A Basic Guide To Medicinal Mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms and fungi can carry a whole host of metabolites, all of which can potentially bring about a whole host of holistic mental and physical wellness benefits. Although they’ve been used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years, medicinal mushrooms have only been recently popularized in Western medicine.

You might be aware of psychedelic psilocybin mushroom therapy, a therapy method that may hopefully become more legally accessible in time thanks to proposed legislative reforms. 

As outlets like The Intercept have done great work shedding light on, the Biden Administration Health and Human Services Department anticipates and hopes that the FDA will approve certain psychedelic therapies in two years, psilocybin being one of them.

But if the thought of a wild far-out trip doesn’t strike your fancy, not to worry. There are all sorts of medicinal mushroom solutions you could consider adding to your wellness regimen. Believe it or not, medicinal mushrooms can still work plenty of wellness magic, without all the hallucinatory psychedelic magic!

If you’re looking for an extra supplemental kick to boost your body’s resistance to adverse conditions like stress, inflammation, or chronic pain, here’s a crash course on a few medicinal mushrooms that just might do the trick.  

Which Medicinal Mushroom Is The Best?

The answer to this question is a largely subjective one which may vary heavily on an individual, case-by-case basis. All medicinal fungi carry a slew of beneficial metabolites, antioxidants, hormones, and other properties that uplift the body’s immune system. Which combination of those properties winds up being the most personally beneficial for you, will ultimately depend on your own personal health situation. 

Moreover, given that some of these medicinal fungi have only recently become popularized in Western healthcare, additional research into some of these benefits could still be explored. Thus, these medicinal fungi shouldn’t be thought of as a miraculous cure-all medication, but more akin to a useful supplemental tool.

You may or may not be able to utilize certain medicinal mushrooms in tandem with certain pharmaceutical medications, or may want to steer clear of using them together all together. If you believe possible interactions could be of concern, we would strongly advise you to refer to the guidance of your doctor.

That standard applies to every type of medicinal fungi we’re about to list. With all of that being said, here are some great medicinal mushy options to consider mixing into your meals.

Medicinal Mushrooms For Mental Health

Reishi mushrooms are loaded with calming properties, which are predominantly found in their triterpene compound combinations. Such compounds directly impact the nervous system, potentially alleviating the symptoms of anxiety, depression, or sleep disorders keeping you up at night. 

Beyond the potential mental health benefits, research published in the National Institutes of Health has linked reishi mushrooms to a multitude of general wellness benefits that promote homeostatic physical healing, and refine your ability to focus. Another medicinal fungus particularly exemplary for refining focus is the lion’s mane mushroom.

Both human (PubMed) and animal (PubMed) studies have linked consumption of lion’s mane fungi with the ability to improve:

  • Concentration
  • Anxiety
  • Epilepsy
  • Cognition
  • Memory
  • Immune Health

Lion’s Mane mushrooms sharpen mental clarity by promoting insulation around nerve fibers and bio proteins critical for brain health. An imbalance of these bio proteins is known to correlate with a greater risk of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's, so incorporating lion’s mane and reishi into your diet can offer a much-needed wellness boost. 

Reishi mushrooms go great with chocolate or tea (as a powder) to wind down. To wind yourself back up, consider adding lion’s mane to a cup of yerba mate for a cocktail of sharpened, focused clarity.

Medicinal Mushrooms For Pain

Oxidative stress acts as one of the body’s leading promoters of inflammation, pain, and skin damage. Fortunately, the effects of consuming Chaga mushrooms are widely believed to combat this oxidative stress head-on, to the extent that some researchers hypothesize that they could even reduce or eliminate the growth of cancer.

(Refer to this Nutrition, Research, and Practice journal for more info.)

Chaga powder makes a great addition to your morning smoothie or latte; turkey tail is another great anti-cancer supplement to blend into beverages. So much so that its key chemical extract has been approved as a prescription cancer medicine in Japan, per Bastyr University.

Both of these mushrooms are brimming with immune-boosting antioxidants, and for an additional heart health pick-up, consider adding more shiitake mushrooms to your diet. Shiitake shrooms are packed with key phytonutrients to fight plaque and improve your cardiovascular health on multiple fronts, including:

Anything you can do to manage present pains and mitigate the risks of developing future pains will be a worthwhile wellness endeavor. One savory, delectable, umami-tasting thing you could consider doing is adding more shiitake to your dinner recipes.

Medicinal Mushrooms For Gut Health

Not every reader will have the strongest or most amenable stomach to certain medicinal mushrooms. It may take your gut a few weeks of adjustment before it overcomes feelings of indigestion, nausea, or stomach discomfort. 

If you’re asking yourself “can medicinal mushrooms cause diarrhea?” because you’re too afraid to ask that out loud, the answer is a resounding “maybe”. Some people experience it as a side effect of that adjustment period with regular reishi mushroom consumption, but this symptom is usually temporary.

They might cause a little stomach discomfort in the short term, but in the long term, all of the above aforementioned medicinal fungi have been shown to correlate with potential gut health benefits, more often than not. 

Medicinal Mushrooms For Energy

Last but not least, we’d like to turn the spotlight to cordyceps. Cordyceps fungi have been shown to improve the body’s ability to circulate blood and oxygen. This delivers an energizing, stimulating, and muscle-revitalizing boost, perfect for pre and post-workout preparation. 

All of these medicinal fungi make for quite the fun gis to reinforce positive diet changes. If you need extra positive reinforcement for those positive diet changes, we would recommend using trusted and tested telehealth tools like Noom

But if you’d like further support, we’d recommend consulting an online therapist who specializes in dietary health, and trusted online vendors who sell medicinal fungi supplements.

Where To Buy Medicinal Mushrooms

Refer to our provider database for more information!

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Sarah Ryan
Sarah Ryan