Many mushrooms have been used by humans for thousands of years as a source of food, healing, and path to altered states. The first historical evidence of mushrooms dates back 1.8 billion years ago. But despite their ancient roots, thanks to modern advancements in science and technology, a whole new frontier for our ancient friends is beginning to transpire. Some call the reemergence of mushrooms as medicine and their rising popularity the Mycological Revolution, and it seems to fit right in line with the Plant Medicine Renaissance as well.
There are around 2,000 edible mushrooms, but only 270 of those species have been recognized and examined for their healing and protective properties. Many of these specific mushrooms have been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Thanks to thousands of years of experimental use by humans, we have identified which mushrooms are proven most effective.
Out of these 270 mushroom species, I will be highlighting a few of the most common ones used medicinally for supplemental and therapeutic use. **It is important to note that I will be talking about medicinal mushrooms that do not contain any psychoactive properties- thus, they will not provide the user with a “trip” and altered states of consciousness.**
Studies show that medicinal mushrooms have the potential to enhance our cognitive systems, rebalance our nervous systems, and boost cardiovascular health- ultimately helping us live a healthier life. If we wish to thrive, we should strive to achieve holistic body, mind, and soul health- medicinal mushrooms can assist us on that journey!
- Why Medicinal Mushrooms?
- The Search for Alternatives
- Common Types of Medicinal Mushrooms
- Lions Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
- Reishi (Ganoderma Tsugae)
- Cordyceps (Cordyseps Sinesis)
- Chaga (Inonotus Obliquus)
- Turkey Tail (Trametes Versicolor)
- Consumer Tips
- Consumption Methods
- Recommended Products
Why Medicinal Mushrooms?
Envision yourself with limitless energy and laser focus, with the ability to rest and digest when you want to. Visualize your stress and anxiety by taking a seat on the sidelines. Feel the emotions of an improved mood, having that physique you always wanted, and more motivation than you know what to do with. What all could you accomplish? What dreams could you chase? What visions could you actualize? There is a you that exists full of vitality, with a quick & clear mind, living in harmony with your body to achieve a high quality of life. I believe that medicinal mushrooms have been put on this earth to help us actualize this version of ourselves- it just took us a while to rediscover their power!
Medicinal Mushrooms are offering us that which modern medicine lacks, host immunity. Due to the immunotherapeutic properties of many mushroom species, they can strengthen our immune system over time- promoting vitality and longevity. Unlike pharmaceutical medications designed to treat symptoms, the complex array of medicinal properties housed inside a mushroom seeks to treat the root cause of the dysfunction or deficiency within the cell, system, or organ within your body. This is at the root of Traditional Chinese Medicine and its focus on the bodies flow of Qi.
When envisioning the vast potential of medicinal mushrooms, the following quote by Yung Pueblo comes to mind, “True power is living the realization that you are your own healer, hero, and leader.” When one begins to experience the effects of medicinal mushrooms in their daily life, they quickly realize that their reliance on the pharmaceutical industry and doctors that treat symptoms will cease to exist or be drastically minimized due to their health improvement.
A common thread of some of the greatest leaders who have ever lived is their pursuit to take a current circumstance of the collective and improve it somehow. A leader envisions a greater future for humanity and inspires a following to march behind them towards the uncharted ground. In this context, I am speaking on being our own healer, but pursuing the usage and understanding of medicinal mushrooms can definitely make you a hero and leader as well.
The safe integration of medicinal mushrooms into our food, health products, and medicine could profoundly affect the trajectory of our species. Mushrooms could not only save us but our planet as well. It’s time we wake up and see the bigger picture here.
If we wish to thrive in this life, longevity, and health is something we must take seriously. Instead of waiting until a crisis happens to change your life, start learning ways to take control of your health and wellness. Thanks to the power and versatility of medicinal mushrooms, we can start living better today, and ensure we live thrivingly for years to come!
