If you’ve been around the natural health world for the last couple of years then you know that medicinal mushrooms are the superfood du jour, and with good reason!
Many mushrooms, such as the amazing ones listed below, have been studied for their immune supporting effects, their adaptogenic qualities, their anti-cancer compounds, and their powerful support of the digestive system.
As a nutritionist I believe everyone should include at least one functional mushroom in their superfood arsenal either as a tea, tincture, capsule, or powder.
Luckily, Herb Affair is coming out with a great blended product containing many of these powerful mushrooms, so you can get a well-rounded, easy-to-take supplement packed with healing benefits.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these amazing mushrooms.
This visually stunning mushroom has been studied for its powerful effects on the immune system, especially when it comes to cancer treatment.
Specific polysaccharides, such as Polysaccharide Peptide—PSP, in the fruiting body of the mushroom have been demonstrated to have anti-cancer effects, especially relating to leukemia and breast cancer(1).
Combined with PSK (Polysaccharide-K), PSP has also helped with pain relief, immune cell production, tumor infiltration and quality of life in patients with cancers of the stomach, esophagus, lungs, ovaries, and cervix(2).
You don’t need to have a cancer diagnosis to benefit from this mushroom, though, as it can help support the immune system in many other functions, such as macrophage production! (3)
Many functional mushrooms have therapeutic benefits in terms of cancer treatment and reishi is no exception. However, it also does so much more!
Leaky gut syndrome (or intestinal permeability) is being studied for its role in many modern issues such as autoimmune disease, eczema, arthritis, neurological dysfunction, and many more.
Current research on reishi suggests that it can help regulate intestinal barrier function(4) and help modulate inflammation in the colon(5), which is commonly found in Crohn’s and Colitis sufferers.
If you have any digestive issues, reishi may be the perfect addition to your medicinal mushroom arsenal!
I could seriously write an entire article on the health benefits of shiitake mushrooms, which include everything from anti-cancer effects(6) to liver protection(7) to improved bone formation(8).
Even using this mushroom in a culinary manner can have powerful anti-inflammatory and digestive immune function, leading to an overall boost in immunity.(9)
Since you know how important digestive health is to the immune system (did you know 70-80% of your IS is located around your gut?!), adding functional mushrooms such as shiitake and reishi that support the gut(10) will give you an extra edge when it comes to fighting off illness.
As a bonus, this mushroom is also being studied for it’s promising antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral effects in the body!(11)
I personally love foraging for chaga in my own backyard and drink at least one mug of chaga tea every day, usually as the base of a medicinal hot chocolate elixir!
So I was pretty pleased when I found a study published last month that showed a specific polysaccharide in chaga has helped regulate the composition of the microbiome, the bacteria that live in your gut, towards a diversity of health-promoting species.(12)
You may be noticing that many of these functional mushrooms support the health of your digestive tract(13) and have immunomodulatory effects in the body, and chaga is no exception in showing lots of great results in clinical studies.(14)
This mushroom has been studied for its beneficial effects on the adrenal glands and the way it helps your body adapt to physical and environmental stressors.(15)
It can also help fight off flu symptoms,(16) protect your liver,(17) support the mucosal barrier of the digestive tract,(18) and improve kidney function, especially in those with chronic renal failure.(19)
We’ve already looked at some of the impressive benefits of shiitake mushroom, but another research study looked at what would happen if it was combined with maitake.
What they found was that in combination these mushrooms have an even more powerful effect on the immune system(20), which goes to show that the synergy found between functional mushrooms can take your health to the next level.
As you can see adding functional mushrooms to your self-care routine can have huge payoffs when it comes to supporting your health. Which ones have you tried before and which ones do you think would be best for your needs?