Medicinal mushrooms have been used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years. Mushrooms are prebiotic, boosting the microbiome’s beneficial bacteria, such as Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium, improving digestion and overall health.
Recent independent research shows that certain varieties of mushroom are also our best dietary sources for potent antioxidants, such as sulfur-rich ergothioneine, and the “major biological antioxidant,” glutathione. A diet rich in antioxidants like ergothioneine and glutathione protects cells from free radicals, helping the body withstand normal oxidative stress that damages healthy cells. In addition to boosting longevity, mushrooms pack a serious nutritional punch, providing a great source of vitamin D, essential for strong immune system function.
*Please note, I am discussing the whole food form of these mushrooms (not supplements or powders)
Think of reishi as nature’s Xanax. This favored fungus is one of the most popular medicinal mushrooms, and for good reason. Reishi may be able do it all: aid in weight loss, keep the immune system in check, and may even fiercely fight cancer cells.
What makes this mushroom unique, however, is its calming properties — all of which are thanks to the compound triterpene, which reishi has its fair share of. These mood-boosting compounds may alleviate anxiety, ease depression, and encourage better sleep. But triterpenes’ positive effect on the nervous system doesn’t stop there. Reishi can promote healing and sharpen focus, too.
2. Lions mane
Bad case of brain fog? Try lion’s mane for some natural mental clarity. This feathery “pom-pom” mushroom is packed with antioxidants and strengthens the immune system like most medicinal mushrooms. But lion’s mane is rare in the fact that it fosters the production of the bioprotein nerve growth factor (NGF) and myelin (an insulation around nerve fibers).
Both NGF and myelin are absolutely crucial to brain health. An imbalance in them can contribute to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. This miraculous mushroom has also been shown to improve cognition in a small human study, memory, increase concentration, and alleviate anxiety and irritability.
Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular mushrooms in the world, and for good reason. Revered in Asia for centuries for their potent medicinal properties, shiitake mushrooms have become a symbol of longevity in some cultures.
Hearty and versatile, shiitakes can be consumed raw or cooked. These mushrooms are particularly good for the heart. Shiitakes have been shown to lower LDL in mice, and they contain compounds that inhibit the absorption and production of cholesterol in the liver. These nifty shrooms also contain phytonutrients, which aid in preventing plaque buildup and maintaining healthy blood pressure and circulation.
4. Turkey Tail
Turkey tail contains a compound called polysaccharide-K (PSK) that stimulates the immune system. PSK is so effective that it’s an approved anticancer prescription drug in Japan. Turkey tail has been shown to improve the survival rate of people with certain cancers, fight leukemia cells, and improve the immune system of people receiving chemotherapy.
Turkey tail contains a wide variety of phenol and flavonoid antioxidants which help promote your immune system health by reducing inflammation and stimulating the release of protective compounds. Turkey tail mushroom may also positively impact gut bacterial balance by enhancing the growth of beneficial bacteria while suppressing harmful species.
Turkey tail mushroom may also improve insulin resistance, help fight pathogenic bacteria, reduce inflammation, treat HPV and boost exercise performance.
Prevention is key.
The best medicine in the world: nutrition and exercise.