Mushroom walks into a bar, sits down. The bartender turns to him and says, “Get outta here. We don’t serve your kind.” Mushroom says, “Why not? I’m a fungi.”
Mushrooms are something you should be serving more of—medicinal mushrooms (which include the common button crimini used to top pizza) offer incredible health-promoting and disease-fighting benefits. These special fungi are some of the richest sources of therapeutic compounds, including lipids, proteoglycans (combinations of proteins and sugars), polysaccharides (including beta glucans), alkaloids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Certain varieties of medicinal mushrooms have been prominent in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for millennia because of their numerous health benefits. Today, modern science is validating these remarkable benefits, specifically in immunity, cardiovascular disease, organ failure, respiratory problems, digestive issues, diabetes, neurodegenerative conditions, and more.
Certain mushrooms have immediate effects on the immune system. A standout is turkey tail—specifically its active ingredients PSP and PSK, which have shown promise in fighting cancer. Beta-glucans are another compound found in mushrooms that boost immunity.
By improving the profiles of T lymphocyte immune cells, medicinal mushrooms enhance the frontline responses of the immune system, providing powerful protection against infections and harmful invaders. In addition, they have also been shown to boost the effects of other compounds, such as herbs.
Because medicinal mushrooms have the ability to strengthen the immune system, in part by supporting T lymphocyte immune cells and natural killer (NK) cells, they offer greater protection against future illnesses. In addition, according to TCM, certain medicinal mushrooms have particular affinities for different organs, such as the lungs, digestive tract, and kidneys, in essence “targeting” these organs and helping to prevent related problems.
Mushrooms are soft, spongy, and porous, and they have the ability to absorb all types of substances from the environment in which they are grown. This ability also helps to make them effective in removing toxins from the body.
Additionally, the lipids and phospholipids found within medicinal mushrooms allow their other active compounds to penetrate into fatty tissues and cell membranes, where toxins are usually stored. These active constituents can exchange with and effectively expel toxins that may have accumulated in unhealthy tissues for years. This is one way that medicinal mushrooms can help counteract the long-term side effects of heavy metals, pesticides, medications, and other environmental toxins.
Medicinal Mushroom Supplements
A comprehensive mushroom formula ensures wide-ranging benefit. Make sure mushrooms were grown in controlled environments free of harmful contaminants. In certain advanced medicinal mushroom formulas, mushrooms are grown on blends of immune-enhancing herbs. The results are botanically enhanced mushrooms that absorb many of the health-promoting properties of the herbs.
Of the thousands of varieties of mushrooms growing throughout the world, several types possess specific medicinal properties. Here is a brief description of six widely studied mushrooms.
WOOD EAR FUNGUS (Auricularia auricula) increases activity of the antioxidant SOD in key organs such as the brain and liver. Good for: heart health, healthy cholesterol, immune enhancement, wound healing, and digestive health.
REISHI (Ganoderma lucidum) has the longest historical use of all the mushrooms. Good for: heart disease, inflammation, ulcers, and immune strength.
SHIITAKE (Lentinus edodes) is packed with important vitamins and minerals, as well as essential amino acids. Good for: lowering high blood pressure, reducing high cholesterol, and healing infections.
TURKEY TAIL (Coriolus versicolor) may be the most studied medicinal mushroom of all. In the 1970s, Japan approved PSK (found in turkey tail) to treat several types of cancers, and it remains a best-selling cancer drug in that country. Good for: bolstering immunity.
MAITAKE (Grifola frondosa) is known as the “King of the Mushrooms” in Japan for both its taste and its health-promoting benefits. Good for: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and immune enhancement.
TREMELLA (Tremella fuciformis) is used to make a cough syrup for treating chronic bronchitis and a number of other cough-related conditions (such as asthma and dry cough) in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Good for: fighting tumors, lowering blood glucose, combating high cholesterol, protecting against radiation, and increasing skin hydration when applied topically.