Medicinal Mushrooms and Their Healing Properties

| 2 November 2017

You may have noticed a rise in the popularity of healing mushrooms and their wide-spectrum adaptogenic properties. The use of mushrooms for healing benefits can be traced back to 100 A.D and was widely used in countless ways in traditional Chinese medicine. There are an estimated 1.5 million species in the fungi kingdom, most of them are highly nurturing to the nervous system, and help to restore balance in hormone levels as well as healing and prevent diseases occurring due to modern-day lifestyles.

We’re big fans of healing mushrooms, and even incorporate them into one of our most loved hot drinks, the mystic mushroom latte, currently on the autumn menu. It really is mystic too, containing Chaga, Cordyceps, Reishi, and Lions mane, all have amazing properties including boosting immune function, anti-viral effects as well as powerful anti-oxidant values, to name a few. But how could you possibly make mushrooms into a delicious hot drink, you might be thinking? The most potent kind of healing mushroom properties actually come from a powdered extract, that can be added to smoothies, hot drinks, and even in savoury dishes. Let’s take a closer look at the few different types of healing mushrooms, and how they can benefit you. 

Reishi

Reishi is very much regarded as the Queen of the mushrooms, officially known as Lingzhi in Chinese medicine, and was traditionally reserved for the consumption of emperors and other royalty. It has been used for at least 2,000 years for its longevity and vitality properties and is both internally and externally anti-aging by reducing dermal oxidation in the body. It also helps to protect cellular DNA. Other nicknames for Reishi include  ‘mushroom of immortality’ and ‘ruler of herbs’. It is also known as a sleep aid and helps to soothe stress.

Reishi is considered magical for its histamine-inhibiting properties, which help protect against seasonal allergies. It also boosts the body’s immune function and protects against viruses and bacteria, due to its polysaccharides which act as immunomodulators. Reishi is very much the protector plant. Furthermore, its triterpenes improve and increase circulation, which aids almost all bodily functions, ensuring optimal health and balance throughout the body. It lowers blood pressure and cholesterol and stabilises blood sugar, helping to achieve hormonal balance and support the endocrine system

Chaga

Chaga is the ultimate beauty food, promoting shiny, thick hair as well as lowering inflammation throughout the body. It has undeniable skin-protecting properties as it contains high levels of melalin and zinc. It is also one of the highest sources of antioxidants in the world, as well as being extremely anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and adaptogenic. It fights colds and has the ability to boost white blood cells that regulates auto-immune response, as well as containing cell protecting compounds.

Chaga dates back to 17th century Russia, where it was used in a lot of folk medicine. It grows on leafy trees all over the Northern hemisphere, predominantly on birch trees.

Cordyceps

Cordyceps is the athlete’s ultimate superfood. It helps you perform better athletically by increases energy and reducing fatigue. It has powerful oxygen boosting effects, which in turn also help with asthma and bronchitis. Its anti-inflammatory properties can help with blood flow, heart health, and lowering cholesterol. It is also a powerful libido and testosterone boosting.

Cordyceps has quite unique source, growing out of the mummified carcasses of insect larvae. Because of this, they are also sometimes referred to as the ‘caterpillar mushroom’ and can take a lot of the insect’s nutrients this way, but don’t worry, today’s Cordyceps are cultivated in a vegan-friendly way.

Lion’s Mane

Lion’s Mane has powerful effects on the brain, which distinguishes it from any other mushroom. It improves memory and mental performance, boosts concentration, and has the ability to repair and regenerate neurons. This process helps to reverse and mitigate effects on neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Lion’s Mane stimulates the synthesis of NGF, which protects and plays a crucial role in producing new neurons and protecting those already there.

It’s stress-busting too, by protecting and soothing the nervous system, also aiding in anxiety management, ensuring balance and vitality throughout the body.

It has an unusual appearance of frilly white strands that appear as a type of mane around the mushroom, thus the name. It was traditionally used in Chinese medicine for stomach and digestion problems and can be eaten whole. However, it will not be as potent as it is when in powered, extract form. It’s largely found across North America, China, Japan, and Europe.

Shiitake

Shiitake mushroom is one of the most widely cultivated healing mushrooms in the world, making it easily accessible to everybody. It aids in clear, healthy, and glowing skin, due to its intense liver supporting properties, as well as being highly anti-aging. It helps to lower cholesterol due to its anti-inflammatory properties and has been used in Asian cooking for centuries. It’s medicinal use dates back to 100A.D in China, where it was used to prevent and heal respiratory diseases and boost circulation around the body.

Burnt out? Shiitake can help with that. It increases energy and reduces fatigue in the body. It also contains an amazing seven of the nine amino acids plus a host of different enzymes including amylase and cellulose, which aid in digestion. When enzymes are active in the food we eat, the digestive system doesn’t have to work as hard, thus conserving energy. It also contains vital minerals such as potassium and magnesium and has immunomodulators abilities, which positively impact on the nervous system.

Turkey Tail

This immunity mushroom helps to combat the common cold and flu symptoms thanks to its anti-viral properties. It also helps to aid the digestion process. Turkey Tail gets its name due to its fan shape, which resembles a turkey’s body. It can also be identified by the concentric circles of varying colours that appear on its fruiting body. It grows almost everywhere including on dead and fallen tree stumps or branches.

Turkey Tail was used widely in traditional Chinese medicine due to its magical ability to regenerate white blood cells, which help ward off infection and destroys pathogens. Consider adding Turkey Tail into your morning smoothie if you feel a cold coming on.

Written by Megan Hallett