Which Medicinal Mushroom is Right for You?
Mushrooms, with their earthy, umami flavor, dense chewiness, and culinary versatility, have long been used in cuisines all over the world—they’re a staple in the Japanese diet, in numerous European regions they serve as the center of recipes such as risotto and Chicken Marsala, and in the U.S. they’ve long been a popular star ingredient in dishes ranging from mushroom ragout to portobello burgers. Mushrooms have been such a longtime favorite there is even a mushroom-centric cookbook, titled “One Hundred Mushroom Recipes,” that dates back to 1899.
Recently, the other kind of mushroom—those with medicinal properties—have been attracting the attention of wellness communities so much so there is now a crop of new companies that sell blends and singular varieties of these “ancient”, healing mushrooms in accessible, on-trend manners: infused into chocolate, for example, in colorful, single-serving packages, and even in coffee. All of these products are readily available at health food stores. The mushrooms, when combined with ingredients like coffee and stevia, are convenient (you can easily throw a few packets in your bag) and, quite surprisingly, delicious (assuming you have a pallet that parallels your conscience).
So, is this another wellness hype, or should we pay attention?
Medicinal mushrooms have wide-ranging health and wellness properties—they can be beautifying, energizing, disease-fighting, and anti-inflammatory. Numerous brands also make mixed-mushroom concoctions now, i.e. beauty blends and energy blends—and they’re well worth a try. Depending on your tastes, it’s recommended that you experiment with various ways of incorporating the mushrooms into your diet. If you don’t mind semi-bitter, and some very strange flavors, each can be taken plain. For those who cringe at the thought of consuming something that tastes a bit “off,” try the chocolates (or make your own!) or blend the mushroom powders with your morning coffee.
Reishi, otherwise known as Ganoderma lucidum, is quickly becoming a darling of the mushroom world. According to Dr. Axe, reishi mushrooms enhance athletic performance and oxygenation of the blood, improve cardiovascular health and immunity, improve difficulties with the liver, and act as a calming agent. For those who have a difficult time feeling centered and calm before bed (or ever), reishi may be an excellent go-to supplement, according to the book “Herbs for Long Lasting Health.” Four Sigmatic makes a mushroom elixir that when mixed with a bit of hot water, unsweetened almond milk, and stevia, is delicious.
Lion’s Mane, though considered a culinary mushroom, has incredible medicinal properties. It’s energizing, and for those who don’t do well with caffeine, it’s an excellent alternative: according to Dr. Axe, it provides you with a sense of calm, focused energy, making it a great option to keep on your desk. Lion’s Mane is also an immunity booster, may help fight cancer, and aid with digestion. Om Mushrooms has an energizing blend that, has a somewhat bitter flavor but works quite well.
Chaga helps, primarily, with immunity—and a lot of that stems from how it boosts and regulates the immune system. As noted by Medical News Today, it increases the body’s ability to produce antibodies, and helps destroy abnormal cells. It also fights free radicals (the source of numerous diseases) and inflammation. With its immunity-fighting capabilities, it’s a good mushroom to incorporate into your fall and winter supplement routine.
Cordyceps is energizing and stimulating—especially for the libido—because it stimulates the flow of oxygen to the cells, according to Dr. Weil. It’s an effective option for those with difficulties with their nervous system, and may help with depression and anxiety.
Maitake is excellent for those with blood sugar issues, including diabetes. Cancer Research UK has found that it can reduce tumors, and thus may be an ideal mushroom for cancer prevention and treatment.
You’ve likely had shiitake mushrooms already, whether un-knowingly or not, as they’re frequently used in numerous types of cuisine. They’re delicious and have an incredibly satisfying texture, and they’re also much more nutritious than most other culinary mushrooms: they contain vitamins and fiber, as other varieties do, but they’re also a superfood. Shiitakes can strengthen and stimulate the immune system and fight bacterial growth, fight cancer and the effects of chemotherapy, and help to limit the body’s absorption of cholesterol, according to Dr. Mercola and Dr. Weil. They’re easier to find in stores than other mushrooms on this list, as they’re available in the produce sections of most grocery stores. The Trader Joe’s shiitake mushrooms are an affordable and delicious option.
Four Sigmatic makes taking medicinal mushrooms, well, fun—the mushrooms are blended with ingredients like stevia, so the flavor isn’t as mushroom-y. The company’s mission it to make mushroom supplements delicious, and it does. Four Sigmatic offers mushrooms in hot cacaos, coffee, and matcha products. The Reishi Powder is sweet and each serving is packaged individually, so they’re portable and easy to consume.
Chaga Almond Latte
1 heaped Tbsp. Chaga powder
1 cup of water
1/2 cup of unsweetened milk
Cinnamon to taste
1 slice of fresh ginger
Dash of pepper
1⁄4 tsp. almond extract
Stevia to taste
Mix all ingredients and heat in saucepan over stove—easy, delicious, and good for you.
Shiitake Stir Fry
5 cups shiitake mushrooms
1⁄2 Tbsp. olive oil
1⁄2 Tbsp. tamari
1⁄2 Tbsp. fish sauce
Fresh ground pepper
2 green onions
Toasted nori strips
Heat oil in pan and brown the onions. Add the mushrooms a sauté until tender. Remove from heat and add soy and fish sauces. Garnish with toasted nori strips.