Mushrooms are often used as a tasty addition to many meals without much thought given to their nutritional value. While fungi aren't always the most appealing choice to everyone, mushrooms have been used for thousands of years in many cultures for their medicinal properties, and research is now starting to prove what people have known for years—mushrooms are one powerful superfood group.
Often used in Eastern European traditional folk medicine, current research is proving chaga's ability to help heal various ailments. In particular, the phenolic content in chaga makes it a powerful tool to fight free radicals to reduce cell oxidation and help your skin glow.
Chaga is also used as an antiviral against the flu and has been shown to boost and rebalance the immune system. Cancer is also no match for this mushroom as lung, brain, and liver cancers have all been found to decrease with intake of chaga.
If you are really looking for natural beauty support, look no further than cordyceps. This mushroom will act as your fountain of youth by increasing the antioxidants glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase while decreasing lipid peroxidation activity and pro-inflammatory monoamine oxidase, which contribute to signs of aging. Cordyceps also does wonders to rebalance hormones and help restore energy for those struggling with adrenal fatigue.
3. Lion's mane
For anyone looking for added brain support, my first recommendation is Lion's mane. Its neuroprotective properties are second to none and the perfect choice for alleviating brain fog and enhancing cognitive function due to its amount of nerve growth factors, which protect and regenerate brain tissue. One study found that those who took a lion's mane supplement for 16 weeks showed significantly higher cognitive function compared to those who didn't.
Also known as Royal Sun Agaricus, this mushroom is a next-level cancer fighter. Blazein is a specific protein found in this mushroom that has been shown in studies to kill cancer cells. One study in particular showed that this mushroom began to kill lung cancer cells after three days and stomach cancer cells after just two days.
Multiple studies have shown that maitake is able to reduce the growth of cancer cells and suppress tumor growth through its ability to boost the immune system. Maitake can also improve glucose tolerance and blood sugar in cases of diabetes.
Blood sugar issues are a serious problem in our society with 50 percent of Americans being either prediabetic or diabetic. Ongoing blood sugar problems can contribute to further hormone imbalances, fatigue, weight loss resistance, chronic inflammation, and so much more. Focusing on a plant-based ketogenic diet is one way to battle this epidemic, and mushrooms are a great nutrient-dense low-carb option.
Multiple studies have proved reishi's ability to lower blood sugar in those diagnosed with diabetes as well as down-regulating alpha-glucosidase, the enzyme responsible for turning starch into sugar in the body. It can also help improve symptoms associated with diabetes such as kidney problems and poor wound healing.
Packed with B vitamins, shiitake mushrooms work to support optimal brain health and healthy adrenal function. Shiitake is yet another cancer fighter and has been shown to shrink tumors. This mushroom also has powerful antimicrobial properties and cholesterol-lowering abilities.
9. Turkey tail
Perhaps one of my personal favorites from this list, and the most well-researched, it is my go-to choice for patients dealing with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and candida yeast overgrowth.
Turkey tail also works to fight cancer by boosting the immune system with its polysaccharides content. One study showed that the polysaccharide known as PSP in turkey tail greatly improved immune health in 97 percent of cancer patients.
Are mushrooms safe for everyone?
The beauty of adaptogens is that they are generally safe for everyone. Since every person's health case is different, what works for one person may not be the most relevant for another. Specific dosages can vary, but I like to recommend to my patients having some type of adaptogenic mushroom three times a week minimum. Start out small and give your body time to adjust before gradually increasing your dosage.
What's the best way to eat therapeutic mushrooms?
I personally like to incorporate whole mushrooms into my regular meals sautéed as a side dish or on top of my salads. When buying whole mushrooms, it is essential to look for organically grown varieties as conventional mushrooms can be highly toxic due to the fact that mushrooms are extremely porous in nature and easily absorb pesticides and other chemicals. Depending on the stores in your area, it may be more difficult to find organic versions of adaptogenic mushrooms since they are such a specialty item. If this is the case, you can buy dried mushrooms online or, to save on cost, buy an organic kit online and grow your own! Not only will you be getting nutritious food medicines, you'll have a fun new hobby!
If you're not a fan of the taste or texture of mushrooms, you can get these in powdered form, extracts, or in supplement form. Just like the whole food versions, you need to make sure these are organic. Some of my favorite brands include OM and Four Sigmatic. When you are in a hurry, powders are a great way to get your serving in of adaptogenic mushrooms for the day as they can be added to any beverage, smoothies, soups, or sprinkled on top of your favorite meals. I love to add these to my coffee to make an elevated adaptogenic latte.