Health Benefits of Mushrooms
Health Benefits of Mushrooms
We’re living in a mushroom renaissance. Mushrooms, the fruiting, visible part of fungi, have been part of our diets and medicinal treatment systems for millennia. Today, medicinal mushrooms are again surging in popularity as research and consumer awareness of the health benefits of mushrooms grow. A new crop of brands are making it easier to access medicinal mushrooms in the form of functional beverages, vegan protein sources, and supplements.
Consumers are taking an increasing interest in maximizing their health through consumption of superfoods, nootropic cognitive enhancers, and adaptogens. So naturally, interest in healthy mushrooms has accelerated. Internet searches for “medicinal mushrooms” grew 225% between 2017 and 2021 in North America. The global “functional mushroom” market in 2020 reached $25.4 billion (US) and is expected to grow more than 8% annually through 2026.
Since 2000, when Johns Hopkins University received the first regulatory approval in the US to study psychedelics, psilocybin (the primary psychoactive compound found in “magic mushrooms”) has been the subject of several exciting studies centred around treatment of treatment of addiction, depression and PTSD. Most pharmaceutical research today studies psilocybin exclusively. However, traditional Chinese medicine, many European traditions, and a slew of new research show promising results for a number of non-psychoactive, healthy mushroom species that we can all add to our diets.
Fungi Kingdom History
Genomic research, biology and paleontology reveal that fungi (the plural form of fungus) are more closely linked to the animal kingdom than to plants. It’s a misconception that mushrooms are plants at all. Fungi split from the animal kingdom before plants, and land fungi predate land plants by 600 million years, first appearing approximately 1.3 billion years ago. Animals and fungi both inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Another similarity we in the animal kingdom share with fungi is our place higher up in the food chain; our shared inability to directly absorb the nutrients we need requires that we consume external sources for energy, such as plants or animals that have already absorbed nutrients.
Estimates place the total amount of plants found on Earth at over 390,000, whereas estimates of the number of fungi are closing in around the 2.2 to 3.8 million mark! (Microbiology Spectrum, July 2017) Like plants, there are nutritious, medicinal, benign and very poisonous species of fungi. The fungi kingdom is extremely diverse.
Why Are Mushrooms Healthy?
High levels of polysaccharides, minerals, essential amino acids, beta-glucan fiber and peptides are some of the known components behind the many health benefits of functional or medicinal mushrooms. A few species of functional fungi are really gaining ground and are increasingly being found in health supplements and food preparations. Here are some mushrooms that are in the spotlight these days, along with some of their research-backed health benefits*:
Immunity boosting, tumor prevention and reduction, high blood pressure, improved cholesterol profile
Immunity boosting, tumor reduction, diabetes management (early findings)
Brain cell protection, treatment for neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s, improvement in skin, wrinkle-reduction, anti-inflammation
Cremini ("Baby bella")
Healthier pregnancy, improved intestinal flora and digestion
Immune system benefits, anti-cancer effects (approved for adjunctive cancer treatment in China and Japan), tumor reduction, fatigue reduction, anxiety & depression improvement (reishi is called “nature’s Xanax”)
Anti-tumor effects, immune system modulation, blood sugar regulation
Immune system modulation, anti-inflammation, oxidative damage repair, anti-cancer treatment (early findings)
Possible VO2 max efficiency improvement, life extension (animal studies), kidney disease treatment (early findings), blood sugar regulation, anti-inflammation (animal studies)
Dementia treatment, nerve growth factor (NGF) stimulation in the brain, mild depression and anxiety treatment, ulcer treatment (early findings), fat metabolism, triglyceride level benefits (early findings)
High polysaccharide-K and polysaccharopeptide (PSP) content may inhibit cancer cell growth (approved for adjunctive cancer care in Japan and approved for study in US by FDA), improved intestinal flora & digestion
Based on their nutritional value alone, we should be incorporating these medicinal mushrooms as much as possible. Tasty recipes that incorporate shiitake, maitake, cremini, oyster, tremella, and cordyceps can be found everywhere. Turkey tail, lion’s mane, chaga and reishi are best consumed in other forms such as capsule, tincture and hot beverage formulations. Here are some recommendations from our shop that will provide you with the main health benefits of mushrooms:
Land Art Organic Mushroom Extract
One tablespoon daily of Land Art’s certified organic Mushroom Extract provides immune-boosting, adaptogenic, anti-inflammatory and antifungal protection with shiitake, lion’s mane, reishi, maitake and chaga mushroom.
Ergogenics 8 Mushroom Blend
Here are 3 delicious and economical ways to start your day or warm up this winter. Try the coffee, green tea or hot chocolate version. Contains lion’s mane, chaga, cordyceps, maitake, red reishi, shiitake, turkey tail, and tremella mushrooms.
OM Mushroom Lion's Mane
Created to support a healthy nervous system and to support memory, focus, alertness, creativity and mood. Om’s 100% organic Lion’s Mane capsules are a wonderful nootropic to add to your daily regimen. Non-GMO Project Verified too!
Teecino Turkey Tail Astragalus Tea
Nutritious turkey tail mushroom and astragalus, a popular herb used to strengthen the immune system, are combined with prebiotic chicory, barley, and roasted carob for an all-around well-being boost. The taste is like a cross between coffee and tea.
Heal + Co Super Mushroom Complex
Chaga, lion’s mane, turkey tail, cordyceps, and reishi are combined together in convenient capsule form with high-potency 4:1 extracts from the mushroom fruit – the most potent part. The bottle is a one-month supply.
*Disclaimer: all information provided here is for educational and awareness purposes only and is not intended to be used in place of medical advice from your qualified healthcare provider. Use this information to supplement, not replace, recommendations from your doctor or healthcare provider.
Written by Ian Batt
Ian is natural health & wellness marketing veteran, with a background in retail, wholesale, regulatory compliance, ecommerce and group fitness. He is a dog dad, entrepreneur, certified yoga teacher and outdoor enthusiast who now calls Toronto home.
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