The Search for Alternatives
Since 2020, I have been driven to discover alternative ways to heal and enhance my mind and body. I’ve been in your shoes. It was apparent immediately that A, many sufficient answers I sought were hard to find, and B, the information I did find was either too much or overwhelming with complexity. I was seeking simplicity, and that’s part of why I am sharing my findings with you through this site. I hope that the presentation and organization of my research can assist you along your journey.
Are you searching for natural alternatives to taking control of your health and wellbeing? Medicinal mushrooms might be right for you. As naturally occurring fungi, they offer an incredible host of healing and enhancing properties without the downsides of prescription medications! And if you’re like me, they may come to be some of your best friends.
Additionally, if you are suffering from chronic illness or recovering from a traumatic accident, a more therapeutic dose of medicinal mushrooms might be highly beneficial in your recovery. *But please be advised to consult with your doctor or health practitioner before pursuing the alternative*
It’s important to note that one thing that works for another may not work for you during one’s search for alternatives- and that is natural. It’s vital that you do your research and educate yourself on the subject you’re pursuing before you start applying it- there is a lot of false information and bad actors out there. If you are currently in a challenging situation, trust that you are healing and you will find the answers you are seeking. When approaching the implementation of newfound techniques, philosophies, or in this case, substances into my life, I like to refer to the following quote by Bruce Lee, “Absorb what is useful, disregard what is not, and add what is uniquely yours.”
Common Types of Medicinal Mushrooms
Lions Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
I take Lion’s Mane as a daily supplement for improved cognitive performance- and the results have been outstanding! (Check out my recommended mushroom products near the bottom.) Although there is still much more research to be done on Lion’s Mane, we know quite a few of the potential benefits as of now. Studies show the consumption of Lion’s Mane’s to:
- Increase focus & attention*
- Stimulate mental clarity*
- Ease anxiety & depression*
- Regenerate nerve cells in the brain*
- Act as an Anti-inflammatory*
- Fight of leukemia cells*
- Prevent heart disease*
- Manage neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s and muscular dystrophy*
There are many more potentially life-changing benefits of Lions Mane to be explored and expanded upon, but I limited the bullet points to keep the content digestible. Lion’s Mane is one of six medicinal mushrooms that are considered “natural nootropics,” and for a good reason, especially with their effect on nerve regeneration in the brain.
Unlike other nootropic mushrooms that modulate neurotransmitters- Lion’s Mane goes straight to the root of the problem. Through active compounds in the mushroom’s fruiting body known as hericenones, this smart shroom can trigger neurogenesis in the brain, boosting nerve growth factor to prevent and treat nerve damage. Additionally, this process assists your brain in forming new and more vital neural pathways.
* The FDA has not evaluated these statements. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease.
Reishi (Ganoderma Tsugae)
Known in Chinese Medicine as Lin Zing, this mushroom is often referred to as the “Mushroom of Immortality.”
Empirical data gathered through the consumption of this powerful, antioxidant-rich mushroom has reported:
- Sleep cycle regulation (Anti-insomnia effects)*
- A boost in immune function*
- Liver detoxification*
- Calming effects on the nervous system*
- Positive affects on blood sugar levels*
- Enhancement in mood*
- Assistance with respiratory tract issues*
- The shrinkage of tumor size*
The mushroom of immortality acts as an adaptogen and could potentially be an alternative to anti-depressant drugs which come with long lists of side effects. Due to its adaptogenic properties, Reishi works to repair deficiencies, protect your brain and body, and build resiliency in your biological systems.
It’s good to note that Reishi offers many similar cognitive benefits to Lions Mane. However, the aid I seek from this mushroom is the calming effects on the nervous system and the sleep cycle regulation. When I regularly consume this in my Organifi gold powder before bed, I feel a strong sense of relaxation and promotion of sleepiness. (Will you get sleepy every time you eat this mushroom? Not necessarily, because again, it works as an adaptogen. When you consume it around the time your circadian rhythm is preparing you for sleep, it will assist your body in that process. Meaning if you take it in the middle of the day, it shouldn’t make you sleepy.)
