We all know mushrooms as a delightful addition to many culinary dishes. Mushroom risotto, portobello stuffed mushrooms or even a mushroom burger. And maybe you’ve heard of medicinal mushrooms, but not sure exactly what all the fuss is about. Read on the learn all about these fabulous fungi that provide us with amazing health benefits.

Medicinal mushrooms fall under the fungi kingdom of the plant world. Various mushroom species have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries around the world, particularly in ancient Chinese Medicine practices, and even dating back to ancient Egyptian times.

Additionally, specific mushrooms have also been the plant-based precursors for many modern-day antibiotic and antiparasitic treatments. And thanks to recent evidence-based studies, we’re learning even more about the benefits that these powerful fungi can confer to us.

Specifically, we’ve been able to uncover the incredible immunological benefits that these mushrooms possess. These have been attributed to the polysaccharide component of mushrooms, called beta-glucans. Beta-glucans work by communicating with our own immune system’s to work more efficiently and enhance immune function and your body’s overall immune vigilance.

Let’s take a little look at the most abundant medicinal mushrooms available at the moment. 

1. Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)

Reishi mushroom has a long-standing history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Reishi was said to possess “spiritual potency” and the “essence of immortality”, and we now know that is does have some amazing health benefits.

Reishi mushroom growing from the bark of a tree. Image via littlehouseinthesuburbs.com

The most significant application of Reishi that has been studied to date is its role in cancer treatment, with studies having displayed good results in terms of overall quality of life, better outcomes of chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy and increased immune function (as measured by the number of various immune cells).

Naturopathically, our team often prescribes Reishi in cases where chronic stress, cortisol imbalances and compromised adrenal gland function is impacting immunity. It’s a fantastic remedy for those who experience the first sign of physical stress as a respiratory symptom, such as a sore throat or flu-like symptoms after a very busy or stressful week.

Other benefits include:

  • Antioxidant
  • Immuno-modulating
  • Anti-bacterial and anti-viral effects
  • Blood glucose balancing
  • Supportive of gut immunity

 

2. Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)

This is our go-to mushroom for all things brain health, cognitive function & nerve support. A key link between Lion’s Mane and our cognition is its ability to stimulate “nerve growth factor”, a protein that develops and preserves the function of neurons. In short, Lion’s Mane has the potential to regenerate nerve tissue in the brain, which would allow for huge advances in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

 

Lion’s Mane mushroom. Image via theepochtimes.com

We love recommending this mushroom for anyone in need of a “brain boost”; perfect for studying, heavy intellectual work, exam preparation or if you’re simply wanting to feel a little sharper in your thinking.

Other benefits of Lion’s Mane:

  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-tumour activity

 

3. Cordyceps

Another key player in the medicinal mushroom family, Cordyceps is often used for its stamina-increasing, energy-lifting properties, with traditional data also reporting anti-aging effects. Like Reishi, Cordyceps along has a long history within Chinese medicine and is a common dietary supplement in other parts of South Asia.

While its main traditional indications relate to energy, stamina and performance, there isn’t too much clinical evidence to support these effects, although many people still report amazing improvements while taking Cordyceps. Some data suggests it’s beneficial for blood sugar and fat utilisation, which may explain why it supports energy and endurance.

Cordyceps sinensis mushroom. Image via healthjade.net

There are also a couple of key studies that suggest Cordyceps can positively influence the gut microbiota – a very important aspect of your body that influences your immune function. These studies demonstrate that Cordyceps works similar to effective prebiotics, which supports the healthy growth and diversity of bacteria in your intestinal tract.

Other benefits of Cordyceps:

  • Anti-asthmatic
  • Increases adrenal function
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-tumour activity

So, what’s in store?

Currently, we stock a select range of the Lifecykel medicinal mushroom liquid extracts, a couple of high-grade, practitioner only mushroom super blends (these require a prescription from your healthcare practitioner), and liquid tinctures of a few mushrooms listed above. Additionally, we’ve got the Nutraorganics range of lattes, some of which include medicinal mushies as their key ingredients

Please note: any information provided in this blog post is not intended to replace personalised, medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat or prevent any medical conditions. Please always seek appropriate medical advice in the case of new symptoms or any pre-existing health conditions.

References (in order of appearance)

​​Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for cancer treatment – Jin, X – 2012 

Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi) – Herbal Medicine – NCBI Bookshelf

Reishi mushroom Ganoderma lucidum Modulates IgA production and alpha-defensin expression in the rat small intestine 

Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) an edible mushroom; a comprehensive and critical review of its nutritional, cosmeceutical, mycochemical, pharmacological, clinical, and toxicological properties

Neurological Activity of Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) 

Polysaccharides isolated from Cordyceps Sinensis contribute to the progression of NASH by modifying the gut microbiota in mice fed a high-fat diet

Cultured Cordyceps sinensis polysaccharides modulate intestinal mucosal immunity and gut microbiota in cyclophosphamide-treated mice