Updated: Sep 6
We're talking about Lion's Mane, Reishi, Turkey Tail, Cordyceps & Chaga.
Functional mushrooms are referred to a class of fungi that are not hallucinogenic and that have been studied and widely used for having a plethora of health benefits. Functional mushrooms are oftentimes also referred to as adaptogens and/or nootropics. The adaptogen denomination comes from their ability to aid the body adapt and better respond to stress and nootropic given that some mushrooms like lion's mane have a high nerve growth factor and assist in nerve production and protection.
The world of fungi is vast and widely unexplored, however in the last couple years interest for functional mushrooms has grown and evolved into a wide selection of supplements. We truly believe that functional mushrooms are the future of functional medicine and the evidence to support this belief is ever-growing. It is for this reason that we want to bring you the most up - to date research on our 5 favorite mushrooms:
🍄 Lion's Mane
🍄 Turkey Tail
1. LION'S MANE
Perhaps one of the most curious looking mushrooms - Lion’s Mane has been thoroughly researched for its impact on brain cells and neurodegenerative diseases.
Lion’s Mane impacts brain function by enhancing a process called “neurite outgrowth” which means growth of the axons and dendrites of neurons.
This means, that by increasing growth - it is possible that Lion’s Mane could slow down or reverse the progression of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
A 2012 study found that consuming Lion’s mane mushroom can regenerate damaged cells from peripheral nerve injury. Lion’s mane also promotes neurogenesis - the creation of new neural connections which enhances your ability to learn new information faster and better. Another interesting finding has been in the treatment of cancer. Research conducted at the Ajou University found that the phytochemicals found in Lion’s Mane significantly reduce leukemia cells.
Other commonly researched benefits are in regards to reducing overall inflammation, supporting heart and circulatory health, digestive health and anti bacterial properties.
You can consume Lion's Mane by cooking the fruit/body or as a supplement (we recommend supplementation in the form of a third-party tested tincture given that liposomal delivery is the most effective when it comes to absorption).
Reishi has historically been used in Ancient Chinese medicine for health and longevity and they oftentimes refer to this mushroom as Reishi as lingzhi. This name represents a combination of spiritual potency and essence of immortality, and is regarded as the “herb of spiritual potency,” symbolizing success, well-being, divine power, and longevity. Reishi mushroom has been recognized as a medicinal mushroom for over 2000 years.
As an adaptogen it aids the body to better respond to various types of stress as well as supporting hormonal balance and providing immune regulating properties due to the content of beta glucans.
Recent studies on the effects of Reishi mushrooms have found that the various polysaccharides extracted from the fruit body, spores, and mycelia of reishi are reported to exhibit a broad range of bioactivities, including anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, antiulcer, antitumorigenic, and immunostimulating effects.
There is considerable evidence to support the immunostimulating activities of G. lucidum mushrooms through the induction of cytokines and enhancement of immunological effector. Different components from G. lucidum were proved to enhance the proliferation and maturation of T and B lymphocytes, splenic mononuclear cells, NK cells, and dendritic cells in culture in vitro and in animal studies in vivo (Bao et al. 2001; Cao and Lin 2002; Zhu, Chen, and Lin 2007; Ma et al. 2008).
— Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition.
Moreover, Reishi mushroom has been found to be high in antioxidants that are quickly absorbed after ingestion. Antioxidants are crucial to protecting cells from oxidative damage and preventing the risk of mutations and carcinogenesis.
Reishi as a resource for cancer treatment
The following is an excerpt from a study showing the link between Reishi consumption and cancerous cell apoptosis and arrest (which means that it causes the cell to die, one of the hardest things to do when trying to get rid of cancer cells and the reason why such aggressive methods like radiation are used):
"A tumor mass requires a continuous nutrient supply via new blood vessels formed by the process of angiogenesis. Invasive cancer cells spread to distant sites through blood and lymphoid vessels. Therefore, agents that inhibit angiogenesis inhibit tumor growth and spread.
Tomasi et al. (2004) tested 58 basidiomycetes mushrooms, of which G. lucidum was shown to be the most effective in killing cancer cells. G. lucidum induced cell-cycle arrest and apoptosis in various human and rodent tumor cells, including murine lymphocytic leukemia L1210 and Lewis lung carcinoma..."
And the list goes on:
The key word here is angiogenesis. It is usually a normal process which supports cell regeneration leading to wound healing and supplying oxygen-rich blood to your organs and tissues. However, when it comes to cancer cells, angiogenesis leads to tumor growth and spread by feeding and oxygenating those cells.
Finding and consuming the fruit/body is not as common for Reishi mushrooms but we do highly recommend tinctures as a form of daily and long-term supplementation for all the incredible benefits mentioned above.
3. TURKEY TAIL
Turkey tail is rich in antioxidants, thus, their consumption minimizes oxidative stress.
Another crucial component in Turkey Tail are beta glucans given that they're responsible for immune and gut health, ras well as restoring the environment where healthy bacteria grow.
