They can be psychedelic, medicinal, tasty and poisonous- the mushroom world is a vast and highly complex one. Thankfully, disciplines such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda have a long-standing relationship with functional mushrooms- and are happy to let us borrow their wisdom as mushrooms emerge here in the west. Traditionally mushrooms have been used in various conditions ranging from low energy to cancers- and they are still applied in the same ways today.
The notion of using mushrooms as medicine has penetrated both the research and wellness worlds and there’s no more potent combination than modern science and ancient medicine coming together. A revolution of sorts is brewing and the way we look at medicine is rapidly changing. One of the ways that medicine is evolving, is by utilizing compounds that help restore harmony in the body versus other modalities that simply mask symptoms- such as mushrooms.
What Are Functional Mushrooms?
First, these are not the trippy type of mushrooms. Functional mushrooms don’t contain any psychotropic compounds, and some are even common in the kitchen such as shitake! Healers around the globe have been utilizing these types of mushrooms for centuries in the prevention & treatment of disease. The list of benefits attributed to medicinal mushrooms is astounding but they are best known for their modulating effect on the immune system.
All mushrooms contain beta-glucans, these are water soluble polysaccharides and are responsible for the tonifying effect on the immune system. In addition to immunomodulating properties, mushrooms are shown to improve cognitive function, reduce stress, establish proper sleep patterns, increase physical performance, quench free radicals, improve gut health, promote detoxification and contribute to radiant skin.
Functional mushrooms also exhibit antiviral and antibacterial activity. While mushrooms as a whole work on the immune system, each mushroom has its own specific properties. These allow for tissue specificity and allow each mushroom it to act upon different systems and pathologies. Because of this, when taken together, mushrooms compound on each other’s immune effects and offer protection and benefit to the whole body.
A few of the most widely used mushrooms are: Reishi, turkey tail, cordyceps, shitake and maitake.
What to Expect Taking Shrooms?
Mushrooms are exceptional medicine because we typically feel the effects physically, mentally and energetically. Traditionally mushrooms were used to improve vitality, chi and lifeforce in addition to their more tangible, physiological uses.
Functional mushrooms are tonifying. This means they bring the body back into harmony. Tonifying compounds, such as mushrooms are most effective when taken long-term as their effects compound in the body over time. With the continued and consistent use of mushrooms, the body’s stress response goes down, the immune system is built up and cells are fortified. This translates into more energy, better sleep and a calmer mind.
By incorporating mushrooms into daily life, often times we see incidence and severity of seasonal infections such as the cold and flu diminish. Due to the immunomodulating properties, mushrooms have also been shown to reduce risk for immune mediated chronic conditions such as cancer.
Science aside, traditional wisdom talks about the grounding properties of mushrooms. A little out there, but functional mushrooms are said to help us feel more stable and content in our lives. And we might have to agree.
Here at LivLong, we are committed to carrying the highest quality, clinician backed supplements- and we are so happy to announce the addition of Harmonic Arts dual Extract Mushroom Products to our LivLong line up!
A couple of our favorite mushrooms are Reishi and Lion's mane.
Known as a deep immune tonic, reishi has a deeply nourishing effect on the immune system. It also has indications in the stress response. Through its effect on the stress response, reishi has also been shown to improve sleep and reduce fatigue. It is an overall “tonifying” mushroom, and exerts a calming effect, refreshed feeling on the body when taken in the long term. Check it out here!
Lion's mane primarily acts in the central nervous system. Other than immune function and working as an adaptogen, most of the research done on Lions Mane is on cognitive health. It is able to increase nerve growth factor and therefore has implications is starving off cognitive decline, improving memory and promoting focus. Lion's mane is often used in those with depressive like symptoms as a natural mood enhancer. For more details, click here
If you are looking to support overall health, increase energy or improve your wellness- check out our 5 Mushroom Blend. It comes in a concentrated extract, perfect to add to your morning coffee or in an easy to make hot chocolate full of therapeutic benefits.
Thanks to modern science, clinical trials and mushroom gurus, the fungi kingdom is being popularized and for good reason. This is just the tip of the fruiting body if you will, the link between our physiology and mushrooms runs as deep as the earth itself. Incorporating mushrooms into your daily wellness routine is an easy way to support your overall health.
Author: Lisa Kowalyk, CNP, B.Kin