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Medicinal Mushrooms for Health and Vitality

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medicinal mushrooms

There’s a new gang of plant foods in town with incredible health-giving properties. They’re immune boosting, anti-viral, inflammation-fighting and even have anti-cancer properties. Enter the mighty mushrooms.

They sound like the stuff of magic, but the health-supporting properties of medicinal mushrooms are backed up by an increasing number of scientific studies.

Read on to discover how medicinal mushrooms could benefit your health.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are fungi, and the part growing above ground is the spore-producing fruiting body.

There are hundreds of varieties of medicinal mushrooms, all containing a wide range of plant compounds known to positively affect health. They’re rich in nutrients, like B vitamins, vitamin D – in fact, they’re one of the only non-animal sources of this vitamin – iron, copper, potassium and selenium. They’re full of protective antioxidants, too. But they also contain a type of soluble fibre called beta glucans. These have beneficial effects on the immune system, cardiovascular health and the nervous system.

Beta glucans are special because they balance out the activity of the immune system, boosting it when it’s needed and calming it when it becomes overactive. Because of this ability to activate as well as regulate immunity, beta glucans are known as ‘biological response modifiers’, and they’ve been studied in relation to their ability to fight cancer. 

Your immune system is closely linked to the health of your whole body, so beta glucans can positively affect your hormonal system and your response to stress, too.

Edible mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years – even Hippocrates wrote about them. While all mushrooms share several properties, each variety has slight differences.

Meet the Medicinal Mushrooms

  • Reishi

 

This mushroom, known as the ‘mushroom of immortality’ is particularly rich in beta-glucans. It’s believed to calm the nervous system, ease depression, help sleep and reduce the excessive release of stress hormones.

Reishi may help to balance blood sugar, support liver health, and reduce inflammation in the brain.

Reishi tastes quite bitter but can be delicious added to soups or broths, or made into a tea.

reishi mushroom
REISHI MUSHROOM
  • Shitaki

Widely cultivated, shitake mushrooms contain a polysaccharide called lentinan, which seems to upregulate the immune system. It’s been used alongside conventional cancer treatments in Asia for many years. Because of shitake’s antimicrobial properties, they may also be useful to prevent dental caries 1.

Finally, shitake has been found to regulate blood pressure, promote healthy cholesterol levels, and support cardiovascular health.

Shitake mushrooms are delicious – use them as you would regular mushrooms.

shitaki mushrooms
SHITAKI MUSHROOM
  • Lion’s Mane

Also known as Yamabushikate or the hedgehog mushroom, Lion’s Mane grows on dead trees. It contains plant compounds called terpenes, thought to support brain function and reduce age-related cognitive decline 2. It’s even been seen in studies to support the growth of new neurones, helping damaged brain cells to regenerate.

Its taste when sautéed or roasted has been likened to lobster.

Lions Mane Mushroom
LIONS MANE MUSHROOM
  • Cordyceps

This has snuck onto the list even though it’s not technically a mushroom. Instead, it’s a fungus that grows on caterpillars living in Chinese mountain regions. Cordyceps available as supplements are usually grown on grains.

It’s been traditionally used to banish fatigue, improve athletic performance, and boost energy levels and sex drive. It’s a natural stress and anxiety buster, a potent source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds and is useful for protecting brain cells. In studies, an ingredient in cordyceps was found to cause cancer cells to die 3.

Cordyceps powder is a great ingredient to use in energy balls.

cordyceps mushroom
CORDYCEPS MUSHROOM
  • Turkey Tail

 

This wonderfully named mushroom is shaped like a fan, resembling a turkey’s tail. The fibre within it provides food for the beneficial bacteria resident in your digestive system. Turkey Tail has antiviral properties and supports immune system function. It contains a substance called polysaccharide K which has been extensively studied in relation to improving survival rates of cancer patients and preventing its recurrence.

Turkey Tail powder makes a great tea, especially combined with ginger and turmeric.

turkey tail mushroom
TURKEY TAIL MUSHROOM

How to Use Medicinal Mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms are available fresh or dried for use in soups, stews or salads, and in powdered form, providing a concentrated source of their valuable plant compounds. Lightly cooking mushrooms releases the beneficial compounds beta glucans. Powdered mushrooms can be used in teas, smoothies, cereals, raw desserts and energy balls, or simply sprinkled over food. Always obtain mushrooms from a reputable supplier, as many other species are poisonous.

Mushrooms and Your Health

Medicinal mushrooms are just one part of a functional medicine practitioner’s natural toolkit. If you would like to explore further ways of naturally supporting your health, I will guide you every step of the way.

Contact me today to start your journey towards natural, optimal health.

 

References

Did you know you can request a FREE 15 minute Discovery Call

Do you need personalised support for using medicinal mushrooms? Then book a free 15-minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you.

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