Seven of the most powerful fungi fruits and their health benefits
Neither plant, or animal, mushrooms are the reproductive structure (fruit) produced by some species of fungi. While many are nutritious, some can be fun, and others can be dangerous, but all of the mushrooms discussed below can provide great benefit to the mind, body and soul.
Consumed for it’s mood lifting and immune boosting properties, reishi is undoubtedly one of the most popular medicinal mushroom strains for cultivation and consumption. This powerful fungus promotes weight loss, strengthens the immune system and contains cancer fighting properties. Reishi is also full of triterpene, a phytochemical known to alleviate anxiety, ease depression, improve sleep and sharpen focus.
Powdered reishi is commonly consumed as tea and in the evening, to benefit from it’s sleep enhancing effects.
With a flavour similar to seafood, lion’s mane is commonly used in Asian cuisine, but not only for it’s taste. This mushroom contains antioxidants and other bioactive substances that are beneficial to the heart, brain and stomach.
Consumption of lion’s mane promotes the production of the bioprotein, nerve growth factor (NFG), as well as myelin, an insulin critical to brain health. Containing compounds that stimulate the growth of brain cells, lion’s mane is associated with the prevention of neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease. This mushroom may also improve cognition, memory and concentration, while potentially reducing irritability.
The chaga mushroom is an adaptogen. Adaptogenic plants and mushrooms help to bring the body back into balance and have beneficial effects on various parts of the body, including the: immune system, nervous system, cardiovascular system, GI tract and endocrine system.
Also packed with antioxidants, chaga mushrooms are used for fighting free radicals and inflammation. Chaga has been effective in combating oxidative stress, which, in turn, reduces the effects of skin ageing, potentially inhibiting cancer growth and reducing low-density lipoprotein (LD), also known as, the bad cholesterol.
Chaga can be consumed in smoothies, teas and other warm beverages.
A strong meaty (umami) flavour makes shiitake mushrooms a popular kitchen ingredient, but they are also particularly good for providing energy and maintaining optimal heart health. Shiitake may reduce LDL, reducing inflammation and improving blood circulation, while also containing compounds that inhibit the absorption and production of cholesterol in the liver.
The shiitake’s culinary versatility is undeniable. This increasingly popular mushroom is now being offered in the United States as a sautéed side with kale and chicken, while also being transformed into a meatless jerky.
Turkey tail is rich in antioxidants, but also contains an immune system stimulant, known as, polysaccharide-K (PSK). Used as a chemoimmunotherapy agent in the treatment of cancer in Asia for over 30 years, PSK is an approved anticancer prescription drug in numerous continents.
As a rich source of polysaccharide-K, turkey tail is linked to the prevention of cancer, increased survival rates in cancer patients and improved immune health in chemotherapy recipients.
Turkey tail is available in powdered supplement form, but has a bitter and less pleasant taste, when compared with the varieties listed above.
A truly unique fungus with a range of uses, including the treatment of: coughs, chronic bronchitis, respiratory disorders, kidney disorders, nighttime urination, male sexual problems, anemia, irregular heartbeat, high cholesterol, liver disorders, dizziness, weakness, ringing in the ears, unwanted weight loss, and opium addiction.
The cordyceps mushroom is known for being very stimulating, for both energy and the libido. It can also promote better utilisation of oxygen and an improved blood flow.
While the health benefits are undeniable, the cordyceps mushroom has a darker side. In an episode of Hostile Planet, National Geographic refers to this fungi as the Zombie Parasite. Watch the clip here.
The OG and one, true magic mushroom, the psilocybe cubensis. Psilocybin is currently being heavily trialled for its uses in the treatment of: treatment-resistant depression, treating addiction and relieving cancer-related psychological distress.
In 2019, healthline published a news article titled, Mushrooms as Medicine? Psychedelics May Be Next Breakthrough Treatment. From treating depression to helping manage alcohol addiction, researchers say legal medical “magic mushrooms” have many potential benefits and the results may warrant the quick path to legalisation.
For more information about the magic of mushrooms, I highly recommend one of my favourite documentaries – Fantastic Fungi (available on Netflix). Another interesting film titled, Magic Medicine, explores the effects of psilocybin on patients with severe depression.
While not all of the 20,000, plus, strains of fungi are friendly, species such as reishi, lion’s mane, cordyceps, chaga and turkey tail are proven to work wonders for your mind, body and soul.
The majority of the mushrooms mentioned above can be sourced fresh, or in powdered, supplement form. Consult a medical professional if you are unsure, but would like to know more.
Which mushroom are you most looking forward to trying next?