Cordyceps (Cordyseps Sinesis)
Known for centuries in Chinese Medicine as the “Elixir of Life,” this mushroom originates from Asia. It is actually one of the rarest species to find in the wild- so rare it was once only available to Chinese royalty. It is a parasitizing mushroom, growing on insects of all kinds as it slowly replaces their tissue and eventually kills them. Although their growing conditions are hard to replicate, advancement in modern science and technology has given mycologists a way to widely cultivate them to be available for everyday use by ordinary people.
Thanks to the integration of empirical use over thousands of years and modern science, we have a glimpse into the potential advantages, Cordysep mushrooms bring to the table:
- Promotes stamina & Improves endurance*
- Enhance sexual vitality (Often used as an aphrodisiac)*
- Improves circulation*
- Fights fatigue*
- Anti-aging properties*
- Cognitive enhancer*
As you can see, this mushroom is quite advantageous for cardiovascular health. I like to look at this mushroom as a natural pre-workout to boost exercise performance. (I am currently awaiting an order of liquid extracts I will be trying over the next month.) From brain-boosting qualities to its potential to treat kidney, digestive issues, and low sex drive, the Cordyceps mushroom is a multipronged medicine focused on healing and allocating life force energy.
Chaga (Inonotus Obliquus)
This mushroom prefers cold climates where they can be found growing on live, mature birch trees. Further research is needed to better understand their effect on humans but here are some of the advantages we know:
- Antioxidant rich*
- Immune boosting*
- Reduces gut inflammation*
- Fights harmful bacteria*
- Fights cancer*
- Boost memory*
- Stimulate weight loss*
Although many medicinal mushrooms exhibit anti-cancer properties, Chaga is definitely a leader when it comes to tumor-shrinking capability. One study showed that the consumption I. obliquus extract led to a 60% reduction in tumor size! I am still researching more into this unique medicinal mushroom to provide more information about it here on my blog!
Check out MUD\WTR, a coffee alternative that has .56g of Chaga per serving!
Turkey Tail (Trametes Versicolor)
Trametes meaning “the thin one” and Versicolor meaning “many colors” gives the name to this commonly found medicinal mushroom. Some of Turkey Tail’s studied benefits include:
- Promotes Liver health & detoxification*
- Improved immune function*
- Improvement of anxiety & depression*
- Supports microbiome health*
- Maintain a healthy weight*
- Anti-cancer properties*
Turkey Tail is a powerhouse of a medicinal mushroom, and consuming it is like the equivalent of taking your immune system to the gym. Its effect on mood primarily comes Turkey Tail is a powerhouse of a medicinal mushroom, and consuming it is like the equivalent of taking your immune system to the gym. Its effect on mood primarily comes from increasing GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) production in the brain. GABA is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter that helps regular the function of cells and muscles, and when it is increased, it can assist with mood swings, irritability, and restlessness.
Additionally, it has been known to regulate mood by boosting serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels. With the onset of modern-day mental health problems and increasing stress levels, perhaps this medicinal mushroom could be one of the most impactful.
Aside from its depression-fighting qualities, it can also reduce your maintain a healthy weight and nourish your gut bacteria. Turkey Tail mushroom has shown success at increasing levels of Bifidobacterium, an essential microbe that helps support the functioning of your immune system and digestive tract.
With an increase in “health products” lining store shelves and being presented in digital ads to us all the time- it’s easy to be skeptical about their potential. However, medicinal mushrooms don’t have anything to prove- use them or not, they have been around for over a millennium. They weren’t just a pill created in a lab overnight to help you with your allergies, cognitive decline, or weight loss; they are naturally occurring as a function of the lifecycle.
