| By Cathleen Vought, MSc

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS

Many people associate mushrooms with food. However, several species of mushroom have medicinal properties that are just now being uncovered by the western world. They come from traditional Chinese medicine with roots that stretch back thousands of years. They provide antioxidant defense against free radicals, act as a complementary cancer treatment, moderate blood sugar levels, improve cholesterol levels, increase nerve growth factor and boost athletic performance.

Is it any wonder that mushroom supplements are becoming more popular on a daily basis? In this article, we'll discuss some benefits of specific medicinal mushrooms. Specifically, we'll focus on the benefits that have seen the biggest results in double blind studies.

What Are Some Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms?

health benefits of reishi mushroomsReishi Mushroom

The reishi mushroom has a strong reputation for fighting cancer by improving immune response. It also fights free radicals in the body. This mechanism relates to the high levels of antioxidants, amino acids, polysaccharides and beta-glucans found in the mushrooms. They help the body fight cancer while reducing the side effects of chemotherapy. It's tested against the human papillomavirus (HPV) virus which can cause cervical cancer. It also has a reputation for fighting lung, colorectal and breast cancer. A survey of over 4,000 breast cancer survivors found 59% had used the mushrooms.

In part, this happens because of reishi's impact on inflammation in white blood cells. It also has the ability to encourage the growth of specific white blood cell types. The anti-inflammatory effect works well on a range of inflammatory conditions. These include allergies and arthritis, which are caused by inflammation in the white blood cells.

Related: Medicinal mushrooms in the 21st century (in-depth exclusive)

Reishi also impacts cholesterol and serious blood pressure issues. It lowers triglycerides while raising HDL, or good cholesterol. The mushroom's triterpenes lower serious high blood pressure. However, make sure to get medical advice before starting to use it. It's so powerful, it can cause low blood pressure when taken with blood pressure medication. Reishi also improves circulation.

Reishi is an adaptogen, which allows it to provide support to the liver during detox, acting as a hepatoprotective compound. It also allows the mushroom to support your system during times of stress and fatigue. It can also moderate your adrenal system to keep hormone levels stable. This impacts your mental health, making reishi a great option for depression, anxiety, lack of motivation and insomnia.

health benefits of turkey tail mushroomTurkey Tail Mushroom

Turkey tail mushrooms have a wide range of medical benefits. Named for their striking color bands, they're high in potassium, niacin and riboflavin. They're also good sources for pantothenic acid, copper and phosphorus. Unlike some medicinal mushrooms, they're also very low in sodium. This makes them a good option if high blood pressure or related diseases are a problem. With 18 amino acids, ergosterol and beta-glucans, the turkey tail mushroom is a nutritional powerhouse. It also helps you produce vitamin D when you get a little sunlight.

They have been used to treat cancer, often being used following a four-week chemotherapy course. This helps fight the cancer with turkey tail's anti-tumor properties. It also boosts the immune system, which ties into its traditional Chinese medicine use as a health tonic. Polysaccharides including PSK and PSP have been isolated and used for cancer treatments in Japan. Study patients have had significantly stronger survival rates. It works well in digestive-tract cancers, including gastric, colon and colorectal cancers, as well as breast cancer.

It's also safe for long-term use. It can be taken daily at a dosage of 3 grams for up to seven years and dosages of 1 gram daily for up to ten years. That's why it boosts long-term cancer survival, with one study showing a 9% increase in 5-year survival rates. The mushroom also contains important prebiotics. These compounds nourish gut bacteria, providing healthier gut flora. This results in reduced digestive-tract issues.

Turkey tail mushrooms have solid antiviral properties. These effectively treat the common cold, flu and HPV, which can cause cervical cancer. At the same time, it modulates the immune system to boost immunity. It can lower glucose levels in the blood of patients with diabetes, keeping blood sugar under control. It can reduce inflammation both internally and externally. It also provides vitamin E and antioxidants to the skin for a younger appearance. Turkey tail can also lower cholesterol, improve bone health and boost bone marrow production.

health benefits of cordyceps mushroomCordyceps Mushroom

The cordyceps mushroom is a powerhouse for those facing type 2 diabetes by balancing blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. This is mainly due to the presence of d-mannitol cordycepin and 3-deoxyadenosine by acting in the place of insulin. The mushroom also boosts kidney function and protects the kidneys by lowering blood pressure. This reduces related inflammation in and damage to the pancreas's insulin-producing beta cells. Because of this process, it's easier for your body to produce its own insulin.

