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Medicinal Mushrooms And Their 'Magical' Benefits!

Medicinal Mushrooms And Their 'Magical' Benefits!

Various health experts are increasingly touting mushrooms as a panacea for all health issues. The scope of these fungi has extended beyond the traditional stir-fry mushrooms to more functional mushrooms that provide added medical benefits in terms of boosting health and enhancing wellness. Numerous exotic varieties are now hitting the market, and these are increasingly used in shakes, smoothies etc. for a fun-filled breakfast.

Not all medicinal mushrooms can be cooked and consumed in the same way as the traditional buttons, truffles and oysters. Hence one can consume them in the form of supplements. However, the species of mushrooms is quite diverse, with different strengths. Hence one must understand them before looking for a mushroom supplement to get the maximum benefit.

4 Popular Medicinal Mushrooms And Their Benefits

Here are four popular medicinal mushrooms and how they benefit us. [1] 

1. REISHI: A Great Stress Buster

Botanical Name: Ganoderma lucidum

Reishi, also known as lingzhi mushroom, is a native to China and has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. Given its innumerable benefits, reishi is often known as the "mushroom of immortality", '’lucky fungus'’ etc. and finds its place amongst the coveted list of 'King of Herbs."  

Medicinal Benefits:

Ganoderma lucidum produces ganoderic acids whose molecular structure resembles that of steroid hormones. Additionally, it also contains compounds like polysaccharides, coumarins, alkaloids etc. that possess anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating and antitumor properties.

Reishi enhances the immune system by strengthening the body's defence cells and is considered an alternative adjunct to traditional treatment.[2] Reishi also possesses cardio protecting and antioxidant properties[3] and hence is researched for its potential to reduce blood pressure and enhance cardiovascular health. It has also been found to have prostate healing properties.[5]

Consumption:

Reishi possesses a bitter taste and hence is taken as a hot water extract. The fibres of this mushroom cannot be digested easily, and hence they are popular as supplements or herbal additions with tea and coffee. [6] People prone to allergies have found relief in this way with reishi.  

Reishi mushroom as against other medicinal mushrooms offers long-term benefits, and hence it is 'The Ultimate Mushroom To Go’; for enhancing the biomarkers for long-standing health.

2. CHAGA:  Great for Common Cold and Potent Superfood

Botanical Name: Inonotus obliquus

Chaga belongs to the parasitic variety, growing on birch trees in cold climates with a dissuading burnt appearance. Chaga mushroom has been in use for more than a hundred years in Russia.

Medicinal Benefits: 

Chaga is very rich in antioxidants and is supposed to have one of the highest antioxidant capacities as compared to any other food.

Chaga has proven in vitro to have anti-tumour[7], anti-viral [8], antioxidant [9], anti-diabetic [10] properties as well as possess analgesic effects [11].

Here are some cool details about Chaga: [12]

  • Chaga’s DNA is 30% closer to human DNA in comparison to other plant DNA
  • There are 29 different polysaccharides found in Chaga, and this is perhaps the most potent fungi against tumours.
  • There are zero toxic compounds found in Chaga.
  • Chaga has the highest ORAC score (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), meaning it has the highest antioxidant value recorded than in any other natural food.
  • Finlanders began using Chaga as a substitute for coffee.

Consumption:

Chaga mushroom is bitter, and hot water or alcohol is needed to break its robust cell membranes. Hence it is used along with coffee or tea. In fact, during the world wars, Chaga mushroom coffee was quite popular, given its ability to augment energy levels in a more steady way than caffeine. However, it must be used with caution when consumed with other medicines as it is quite potent and may disrupt the effects of the other medication. 

As Chaga is potent, it’s best consumed in the form of supplements as one can have control over the dosage.

To know more about these supplements, head here!

3. Lion’s Mane: Better Focus and Improved Memory

Botanical Name: Hericium erinaceus

Lion's Mane reminds us of detective Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane", hinting that the term Lion's Mane is not used with any ordinary stuff.

One of the exciting and good-looking mushrooms; the Lion’s Mane mushroom has a distinctive look compared to other fungi, as it resembles the mane of a lion. It also possesses the strength of the jungle king, given its immense ability to repair as well as regenerate neurons, protect the nervous system and also help to treat depression and anxiety and boost memory.

Medicinal Benefits:

Hericium erinaceus is loaded with many polysaccharides, like B-glucan, that protect and boost the immune system. 

Lion’s Mane mushroom can improve cognitive function as it stimulates the nerve growth factor (NGF) through its compounds hericenones and erinacenes. [13] A study upon a group of 30 subjects who consumed Lion's Mane Mushroom supplement demonstrated considerable improvement in cognitive skills as against the placebo group that demonstrated no change.[14] 

Lion’s Mane may also alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression as proven by a study in Japan that showed subjects who were on Lion’s Mane supplement for four weeks demonstrated more concentration and improved memory in addition to lesser anxiety and irritation.[15] 

Lion’s Mane is thus efficient in preserving, repairing and enhancing the cognitive functions and hence this mushroom is ideal for memory, performance and emotional wellness as well.

Consumption:

Lion's Mane is palatable with a sweet-savoury flavour and a meaty texture. It is also available in the form of a herbal supplement or tea. One can consume Lion's mane supplements in the form of a capsule, tablet, powder or tincture kind. 

4. CORDYCEPS: Energy Booster, Vitality and Endurance

Botanical Name: Ophiocordyceps sinensis and Ophiocordyceps militaris

This strange-looking fungus is harvested on the surface of caterpillars of high altitude regions, and hence it is also known as the 'caterpillar fungus'. Cordyceps was used popularly in Chinese medicines and was a prized commodity due to its difficulty in harvesting. However, nowadays there are many ways to develop it in laboratories, and hence this mushroom is gaining popularity.

Medical Benefits:

Cordyceps help to boost athletic performance as they enhance the Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels in the body.[16] Abundant ATP helps in strenuous activities like sprints, mountain climbing, etc.

The 1993 Beijing National Games, and the Stuttgart World Games in Germany, saw six first-time runners from Liaoning Province who surprisingly broke the track records 17 times. The drug test was negative, and the secret for the terrific athletic performance was known to be a drink containing a hefty dose of cordyceps and other herbs in a perfect blend. [17]

Cordyceps supplementation enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercises by improving blood flow, enabling more oxygen utilization and by acting as an antioxidant. [18] A study published in High Altitude Medicine and Biology (a journal that covers various medical and biological issues impacting human life at high altitudes) showed better aerobic endurance levels among runners undergoing altitude training in a high altitude camp. [19] Cordyceps also help to boost testosterone levels and enhance sexual health. [20]

Cordyceps enhances the performance of the immune system by activating it and making it better enabled to fight infections. Various animal studies have proven the efficacy of the immune-boosting capabilities of cordyceps by restoring the suppressed immune system to its proper functionality. [21] 

Cordyceps is the must-go mushroom for endurance sports athletes to enhance their performance and overall health naturally. 

For Cordyceps mushroom capsules, head here!

Mushrooms offer numerous medicinal properties. However, one must choose the correct variety, as some mushrooms tend to be poisonous. Hence, it is best to harvest the benefits of mushroom using natural supplements. There are many mushrooms with multiple benefits that are included in a mushroom supplement. So choose one that best fits your goals!

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