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Does the thought of medicinal mushrooms scare you off? Take a deep breath and stay with us. Yes, we’re going to tell you to put mushrooms in your coffee (among other things). But there’s good reason for this, we swear.
Medicinal mushrooms have been used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years and have gained even more popularity as of late. Destined to be taken as powders (they’re never meant to be eaten raw or whole), you can find these fungi in all different forms, including ultra-trendy Los Angeles lattes. One of the easiest ways to get your mushroom fix, though? Simply add a spoonful to whatever’s on the menu — be it your morning smoothie, veggie stir-fry, or cup of java.
The list of health benefits medicinal mushrooms provide is lengthy (think: brain booster, hormone helper, antioxidant powerhouse). But each mushroom is unique and provides its own distinct health advantages.
Note that these shrooms aren’t a cure-all. In fact, shroom studies are still new to Western medicine, and solid evidence for humans still needs far more research. So think of them more like sidekicks for your immune system or mini-vaccines against stress, inflammation, and cancer. If you want to get in tune with the power of mushrooms, let’s get to know the top six and what makes them so great.
Think of reishi as nature’s Xanax. This favored fungus is one of the most popular medicinal mushrooms, and for good reason. Reishi may be able do it all: aid in weight lossTrusted Source (as seen in a mouse study), keep the immune systemTrusted Source in check, and may even fiercely fight cancer cellsTrusted Source.
What makes this mushroom unique, however, is its calming properties — all of which are thanks to the compound triterpene, which reishi has its fair share of. These mood-boosting compounds may alleviate anxiety, ease depressionTrusted Source, and encourage better sleepTrusted Source, as seen in mice. But triterpenes’ positive effect on the nervous system doesn’t stop there. Reishi can promote healingTrusted Source and sharpen focus, too.
Reishi can help with
Bad case of brain fog? Try lion’s mane for some natural mental clarity. This feathery “pom-pom” mushroom is packed with antioxidants and strengthens the immune system like most medicinal mushrooms. But lion’s mane is rare in the fact that it fosters the production of the bioprotein nerve growth factor (NFG)Trusted Source and myelin (an insulation around nerve fibers).
Both NFG and myelinTrusted Source are absolutely crucial to brain health. An imbalance in them can contribute to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. That makes lion’s mane some serious brain food! This miraculous mushroom has also been shown to improve cognitionTrusted Source in a small human study, memory in miceTrusted Source, increase concentration, and alleviate anxiety and irritability.
Lion’s mane can help with
Chaga mushrooms are an antioxidant powerhouse, making them excellent contenders for fighting free radicals and inflammation. This dark black mushroom combats oxidative stress (which is linked to skin aging), may prevent or slow the growth of cancer, and has been found to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol. Most of the studies on chaga are done on human cells and mice, but the signs point to this shroom being good for you — inside and out.
Chaga can help with
- lowering LDL
Try it: Add chaga powder to your morning smoothie or make a frothy, warming chaga chai latte.