These same factors make it a great option for kidney and liver support. It reduces swelling from hepatitis B. It even improves kidney transplant one-year survival, reduction of rejection, lower infection and long-term function. It reduces damage to the kidneys from contrast dyes, cyclosporine and amikacin antibiotics.

It's also another immune-building powerhouse. It builds the immune system even after radiation and chemotherapies for cancer by reducing leucopenia. Anti-inflammatory effects from beta-glucans and cordycepin decrease inflammation markers.

At the same time, it improves oxygen supply to reduce inflammation at the cellular level. These compounds also reduce inflammation in degenerative disc disease, asthma, Crohn's disease, leaky gut syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, myocarditis, topical irritations and auto-immune disorders. The compounds found in cordyceps work on your body's adenosine receptors to reduce inflammation.

The cordyceps mushroom is also a popular adaptogen, credited with record-breaking Olympic performance. It improves lactate thresholds by 10.5% and ventilatory threshold by 8.5%. Cordyceps also lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol, raises HDL (good) cholesterol and decreases total cholesterol. It's been used to moderate heart arrhythmia and is cardio-protective. High adenosine content boosts ATP production for cellular energy. It can protect against overoxidation from overtraining. The tonic effects can also help boost the libido and balance hormone production.

Related: Best medicinal mushrooms for health, according to the experts
Related: Medicinal mushrooms in the 21st century (in-depth exclusive)

health benefits of lion's mane mushroom
Lion's Mane Mushroom

Hericium erinaceus, or the lion's mane mushroom, stands out from the rest for its phenomenal effect on the mind. It's neuroprotective, neurotropic and beneficial to cognitive abilities. It's used in both Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's disease to protect against brain cell death, regrow damaged nerve cells and improve cognitive function. It's used to treat neuropathy and to improve recovery times in spinal cord injuries and retinal nerves in the eye. These same functions also improve recovery and reduce damage from ischemic stroke, improve focus and similar benefits.

Some of these benefits also help with stress, fatigue and insomnia by returning you to a regular circadian rhythm. Its anti-inflammatory effects are used to reduce the impact of depression and anxiety. The neurotropic and neuroprotective effects improve hippocampus function, improving moderation of emotions and memories.

Anti-inflammatory actions in the lion's mane mushroom can protect against or shrink existing gastric ulcers. It also reduces stress. The mushroom reduces inflammation in fatty tissues. This reduces the risk of metabolic disorders including stroke, heart disease and diabetes. It moderates diabetic symptoms including blood sugar and insulin sensitivity.

Lion's mane mushroom prevents increases in LDL or bad cholesterol, increases HDL (good) cholesterol and reduces triglycerides. Studies show it can reduce cholesterol oxidation. It also boosts immune-system function. This works against cancer by reducing leukemia cancer cells. It also arrests or causes cancer cell death in gastric, lung, cervical, liver, colon and breast cancers. It's even capable of inhibiting metastasis, making it a powerhouse for late-stage cancers.

health benefits of shiitake mushroomShiitake Mushroom

As the second-most consumed mushroom worldwide, shiitake mushrooms have a range of benefits to help boost your health. Its anti-tumor properties have shown the ability to prevent tumor formation in individuals with higher risks of breast cancer. This makes it a great preventative if you have a family history of this disease. It also inhibits tumors that have formed.

A polysaccharide called lentinan can actually induce apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in cancer cells. Because it leaves neighboring cells healthy and functioning, it's a safer treatment option in some cases.

Shiitake mushrooms also act as an anti-inflammatory. They treat arthritis, gout, inflammatory bowel conditions, migraines and more. It can improve circulation, partially due to its high copper content. As a micronutrient, we tend to ignore this important mineral. Having it in sufficient amount improves iron intake, vital to the production of red blood cells. This makes it a good treatment option for anemia.

The mushrooms are a nutritional powerhouse. They provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals and other compounds to promote health. These compounds help improve energy, treat stress and reduce oxidative stress. Some compounds reduce cholesterol production by the liver. This lowers overall cholesterol levels. The compound eritadenine keeps the blood vessels from contracting, lowering high blood pressure. It's one of the few mushrooms with antibiotic and antifungal properties, keeping your mouth healthy.

They also have properties that help keep you looking and feeling great. Higher levels of selenium help your skin combat acne. Antioxidants help defend your skin from signs of aging. The vitamin C and copper content boost your collagen production. This keeps your skin elastic and your hair and nails looking great. A low-calorie density of 35 calories per 100 grams makes it easy to eat a filling meal without gaining weight. It stimulates your circulation and metabolism. This makes it easier to get extra weight off and keep it off.