As of now, there is still much exploration to be done to identify more effective ways to reap the full power medicinal mushrooms have to offer. But as a consumer in the modern mycological revolution, here are some fundamentals to keep top of mind:
- Product Safety
- It is highly advised to shop with companies that 3rd party lab test their mushrooms!
- The more bioavailable the mushroom is, the better.
- Different consumption methods and dosage levels will affect the bioavailabilty of the mushroom. Bioavailiabilty is the bodies ability to absorb and utilize the properties of a substance. You may often see companies or individuals using Black Pepper, due to it’s bioactive ingredient peperine, to enhance the bioavailbailty of adaptogenic herbs and fungi. (Keep an eye out for products that contain BioPerine as they will be easier for your body to absorb and reap the benefits)
- Know your reason for taking the mushroom
- Individuals take medicinal mushrooms for so many different reasons- so you want to make sure you are clear on which mushroom you’re choosing and the why behind it. There are generally two consumption reasons: therapeutic or supplementary. I happen to fall into the supplementary category as i use it to enhance my current state, but for someone that is battling cancer, they would fall under therapeutic use. This is vital to know when it comes to consumption methods and the dosage amount. *(It is highly advised to speak with a qualifed health practitioner when discussing the use of medicinal mushrooms for therapeutic use as they can guide you to effective dosages and consumption methods.)*
- Set an intention for the medicine
- For me it helps to be intentional with what i hope to get from the mushroom. For those that consume plant medicine maybe you agree, to me, it tells the medicine what you hope to receive in return for inviting it into your body.
- Quality matters
- Look for “Full Spectrum” products that use the whole complex, both the fruiting body & Mycelium are said to be more effective as the consumers gets to benefit from all active components in one.
- The process of extraction, sterilization and cleanliesness of the facility cultivation will dictate quality, so understanding where and how your desired product is made will give you a glimpse of the quality you can expect.
- Price Considerations
- Quality products generally come at a higher price point, don’t shop bottom shelf- remember, you get what you pay for, the higher % of mushroom properties it contains the more expensive it will be.
- Note 1: Purity. Generally the purer the strain of mushroom, the higher the price.
- Note 2: Method. Extensive and proffesional extraction and cultivation processe’s will most likely yield a more valuable mushroom.
- Environmental Factors
- Yes, the environment the mushrooms are grown in can affect the effectiveness of your mushroom product. This is due to unqiue elements mushrooms require in the wild to harness their full power. Some innovative grow labs have been able to closely replicate the optimal growing conditions of different mushrooms, thus enahncing their potency.
- Substrate Factors
- This is still being explored by modern mycologists, but some growers have strong opinions that the type of substrate the shrooms grow on has a strong correlation to the power of the final crop. This makes sense as different categories of mushrooms prefer certain substrates to grow, i.e chaga mushrooms perfer birch trees whereas cordyseps grow parasitically on insects. I like what the guys over at Southwest Mushrooms are doing when it comes to choosing the right substrate to grow their mushrooms on.
- Understand the active compounds of your mushroom of choice.
- When shopping mushroom products it is best to find a products that actually contain the properties you are looking to get from the mushroom. These can usually be found when reading the product descriptions.
This is an area of Medicinal Mushrooms I am currently experimenting with. Due to the sheer number of medicinal mushroom products emerging out there, Do you take capsules? Drink tea? Mix it in smoothies? Or drink it infused in coffee? Let me attempt to break it down and provide some insight into each category.
- Mushroom Tea
- Contains: Whole mushroom or mushroom parts
- Potency: Mid to High
- Primary Audience: Good for those who love to enjoy a nice cup of tea that offers medicinal benefits.
