Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Milwaukee Magazine

Medicinal Mushrooms for Human Health

Aug 31, 2021 08:30AM ● By Gina Saka
Mushrooms are more than an earthly addition to our favorite veggie stir fry; they’re medicinal, too. Lately, more and more health drinks, broths and otherworldly spores of all shapes, colors and sizes are making their way onto health food store shelves and farmers’ market tables.

The reasons for the craze go far back in time. Our ancestors used mushrooms as medicine for thousands of years. Everyone from ancient Greek physicians and 5th-century Chinese alchemists to Siberian shamans and Nordic Vikings used mushrooms as food and medicine. Now, modern science is catching up to confirm their value both on and off the plate.

Medicinal mushrooms can be found in supplements, tinctures, coffees, powders, smoothies and so much more these days. Although there is a staggering 14,000 species of mushrooms out there in the wild, here’s some information about the benefits of those considered best by many for our health and wellness:

  • Chaga. A fungus that grows on birch and other trees in northern Europe, Asia and Canada, chaga is brimming with antioxidants believed to help boost immunity, relieve inflammation, regulate blood sugar levels and even fight cancer. It can be found powdered to be added to smoothies, coffee and baked goods.
  • Lion’s Mane. This mushroom grows on decaying trees in the Northern United States and Canada, and is known for its neuro-protective properties that may help fight dementia, anxiety and depression. Lion’s mane can be consumed raw, cooked or dried to be made into a medicinal tea.
  • Reishi. This kidney-shaped fungus is found in humid locations of Asia growing on dead or dying eastern hemlock trees. Known for its ability to help enhance immunity, improve sleep quality and minimize stress, it’s most commonly found in powdered form to be scooped into coffee or hot tea for a healthful start to the day.
  • Turkey Tail. A common polypore found around the world, turkey tail can boost immunity, support a healthy gut microbiome, and reduce inflammation. This is largely thanks to high quantities of antioxidants, including phenols and flavonoids. Turkey tail can be dried into a tea or powder, or chopped up and used in cooking.
  • Cordyceps. Interestingly, cordyceps grow on insects and other arthropods around the world, notably Nepal, China, Bhutan, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand. Cordyceps can help boost energy levels, improve respiratory health, support immune function, prevent liver and kidney disorders and much more. They are typically dried to be made into tinctures, extracts and powders for teas and smoothies.

So, mushrooms are pretty impressive. Try adding some to your daily wellness ritual and enjoy the many benefits. Keep in mind that not all mushrooms are safe to eat, so don’t go picking any mushroom you see, as it can be poisonous. It’s best to stick with an expert forager, buy whole from a farmers’ market or opt for one of the many supplements or powders at a health food store or online.