Mushroom Supplements Are Trending For Mood, Focus, Immune Health, And More
By Rhyan Geiger, RDN
In this article:
Mushroom supplements have been all the rage for the last few years. The use of medicinal mushrooms dates back to old Chinese medical books and Tibetan medicine from thousands of years ago. Although using mushrooms in medicinal ways has been around for so long, their use is just becoming mainstream in the west.
Mushrooms that are commonly bought in grocery stores, like portobello, shiitake, button, and white mushrooms all fall into the same category. They are technically fungi, but for cooking purposes, mushrooms are classified as vegetables. Eating mushrooms gives the body a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. One of the most notable nutritional benefits of mushrooms is the number of antioxidants and the soluble fiber beta-glucan, which has been showing to improve heart health.
Mushrooms used in cooking are grown and produced in the same fashion as the kind found in supplements. The difference between the two is mushrooms that are used in supplements are thought to have more health benefits. These benefits classify them as functional foods, meaning they provide more than just nutrition benefits. More than 100 medicinal functions are produced by mushrooms.
The main benefits of mushroom supplements are their antioxidant properties, cardiovascular protection, antibacterial properties, and anti-inflammatory properties. Clinical research on the health benefits of mushrooms is limited, and more research is needed. However, we do know that eating mushrooms is known to be safe and not detrimental to overall health.
Another term you may also hear or see relating to mushroom products is adaptogens. Adaptogens are herbs and mushrooms that help counteract the stress your body undergoes. Pituitary and adrenal glands are involved in stress response and adaptogens may help regulate a stable balance within the body. Adaptogens are another functional benefit of mushroom supplementation.
Mushroom supplements are made by drying raw mushrooms and extracting them with hot water. After this, they are then turned into a fine powder, like the products we see in stores. When purchasing mushroom supplements, it is important to note that they are not regulated by The United States Food and Drug Administration and to purchase only from trusted sources.
When making supplements a variety of mushrooms can be used based on the medicinal properties they hold. Mushrooms that are used in supplements most often are reishi, lion’s mane, chaga, cordyceps, and turkey tail. There are many more varieties of mushrooms that exist, but these are the ones most commonly found in supplements. Due to the number of varieties available, it can be hard to differentiate which have functional properties and when to use which ones.
Reishi mushrooms are scientifically known as Ganoderma lucidum and may also go by lingzhi. In Chinese, the word lingzhi symbolizes divine power and longevity, hence, this variety of mushrooms is believed to be linked to longevity. The taste of reishi mushrooms is bitter and tough in texture. Reishi mushrooms can be found growing on deciduous trees.
Reishi mushrooms are most commonly used to boost the immune system and possibly help fight against free radicals in the body. It’s thought that the beta-glucans in reishi stimulate the immune system, possibly giving them this effect. What makes this mushroom unique is its calming properties from triterpene that can boost moods, reduce anxiety, ease depression, and even improve sleep.
Research in humans is limited, but it is ongoing to determine the potential benefits of reishi mushrooms.
Lions mane mushrooms are one of the most fun-looking mushrooms. They are large white mushrooms that have many long white spines that resemble a lion’s mane. Typically, they are grown on dead and decaying hardwood or can be grown in a substrate at home.
Like most mushrooms, Lion's mane also contains a good amount of antioxidants which can keep cells healthy. Mental clarity is one of the most appealing effects. Some studies have found that lion’s mane has compounds that may stimulate the growth of brain cells. This may not only help with memory but may also support emotional responses and anxiety and depression.
To easily remember what lion’s mane does, try associating a lion’s mane being on the head with the brain being inside your head.
Chaga mushrooms are often found growing on birch trees in colder climates. Though the appearance of Chaga mushrooms appears to be a burnt clump of tree bark, they do have functional properties. Traditionally, Chaga was ground and used in herbal teas but can now be found in other supplement forms.
Chaga has been shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body which can help reduce the body’s physical signs of aging.
Before trying Chaga mushrooms, it should be discussed with your primary care provider or dietitian. Unlike some other mushroom varieties, Chaga has a protein that can impair blood clotting. Chaga mushrooms are also high in oxalates which have been known to increase the likelihood of kidney stones.
Turkey tail, despite its name, contains no turkeys. This name was chosen because the mushroom itself resembles a turkey tail and has bright colors. These can be found growing on tree trunks in wooded areas.
Turkey tail is most popular due to its immune-boosting and antioxidant properties and because it may have compounds that may stimulate and strengthen the immune system.
Cordyceps encompass more than 400 species, but two types are most often researched and used in supplements.
The most common use for these is for increased energy as they increase the production of a molecule that helps bring energy to muscles. Traditionally cordyceps have been used to reduce fatigue and boost strength and sex drive. Like many other functional mushrooms, they may also slow aging.
Due to the difficulty in harvesting cordyceps, synthetic versions are commonly used.
Mushroom coffee is one of the most common ways to supplement with mushrooms, and is a great herbal alternative to traditional coffee. It can also be called Ganoderma coffee, and often comes in packets that contain mushroom extract and instant coffee. Each packet is added to hot water and mixed to create mushroom coffee. The same process goes for tea and hot cocoa, with the premeasured packet is added to water. Although having mushroom coffee in the morning sounds fancy, it really is just regular black coffee blended with one or more of the functional mushroom extracts.
The mushrooms used in mushroom coffee are dried and extracted to pull out the beneficial compounds and then are blended with regular coffee. Most times mushroom coffee is lower in caffeine than regular coffee, which may be more beneficial for some users. Even with mushroom coffee, the same ideas of limiting the amount of sugar, creamer, and other coffee add-ins being used applies.
When adding any type of mushroom supplements to your diet, try adding one variety at a time so you’re able to track any benefits you may have. Remember that before starting a new supplement, mushrooms included, consult with your medical provider to ensure safety, especially if any pre-existing conditions exist.
Mushrooms for Immunity and Whole Body Health: Read more.
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