 

health benefits of chagaChaga Mushroom

The chaga mushroom is not well known in western culture. Its history goes back thousands of years. Legends speak of its use by Otzi the Iceman and Tsar Vladimir Monomakh in the 12th century to treat a cancer of the lip. Due to its bitter flavor, chaga is not commonly used as an edible mushroom. However, its many benefits far outweigh the flavor. Its documented use goes back to 16th century Russian and northern European medical texts. In these documents, it was recommended it for tuberculous, cancer, gastritis and ulcers. This history is borne out in many cases by modern double blind studies.

In cancer, it's used to suppress cancer and slow the progression of the disease. It's especially effective in lung, breast, melanoma and colorectal cancers. It is both anti-mutagenic as well as antitumor. At the same time, antioxidant properties keep your body's cells operating properly. This reduces the risk of cancer. Because of its mode of action, it can kill cancer cells without damaging surrounding tissues. This is a process that is difficult in radiation therapies. It's virtually impossible in chemotherapy, which spreads the chemicals used throughout the body.

Chaga supports the liver and kidneys by reducing inflammation, fibrosis and oxidative damage to liver cells. The mushroom also improves cardiovascular function, especially that which is age-related. It can manage this by reducing oxidative stress and improving the health of heart muscle cells. Patients with diabetes have seen improvements in metabolism and better blood sugar management. This is why chaga mushrooms are a popular tonic for those facing serious diseases requiring ongoing management.

It reduces histamine response to allergens, lowering the overall symptoms and severity of allergy attacks. The anti-inflammatory response of chaga mushrooms helps open the airways. This makes it easier to breathe following an allergy or asthma attack. This same response helps with inflammatory bowel disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease, by reducing symptoms. It also has antiviral properties against herpes and hepatitis C.

In Conclusion

A wide range of mushroom products is available on the open market. By understanding the many benefits of different types of medicinal mushrooms, you can enjoy better health. At the same time, you can avoid many of the dangerous side effects of modern scientific pharmacopeia. But the results you get are only as good as the products you use.

This is why you'll want to stick to high-quality dried mushrooms, extracts and similar mushroom products. They deliver the best possible results. Take the time to research the brands that you're using. Check their quality control practices, how they handle their mushrooms and if they use laboratory testing. This will ensure that you're getting what you're paying for.

Many people associate mushrooms with food. However, several species of mushroom have medicinal properties that are just now being uncovered by the western world. They come from traditional Chinese medicine with roots that stretch back thousands of years. They provide antioxidant defense against free radicals, act as a complementary cancer treatment, moderate blood sugar levels, improve cholesterol levels, increase nerve growth factor and boost athletic performance.

Is it any wonder that mushroom supplements are becoming more popular on a daily basis? In this article, we'll discuss some benefits of specific medicinal mushrooms. Specifically, we'll focus on the benefits that have seen the biggest results in double blind studies.

 

REISHI MUSHROOM

The reishi mushroom has a strong reputation for fighting cancer by improving immune response. It also fights free radicals in the body. This mechanism relates to the high levels of antioxidants, amino acids, polysaccharides and beta-glucans found in the mushrooms. They help the body fight cancer while reducing the side effects of chemotherapy. It's tested against the human papillomavirus (HPV) virus which can cause cervical cancer. It also has a reputation for fighting lung, colorectal and breast cancer. A survey of over 4,000 breast cancer survivors found 59% had used the mushrooms.

In part, this happens because of reishi's impact on inflammation in white blood cells. It also has the ability to encourage the growth of specific white blood cell types. The anti-inflammatory effect works well on a range of inflammatory conditions. These include allergies and arthritis, which are caused by inflammation in the white blood cells.

Reishi also impacts cholesterol and serious blood pressure issues. It lowers triglycerides while raising HDL, or good cholesterol. The mushroom's triterpenes lower serious high blood pressure. However, make sure to get medical advice before starting to use it. It's so powerful, it can cause low blood pressure when taken with blood pressure medication. Reishi also improves circulation.

Reishi is an adaptogen, which allows it to provide support to the liver during detox, acting as a hepatoprotective compound. It also allows the mushroom to support your system during times of stress and fatigue. It can also moderate your adrenal system to keep hormone levels stable. This impacts your mental health, making reishi a great option for depression, anxiety, lack of motivation and insomnia.

