Updated 10/8/23; Originally posted 7/3/22
Functional mushrooms is the newest term applied to the mushroom varieties used by healers for their medicinal values over the last few millenia (at least!). Medicinal mushrooms contain a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and proteins but they also are considered adaptogenics because of how they can stimulate and support your body to do its job better.
These medicinal mushrooms often do not taste good enough to be considered culinary mushrooms, therefore they might be new to you. Let me introduce you to the 6 most talked about functional mushrooms and how they can help you feel better not older!
Chaga Health Benefits
Chaga is known these days as the anti-cancer mushroom – although it technically is not a mushroom since it is not the fruit from mycelium. Chaga grows as a big hunk of mycelium on the outside of living birch trees in cold climates over the course of 5-15 years. It sort of looks like a chunk of lava to me.
Chaga is not something you eat because in order to get the medicinal benefits, you must first break the incredibly strong cell walls. You can make a tea from a piece of it if you are inspired. I much prefer the double liquid extract myself!
Chaga is an Anti-Oxidant Superhero
- Lowers Oxidative Stress to Your Cells: Its anti-oxidant capabilites are through the roof as seen in it’s ORAC value (higher than turmeric!). Since oxidative stress is a huge factor in the shift of a cell’s behavior from “normal” to “cancer”, chaga’s use in cancer treatment and prevention is heavily researched.
- Lowers Insulin Resistance: Chaga helps with blood sugar management which lowers your diabetes risk and also boosts your athletic performance!
- Modulates the Immune System: Your immune system can be both boosted into action and told to slow down and refocus its efforts to the real problems when you add chaga mushrooms to your day.
- Lowers Cholesterol: Chaga contains a digestible form of betulin which lowers your cholesterol – by helping you excrete it – sometimes more effectively than statin drugs!
- Fights Cancer without Harming the Rest of You: The fabulous thing about the betulin in chaga is that it is toxic to cancer cells but not to normal cells. That sounds just about perfect doesn’t it?
- Thins Blood: Chaga acts as a blood thinner since it reduces clumping of your platelets so your blood flows through your blood vessels more easily.
Cordyceps Health Benefits
Cordyceps is another mushroom-that’s-not-a-mushroom (it is a fungus though) but still an incredible source of wellness for you when you want to feel better not older! Many cultures around the world have used cordyceps for medicine, food, and ritual since possibly as far back as 5,000 B.C.E. Cordyceps naturally grow at very high altitude where there is less oxygen in the air. Perhaps that is why it is so helpful at getting the body to use its oxygen resources better? Just ask any Tibetan sherpa getting ready to climb Mt Everest!
Cordyceps is an Energy Superhero
- Soothe Mast Cells: Mast cells are responsible for seasonal allergies, asthma, chemical sensitivities, auto immune conditions, and more! Cordyceps contains a compound that suppresses the activation of the protein called Thymic Stromal Lymphopoietin (TSLP) which means that cordyceps will reduce signaling to mast cells so they don’t get so angry (when they get angry you feel bad!).
- Replenish Kidneys: Cordyceps heals kidneys by targeting a growth factor in the kidneys called TGF-B1. This growth factor encourages excess connective tissue growth which causes problems and contributes to kidney disease.
- Reduce Physical Fatigue: Cordyceps improves the environment surrounding mitochondria so they are less stressed and more willing to increase their production of ATP – your unit of energy. Cordyceps also increases your ability to move oxygen around in the body.
- Regulate Appropriate Cell Death: Cordyceps is anti-aging because it prevents unregulated cellular growth (like happens in tumors and cancer) by stimulating cell death/renewal at the right time through apoptosis and autophagy. You can read more about this in my post about Cellular Health.
- Boost Hormones: Cordyceps has been linked to increased production of progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen – all of which are protective in nature and facilitate brain growth, muscle growth, and sexual desire. Menopausal ladies take note!
If you are looking to prevent future problems, cordyceps weekly might be the right amount for you! You might benefit from more often depending on your concerns.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Health Benefits
Lion’s Mane mushrooms are your brain’s best friend if you are concerned about cognitive health according to recent research. Chinese medicine healers have used lion’s mane for thousands of years for its anti-inflammatory, nootropic (brain modifying), and immunostimulating properties. Luckily for us, lion’s mane mushrooms are no longer reserved for royalty!
Lion’s mane contains the most of fat of any mushroom we know. I wonder if that is why it is so brain focused in its healing qualities! Your brain is is built from healthy fats.
Lion’s Mane is a Brain Superhero
- Stimulate Neuron Growth: Compounds called hericenones and erinacines promote the growth of new neurons – brain cells. These are the cells you think with! Hericenone is also known to inhibit blood clots lowering your risk for a stroke or heart attack.
- Encourage Nerve Growth: The mycelium, the roots of any mushroom, of lion’s mane helps with the production of nerve growth factor which is required in order to grow new nerves – in the brain or elsewhere!
- Protect Your Gut: Lion’s mane stimulates mucus production in the gut which protects the delicate lining of your gut walls. Health gut walls inhibit the colonization of the too-successful bacteria H Pylori thereby diminishing and preventing ulcers.
- Improve your REM Sleep: REM sleep is when you dream, make hormones, and do other wonderful brain things. Lion’s mane before bed will give you more REM time tonight which is important for feeling energized tomorrow!
