Mushrooms are unique and interesting fungi categorized as vegetables, being distinctly different from plants in their nature and scientific classification. A select few mushroom species have medicinal value, at least enough so that they are harvested and condensed into an oral supplement. Here is a look at some of the most valuable, edible, medicinal mushroom extracts available.
Dietary Mushrooms for Human Health
Mushrooms, or fungi, are a realm of natural life distinct from everything else, including plants. More than 2 million species of fungi have been identified, with roughly 150,000 of them being described scientifically. About 2,000 species are edible, and roughly 200 are deemed medicinal. Medicinal mushrooms are a category of natural remedy all their own.
While there is some overlap, medicinal mushrooms are generally considered distinct from edible mushrooms in pharmaceutical and household settings. A medicinal mushroom is any species of macroscopic fungi which is, “used in the form of extracts or powder for prevention, alleviation, or healing of multiple diseases, and/or in balancing a healthy diet.”
The benefits of medicinal mushrooms have been long sought, with people consuming them for this purpose as long ago as 450 B.C. There are many benefits attributed to medicinal mushrooms which have at least some scientific evidence. Research is ongoing, and more is in order for establishing the efficacy of medicinal mushrooms. Be sure to discuss their use with a health-care professional before adding any to your daily nutritional regimen.
Mushrooms with Many Benefits
The following list contains five of the most recommended medicinal mushrooms, and their various potential benefits. Many different benefits have been attributed to these unique fungi. Some of these are especially beneficial when taken in combination with each other.
Chaga is a mushroom high in antioxidants. Supplementing with concentrated chaga ingredients can result in reduced oxidative stress in the body. This is on account of the natural polysaccharides and polyphenols contained within. Chaga can also support the immune system in fighting infections. It does this in two ways: by regulating the production of cytokines which stimulate white blood cell production, and by reducing bodily inflammation.
Cordyceps, or more specifically Cordyceps sinensis, is a type of fungi which is of a parasitic nature. However, it is known for its medicinal qualities. Among the various species of cordyceps, C. sinensis is the most reliable. Research shows that the compound known as cordycepin can combat inflammation related to arthritis, asthma, and other serious diseases. Cordyceps could also potentially help reduce some of what comes with aging including fatigue and reduced libido.
Maitake is an edible mushroom native to Asia, which is also used medicinally. It has a history of traditional medicinal use. Recently, maitake has been shown in preclinical studies to combat high insulin and lipid levels. For this reason, it is touted for its potential to help manage diabetes. Maitake could also help reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Reishi is another mushroom with a long history of medicinal use in Asia. Reishi mushrooms contain more than 400 different nutrients. These include beta-glucans and other nutrients which can regulate blood sugar levels and blood pressure. Reishi mushrooms can also support the immune system and combat free radicals, which can reduce chronic fatigue and improve energy levels.
Shiitake are one of the most popular mushrooms in the modern diet. They also have prominent medicinal benefits.. Shiitake mushrooms contain lentinan and other compounds which can protect cellular DNA from damage sourced from serious diseases. This fungi is rich in vitamin D and in B vitamins, and has antimicrobial properties which could reduce the presence of pathogenic organisms in the body. Shiitake is often combined with maitake and other mushrooms into a complex mushroom supplement.
Medicinal mushrooms are a unique, natural category of nutraceuticals which can provide many different benefits. The mushroom supplements discussed here are some of the most studied and effective medicinal mushroom products out there. Talk to your healthcare professional about these supplements before trying them.