A magical guide to medicinal mushrooms for well-being

A magical guide to medicinal mushrooms for well-being

Photo: Unsplash.com / @anniespratt

Step aside Goji berries, there’s a new kid in town. Make some room for the super shrooms, because these mighty mushrooms pack a powerful punch of health benefits. Now, I’m not referring to those slimy button mushrooms remaining on your plate after a meal that you were forced to scoff down in order to have dessert as a kid (ah the good old times). These mushrooms are ancient fungi growing on tree stumps, cultivated and used in the form of teas, powder, and tonics for their medicinal properties. The world is going mad for mushrooms but what is all the hoopla for? Let’s take a trip to the land of fantastic fungi.

 

Photo: Unsplash.com / @jessedodds

Why are fungi so fantastic?

Mushrooms have been used for centuries, a staple in ancient Chinese medicine and a crucial lifestyle component of hippies. However, we’ll save that topic for another time. Most importantly, these mushrooms won’t leave you feeling high like a fly but nourish your cells so you can flourish. Known for their anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, and cancer-crushing effects, these fungi are flooding the market from instant mushroom coffee, tasty elixirs, and mushroom meat.

How long have medicinal mushrooms been in use?

For centuries mushrooms have been recognized for their nutritive properties and medicinal benefits. 2000 species of mushrooms are edible of which only 10% are cultivated for food and medicine. In Asian cultures, medicinal mushrooms are incorporated into standard cancer treatment protocols, and only recently has the western world begun recognizing their nutritive properties. The beneficial properties of fungi have already saved over 200 million lives thanks to Alexander Fleming, who discovered the antibiotic penicillin derived from fungi. As a result, we are making great headway as a society, but some are still skeptical about the concept. Let’s shed some light, shall we?

Did you know that humans are part mushroom?

Did you know that the genetic composition of mushrooms is more similar to humans than it is to plants!? Humans share 50% of their DNA with fungi. We contract many of the same viruses as fungi but fungi have developed natural immunities which humans are now extracting to reduce stress and treat illness and disease. Above all, let’s embrace our relatives in giving us a helping hand.

What does magically adaptogenic mean?

Although mushrooms are capable of amazing things, consuming mushrooms won’t transport you into the magical world of Hogwarts. However, they will elicit a transformative experience for your mind, body, and soul. These mushrooms are adaptogens, improving the body’s resistance to fatigue, stress, and immunity. They adapt and allocate energy and resources to support the region of the body that needs it most. In other words, adaptogens are truly your new besties who will always have your back, or your brain, or your hormones.

Are medicinal mushrooms safe?

The hype around mushrooms is not another hippie movement. When sourced from local natural health food stores and reputable professional companies, mushrooms can work magic for you. Mushrooms are high in protein, B vitamins, copper, potassium, selenium (second to brazil nuts), and vitamin D. Medicinal mushrooms contain polysaccharides, namely beta-glucan which inhibits tumor growth and enhances innate and adaptive immunity. Furthermore, mushrooms inhibit the enzyme aromatase (which produces estrogen) having a protective effect against hormone-related cancers. Not only are they a nutrient-dense powerhouse, but mushrooms also contain many life-enhancing benefits, for instance:

  • immune-modulating
  • tumor-inhibiting
  • antioxidant
  • cardiovascular health
  • antiviral/antibacterial/ antifungal/ antiparasitic
  • liver protectant
  • anti-cancer

With this in mind, let’s see what fungi you can benefit from most

Meet the top 5 medicinal mushrooms

Photo: Unplash.com / @dani_r_photos

Some mushrooms destroy bacteria, viruses, and yeast, others promote nerve regeneration, boost immunity, and target cancer cells. Here are 5 must-have adaptogenic mushrooms and how they can support you best.

1. Lions Mane for the brain

This mushroom is the ultimate brain booster. Lions Mane improves memory, mental clarity, concentration, protects the nervous system, and relieves anxious and depressive symptoms. It stimulates the Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) synthesis and has a regenerative affinity for the brain and spinal cord. As a result, it can prevent neurological diseases including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.

2. Stress-free Reishi

Reishi’s claim to fame is “the mushroom of immortality”. Reishi is stress suppressing, mood balancing, immune-modulating, blood sugar-stabilizing, weight regulating, and hormone balancing- a mighty mushroom reaped as a longevity tonic. It is excellent for promoting rejuvenating sleep, which truly is essential for restore and repair of the mind and body.

3. Chaga the king of mushrooms

Chaga is your ultimate sidekick for busting inflammation. Chaga is a powerhouse of adaptogenic antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds which scavenge free radicals to reduce inflammation. Surprisingly, they have the highest antioxidant potency of all the superfoods, 6.5 times that of Acai berries. Furthermore, there is no supplement on the market that contains a higher amount of ORAC (oxygen radical absorbent capacity) units than Chaga. In addition, it is anti-viral, lowers cholesterol, regulates blood sugar, enhances luster in skin, hair, and nails, and is used for cancer treatment.

4. Cordyceps the Energizer Bunny

Are you training for that marathon, body-building competition, or just trying to keep up with your kids? Meet cordyceps, your new best friend. Cordyceps improves athletic performance and increases systemic (adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is fuel for your cells and in particular, leads to increased strength, energy, stamina, and recovery after workouts. Cordyceps treat sexual dysfunction, improve fertility, libido, sperm count, help fight off fatigue, supports thyroid health, increase cellular oxygen consumption, alleviate symptoms in asthmatics, and contain anti-aging properties. Similarly, they are rich in antioxidants giving your immune system the boost we all could benefit from.

5. Turkey Tail for immunity

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Turkey tail is an adaptogenic mushroom with anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties and, as a result, it is a pantry staple for cold and flu season. It also has preventative superpowers against cancer proliferation and encourages cell death. Take that, cancer! Most importantly, it contains the beta-glucans polysaccharide-K (PSK) and polysaccharopeptide (PSP) which regenerate cells destroyed by chemotherapy treatment. They have been implemented in post-cancer treatments in Japan for decades. In addition, Turkey tail also contains prebiotics to nourish your healthy gut bacteria and improving digestion.

How to incorporate mushrooms into your daily routine?

Medicinal mushrooms are available in many forms: whole mushrooms, powdered compounds, tinctures, and tasty elixir formulations, for instance, to suit your preference and lifestyle. My favorite way to reap the benefits of fungi is in their powdered formulations by adding a spoonful to my morning smoothie, mixing it into my oatmeal, or creating funky elixirs to name a few.

Where to buy medicinal mushrooms?

Local farmers’ markets, natural health food stores, or online Canadian companies are the most reputable places to source mushrooms. Moreover, when purchasing, always buy the fruiting body formulations as these are the most nutrient-dense in comparison to mycelium. It is always best to source organic as mushrooms tend to absorb environmental toxins. My favorite brand is Ecoideas, a Canadian company that has amazing organic mushrooms and is also available for purchase from many online stores such as Change Market. I just can’t get enough of them!

Is there anything these fungi can’t do?

Humans have been benefiting from medicinal mushrooms for centuries for their ability to boost immunity, support neurological health, benefit from their anti-cancer properties, anti-inflammatory compounds, and cardiovascular health. Nature truly is magical and everything we need to thrive and survive is provided to us in our own backyard. Mother nature might just send us on a bit of a treasure hunt to find them. These natural remedies complemented with a sustainable healthy lifestyle have such healing potential and support us on our lifelong journey of well-being. So, what are you waiting for? Cheers to longevity!

 

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