There are many scientific studies published showing a host of benefits medicinal mushrooms provide. In fact, the more I look into it, the more I am fascinated by how brilliant they can be. The stand-out benefits of medicinal mushrooms include their antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, and antioxidant capabilities.
They (chaga) contain a high density of antioxidants, phytosterols, and polysaccharides. Antioxidants remove potentially harmful oxidising agents in the body such as free radicals.
Now I am not talking about your average button mushroom you throw into a stir-fry; these are very specific species that have been analysed and are used as more of a supplement or as a boost for your smoothie from time to time. You can even get mushroom-enhanced coffee that gives you less of a jittery buzz and more of a clear head to set you on your way for the day.
These grow on the bark of birch trees and are dark in colour. They contain a high density of antioxidants, phytosterols, and polysaccharides. Antioxidants remove potentially harmful oxidising agents in the body such as free radicals. Phytosterols are the cholesterol of the plant word, and when we consume them they have been shown to help with the metabolism of our own cholesterol, especially when eaten in their natural form.1 Polysaccharides are a carbohydrate molecule and have been shown to enhance memory performance by reducing mental fatigue.2 Chaga also seem to have anticancer effects, and can rapidly decrease tumour size.3
Next we have reishi, a herbal mushroom popular in Chinese medicine. This one looks a bit more like an actual mushroom as we know it. It has been studied with regard to cancer treatment, and shown to be very potent against tumours. It also has possible therapeutic potential when used as a supplement in patients with breast and prostate cancer.4 There has been great promise with reishi mushroom enhancing the power of the immune system, helping to keep good cells intact along with the prevention of cell invasion from cancer cells.5
Search the web for images of these guys and you might end up with nightmares as they’re kind of creepy. I wonder who decided that they look like a good thing to eat. They wouldn’t look out of place deep down in the sea were all the weird creatures are found! Again big in the world of Chinese medicine, these are used to treat coughs and respiratory disorders. Amongst a whole host of others studies, cordyceps have anti-ageing effects by improving brain function and antioxidant enzyme activity.6
How to Include Medicinal Mushrooms in Your Diet
I recently bought some of the mushroom coffee I referred to above. I do like a nice brew in the morning, so why not shake it up with a bit of fungus for a boost? I like the nice mild coffee flavour, and I did feel pretty fresh afterwards. Perhaps too early to tell if I will continue to buy it – I can’t see it replacing my ordinary coffee as it would be a little expensive, but it could become a treat coffee to have at the weekends.
I have also purchased a mushroom immune booster. I am not going to take it all the time, but I think it’s certainly something for the cupboard. If I feel an attack on the immune system coming on I’ll give it a try.
I think the scientific studies on these mushrooms are amazing and shows that this isn’t just a crazy wizard in the forest playing around with a cauldron. You will see from the references that there is some solid studies worth reading over. Furthermore I have only mentioned a few of the positive findings, there are many more such as anti-fatigue and energy-boosting improvements. It blows my mind how amazing these mushrooms are and I can’t believe their benefits aren’t bigger news!
Have you tried medicinal mushrooms? Will you have a go at hacking your energy levels and immunity? I know I will!
- Ostlund, R. (2004). Phytosterols and Cholesterol Metabolism. In Current Opinion in Lipidology, 15(1), 37–41. Retrieved 28 April 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15166807
- Best, T., Howe, P., Bryan, J., et al. (2014). Acute Effects of a Dietary Non-starch Polysaccharide Supplement on Cognitive Performance in Healthy Middle-aged Adults. In Nutritional Neuroscience, 18(2), 76–86. Retrieved 28 April 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24621069
- Lemieszek, M., Langner, E., Kaczor, J., et al. (2011). Anticancer Effects of Fraction Isolated from Fruiting Bodies of Chaga Medicinal Mushroom, Inonotus obliquus (Pers.:Fr.) Pilát (Aphyllophoromycetideae): In Vitro Studies. In International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 13(2), 131–43. Retrieved 28 April 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22135889
- Sliva, D. (2004). Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) in Cancer Treatment. In Integrative Cancer Therapies, 2(4), 358–64. Retrieved 28 April 2016, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/8928055_Ganoderma_Lucidum_Reishi_in_Cancer_Treatment
- Martínez-Montemayor, M.M., Acevedo, R.R., Otero-Franqui, E., et al. (2011). Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) Inhibits Cancer Cell Growth and Expression of Key Molecules in Inflammatory Breast Cancer. In Nutrition and Cancer, 63(7), 1085–1094. Retrieved 28 April 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21888505
- Ji, D., Ye, J., Li, C., et al. (2008). Antiaging Effect of Cordyceps sinensis Extract. In Phytotherapy Research, 23(1), 116–22. Retrieved 28 April 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4387898/