They may be new to the superfood stature, but it seems like medicinal mushrooms are here to stay. The humble mushroom is now credited with many a health benefit. To name a few, there's reduction of inflammation and boosting immunity.
Agreed, mushrooms may not be the first thing that come to your mind when you plan your breakfast, but pay attention. Mushrooms like Chaga, Lion’s Mane and Reishi pack quite an impressive punch when it comes to nutritional benefits.
If you’re looking to make your diet healthier, medicinal mushrooms extracts might be just the thing you need. We’ve rounded up all the important information that you need to know in order to include these new superfoods into your diet. We think you’re going to like what you see here.
Let’s start off with where these mushrooms come from.
Mushrooms diverged from plant life over a billion years ago. In these years, many of them evolved into superfoods and at the dawn of the 21st century, fungi such as mushrooms were used in dozens of medicines, including penicillin.
Medicinal mushrooms and their uses date back to ancient Egypt and ancient China. These two cultures used mushrooms heavily for promoting health and long life. Organic medicinal mushrooms have beta-glucans which enhance immunity, which gives you the power to ward off diseases and stay healthy.
The oldest known human mummy, which dates back to some four thousand years ago, was discovered with Piptoporus betulinus - a mushroom which is known for having antibiotic properties and a natural way to get rid of parasites.
There are egyptian hieroglyphics that portray mushrooms as the “sons of the gods” - the plant of immortality. The Aztecs treated mushrooms in a very similar way, calling them “the flesh of the gods”.
It is believed that the Vikings consumed hallucinogenic mushrooms before battle, which gave them the fearless combat style they are known for. Travelling Buddhists monks who made their stops at different monasteries on their way, would talk about the therapeutic properties of fungi.
There is a huge variety of medicinal mushrooms out there. But the most popular ones are cordyceps, reishi and chaga. These have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.
Mitake (Grifola frondosa)
Agarikon (Laricifomes officinalis)
Coliolus (Trametes versicolor)
Shitake (Lentinula edodes)
All these mushrooms offer health benefits that range from restoring your immune system to boosting oxygen flow to your blood cells to regulating your blood sugar. Here’s a closer look into the full range of health benefits offered by the top 5 medicinal mushrooms.
Reishi actively increases the body’s immunity and helps it to fight against pathogens (bacteria, viruses, and parasites). A healthy immune system does more than fight off diseases. It keeps your health to in an optimal condition, so much so, that even the effects of ageing are reversed.
Reishi is largely made up of a complex carbohydrate known as polysaccharides, which has proven effectiveness against fighting tumours, according to a study conducted by Peking University Health Care Center in China.
In modern-day medicine, Reishi is becoming increasingly recognised as an alternative pharmacological supplement to treat diabetes, hepatitis and even cancer.
Also known as "cinder conk", Chaga has been used by Russian herbalists for ages. It contains sterols, polyphenols, polysaccharides, and a whole lot of other antioxidant constituents such as melanin, betulin, triterpenes, lupeol and superoxide dismutase. I think it’s suffice to say that Chaga is an antioxidant powerhouse, like authentic Matcha green tea. One dose of dual-extracted chaga has the same amount of antioxidants as 30 pounds of carrot.
Chaga mushroom is remarkably effective in fighting the common cold, reducing inflammation, improving skin health and hair quality, and minimising gastrointestinal issues. Researchers at Wonkwang University in South Korea have found the water extracts of this mushroom exhibiting cancer-fighting potentials.
Today, it is quickly gaining recognition across the globe for its tumor-inhibiting properties.
Used in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine to treat a plethora of diseases including asthma and bronchitis, diabetes and cancer, Cordyceps boost the body’s main energy supply, aiding in all cellular processes of the body. Due to the high beta-glucans in Cordyceps, they are great in boosting stamina and immunity.
Cordyceps are rich in anti-inflammatory properties which help with blood flow, cardiovascular health and reducing cholesterol. Apart from that, polysaccharides are a key component in Cordyceps, which give the fungi tumour-reducing abilities.