According to a recent study, Turkey tail fungal extracts triggered increased production of two key anti-inflammatory cytokines:
- Interleukin-1-Receptor Antagonist (IL-1ra)
- Interleukin-10 (IL-10)
As well as increasing production of two biomarkers involved in regenerative processes involved in stem cells and immune modulating properties:
- Granulocyte Colony-Stimulating Factor (G-CSF) & - Interleukin-8 (IL-8)
Turkey Tail supplementation will have long term effects in your body's ability to fight age-related medical conditions due to cell oxidation as well as allowing for healthy immune defenses to thrive in a healthy environment.
We also recommend tinctures over mushroom extract powders due to effectiveness and level and grade of absorption.
Cordyceps mushrooms are the ultimate ally for health, stamina and constant levels of energy.
Cordyceps has also long been used in traditional Chinese medicine as a remedy for a wide assortment of conditions like fatigue, respiratory and kidney diseases, renal dysfunction, and cardiac dysfunction (Zhu, Halpern, & Jones, 1998b). It also supports male reproductive health, ATP cellular energy and supports immune system and gut flora.
More recently, Cordyceps is been studied for its ability to enhance athletic performance.
A quick tour in history
Cordyceps first gained attention in 1993, when world record-breaking performances of Chinese female athletes were attributed to a vigorous training and nutrition regimen that involved cordyceps supplementation.
"Described as a natural exercise mimetic (Kumar et al., 2011), cordyceps is thought to improve performance by increasing blood flow, enhancing oxygen utilization, and acting as an antioxidant"
Another study showed that long-term (or at least over 3 weeks) of supplementation produced significant improvements in time to exhaustion, blood oxygenation and reduction of chronic fatigue.
Chaga mushroom is of special interest for those who experience Irritable Bowel Disease, Crohn's and Ulcerative colitis.
The antioxidant effects of the Chaga mushroom may be partly explained by the protection of cell components against free radicals. In addition, it has been found that this mushroom has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory properties and aids the treatment of allergies and food sensitivities.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is partly caused by oxidative stress from free radicals and reduced antioxidant levels. A study concluded that Chaga extract reduces oxidative stress in lymphocytes from IBD patients and also healthy individuals when challenged in vitro.
The following are some of the most notable benefits of chaga supplementation:
Thus, Chaga extract could be a possible and valuable supplement to inhibit oxidative stress in general.
Improving digestion and effectively restoring gut health
Increasing protective antioxidants and lowering oxidative stress
Because of its effects in gut health, it also improves skin health by reducing inflammation, wrinkles, sun spots, etc.
Protects and supports the liver
Reduces total body inflammation
Improves cardiovascular health, decreases LDL cholesterol and lowers blood glucose levels
There is enough serious and conclusive research that points out to the benefits of adding Functional Mushrooms to your diet and supplementation routine.
As a final note, we usually prefer liquid mushroom tinctures over powder forms due to effectiveness and absorption. In addition, in some cases, powder extracts use oats which are oftentimes loaded with heavy metals and have been sprayed with pesticides and glyphosates. When it comes to choosing a product, we recommend looking for products that have been twice or triple extracted and that are third party tested.
As always, we urge you to be your own advocate and take what works best for your body and your specific needs. Our purpose is to bring informed opinion articles as well as awareness to products and practices that might enhance your daily life. Please feel free to reach out to our team with questions or just to let us know if you have tried and seen any benefits from our recommendations. We always love to hear from our community!
Saitsu Y, Nishide A, Kikushima K, Shimizu K, Ohnuki K. Improvement of cognitive functions by oral intake of Hericium erinaceus. Biomed Res. 2019;40(4):125-131. doi: 10.2220/biomedres.40.125. PMID: 31413233.
Wachtel-Galor S, Yuen J, Buswell JA, et al. Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi): A Medicinal Mushroom. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 9. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92757/
Benson KF, Stamets P, Davis R, Nally R, Taylor A, Slater S, Jensen GS. The mycelium of the Trametes versicolor (Turkey tail) mushroom and its fermented substrate each show potent and complementary immune activating properties in vitro. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2019 Dec 2;19(1):342. doi: 10.1186/s12906-019-2681-7. PMID: 31791317; PMCID: PMC6889544.
Najafzadeh M, Reynolds PD, Baumgartner A, Jerwood D, Anderson D. Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in lymphocytes of patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Biofactors. 2007;31(3-4):191-200. doi: 10.1002/biof.5520310306. PMID: 18997282.
Hirsch KR, Smith-Ryan AE, Roelofs EJ, Trexler ET, Mock MG. Cordyceps militaris Improves Tolerance to High-Intensity Exercise After Acute and Chronic Supplementation. J Diet Suppl. 2017 Jan 2;14(1):42-53. doi: 10.1080/19390211.2016.1203386. Epub 2016 Jul 13. PMID: 27408987; PMCID: PMC5236007.
Venturella G, Ferraro V, Cirlincione F, Gargano ML. Medicinal Mushrooms: Bioactive Compounds, Use, and Clinical Trials. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Jan 10;22(2):634. doi: 10.3390/ijms22020634. PMID: 33435246; PMCID: PMC7826851