Most people who seek out medicinal mushrooms such as Chaga, Reishi, Lions Mane, Maitake and Turkey Tail, among many others, have some knowledge that they are good for us. Some of us read articles and look at scientific research, we may have heard about mushrooms from friends or family, or we are just curious about them. The picture above is what my cupboard looked like when I got started diving into mushroom foraging and making medicine. In the beginning I fell into the curiosity category, knowing very little but over the years I have learned so much and continue to everyday. This post is designed to break down, in a simple way, what benefits we get from mushrooms.
Polysaccharides: These are essentially carbohydrates. Poly means ‘many’, saccharides means ‘sugars’. One of the main functions of these compounds is to store energy. Most all medicinal mushrooms contain polysaccharides, some more than others. One type of Polysaccharide found in the cell walls of mushrooms are Beta D Glucans. These are responsible for many of the benefits we gain from mushrooms such as Anti-Oxidants, boosting and regulating the immune system and blood sugar and cholesterol regulation. They also help fight cancer and slow or stop tumor growth.
Terpenoids are another compound found in many medicinal mushrooms. They are responsible for Anti-Microbial, Anti-Viral, Anti-Oxidant, Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Neurodegenerative activity.
An important thing to share about these compounds is that some are water soluble and others are not, this show up when deciding to take a tincture or making a tea. Hot water will pull out some compounds, while alcohol or glycerin will pull the others out. Making a double or triple extraction tincture covers all the bases by mixing alcohol, hot and cold water infusions together. Of course you won’t miss a thing by taking the tincture and drinking the tea.
Vitamins can be found in all mushrooms but certain kinds are higher in medicinal mushrooms such as Vitamin D2, which is used when deficient in D vitamin, also in dietary supplements. Vitamin B12, used for energy, red blood cell formation, metabolism, nerve function and production of DNA. Vitamin C, which produces collagen for healthy bones, it helps us stay away from colds and plays a part in healthy muscles and tissues.
Within the vitamin family found in medicinal mushrooms there is Riboflavin (B2), is necessary to the body for cellular respiration. Niacin (B3), turn our food into energy and keeps our digestive, nervous systems and skin healthy. Pantothenic Acid (B5), which plays role in reducing anxiety and stress, also improves asthma and respiratory issues. Cholecalciferol (D3), is good for bones.
From vitamins to minerals, medicinal mushrooms can be high in minerals as well. Potassium, plays a part in making our vital organs function correctly, can lower blood pressure and improve heart health. Zinc, helps boost the immune system, testosterone production, and skin health. Copper, which transports oxygen and electrons to cells. Selenium, helps keep the immune and thyroid systems healthy. Ergothioneine, an Amino Acid, which is used for preventing liver damage, diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
Here’s a list of health problems and the mushrooms that could help:
Diabetes: Maitake, Chaga, Lions Mane, Turkey Tail
High Blood Pressure: Reishi, Maitake, Oyster
Arthritis: Chaga, Reishi
Alzheimer’s/ Dementia/Brain health: Lions Mane
Stress/Anxiety/Depression: Reishi, Lions Mane
Digestive issues: Turkey Tail, Chaga, Reishi, Lions Mane
Heart issues: Lions Mane, Reishi
Liver/Kidney: Reishi, Oysters
Energy: Chaga, Turkey Tail
Sleep: Reishi, Indian Pipe
Immune Boost: Chaga, Reishi, Turkey Tail, Lions Mane, Maitake, Oysters
Cancer: Turkey Tail, Chaga, Reishi, Lions Mane, Maitake
**Medicinal mushrooms are not a cure for these conditions, consulting a doctor if on medication is recommended. Medicinal mushrooms continue to undergo testing in our country and are showing amazing promise in treating health conditions and also improving our overall health on a daily basis. These mushrooms have been tested and used successfully in treatments, especially cancer, in many other countries including throughout Europe, Asia and Russia.