Cordyceps are great for increasing stamina as they support recovery from adrenal depletion and boost the body’s rate of utilising oxygen. According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Cordyceps have exhibited anti-platelet, radio-protective, anti-tumor, and anti-diabetic effects. The mushroom is particularly good for the lungs, kidneys and is great at balancing hormones.
The name Turkey Tail is derived from the uncanny resemblance it bears with turkey’s rear plume of feathers. Like Reishi and Cordyceps, Turkey Tail is also rich in polysaccharides, which means it’s a great immunity booster and is effective in combating cancerous growths.
It promotes the growth of white blood cells, which fight tumourous cells and battle the HPV virus and the hepatitis C virus. The two most important compounds in Turkey Tail are PSK and PSP. both of these are known for their anticancer properties.
This mushroom can be used to treat the common cold and flu, help in digestion, and heal infections.
Lion's mane is known for the tremendous support it provides to the brain and the nervous system. In fact, it is a great neurotrophic and nootropic superfood, containing unique compounds like hericenones and erinacines.
Lion's mane medicinal mushrooms benefits include, enhancing cognitive functions, protecting the nervous system, and mitigating the effects of Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, and dementia.
Now that you have the scoop on the amazing nutritional and medicinal importance of mushrooms, it’s time to know how to use it in your diet. Well, mushrooms are versatile enough to be added into almost everything. You can add them in your smoothies, breakfast cereal, post-workout health beverages, pancakes and even savoury dishes.
If you’re going to take medicinal mushroom extracts, it’s best to add it to cold water.
You can actually get more out of superfood mushrooms by adding Matcha green tea to the preparations. Matcha tea is the best superfood there is. It contains a massive amount of antioxidants which help minimise the harmful effects of UV rays, prevent free radical damage, and preserve the health as well as youthfulness of the skin.
There’s a specific set of antioxidants in Matcha called catechins. These are the most powerful among antioxidants. One of the catechins is called EGCG. It’s full of cancer-combatant properties. Scientists have concluded from many studies that the EGCG content of Matcha is over a hundred times higher than that of any other tea.
Japanese Matcha green tea can also help you relax and reduce your stress. It can help you focus better on the tasks at hand, minimising distractions and promoting concentration. It does so by stimulating the productions of alpha waves in your brain.
People with type-2 diabetes can benefit from Matcha, as it reduces the triglycerides level in the blood, total cholesterol and hepatic glucose content.
Matcha green tea powder is great for the immune system as well. It contains a whole lot of polyphenols which actively remove free radicals from the blood and boost immunity. The L-theanine in Matcha helps improve your memory and aids in better concentration.
Reishi mushroom is available in a powder form as well as in the form of capsules, syrups, tinctures and extracts. Reishi mushroom tea is also available. Add ½ teaspoon of Matcha green tea powder into your Reishi tea to maximise the health benefits.
Chaga mushroom is available in various forms as well, such as, tea, syrup, decoction and extract. You can add ½ tsp of Japanese matcha green tea powder to your Chaga tea or extract to get the most out of it.
Turkey Tail is usually taken in the form of either capsules or tea. However, if you’re not comfortable with either, you can consider making a soup stock out of it. Also, you can consume it raw, though it tends to be a bit too chewy. Get more out of it by adding just a little bit (about half a teaspoon) of Matcha to your Turkey Tail tea or just 1 tsp into the stock.
You can make tea decoctions by simmering raw dried mushroom powder, slices or pieces in matcha-infused water (mix ½ teaspoon of authentic Matcha into the water) for half an hour to one and a half hours. Strain the liquid and consume it as a tea or use it as a base to make a soup, smoothie or shake of your choice. Do not throw the mushrooms away, as they can still be eaten for their medicinal benefits.
Making medicinal mushroom tea decoction is an effective way to get the chitin and polysaccharide-rich medicine of the mushrooms.
Not everyone is a big fan of mushrooms, but these superfood mushrooms offer health benefits that are hard to come by. Besides, if you like cooking, you can get creative with medicinal mushroom recipes and add a dash of Matcha to make the most of it. So, try making different recipes using medicinal mushrooms and Matcha green tea and see what you can come up with. Let us know how it all went!
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