Medicinal mushrooms are the hottest new superfood and we’re all for it. These funky fungi may not be as glamorous as kale or delicious as acai, but medicinal mushrooms provide your body with unique, mind-blowing benefits.
There are thousands of edible mushroom species and each helps your body in a different way.
adding medicinal mushrooms to your diet
Certain fungi have been used medicinally in eastern cultures since 104 BC, with the Chinese keeping a written record showing the use of Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), what they referred to as “the spirit plant.” Western medicine also adopted medicinal uses for mushrooms, using extracted active ingredients of fungi in penicillin.
Whether you take a lab-coat, doctor approach or a holistic approach to health and wellness, medicinal mushrooms are used across the board.
why are mushrooms so beneficial?
All mushrooms contain beta glucans which help boost your immune system and fight inflammation. Mushrooms are generally used for prevention, but there are some mushrooms that actually treat and fight diseases, like the fungus used in penicillin.
People often neglect mushrooms because of their bitter taste, but if you get a little experimental and creative with your cooking you can incorporate them and blend them into your meals in a tasty and healthy way.
We’ll guide you through how to prepare and eat the different types of medicinal mushrooms.
the best mushrooms to add to your diet
We’ve broken down some the most common species of mushrooms used for medicine and explained what they do for your body, so you can choose which mushrooms are best to add to your diet.
PSA–Medicinal mushrooms are not to be confused with “magic” mushrooms, although their health benefits are as close to magic as it gets. The mushrooms we’re talking about do not make you hallucinate and can be purchased legally. If you are finding them on the black market, your mushroom experience will be a bit different than what we describe here.
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
Besides being loaded with nutrients, Chaga mushrooms have been shown to reduce the activity of free radicals. What does that mean? It means Chaga mushrooms will be your best ally in keeping your skin looking young.
chaga for skin vitality
Free radicals damage the structure of your cell, resulting in wrinkles and damaged skin. Chaga’s high antioxidant properties help your body fight off free radicals to maintain a youthful appearance. These antioxidants are thought to lower the body’s LDL cholesterol which is known as the “bad” cholesterol because of its link to heart disease.
In a study conducted on rats with compromised immune systems daily intake of Chaga showed an increase in production of white blood cells, which helped the rats fight off diseases. Although there have been no human studies on this, those findings sound promising.
how to consume chaga
Chaga pretty much look like a clump of dirt, so cooking with them can be pretty tough. We recommend making a herbal tea with you Chaga and mixing it with a nice blend of herbs you enjoy.
You can also find Chaga in supplement form and incorporate into your daily vitamin intake.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
The Reishi mushroom has also been shown to fight free radicals, making it another anti-aging tool. But Reishi’s real magic is in it immune system benefits.
reishi for immunity
Studies have shown that Reishi contains many components involved in a healthy immune system and even help create killer cells that attack cancer cells and cells infected with viruses.
How to prepare Reishi
When it comes to cooking, Reishi is a great meat substitute! You want to avoid the inner yellow portion of the mushroom because of its intense bitter taste, but the white outer portion, or “tips,” can we lightly browned in a frying pan and served up as a meat replacement. Personally, I love to cook Reishi and use them instead of a burger patty.
Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
Lion’s Mane mushrooms have been coveted for centuries as a secret to smarts. They are 20% protein and have shown to work wonders on our brains.
lion's mane and your brain
Lion’s Mane activates our “nerver growth function,” or NGF, which is responsible for protecting and growing the neurons in our brains. This boost to the NGF keeps the brain firing on all cylinders.
This fungus has also been shown to improve short-term and long-term memory in people with age-related health conditions by preventing the breakdown of these functions and delaying cognitive dysfunction.
How to eat Lion's mane
Lion’s Mane is one of the better tasting mushrooms, so don’t be afraid to simply sauté them and add them to your favorite dishes. You can also add them to bone broth or teas. Recently, Lion’s Mane coffee and lattes have become popular.
Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis)
Need a boost before a big race? Cordyceps mushrooms will do the trick. It has been shown to help dilate the aorta, our main artery, by 40%. This means better blood flow and more oxygen to all parts of the body, giving you greater endurance.
cordyceps for energy
Cordyceps also contains adenosine which stimulates the production of ATP, a big energy source for our bodies. With more ATP your stamina will last longer and you’ll be able to finish your race strong.
How to get your cordyceps intake
Cordyceps are a fantastic pasta replacement. They are long and skinny, just like noodles, and they taste great on their own sauted with shallots.
If you don't like eating mushrooms…
All these medicinal mushrooms can also be found in powder or supplement form if you’d rather bypass cooking. Be sure to consult with a medical professional before adding medicinal mushrooms to your diet.
Jessica is a writer & designer who captures the spirit of her generation. She approaches her craft with an anthropological mindset to find the perspective often unseen.
Jessica has studied the art of the written word & honed her craft over the last 8+ years.