Mushrooms have been used for thousands of years, and people continue to use and study them today for their many health benefits. Mushrooms have a fascinating way of growing and living. They are strong and adaptable, thriving in decay and transforming toxicity—mushrooms clean our environment, and they bring their detoxifying abilities to our bodies when we consume them.
Mushrooms have their own very powerful immune systems, which keep them healthy even in hostile environments. This may be the reason that mushrooms are so supportive to human immune systems.
Mushrooms are also well-known for promoting healthy cell growth, and healthy cell death. Many mushrooms are high in antioxidants. These qualities make mushrooms an excellent overall preventive supplement—they support balance throughout the body.
In this article we’ll focus on just three especially immune-supportive mushrooms: reishi, shiitake, and maitake. But there are many more medicinal mushrooms available, either to be eaten or used therapeutically, including Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane, Agaricus blazei, Trametes versicolor, and Chaga. Each of these has its own unique flavor, texture, and health benefits. Lion's Mane, for example, is known for its incredible power to support the brain, promoting cognitive function and memory.
Fresh red reishi has a gorgeous deep red color that fades to yellow around the edges, like a sunset. Reishi has been known to support cognitive function, and was given the name “mushroom of immortality.” This mushroom helps to regulate inflammation, especially in the respiratory system. Reishi also supports emotional balance, healthy energy, and balanced blood sugar. By supporting liver health, reishi is also great for detoxification. Used topically, this mushroom supports clear, glowing skin.
Reishi is sometimes called Ganoderma lucidem. This mushroom is usually too tough to eat, so it's best to look for a high-quality extract, like this one. Also, try our Ganoderma Coffee for an easy way to sneak in some reishi every morning.
Shiitake mushrooms not only have amazing health benefits, they taste delicious and are easy to cook with. Try thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms, quickly marinated with organic soy sauce, olive oil, and chili flakes, broiled for about 10 minutes (until they’re crispy) as a topping for pizza, salads, or noodles. Cooking or drying mushrooms makes them more bioavailable, meaning they become easier to digest, and their medicinal compounds become more available to the body. As a side note, dried mushrooms, ground into a powder, make an amazing addition to soups or grains, for added umami flavor and a health boost.
Shiitake is a great source of B vitamins, iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin D, selenium, zinc, and magnesium. Like many mushrooms, shiitake is amazing for immune support. Research shows that many mushrooms help to "modulate" or regulate the immune system, rather than just stimulating higher immune function. So mushrooms can help create balance, whether the immune system is over- or under-active. Shiitake has also been shown to support cardiovascular health, balanced energy, better brain function, and healthy skin. Many of these benefits come from shiitake's high nutrient content—it's a great way to get your vitamins and minerals.
Maitake mushroom, or “hen of the woods,” is another excellent culinary mushroom, but it’s worth buying an extract of this mushroom for its medicinal properties as well. Maitake is highly supportive to the immune system, and promotes normal cell growth. This mushroom is also supportive of blood sugar balance. Maitake is considered an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body adapt to physical and mental stress. Maitake mushrooms are sometimes called "dancing mushrooms," supposedly because people who came upon this rare mushroom would begin dancing with joy. Others say the name comes from the overlapping appearance of the mushrooms, which resemble dancing butterflies.
Our Immune Support Blend contains reishi, shiitake, and maitake mushrooms combined with astragalus root. Astragalus supports the effects of the mushrooms by adding its own immune-boosting and adaptogenic properties to the mix. This blend can be taken every day, for an easy way to reap the benefits of medicinal mushrooms and keep yourself healthy.
Mushrooms are truly fascinating, with their many different shapes, colors, and sizes, and their wide-ranging health benefits. Find a mushroom or mix of mushrooms that works for you, and start taking advantage of their special power.
Cargill, Marie. (2016, Feb. 23). A history of medicinal mushrooms. Retrieved from: spiritofchange.org/Spring-2016.
de la Forêt, Rosalee. (Retrieved 2019, Feb. 6). Medicinal mushrooms. Retrieved from: https://wildernessawareness.org/articles/medicinal-mushrooms.
Masé, Guido. (Retrieved 2019, Feb. 6). Medicinal mushrooms: a brief history and overview of principal species. Retrieved from vtherbcenter.org.