What Are Medicinal Mushrooms?

All of a sudden, medicinal mushrooms are garnering mainstream adoption. At your local grocery stores, you will now most likely be able to find at least one product that incorporates medicinal mushrooms. On social media platforms, whether it's a coffee, tea, hot chocolate mix, the incorporation of medicinal mushrooms is booming. So why is there a sudden interest in the benefits of medicinal mushrooms? Continue reading to explore further into what medicinal mushrooms are, the benefits of medicinal mushrooms, and some key public figures who have helped spread the word of these mushrooms in becoming a common kitchen staple. 

What are Medicinal Mushrooms?

Medicinal mushrooms, also known as functional mushrooms, have been used by humans for thousands of years. Most commonly, medicinal mushrooms have been used in East Asian medicine for their health boosting properties. Although around in various cultures for thousands of years, only recently has modern science rediscovered what our ancestors have known for quite some time - mushrooms can be a staple in human's medicine chest for their natural healing powers. 

Differentiating between "normal" mushrooms, or the mushrooms you most commonly find at restaurants and in your fridge, medicinal mushrooms contain a high density of polysaccharides and provide a number of benefits when consumed regularly. Mushrooms labeled as medicinal or functional can help support immune health, improve mental health, heart health, decrease inflammation, stablize blood sugar levels, and a number of other overall health and wellness benefits such better digestions and sleep. Some medicinal mushrooms are consumed in their natural state or can be processed to isolate the active metabolites to be consumed as a supplement format. 

The most popular medicinal mushrooms include Reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum), Lion's Mane Mushroom (Hericium Erinaceus), Turkey Tail Mushroom (Coriolus Versicolor), Chaga Mushroom (Inonotus obliquus), and Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris). 

What are the benefits of medicinal mushrooms?

The benefits of medicinal mushrooms vary between the type of mushrooms. 

Benefits of Reishi Mushroom

  • Improves mood and reduces stress
  • Anti-fatigue properties
  • Improves cardiovascular health
  • Strengthens immunity
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Reduces cholesterol levels
  • Reduces allergic reactions
  • Anti-cancer properties

Benefits of Lion's Mane Mushroom

  • Improves cognitive function
  • Protects against dementia
  • Reduces anxiety and depression
  • Reduces high blood pressure
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Improves gut health
  • Helps regulate diabetes
  • Neurodegenerative disease support

Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushroom

  • Improves the immune system
  • Improves gut health and digestion
  • Supports a healthy inflammation 
response
  • Supports liver health
  • Regulates blood sugar levels
  • Strengthens respiratory health
  • Anti-cancer & anti-viral properties

 Benefits of Chaga Mushroom 

  • High levels of antioxidants
  • Strengthens immunity
  • Strengthens heart health
  • Strengthens liver health
  • Helps lower blood sugar and improve 
insulin sensitivity
  • Anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and 
anti-cancer properties

Benefits of Cordyceps Mushroom

  • Boosts athletic performance
  • Strengthens respiratory health
  • Improves sexual function
  • Improves heart health
  • Improves immunity
  • Regulates blood sugar levels
  • Improves cognitive function
  • Anti-inflammatory & anti-cancer properties

The Rise of Medicinal Mushrooms 

In the past, medicinal mushrooms were often looked upon as "alternative" medicine. It often correlated with the negative stereotypes of vegans, psychedelics, and natural healers. More recently, with the release of new medical studies, medicinal mushrooms have become a staple in natural medicine. Further, with the growing skepticism on big pharma and the pervasiveness of chemicals, there has been a greater openness to holistic and natural methods of improving mind and body. Incorporation of medicinal mushrooms into daily routines includes a variety of methods, with many brands creating blends that can be easily incorporated into a diet, to supplement capsules or powders, to mushroom extract tinctures. 

In November 2017, Paul Stamets, a famous mycologist and a leading influence in the mushroom world, was interviewed on the highly acclaimed Joe Rogan podcast. Stamets shared the research he has conducted on the interconnectedness of mushrooms and how they can help us with the many modern health issues. This immediately increased exposure and better understanding of the benefits of medicinal mushrooms. 

Since then, many medicinal mushroom brands have grown their reach. Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and the Kardashian sisters have also publicized their use of medicinal mushrooms.   

Although its rich history, many benefits and risks of medicinal mushrooms are still unknown. Scientific research on medicinal mushrooms is limited and more human studies are necessary, but the research that has been conducted so far is promising and correlates with our ancestors experience and the benefits that medicinal mushrooms can provide. 

Are you looking for a way to get started with medicinal mushrooms? Shop Bloomable's Medicinal Mushroom Starter Bundle here

 Image credit: Tamim Teas 

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