An Introduction to Functional Mushrooms: Lion's Mane, Chaga, Reishi & More!
by Alex Heining on Oct 24, 2022
Whether they're being used as a beverage alternative, for medicinal purposes, or as cooking ingredients, functional mushrooms are undoubtedly some of the most impactful supplements you can have in your nutrition. They're even backed by science, and numerous studies have honed their benefits to their most impactful state. However, many people still might be confused as to what exactly they are.
Here, we aim to answer the most common queries like what are functional mushrooms and if functional mushrooms are legal. We'll go into detail and explain the benefits of such mushrooms, identify the medicinal mushrooms and their uses, and explore a variety of ways you can enjoy these super mushrooms at home.
What are Functional Mushrooms?
As the name suggests, functional mushrooms are mushrooms that serve a specific purpose for both physical and mental health. Some benefits of mushrooms include:
- Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
- Better for the immune system
- Help improve concentration
- Help improve ability to handle stress
The use of functional mushrooms is quite common in the Eastern part of the world, mainly in Asian countries including India, China, Korea, and Japan. In fact, one of the oldest super mushrooms is Reishi, which is also known as Ganoderma and has been used for thousands of years for its medicinal properties in India.
This just goes to show how long some groups of people have known about the power of these mushrooms, and how much we need to catch up in order to enjoy their benefits. So far, only around 10% of mushrooms are explored, so we really have a long way to go in learning more about them.
Medicinal mushrooms are a type of functional mushroom that have been used for centuries as some of the best supplements for improved health. In fact, studies have shown that medicinal mushrooms have several properties including:
- antibacterial and antiviral
- neuroprotective for improved brain functioning
- osteoprotective for better bone health
- hypotensive, meaning it can help lower blood pressure
Some of the most popular types of medicinal mushrooms include Reishi, Shiitake, Maitake, Chaga and more. In addition, there are also adaptogenic mushrooms that can help improve the body's stress response, making it easier to fight against stressful events and situations.
Another type of functional mushroom are nootropics. These mushrooms are thought to have a range of benefits related to cognitive functioning. They have been widely studied and have been found to have a number of uses for the human brain. These include:
- Increasing memory function
- Improving creativity
- Improving motivation
- Improving attention and focus
- Improving mood
- Ability to help fight neurogenic disorders like Parkinsons, Huntington's disease, and even Alzheimers
Of these nootropics, some of the most well-studied and widely used in supplements and powders include Lion's mane, Reishi, and Cordyceps.
The Best Medicinal Mushrooms
If you're interested in trying out super mushrooms for yourself, below is a list of the best medicinal mushrooms to help improve your overall physical health. Keep these in mind if you're looking to explore new methods of cooking and dietary supplements to improve your quality of life and help you experience longevity!
Chaga has been found to grow on birch trees, and it is actually bad news if you're a birch tree. Chaga acts as a tumor killing it, but, this isn't a bad thing for us humans! In fact, studies done on Chaga have shown that it is packed full of powerful antioxidants that are important to help improve immune health. It is also said to be packed with a special acid known as Betulinic Acid.
Betulinic acid within the Chaga can help fight cancer, and it is actually absorbed by the Chaga from the birch tree that it kills off. Sad news for the birch tree, but, we as humans get to experience the powerful health benefits of Chaga freely and also get to have a dose of high antioxidants with Chaga mushrooms.
Turkey tail is one of the most unique looking mushrooms on this list. It is bitter in taste, but it has loads of good properties to help fight diseases, and actually help fight cancer. Studies have shown that turkey tail is also full of antioxidants that can help improve immune health and lower inflammation. Both of these are essential in helping to fight against diseases and for longevity.
Amazingly, some animal studies in mice have found that turkey tail doses have helped reduce the size of tumors. Some cancers thought to benefit from turkey tail include colon cancer. While these are only animal studies and more work needs to be done to truly get a sense of how these mushrooms work, it's still good news for those in the medical community that want an answer to one of the world's most devastating, and common, diseases.
Shiitake is commonly found in different foods today. From being the base flavor of umami-rich ramen noodle soup, to being enjoyed fried and as a side dish, there's virtually a million uses for shiitake. Amazingly, shiitake has also been shown to have a number of health benefits.
Shiitake has been found to improve cell functioning, gut health, and gut immunity. In addition to these studies, shiitake has also been shown to improve immune health overall due to its antioxidant properties. Best of all, shiitake is meaty and rich in flavor, meaning it's easy to make the transition to shiitake mushrooms if you're someone that is new to the world of functional mushrooms.
