There’s been a lot of literature published as of late about the health benefits of mushrooms, and specifically the health benefits of mushroom supplements. Though mushrooms have been used for centuries in many cultures as a food source, as well as for their medicinal qualities, it seems that only recently have the scientific, nutrition, and psychological communities began to focus on the (often) indisputable evidence of their health benefits.
Mushrooms are neither plants nor animals. Existing in their own scientific realm, mushrooms are fungi that grow in the ground and on rotting trees. What’s more, when we think of mushrooms, we’re often referring to the fruiting body (perhaps a step and cap) of a much larger network of mycelia, which are sort of like the vascular system of the fungus organism.
Just as there are literally thousands of varieties of most of the produce we eat – like the 7,500 varieties of apples in existence – there are equally thousands of different kinds of edible fungi, many of which exhibit health benefits for humans.
While most grocery stores only carry one or two relatively generic varieties of mushrooms, like portobello and crimini, mushroom supplements have become an easy way to add mushrooms to your diet and improve your health. And, like anything else, there are many different types of mushroom supplements available, so it is important to do your research before you buy one.
In the following article, we’ll outline (just about) everything you need to know about mushroom supplements, their health benefits, and how to choose the right ones for you.
The Benefits of Utilizing Mushroom Supplements
Mushrooms are a staple in many cultures, but they are not just used as a culinary ingredient. They have been found to have many health benefits and can be used as an immune system booster and energy provider.
Mushrooms are generally high in antioxidants and many of the compounds that they contain act as natural antibiotics. They also contain polysaccharides which help to boost the immune system by strengthening the white blood cells and improving their ability to fight off infections.
Some of the most beneficial mushrooms in terms of human health are the following:
Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus): With more studies coming out about its potential benefits, Lion’s Mane is becoming a staple of people who want to improve their brain and immune health.
The substances in Lion’s Mane stimulate the brain's nerve growth factor (NGF), which has long been known to have a positive effect on both men and women. NGF regulates the maintenance and repair of neurons, especially those related to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter vital for memory, cognition and movement. Some studies also show that Lion's Mane can increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) known to support the production of new healthy neurons.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum): Like other functional mushrooms, reishi contains a combination of high glucans and triterpenes, which are thought to contribute to its immune-boosting properties and wellness benefits. The presence of triterpenes brings about an inflammatory response in the body that is beneficial to fight against diseases. A study concluded that reishi can enhance the activity of T-helper cells and other thymus-derived immune cells, thus supercharging our immunity. Reishi has also been found to stimulate NGF and BDNF, so it's not only good for your immunity but will also enhance your brain well-being.
Shiitake (Lentinula edodes): Shiitake has been a staple in eastern cultures for thousands of years. These mushrooms are a good, natural source of protein and are high in both fiber and protein, which can help maintain healthy lipids like cholesterol and triglycerides. Shiitake mushrooms not only have lots of vitamins but, like other mushrooms, also show anti-inflammatory properties, due to high amounts of lentinan, which has been shown to promote a healthy inflammatory response and may have mood-improving effects.
Furthermore, Shiitake mushrooms are high in a powerful antioxidant called Ergothioneine (ET). Studies have proven that the human digestive tract contains transporter proteins specifically for absorbing ET. It has been theorized that it may be important to a healthy human lifestyle, but only time will tell.
Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor): Turkey Tail Mushrooms are high in two beta-glucan polysaccharides, Polysaccharide-K (PSK) and Polysaccharide-Peptide (PSP), which have been researched for their immune system-boosting benefits. Both can alert the immune system to potential threats and help it react quickly. For example, they can activate the body's early warning system and increase the number of immune cells that fight against attacks. PSK and PSP can also act as significant antioxidants in humans and show benefits to the digestive system, liver heart, and joints in animal studies.
Cordyceps militaris: Alongside other mushrooms here, cordyceps militaris (or just cordyceps for short) contains glucans which help with digestive and immune health. What’s more, cordyceps has been found to specifically provide benefits for immunity in men over the age of 50 years old and up, which is good news for people like me ;-).
Present in our cells, nucleosides build up our DNA and RNA. These are essential for all of the powering, growth, and maintenance processes that go on in our cells. Studies on cordyceps have found that it can also help with fatigue, kidney and liver function, and circulation.
Maitake (Grifola frondosa): Maitake mushrooms are rich in vitamin D, which provides general health benefits such as cancer support or bone support. This fungi is characterized by its distinctive shape and has earned the nickname "hen-of-the-woods", sheep head, and king of the mushrooms.
Maitake mushrooms are often the subject of research due to their ability to provide a number of important health benefits. These include the preservation of healthy immune function and protection from tumors. A significant amount of this is attributed to their polysaccharides, especially D-fraction, MD-fraction, and SX-fraction which have been well studied for these purposes. In addition to its many other uses, maitake has been shown to help with heart health, improve immune system function, and even potentially fight cancer (a la maitake’s abundance of beta glucan).
Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus): Oyster mushrooms are rich in antioxidant compounds like flavonoids and phenolics. They work to reduce cell damage in your body, which is linked to diseases like cancer. Antioxidants like flavonoids help fight free radicals, which form naturally in our bodies.
If you’ve come this far, you probably get the benefits mushrooms have on your health. However, oyster mushrooms are unique because they contain higher amounts of antioxidants than other types of cultivated mushrooms. This might be why oyster mushrooms are used in so many dietary supplements.
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus): Chaga, a large and black fungus, is thought by many to be medicinal. It can be found in parts of Asia, Europe and North America and usually grows on birch trees.
The antimicrobial qualities of Chaga may make it a viable alternative remedy for things like arthritis, high blood pressure and even cancer. It can lower blood sugar levels and even slow the process of cancer cells.
5 Key Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing a Mushroom Supplement
Mushrooms are one of the best sources of antioxidants and minerals. Antioxidants are important for fighting free radicals and preventing cell damage. Mushrooms also have a lot of B vitamins which help with muscle growth, immunity, and nerve function.
When choosing a mushroom supplement, there are 5 key things to keep in mind: ingredients -
- the supplement should have a good balance of different types of mushrooms
- dosage - the supplement should be effective but not too high in dosage
- side effects - it is important to know if there are any potential side effects before taking the product
- cost - it is important to find out what kind of budget you have
- reviews- read reviews from people who have taken the product before
Conclusion: Everything You Need to Know About Mushroom Supplements
Just as most nutritionists and scientists have been telling us all tio eat more plants, so are many of these experts beginning to tout the health benefits of eating more mushrooms and taking mushroom supplements. Like plants, mushrooms utilize carbon and other nutrients from the soil for energy. This makes mushrooms – and mushroom supplements – environmentally friendly sources of nutrition (and medicine).
Likewise, there are thousands of edible mushroom species out there, each one with its own characteristics and potential benefits. Rather than hunting down each one, a great way to test the benefits of mushroom supplements is to try them in a supplement format, like Plantfully Systems Fire. Not only will supplements, like Fire, deliver the highest quality mushrooms, it takes the guesswork out of trying to figure out exactly which mushrooms to experiment with.