These 5 Mushrooms Can Help You Relax, Stay Sharp, And Age Gracefully

These 5 Mushrooms Can Help You Relax, Stay Sharp, And Age Gracefully

Jun 21, 2023

Whether you’re taking a hike through the woods, relishing a veggie pizza, or bingeing The Last of Us, mushrooms are everywhere! While the psychological effects of certain shrooms are well documented, there’s a relatively recent boom in medicinal mushrooms. Especially in the health space, you can find folks adding mushrooms not just in their omelets, but also in their coffees and smoothies. Gone are the days when the most exciting appearance of mushrooms was as an alternative to meat, now we have mushroom-powered skincare, as well!

In the midst of all this mushroom madness, how can you go about extracting the best of this spore-bearing, fruiting bodies of fungi? Let’s get to the root of it!

What are medicinal mushrooms?

Not all mushrooms are edible nor do all of them offer medicinal benefits. While the ones on our grocery aisles add rich flavor and texture, functional medicinal mushrooms are usually consumed via capsules, powders, or teas and tinctures.

As a functional medicine physician in Houston, I often rely on nature’s gifts to bring our overworked, stressed-out, and imbalanced systems back into a healing synergy. Medicinal mushrooms are one such gift. While researchers and doctors in the West are just now awakening to the world of benefits that medicinal mushrooms offer, our Eastern counterparts recognized the adaptogenic benefits of medicinal mushrooms and integrated them into herbal formulas – centuries ago.

Different mushrooms are revered in different cultures for their varying powers. For instance, in Chinese medicine, the Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is highly revered and often referred to as Lingzhi, which translates to “spiritual potency.” It has been used for centuries to promote vitality, enhance longevity, and support overall well-being. On the other hand, Ayurveda refers to Chaga as the ‘King of Herbs’ and is valued for its immune-strengthening and vitality-boosting properties. The same Chaga in Norway is called the ‘cancer polyphore’, as a nod to its anti-cancer properties.

What makes medicinal mushrooms so important in functional medicine?

Medicinal mushrooms are packed with bioactive ingredients that are responsible for their remarkable therapeutic properties. Let’s explore some of the key active compounds:

  1. Polysaccharides:These complex carbohydrates, like beta-glucans and alpha-glucans, are superheroes for your immune system. They have the power to boost immune function, reduce inflammation, and even show potential in fighting cancer. Talk about a fantastic immunity ally!
  2. Triterpenoids: Imagine a group of compounds that are like anti-inflammatory warriors. That’s exactly what triterpenoids are. Found in mushrooms like Reishi and Chaga, they bring antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunity-enhancing benefits to the table. They lend a slightly bitter taste to the shroom and this bitterness is often a marker of quality.Research shows that triterpenoids have a liver protective effect, while also lowering histamine release.
  3. Phenolic Compounds: These powerful antioxidants have a knack for protecting your cells from damage caused by free radicals. By neutralizing free radicals, phenolic compounds support healthy cellular function. With their anti-inflammatory properties, phenolic compounds found in medicinal mushrooms make your body resilient against infections and diseases.
  4. Ergosterol and Ergosterol Derivatives: Ever wondered how medicinal mushrooms can add to your vitamin D intake? Mushrooms contain a precursor of Vitamin D2 called ergosterol. When exposed to sunlight or UV light, ergosterol present in the mushroom gets converted to vitamin D2, also called ergocalciferol. This is why mushrooms exposed to sunlight are often considered a good dietary source of vitamin d2 and can potentially boost your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is crucial in preventing autoimmune disorders, easing menopause symptoms, reducing the risk of breast cancer, and more. Read more about the importance of vitamin D here.
  5. Amino Acids and Proteins: Medicinal mushrooms provide a rich array of amino acids and proteins that support your overall health and cellular processes. They’re like the behind-the-scenes heroes keeping your body running smoothly. Essential amino acids found in medicinal mushrooms play crucial roles in protein synthesis, tissue repair, immune function, and overall well-being. Non-essential amino acids found in mushrooms are involved in various physiological processes, such as neurotransmitter synthesis, enzyme production, and energy metabolism.


What are some medicinal mushrooms you can try for improved health?

  1. Lion’s Mane: If you are struggling with focus and mental clarity, then Lion’s Mane is the shroom for you. Nicknamed ‘the smart mushroom’, it encourages peripheral nerve regeneration in the brain. While human studies are growing, this medicinal mushroom shows promise in improving cognition, memory, and concentration.
  2. Reishi: Reishi, often referred to as the “Mushroom of Immortality,” has been highly regarded in traditional medicine for centuries. It is known for its adaptogenic properties, supporting the body’s ability to adapt to stress and promoting balance. Reishi is also recommended for its soothing and sleep-enhancing effects.
  3. Cordyceps: A popular shroom among the fitness-lovers, cordyceps is known to boost metabolism, and stamina, as well as improve recovery time. Research suggests that Cordyceps may enhance oxygen utilization, improve athletic performance, and support immune function. While it shows promise in various areas, including respiratory health, more research is needed to fully elucidate its effects.
  4. Chaga: Grown on birch trees, this dark black fungus is celebrated for its potent antioxidant properties. Rich in bioactive compounds such as polysaccharides and triterpenoids, Chaga offers a myriad of potential health benefits such asaging, inflammation and even lowering LDL.
    It is a powerhouse of vital vitamins and minerals, which also explains why Chaga is gaining popularity as a skin-hair-nail-boosting ingredient in the beauty world.
  5. Turkey Tail: This attractive shroom is among the top-selling anticancer drugs in Japan and China. Mycologists believe that its ability to increase white blood cell count helps suppress tumor growth and repair cell damage done by chemotherapy. For those afflicted with gut issues, the rich prebiotic content in Turkey Tail shrooms aids in digestion.

    While medicinal mushrooms have a host of health benefits to offer, it is always a good idea to consume them under medical supervision. An experienced functional medicine doctor can help in deciding which type and form of medicinal mushroom is best for your unique case, while also guiding you through the correct usage. If you are interested in exploring the world of medicinal mushrooms, reach out to us and book a discovery call at 346-220-0201.

June 21, 2023

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