For those that are looking for a mushroom that is great for heart health, look no further than the maitake mushroom. This is a mushroom that has been shown to improve cardiovascular health by helping improve levels of cholesterol. Not many people know that there are actually two types of cholesterol in the body.
With bad cholesterol levels, these can lead to clogged arteries and poor cardiovascular health in the future. However, maitake has been shown to help reduce the levels of bad cholesterol without having an affect on the good levels of cholesterol in the body!
The Top Nootropics
As mentioned earlier, mushroom nootropics are known for their ability to improve brain health and cognitive functioning. These mushrooms below have been shown by studies to improve brain health, mood, and even focus! They are readily found in dietary supplements, pill form, and in the wild.
Cordyceps are a unique type of mushroom that have a deep earthy flavor. More importantly, they are actually considered parasites in the mushroom world, taking over their host until they absorb all of their nutrients. In ancient Chinese traditions and even today, this mushroom has been widely used to help improve energy, improve stamina, and also help with headaches and cough! You can also find cordyceps mixed into different coffee-alternatives, as stand-alone dietary supplements, and in powder form.
One of the most widely studied mushroom nootropics is lion's mane. Lion's mane is available in dietary and pill form, and it can also be found mixed into coffee mixes. There are many studies that show the effectiveness of lion's mane in improving focus and attention span.
Many people actually hail lion's mane for its ability to help induce relaxation without draining energy, which is why it's becoming more and more popular among those with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. While the effects of lion's mane might vary from person to person, one thing is certain - studies have shown that this mushroom can actually help improve cell death, and more studies will be conducted in the future to help determine the effect of these mushrooms for the benefit of neurological conditions!
Reishis is another type of functional mushroom and mushroom nootropic. It is thought to help improve with relaxation, and is also found in coffee supplements. While traditional coffee might give you jitters, the effects of Reishi on improved mood and stress levels is well documented. It has also been shown to help improve sleep, reduce stress, and even help people with high blood pressure.
Are Functional Mushrooms Legal?
The good news about functional mushrooms is that they are completely legal, and you can enjoy them in a variety of different formats. Many people might be a bit hesitant to try these super mushrooms, confusing them with the psychedelic mushrooms that can lead to psychoactive side effects.
These mushrooms should not be confused with "magic mushrooms," which when ingested will lead to side effects such as paranoia, auditory hallucinations, and visual hallucinations. While some states are now opening up their doors to these psychedelic mushrooms, functional mushrooms remain completely legal federally and can be easily bought online.
However, it's important to note that functional mushrooms are not regulated by the FDA as a medicine. This means that the FDA is not authorized to explore these mushrooms and validate their list of ingredients. It's best to stick with trusted sources of mushrooms or shop for them in your local supermarket in order to reduce the chances of contaminated mushrooms, or ingredients that might interfere negatively with your health.
In addition, while these mushrooms are available in the wild, it's best to not go mushroom hunting on your own and instead stick with enjoying these mushrooms through accredited shops! If you must forage for your own mushrooms, we recommend tagging along with someone who is highly experienced in identifying functional mushrooms. Around 3% of mushrooms are considered toxic and harmful to humans, so it's better to be safe than sorry.
How to Enjoy Functional Mushrooms
Functional mushrooms are becoming more and more popular among people and sellers! Some of the best ways to enjoy functional mushrooms include:
- Cooking with them at home. You can cook with mushrooms such as shiitake and enjoy their many health benefits in your lunch or dinner. When cooking with mushrooms that are whole, make sure to wash off any dirt and debris on the mushroom. To do so, take a damp cloth and wipe down the mushroom cap and inside of the mushroom cap. You can eat the entire mushroom afterward, including the stem.
- Dietary supplements are now readily available online or at local stores like Target, GNC, and other vitamin shops. Make sure to ask for help when choosing the right mushrooms, and check the list of ingredients to see if there are any other additives to your supplements. You can also buy your dietary supplements online, but make sure to only use reputable online stores.
- Powdered mushrooms are now widely available, and they can be mixed into hot water for a drink or even as a coffee alternative.
Experience the Benefits of Functional Mushrooms Today
With everything we’ve learned above, it’s not hard to conclude that functional mushrooms bring a variety of benefits for anyone who wants to try. And it’s not a hard choice to make: there are a variety of ways to enjoy functional mushrooms, from cooked food to supplements and to powdered mushrooms. If you’re ready to experience said benefits, it is important to always look for good, reliable products made by a trusted brand. And, be sure to pick functional mushrooms in whatever forms you want that’s made with high-quality mushrooms that fit your needs and health requirements.
Luckily, it's easy to get functional mushrooms in your diet. Try Troomy Nootropics today and start finding your "True Me" here!