3 crazy beneficial mushroom extracts you should be taking
Mushrooms have been used in medicine from ancient times for all manner of ailments. It’s only recently that we can begin to unravel what makes them so special, and how they help your body thrive.
Keep in mind though, much of the benefit contained within these fungi are not readily accessed by ingestion alone and require extraction (heat) or even double extraction (Heat then alcohol). Eating mushrooms which are not properly extracted can seriously reduce (even nullify) any benefits you are hoping to achieve.
That being said healthy (and not poisonous) mushrooms tend to pack a lot of antioxidants, minerals and are low in calories so eating your garden variety button mushroom is still a go!
Take notice: this list should not be interpreted as a list of medical claims!
I have simply put forward potential benefits of taking these mushrooms as a supplement, please seek advice from a medical professional wherever applicable.
Read on for more information on each as well as links to references and studies throughout and at the bottom of the page.
I have had to leave a lot of information on these mushrooms out, as each could easily be a large article on their own, I have included a further reading section at the bottom of the page for much more detailed information on these mushrooms.
Super shroom #1
Lion’s Mane (AKA Hericium erinaceus) is definitely an interesting looking mushroom with white ‘icicles’ earning it names like ‘bearded hedgehog mushroom, satyr's beard or pom pom mushroom’.
Recently it’s gained a great deal of attention as a medicinal mushroom, mostly because it's said to promote Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) production.
NGF is a protein produced in the body that is important for the growth and regeneration of nerve cells, indeed it is considered critical for their survival. Without NGF nerve cells will deteriorate and die, causing both cognitive and motor problems.
Lion's Mane contains a class of compounds (terpenes) that stimulate the production of NGF and therefore, indirectly stimulating nerves to regrow. These compounds have 2 types, found in the fruiting body and the mycelium. These terpenes are alcohol-soluble so any mushroom extracts would need to be double extracted for full effect.
These terpenes are the only substances found in natural products that affect the production of NGF. Lion's Mane extracts therefore have such huge potential for improving cognition, reflexes and even helping prevent neurodegenerative disease (yeah, like Alzheimers)
If you would like to read more there's a great clinical study on Lions Mane supplementing for elderly folk with minor cognitive impairment giving some very promising results.
Wonder fungi #2
Chaga (AKA Inonotus obliquus) is a woody mushroom that grows on birch trees in colder climates, eventually leading to the death of the tree itself (in around 20 years). Only recently becoming popular in western medicine it’s been used fairly extensively in the Russian market since WW2.
Antioxidant + Anti-aging (maybe?)
Chaga contains a massive amount of fungi-melanin, meaning properly extracts have a very high level of antioxidants. Research shows possible DNA-regenerating and re-vitalizing properties associated with consumption of antioxidants but the jury is still out.
If you want to learn more on the potential Anti-aging = Antioxidant link there's an interesting paper on the current consensus (or lack thereof).
Use in cancer treatment
Perhaps the more interesting studies of Chaga are on its potential uses in cancer treatment. In folk medicine Chaga has long been used to treat cancers, however there is limited information on the underlying anti-cancer effects.
Commonly Chaga is used in combination with standard cancer treatments such as chemo-therapy and radiation. Anecdotally there are claims suggesting it can neutralize some or all of the negative effects such harsh treatments can have on the immune system.
This on its own makes Chaga worthwhile looking into for cancer sufferers but there may be even more to it.
There is some research cautiously putting Chaga forward as a direct anti-cancer adjuvant. Its thought that the present betulinic acid and some of the phytosterols have the ability to kill cancer cells directly.
The studies supporting this have so far not been clinical trials but instead performed on animals in the lab, there are definitely promising results there however. I would encourage you to read it if you’re interested.
Mushroom Monster #3
Reishi (AKA Ganoderma lucidum or lingzhi) grows in several hot, humid areas in Asia and is one of the few mushrooms with such a long history of use (said to be from 5000 years ago!)
Reishi is really an amazing therapeutic tool with a host of different applications (no way I go through them all here, check the further reading section)
Reishi has an interesting relationship with viral and bacterial disease, not only does it have similar immunomodulation effects as lions mane but it also contains a couple of protein bound compounds which may have a direct effect on invading virus and bacteria.
In a study on the antiviral effects of Reishi on herpes strains researchers found a rather large inhibition effect on the virus cells preventing some of the sample from attaching (50%). Suggesting that these active compounds in the Reishi actually impedes the interaction of the virus with the cell membrane potentially giving a huge advantage to sufferers of viral infection.
Red Reishi is known as an adaptogen, which is a mysterious term for a mysterious quality. Similar to the immunomodulation (which reishi is also) this mushroom helps your body regulate its cholesterol. In practise this means helping to boost good (HDL) cholesterol without increasing bad LDL.
The beta-glucans and triterpenes present in Reishi are both thought to have a normalizing effect on elevated cholesterol levels, which in turn can affect high blood pressure (by reducing the potential plaque buildup in arteries). In a lab test with rats Reishi fed rats were down a huge 56% in liver cholesterol levels than the control.
And that's all I have for you today, what a huge post! Sorry to anyone who wanted a bite-size read but there’s so much to cover here. And for any one who wants for information I would strongly urge you to look at the further reading section just below!
If you have any comments, questions or think something is off please comment below or send me a message on the contact page.
P.S. If you are interested in trying some of these mushrooms for yourself a great place to start is our host defense range here one herbalist, they’re probably the most convenient product out there with encapsulated, well balanced mushroom blends in each bottle.
There is a huge amount of information out there so try not to be overwhelmed, a good place to start is the not Scholarly (I like healthines articles because they have references) Then move into the studies themselves if you want specifics.
(start here!) Not Scholarly:
General Mushroom safety:
Mori K1, Inatomi S, Ouchi K, Azumi Y, Tuchida T. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.
Chen Diling,* Zheng Chaoqun, Yang Jian, Li Jian, Su Jiyan, Xie Yizhen, Lai Guoxiao. Immunomodulatory Activities of a Fungal Protein Extracted from Hericium erinaceus through Regulating the Gut Microbiota
Anti-oxidant / anti-aging
HonghaiHu, ZhenyaZhang, ZhongfangLei, YingnanYang, NorioSugiura. Comparative study of antioxidant activity and antiproliferative effect of hot water and ethanol extracts from the mushroom Inonotus obliquus
Yong S, Ting Y, Xian-Hui C, Gong Z, Rempel BC, Zhan-Hui L, Jiang Ji-Hong J. In vitro antitumor activity and structure characterization of ethanol extracts from wild and cultivated Chaga medicinal mushroom, Inonotus obliquus
Mi Ja Chung, Cha-Kwon Chung, Yoonhwa Jeong, and Seung-Shi Ham. Anticancer activity of subfractions containing pure compounds of Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) extract in human cancer cells and in Balbc/c mice bearing Sarcoma-180 cells
Seong, KugEoYoung, SoKimChong, KilLeeSeong, SunHan. Possible mode of antiviral activity of acidic protein bound polysaccharide isolated from Ganoderma lucidum on herpes simplex viruses
Anti-Cholesterol (animal Study)
Choong Yew Keong, Tong Chow Chin, Nor Aini B. Umar, Noordin M. Mustapha, Sulaila Mohamad. The Effects of a Powder of the Fruiting Body of Commercial Lingzhi or Reishi Medicinal Mushroom Ganoderma lucidum