan, the world ‘Maitake’ translates to ‘dancing mushroom’ and this eloquently describes the joy of those who first discovered it, as they danced with happiness at realising its health benefits.

Maitake mushroom capsules

Mainly found in Japan and China, Maitake mushrooms grow at the base of elm, oak and maple trees in a fan-like structure, with autumn being the ideal time to harvest them. Suitable for use in cooking in the same way as more familiar mushrooms, they have a strong, distinctive flavour, that is often likened to game meat.

Maitake mushrooms have adaptogenic properties, meaning that they support the body during times of physical or emotional stress and help it maintain its natural balance, or homeostasis. They’re also rich in beta-glucan fibre, which supports the microbiota – the collection of good bacteria and viruses that reside in the gut. This in turn supports a healthy, strong immune system helping to protect the body from disease and infection.

Further studies support the use of Maitake mushroom extracts to help regulate blood sugar levels and lower bad cholesterol.

They’re also available as a concentrated supplement, we like the organic Maitake mushroom capsules from Mushrooms 4 Life. They can be taken daily due to their purity and the strength of nutrients achieved by combining the mycelium and young fruiting bodies.

3. Cordyceps – a natural energy booster and performance enhancer

Despite their name, Cordyceps mushrooms aren’t technically a mushroom – instead, they’re parasitic fungi that attack the larvae of a type of caterpillar. They then take over the body of the larvae and produce long, thin edible protrusions from the body of their host.

Cordyceps mushroom capsules

The deceased larvae bodies complete with Cordyceps growths are then collected and dried. Cordyceps aren’t regularly available for use in cooking and are instead normally found in supplement form. Due to the use of insect larvae, however, they’re not suitable for anyone wishing to avoid animal products in their diet.

Research has shown that Cordyceps mushrooms can help to increase the VO2 max, or the maximum oxygen intake, of athletes, this can boost athletic performance and increase tolerance to high-intensity exercise.

 Traditionally used in ancient Eastern medicinal practices to boost sex drive, modern science is taking steps to back this up. One recent study, albeit an animal one, found that the antioxidants in Cordyceps improved memory and sexual function in ageing rats. Human studies are therefore needed to further investigate these findings.

An excellent choice is organic Cordyceps capsules from Mushrooms 4 Life, they are made in a clinical setting that mimics the host conditions, without the need for insect larvae, making them 100% vegan and vegetarian.

4. Chaga – powerful immune system support

Chaga mushrooms don’t look anything like a common mushroom we might find in a supermarket. They instead resemble a lump of soil or charcoal, grow on the trunks of birch trees in the coldest regions of the Northern hemisphere and are classified as a fungus. But cut into them and they reveal a soft, orange flesh.

Chaga mushroom capsules

They’ve been used medicinally in Siberia for thousands of years due to their rich nutritional profile, including being high in fibre and antioxidants. Chaga mushrooms are traditionally consumed as tea or tincture, and it would be unusual to eat them whole. In the West, Chaga mushroom supplements are becoming more common. 

Chaga mushrooms have demonstrated an ability to promote the release of beneficial cytokines, important proteins that form part of the immune system, helping to protect the body from harmful bacteria and viruses. These mushrooms are also capable of preventing the production of harmful cytokines that can lead to inflammation and disease. 

Organic Chaga mushroom capsules from Mushrooms 4 Life are produced using consciously harvested Chaga and have been purified and concentrated to produce a nutritionally beneficial supplement.

5. Turkey Tail – gut and immune health support

Named after their striking similarity to the tail feathers of a turkey, Turkey Tail mushrooms grow in the UK and around the globe, favouring the dark, damp conditions provided by fallen, rotting trees and logs.

Turkey Tail mushroom capsules

They’ve been consumed and used medicinally in traditional cultures for generations and have a mild, earthy flavour. Their texture can be quite tough and chewy, prompting many people to opt for turkey tail supplements over fresh or dried mushrooms.

Studies show that the prebiotic fibre in Turkey Tail mushrooms can benefit the gut by supporting a thriving community of beneficial gut bacteria and viruses, collectively known as the microbiota.

Further studies demonstrate that the antioxidants in Turkey Tail mushrooms help to release compounds that protect the immune system and help to reduce inflammation.

Organic Turkey Tail mushroom capsules from Mushrooms 4 Life contain no fillers or binders and have been wild harvested using sustainable practices and safe working practices. Rich in beneficial prebiotic fibre and antioxidants, they help to protect the work of the immune system whilst also looking after the gut.

6. Reishi – the mushroom of immortality

Medicinal mushrooms are only just becoming popular in the West, after being used for millennia in Eastern medicine. But perhaps the most well-known medicinal mushroom is the Reishi mushroom, prized for its ability to support the health of the immune system as well as support good mental health.

Reishi mushroom capsules

Reishi mushrooms grow in the hot and humid climates of Asia and are rich in compounds that support our health – so much so, that in the East, they’re known as the mushroom of immortality. They can be eaten fresh, but they have a tough texture and bitter taste, prompting many people to gain their benefits via Reishi supplements.

As an adaptogen that supports the body through stressful times, Reishi mushrooms support the immune system by influencing the white blood cells called natural killer cells that are critical to immunity. Studies also show that Reishi mushrooms contain compounds that can help to reduce fatigue, dizziness, and irritability, thereby helping to also minimise anxiety and improve quality of life.

Organic Reishi mushroom capsules from Mushrooms 4 Life are made using reishi grown on natural growth mediums, identical to those in nature, and are carefully extracted to preserve their beneficial nutrients.

Conclusion 

Medicinal mushrooms are considered beneficial for health, especially when concentrated and turned into pure, nutritionally rich food supplements. If you’re struggling to decide which mushroom supplement to take, you could consider MyComplex, an organic mushroom blend from Mushrooms 4 Life, that contains a blend of Reishi, Cordyceps and Maitake.

As with any supplement, take mushroom capsules every day for at least three months to see if you notice any health benefits.

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Hannah de Gruchy
Hannah de Gruchy

Author

Health and wellness author and biologist specialised in sustainability, nutrition and eco-living.


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