There are thousands of different mushrooms and fungi in the world and there are some that hold a very special place. These are medicinal mushrooms or functional mushrooms and although they’re becoming more and more popular every single day. The idea of mushrooms being anything more than just a garnish on your pizza is still a pretty novel concept. I want to go over the basics of medicinal mushrooms including what’s in them what makes them so special.
What are medicinal mushrooms? It means a mushroom that is used for specific health benefits. Immune support is the common unifying factor among medicinal mushrooms. They’re also used for cognition, focus, energy for vitality and for general health and wellness. This concept is nothing new, medicinal mushrooms have been used since ancient times in one form or another.
These types of mushrooms aren’t the ones you’ll typically find at the grocery store unless you’re shopping in the supplement aisle. They don’t really have great culinary properties either and they can be really woody and bitter with a few exceptions.
Instead of being cooked medicinal mushrooms are usually ground up and extracted. And turned into either powder, a capsule or a tincture. Medicinal mushrooms are definitely trending more recently with more and more products available that include different varieties of mushrooms.
These mushrooms are nothing new it’s not an exaggeration to say that some of these mushrooms have been used for thousands of years. Reishi is a good example with some writings dating back all the way to 220 A.D that reference reishi mushroom. What’s new however is a better scientific understanding of how these things actually work in our body.
The science is still ongoing but the body of evidence is starting to point to something that ancient cultures already knew and experienced. That this medicinal mushrooms are able to support our health in a variety of different ways. So what is the magic inside of the mushrooms? it’s not real magic, it’s compounds that can be extracted isolated and studied.
the magic inside of the mushrooms
Here are the top ones that you need to know. First off are the beta glucans which are basically a special type of polysaccharide that’s able to interact with our immune system. It can modulate our immune system and support it in a variety of different ways.
In short they are a complex carbohydrate that’s made up of a long chain of sugars. These are special beta-linked polysaccharides or sugars that again are able to interact with our immune system.
Fungal beta glucans are the main reason why mushrooms are used for immunity and they are hot water soluble. Which is why a lot of people like to use mushroom tea.
Another important compound are the triterpenes. These are a class of compounds that are alcohol soluble and are thought to be responsible for some of the antiviral. Some of the anti-inflammatory, in some cases the hypnotic properties of mushrooms.
There are unique types of triterpenes in specific mushrooms, most notably are the ganoderic acids in reishi mushrooms. Organic dermalucidum and the betulinic acid in chaga mushrooms also contain sterols. Most notably algosterol which is actually a precursor to vitamin D. If you leave certain mushrooms out in the sun long enough or you expose them to UV light. They actually massively increase the amount of vitamin D in the mushrooms which is why sometimes you might see a vitamin d supplements that are made from mushrooms.
some of the different types of medicinal mushrooms
the relationship that medicinal mushrooms can have with our physiology is really complex and mushrooms can work in all sorts of different ways. Its helpful to think of each functional mushroom as having its own superpower in other words each mushroom type has its own unique characteristics and can benefit us in different ways.
first up is lion’s mane and this is probably one of the most popular medicinal mushrooms. The thing that characterizes lion’s mane is its ability to help with cognitive function. People use it for mental clarity, for focus and other kind of brain benefits. Lion’s mane is one of the few mushrooms that actually is also a delicious gourmet mushroom. so although it’s most commonly used as a supplement it’s no slouch in the
kitchen next up is cordyceps which is often thought of as the athlete’s mushroom cordyceps is used for energy and for endurance and its claim to fame is the potential it has to increase the efficiency at which oxygen is used throughout our bodies cordyceps is unique in how it grows and some species of cordyceps actually do grow on bugs luckily there are other species of cordyceps that are just as effective that don’t need to be grown on bugs like cordyceps militarism which can actually be cultivated on a substrate like soy or rice we talked about the different compounds in mushrooms and