- Mushroom Coffee
- Contains: Mushroom extracts infused with coffee
- Potency: Generally higher (Potency enhanced due to the combination with caffeine + the quantity of mushroom extract)
- Primary Audience: Coffee drinkers, biohackers, entrepeneurs
- Learn more about evaluating mushroom coffee brands
- Contains: Powderized mushrooms
- Potency= mid to high (Dependent on variables)
- Primary Audience: Supplement enthusiasts, biohackers, entrepeneurs, and therapeutic users
- Note: some capsules may contain other compounds or mushrooms so make sure to read the label (This isn’t a bad thing- just take a look so you know)
- Liquid Extracts
- Liquid extract of the mushroom
- Potency: Generally Higher
- Primary Audience: performance athletes, biohackers, and therapeutic patients.
- Whole powders consisting of 1 specific mushroom
- Mixed powder blends consisting of a few complementary mushrooms
- Potency= Ranges low to mid (Dependent on variables)
- Primary Audience: those who enjoy cooking or baking, athletes, health nuts, biohackers, entrepeneurs.
- Functional Beverages
- Blended powders/extracts infused for liquid consumption
- Potency= Ranges low to mid (Dependent on variables)
- Primary Audience: those seeking functional caffeine alternatives or someone who ust wants to mix things up and try a tasty blend of great mushrooms and other botanicals.
- Whole Mushrooms
- The whole fruiting body of the mushroom
- Primary audience: chefs/cooks, mushroom enthusiasts, foodies
- Potency= Ranges low-high (Dependent on amount consumed & bioavailabilty of the shroom)
The answer is not as simple as you may like it to be. Many variables can affect the effectiveness of your medicinal mushroom product. Some of these variables include dosage amount, % of active properties, cultivation, and extraction methods.
Before I go any further, I want to stress the importance of individual experimentation for yourself. We are all so beautifully unique; what works for you may be completely different from others. Some of us may love a mushroom coffee or tea; others may prefer taking capsules or using powders- find what your mushroom extract equation is and have fun with the process of finding what works!
But for those who want to reduce the learning curve, here are some consumption principles to keep in mind when selecting your consumption method.
- Consistent consumption is critical*
- When it comes to adaptogens the more we can build up a store of these adaptogenic proprties in our body, the better.
- This is especially important when taking lower dosages
- More than likely higher dose= higher efficacy*
- In my experience, increasing the dosage amount quickly seemed to boost the effects. (I.e i went from 250 mg of lions mane a day infused in coffee to consuming 3500 mg X 3 capsules daily- and noticed a BIG difference)
- Generally speaking the most effective dose of functional mushrooms is 2,000 mg or (2g)
- ** But please exercise caution when it comes to dosage amount, and do your research. Dr. Chirstopher Hobbs states that, “too high a dose may lead to immune supression, and not enough may lead to incomplete immune activation.” **
- Experiment & have fun!
- This is your medicinal mushroom journey! So enjoy it, do your own research and see for yourself what the beautiful world of mycology has to offer us. We still have so much to learn about these little guys and their affect on the health of humanity and the environment.
Overall, the more time you spend consuming medicinal mushrooms, the more likely you will notice their effects. By Incorporating a variety of mushroom products into your daily routine and diet, not only do you keep your system guessing, but you also reap the rewards of what the different methods have to offer.
For example, my typical day starts off with 2.1 grams of Dr. Emil’s Lions Mane extract, by taking 3 capsules containing 2100 mg a pop. Midday or pre-workout I drink Organifi red juice that contains small supplementary amounts of Cordyceps and Turkey Tail. And to end my day, I drink a tasty and relaxing Organifi gold or chocolate that contains Turkey Tail, and Reishi.
As I write this, I am in the process of trying more medicinal mushroom products to bring my readers better firsthand advice, and robust recommendations. Below are my current recommendations. I hope you can find this helpful in your search for your shroom of choice!
** Products listed are in no particular order **
- See Elixir’s from Four Sigmatic
- Performance Mushroom Blend from Laird Superfood
- Elixir’s from Four Sigmatic
- Powder Extracts (From all mushrooms listed in the article) from Root & Bones
- Mushroom Powders from Om