 

TURKEY TAIL MUSHROOM

Turkey tail mushrooms have a wide range of medical benefits. Named for their striking color bands, they're high in potassium, niacin and riboflavin. They're also good sources for pantothenic acid, copper and phosphorus. Unlike some medicinal mushrooms, they're also very low in sodium. This makes them a good option if high blood pressure or related diseases are a problem. With 18 amino acids, ergosterol and beta-glucans, the turkey tail mushroom is a nutritional powerhouse. It also helps you produce vitamin D when you get a little sunlight.

They have been used to treat cancer, often being used following a four-week chemotherapy course. This helps fight the cancer with turkey tail's anti-tumor properties. It also boosts the immune system, which ties into its traditional Chinese medicine use as a health tonic. Polysaccharides including PSK and PSP have been isolated and used for cancer treatments in Japan. Study patients have had significantly stronger survival rates. It works well in digestive-tract cancers, including gastric, colon and colorectal cancers, as well as breast cancer.

It's also safe for long-term use. It can be taken daily at a dosage of 3 grams for up to seven years and dosages of 1 gram daily for up to ten years. That's why it boosts long-term cancer survival, with one study showing a 9% increase in 5-year survival rates. The mushroom also contains important prebiotics. These compounds nourish gut bacteria, providing healthier gut flora. This results in reduced digestive-tract issues.

Turkey tail mushrooms have solid antiviral properties. These effectively treat the common cold, flu and HPV, which can cause cervical cancer. At the same time, it modulates the immune system to boost immunity. It can lower glucose levels in the blood of patients with diabetes, keeping blood sugar under control. It can reduce inflammation both internally and externally. It also provides vitamin E and antioxidants to the skin for a younger appearance. Turkey tail can also lower cholesterol, improve bone health and boost bone marrow production.

 

CHAGA MUSHROOM

The chaga mushroom is not well known in western culture. Its history goes back thousands of years. Legends speak of its use by Otzi the Iceman and Tsar Vladimir Monomakh in the 12th century to treat a cancer of the lip. Due to its bitter flavor, chaga is not commonly used as an edible mushroom. However, its many benefits far outweigh the flavor. Its documented use goes back to 16th century Russian and northern European medical texts. In these documents, it was recommended it for tuberculous, cancer, gastritis and ulcers. This history is borne out in many cases by modern double blind studies.

In cancer, it's used to suppress cancer and slow the progression of the disease. It's especially effective in lung, breast, melanoma and colorectal cancers. It is both anti-mutagenic as well as antitumor. At the same time, antioxidant properties keep your body's cells operating properly. This reduces the risk of cancer. Because of its mode of action, it can kill cancer cells without damaging surrounding tissues. This is a process that is difficult in radiation therapies. It's virtually impossible in chemotherapy, which spreads the chemicals used throughout the body.

Chaga supports the liver and kidneys by reducing inflammation, fibrosis and oxidative damage to liver cells. The mushroom also improves cardiovascular function, especially that which is age-related. It can manage this by reducing oxidative stress and improving the health of heart muscle cells. Patients with diabetes have seen improvements in metabolism and better blood sugar management. This is why chaga mushrooms are a popular tonic for those facing serious diseases requiring ongoing management.

It reduces histamine response to allergens, lowering the overall symptoms and severity of allergy attacks. The anti-inflammatory response of chaga mushrooms helps open the airways. This makes it easier to breathe following an allergy or asthma attack. This same response helps with inflammatory bowel disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease, by reducing symptoms. It also has antiviral properties against herpes and hepatitis C.

LION'S MANE MUSHROOM

Hericium erinaceus, or the lion's mane mushroom, stands out from the rest for its phenomenal effect on the mind. It's neuroprotective, neurotropic and beneficial to cognitive abilities. It's used in both Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's disease to protect against brain cell death, regrow damaged nerve cells and improve cognitive function. It's used to treat neuropathy and to improve recovery times in spinal cord injuries and retinal nerves in the eye. These same functions also improve recovery and reduce damage from ischemic stroke, improve focus and similar benefits.

 

Some of these benefits also help with stress, fatigue and insomnia by returning you to a regular circadian rhythm. Its anti-inflammatory effects are used to reduce the impact of depression and anxiety. The neurotropic and neuroprotective effects improve hippocampus function, improving moderation of emotions and memories.

 

Anti-inflammatory actions in the lion's mane mushroom can protect against or shrink existing gastric ulcers. It also reduces stress. The mushroom reduces inflammation in fatty tissues. This reduces the risk of metabolic disorders including stroke, heart disease and diabetes. It moderates diabetic symptoms including blood sugar and insulin sensitivity.

