For most of us, we label mushrooms as sort of a side dish or an extra bit of food to add flavor and texture to certain dishes. But did you know that there are medicinal mushrooms that have a ton of benefits for our bodies?
That’s right, mushrooms have long been used since ancient times as medicine. The use of medicinal mushrooms dates back to ancient Chinese and ancient Egyptian cultures. They used them to promote longevity and overall general health.
What Are Medicinal Mushrooms?
Basically, medicinal mushrooms produce medically significant metabolites. Or they are mushrooms that can be induced to produce said metabolites via biotechnology.
There is a wide range of medically active compounds in certain fungi. Some examples are anti-cancer drugs, antibiotics, psychotropic drugs, cholesterol inhibitors, immunosuppressants, and fungicides.
Types of Medicinal Mushrooms
All over the world, you can find mushrooms. There are over 150 species of mushrooms. Some of them are edible, and some of them are not. It would take us the entire day to discuss each and every one of them. So we’ll go ahead and talk about the some of the most popular medicinal mushrooms.
I think everyone knows what this mushroom is. They are quite popular and can be found in most grocery stores. Their color is either tan or dark brown in color. They have a meaty texture and have an earthy, smoky flavor.
The Chinese highly value this particular mushroom. They call it “the mushroom of immortality,” “the herb of good fortune,” and “the great protector.” It is strictly used medicinally.
This mushroom has a tough texture and a bitter taste. It’s not one that you would willingly add to your favorite pasta dish.
This is one of the mushrooms most used as an addition to different types of dishes. They look like sea oyster, thus the name. They either have a whitish, grayish, or tan color. These mushrooms have a thick flesh and a velvety texture. And like their name, they have a mild seafood-like taste, like abalone.
These are the most consumed mushrooms in the United States. They are available year-round and are the least expensive among the mushroom varieties. Immature mushrooms have either a brown or white color. They have a rich and earthy taste.
These are known as dancing mushrooms. Or you might know it by its other name, hen of the woods. They are mainly found at the base of trees, like oak, elm, or maple. It looks like layers of caps curved like spoons. Others also say it looks like a brain. The caps have a dark brown color when young, and gradually lighten to light gray or yellow as they age.
This is a rare mushroom. Weirdly enough, they grow only on caterpillars found in northern China. When the caterpillar dies, the fungus sprouts from the caterpillar’s head. It looks like a silkworm and has a bright gold color. It has a fishy odor and a slightly bitter taste.
Indeed, this is quite a name. It is a globe-shaped fungus with a snowy white color. It has downward icicle-shaped spines. Its flavor is likened to that of eggplant or lobster. It is considered a gourmet food.
Healthy Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms
Consuming different kinds of edible mushrooms can provide you with plenty of healthy benefits. Here is a rundown of just a few of these effects of medicinal mushrooms.
Introducing certain medicinal mushrooms in your daily diet has a significant positive effect in fighting cancer. Studies show that they slow down the growth of cancer cells. They also inhibit tumor formation, protect DNA from damage, and stop cell mutation.
They are also beneficial to cancer patients by relieving some side effects of cancer, such as nausea and hair loss.
Promotes Heart Health
Medicinal mushrooms naturally lower LDL “bad” cholesterol levels and also keep arteries from hardening. These two are risk factors for heart disease. At the same time, they also improve HDL “good” cholesterol levels. Their phytonutrient content keeps cells from sticking to blood vessel walls and forming plaque buildup. This leads to a healthy blood pressure level and better circulation.
Boosts the Immune System
Many medicinal mushrooms have antibacterial and antiviral properties. These are great at combating the common cold, flu, and cough. Medicinal mushrooms have immune-enhancing responses. This is because they have a high amount of polysaccharides and complex sugars. These are essential food for the immune system. They increase RNA and DNA in the bone marrow where the immune cells are born. They also regulate antibody production in the body.
Lastly, mushrooms also have a high amount of antioxidants. These antioxidants fight off harmful free radicals. These free radicals bring bacteria, infection, and diseases to your body.
Improves Energy Levels
Eating cordycep mushrooms enables you to jump higher and run faster. They basically give a big boost to your energy levels. This is because they increase the oxygen-carrying ability of the blood and also increase the production of energy in the muscles.
They relax bronchial passages, enhance respiration, and increase blood flow. All these benefit the muscles that are pushed to their limit and add to their endurance.
This means athletes get to train longer and more effectively. They are also great during post-workout recovery.
Promotes Brain Health
Medicinal mushrooms help with improving your memory, improving cognitive functionality, and giving you sharper and clearer focus.
They also induce the production of nerve growth factors. This is vital in the development and maintenance of sensory neurons. They are great in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and other brain-related illnesses.
Provides Better Skin
The selenium content in medicinal mushrooms reduces the severity of acne. It also helps with the scarring that occurs with it. Mushrooms also reduces the buildup of DHT, which improves skin healing. This leaves you with smoother, healthier, younger-looking skin.
Promotes Weight Loss
Mushrooms are a low in calories, but are super full of nutrients. This makes the fungi great for people who are watching their weight. Studies show that eating mushrooms regularly lead to a healthy body weight, reduced waist circumference, and better overall health.
Shiitake mushrooms in particular fight against gaining too much weight. They increase satiety, reduce your food intake, and reduce plasma lipid, or fat, levels.
Helps with Diabetes
Mushrooms have less carbohydrates and sugar. These mushrooms regulate blood sugar levels in diabetes patients. They also lower triglycerides and prevent the progression of other diabetic complications. In addition, they also have positive effects to the sensitivity of insulin receptors.
Relieves Asthma and Allergies
Asthma is due to a high number of inflammatory cells in the body. Mushrooms treat asthma by correcting the imbalance in the immune system and reducing the number of inflammatory cells.
Mushrooms also exhibit anti-allergic activities. They significantly reduce the production of allergy-causing antibodies. They also increase the production of cells that eliminate pathogens. And lastly, mushrooms inhibit histamine release.
The reishi mushroom in particular takes center stage here. Taoists claim that these mushrooms “promote calmness, centeredness, balance, inner awareness, and inner strength.” They eat it daily in meditative practices and to protect the body, mind, and spirit.
Mushrooms also relieve chronic fatigue syndrome, stress-induced tension, and insomnia.
Helps in Fertility
If you want to start a family of your own, get your husband to start adding mushrooms, specifically cordyceps, in his daily diet. They dramatically increase sperm production, both in quality and in quantity.