Reishi Mushroom Health Benefits
Reishi mushrooms have such an honored place in Traditional Chinese Medicine that they are sometimes called the “Mushroom of Immortality”. Unfortunately, such a strong name does not come a delicious taste thanks to its ganoderic acid. Reishi mushrooms are bitter and tough but very good for you nonetheless. You just don’t want to eat them.
Reishi is an Anti-Aging Superhero
- Modulate Immune System: Reishi mushrooms have powerful immunomodulating effects. The terrific thing about modulating your immune system is that reishi can both ramp up and calm down your immune system – even at the same time! It is perfect for those of you struggling with autoimmunity.
- Improve Blood Flow: Triperpenes in reishi improve blood flow thereby increasing energy and reducing blood pressure.
- Protect Liver: Reishi earns it’s place in your anti-aging regime because of its’ ability to support the health of your liver. Without your liver in proper working order, your cells experience death by toxins since your liver is in charge of so much of your detox abilities. Reishi can even encourage regeneration of liver cells.
- Fight Cancer Cells: Reishi’s ganoderic acid can somehow limit the ability of cancer cells to move around the body, encourage their death, and simultaneously protect healthy, normal cells. Give that mushroom a hand!
- Lessen Allergies and Asthma Symptoms: Reishi’s triterpenes are a type of ganoderic acid which reduces the effect of histamines on cells throughout the body – including the lungs. Lungs that are less inflammed over silly things like pollen will do a better job in the breathing department!
Shiitake Mushroom Health Benefits
Shiitake mushrooms are a staple in Japanese cuisine and are fairly easy to find if you wish to cook with them. They taste a bit like chicken and are fabulous with a bowl of broth, noodles, and veges. It is quite possible that shiitake mushrooms are a big player in the beautiful hair and skin that I saw when traveling in Japan and in the lower cardiovascular disease rates that Japan enjoys.
Shiitake is a Springy Tissue Superhero
- UV Light Protection: Shiitake contain an ergosterol which helps the skin absorb the sun’s UV light and turn it into Vitamin D2 rather than the UV light damaging your skin cells.
- Skin and Fascia Elasticity Preservation: Shiitake contain compounds that inhibit the enzyme elastase which is responsible for the breakdown of the elastin in your skin and other connective tissue that happens as we age. This includes lady parts as well – especially when menopause is near or past.
- Cholesterol Reduction: Found in shiitake, eritadenine inhibits the metabolism of cholesterol in the liver by downregulating certain enzymes. Shiitake also contain ergosterols and beta-glucans that slow down the absorption of cholesterol in the gut. These combined with other active ingredients in shiitake keep artery walls smooth and prevent accumulation of hard build-up which leads to cardiovascular issues.
- Immune Stimulation: Shiitake contains many bioactive ingredient in the beta-glucans family including one called Lentinan that is used in cancer treatments around the world. Shiitake are commonly used for their antiviral and antiparasite abilities.
Turkey Tail Mushroom Health Benefits
A turkey tail mushroom looks like exactly that and is abundantly found world-wide. It can be eaten raw, cooked, powdered, extracted into liquid, or even in a mushroom-based coffee substitute. Turkey tail is currently highly researched due to its gentle support of weak immune systems.
Turkey Tail is an Immune Superhero
- Prebiotic: PSP passes through your digestive system unharmed and is eaten by the beneficial bacteria that create your gut microbiome. Remember that much of what you eat feeds your gut microbiome so they will help you!
- Immune Stimulator: Turkey tail contains 2 bioactive compounds in the beta-glucans family – PSP and PSK (Polysaccharide Peptide and Polysaccharide Krestin). Both PSP and PSK can activate your immune system’s cytokines – the signalling molecules that tell your Natural Killer Cells to get to work on cells and tumors containing viruses.
- Fuel for Immune Cells: Turkey tail mushrooms are full of beta-glucans – over 50% by weight. Beta-glucans is eaten by macrophages (immune cells) and broken into little pieces that activate your neutrophils (tiny type of white blood cell). Neutrophils can then run around inside the body at fast speeds and get work done!
Why and How to Use Double Liquid Mushroom Extracts
Mushrooms contain a variety of active medicinal ingredients and you want them all! When you make a tea from a mushroom you are drinking the components that are water soluble. Soaking the mushroom in alcohol draws out the fat soluble components into a liquid form. A double extract is a blend of both to get all the mushroom goodness you can into the most bioavailable form possible. For ease of transport, you can dehydrate this double extraction and viola! you get powdered mushroom!
When it comes to getting the most out of your mushrooms, the form matters. Eating a mushroom required digestion and depending on how yours is – you might work hard to eat a big plate of mushrooms and get a little of the beneficial ingredients. Powders and pills made from mushrooms have to be rehydrated and pass through your digestive system. About half of the mushroom pill will get absorbed and you receive the benefits about 30 min later. Liquid extracts pass quickly, get absorbed through the walls of your small intestine, and about 95% makes it into your cells in a matter of minutes.
When you choose to use the Lifecykel mushroom extracts you can get from my La Plata, MD studio, your double extracts are combined with a native Australian fruit called a kakadu plum. The kakadu plum contains 100 times more vitamin C than an orange and bumps up the anti-oxidant and immune effectiveness of your chosen mushroom!
Liquid extracts can be sprayed directly into your mouth, dropped under your tongue, added to a bit of water in a shot class, mixed in with your morning tea or coffee (along with Fulvic and Humic Minerals), blended in your smoothie, or added to your bowl of soup. Be creative!
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