 

Lion's mane mushroom prevents increases in LDL or bad cholesterol, increases HDL (good) cholesterol and reduces triglycerides. Studies show it can reduce cholesterol oxidation. It also boosts immune-system function. This works against cancer by reducing leukemia cancer cells. It also arrests or causes cancer cell death in gastric, lung, cervical, liver, colon and breast cancers. It's even capable of inhibiting metastasis, making it a powerhouse for late-stage cancers.

CORDYCEPS MUSHROOM

The cordyceps mushroom is a powerhouse for those facing type 2 diabetes by balancing blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. This is mainly due to the presence of d-mannitol cordycepin and 3-deoxyadenosine by acting in the place of insulin. The mushroom also boosts kidney function and protects the kidneys by lowering blood pressure. This reduces related inflammation in and damage to the pancreas's insulin-producing beta cells. Because of this process, it's easier for your body to produce its own insulin.

These same factors make it a great option for kidney and liver support. It reduces swelling from hepatitis B. It even improves kidney transplant one-year survival, reduction of rejection, lower infection and long-term function. It reduces damage to the kidneys from contrast dyes, cyclosporine and amikacin antibiotics.

It's also another immune-building powerhouse. It builds the immune system even after radiation and chemotherapies for cancer by reducing leucopenia. Anti-inflammatory effects from beta-glucans and cordycepin decrease inflammation markers.

At the same time, it improves oxygen supply to reduce inflammation at the cellular level. These compounds also reduce inflammation in degenerative disc disease, asthma, Crohn's disease, leaky gut syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, myocarditis, topical irritations and auto-immune disorders. The compounds found in cordyceps work on your body's adenosine receptors to reduce inflammation.

The cordyceps mushroom is also a popular adaptogen, credited with record-breaking Olympic performance. It improves lactate thresholds by 10.5% and ventilatory threshold by 8.5%. Cordyceps also lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol, raises HDL (good) cholesterol and decreases total cholesterol. It's been used to moderate heart arrhythmia and is cardio-protective. High adenosine content boosts ATP production for cellular energy. It can protect against overoxidation from overtraining. The tonic effects can also help boost the libido and balance hormone production.

SHIITAKE MUSHROOM

As the second-most consumed mushroom worldwide, shiitake mushrooms have a range of benefits to help boost your health. Its anti-tumor properties have shown the ability to prevent tumor formation in individuals with higher risks of breast cancer. This makes it a great preventative if you have a family history of this disease. It also inhibits tumors that have formed.

 

A polysaccharide called lentinan can actually induce apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in cancer cells. Because it leaves neighboring cells healthy and functioning, it's a safer treatment option in some cases.

 

Shiitake mushrooms also act as an anti-inflammatory. They treat arthritis, gout, inflammatory bowel conditions, migraines and more. It can improve circulation, partially due to its high copper content. As a micronutrient, we tend to ignore this important mineral. Having it in sufficient amount improves iron intake, vital to the production of red blood cells. This makes it a good treatment option for anemia.

 

The mushrooms are a nutritional powerhouse. They provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals and other compounds to promote health. These compounds help improve energy, treat stress and reduce oxidative stress. Some compounds reduce cholesterol production by the liver. This lowers overall cholesterol levels. The compound eritadenine keeps the blood vessels from contracting, lowering high blood pressure. It's one of the few mushrooms with antibiotic and antifungal properties, keeping your mouth healthy.

 

They also have properties that help keep you looking and feeling great. Higher levels of selenium help your skin combat acne. Antioxidants help defend your skin from signs of aging. The vitamin C and copper content boost your collagen production. This keeps your skin elastic and your hair and nails looking great. A low-calorie density of 35 calories per 100 grams makes it easy to eat a filling meal without gaining weight. It stimulates your circulation and metabolism. This makes it easier to get extra weight off and keep it off.

IN CONCLUSION

wide range of mushroom products is available on the open market. By understanding the many benefits of different types of medicinal mushrooms, you can enjoy better health. At the same time, you can avoid many of the dangerous side effects of modern scientific pharmacopeia. But the results you get are only as good as the products you use.

This is why you'll want to stick to high-quality dried mushrooms, extracts and similar mushroom products. They deliver the best possible results. Take the time to research the brands that you're using. Check their quality control practices, how they handle their mushrooms and if they use laboratory testing. This will ensure that you're getting what you're paying for.

CATHLEEN VOUGHT, MSC

Cathleen Vought, MSc in Plant Sciences, writes about issues at the intersection of agriculture, sustainability and human health. She lives on her family farm in southwest Missouri teaching about wild edible and medicinal plants to students in the area, helping hundreds of people find self-sufficiency, local foods and plant medicines as close as their own backyard.

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