Medicine from the Earth
The use of medicinal mushroom powder has become increasingly popular over the last year or so, but does it truly have any benefits? The truth of the matter is that mushrooms are a fungus full of nutrition including many B vitamins, and minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and fiber. They are also a leading source of selenium, an antioxidant that aids in immunity. Mushrooms have been used throughout history as medicine, food, poison, and within religious practices since 5000BCE and are still popular today!
What Kinds of Mushrooms are There and What do They Do?
Turkey Tail: Gets its name for it’s coloring that resembles a turkey tail, grows on dead logs in Canada and the U.S. Known for a compound called Polysaccharide K (used in Japan to treat cancer). Many studies have been done to explore its affect on immune cell repair.
King Trumpet: Also known as King Oyster mushrooms. Grown in Japan and the U.S. but originated in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Contain high levels of an antioxidant called ergothioneine, which works to protect organs under high stress such as the liver, eyes, and kidneys.
Cordyceps: Traditional in Chinese and Tibetan medicine. Grows in Sikkim, India at an elevation above 12,000ft in the Himalayan Mountains. Grows from a caterpillar and fungus combination. Thought to aid in increased energy, appetite, stamina, libido, endurance, and sleep patterns.
Reishi: Grows on live plum and oak trees. Used for many years in East Asia, and thought to promote a long life, anti aging, and energy levels. Also thought to have cardiovascular, antiviral and antibacterial effects. The active compounds of reishi mushrooms include polysaccharides like beta-glucans. Studies are being done to see how reishi helps the immune system of cancer patients.
Lions Mane: Grows on dead logs throughout the U.S. Thought to aid with inflammation and improve brain and heart health. Filled with antioxidants to strengthen the immune system. There is continuing research to see if this mushroom can help with anxiety, depression, and nerve function.
Chaga: Traditionally used in parts of Asia, Russia, and Northern Europe, Chaga grows on birch trees in areas that are cold. Thought to increase immunity and improve health overall. Chaga mushrooms are full of fiber and antioxidants. They also have a protein that helps prevent blood clots. Current research is still being done.
Shiitake: Originated from East Asia. One of the most nutritionally packed mushrooms, Shiitakes are full of B vitamins and minerals, especially copper and selenium. These are thought to strengthen the immune system, have anti-cancer properties, and also have antiviral/antibacterial effects. Shiitake are known for their great flavor they add to meals (umami).
Maitake: Grows at the base of Oak trees and is traditionally found in Northeast Japan as well as the U.S. Thought to help organ function due to its high content of antioxidants, tocopherols, phenols, and carotenoids. Some research supports polysaccharides found in Maitake mushrooms to help lower blood glucose for people with type 2 diabetes.
Tulsi: Originated in central India, but is now grown throughout the eastern tropics. Tulsi is a shrub of the basil family and is known as “The Queen of Herbs” in Ayurveda* and is thought to help the mind, body, and spirit. It is even used ceremonially to create “holy water” in Hinduism. Through research, Tulsi has been found to be an antimicrobial and provides protection against toxins including pesticides. It is also sometimes used in animal rearing to reduce infections that animals may be susceptible to.
Ultimately there are many reasons one might decide to include medicinal mushrooms into thier daily routine, and there are many different varieties to choose from! Mushroom powder can be added to a smoothie, coffee and tea, or hot water for a quick boost of nutrition. You might truly find benefits from consuming this ancient treasure, however, remember that these powders are considered supplements and should be discussed with a doctor before for potential drug interactions or side effects.
*Ayurveda implements a holistic approach of looking at health that implements lifestyle changes to promote longevity and vitality.