5 Superfood Mushrooms – Lions Mane, Reishi, Cordyceps, Chaga, Turkey Tail
Mushroom supplements are all the rage right now, from Chaga coffee to mushroom elixir tea, to tonics and drink mixes. Maybe you’ve noticed this trend and wondered what all the fuss is. Well, it turns out, the attention is deserved, as the evidence for these fungi superfoods is compelling.
For thousands of years, traditional practitioners prescribed mushrooms for all types of illnesses and ailments. Only now are western practitioners and researchers catching up to them. Most of this interest stems from the prolific and prevalent nature of specific diseases, like cancer. Mushrooms, however, are demonstrating much more power than just treating cancer. They can increase immune system function, slow the effects of aging, boost mental aptitude, and alleviate general fatigue. And, they provide this without debilitating side-effects which are common in current medications.
Five mushrooms, in particular, show astounding benefits and are readily available in stores and online in a variety of forms: Reishi, Lion’s Mane, Chaga, Turkey Tail, and Cordyceps.
Reishi easily earns its’ nickname, the “Mushroom of Immortality.” This mighty mushroom possesses anti-inflammatory properties, is loaded with antioxidants, and provides incredible immune benefits.
Recent research discovered reishi as an immunomodulator, regulating and normalizing the immune system. Immunomodulators are important in the treatment of asthma, allergies, and autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. Immunotherapy is also being investigated to treat various cancers.
This mushroom superfood boosts memory function, alleviates anxiety and depression, improves the immune system, and is being studied as a treatment for degenerative brain diseases. That’s a lot!
Erinaceus, a novel compound found in lion’s mane, delays neuron cell death. Patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s experience disruptions between neuron cells, triggering the disease and the ensuing memory loss. Proper neuron cell performance is essential to healthy memory function. I have another article all about Lion’s Mane (my favorite smart mushroom).
An immune system supercharger, chaga, is useful in treating a wide variety of illnesses. The gene-protective and immunomodulating abilities of chaga safeguard the body against disease naturally, from the inside out. Chaga is used to combat heart disease, tuberculosis, parasites, stomach pain, bacterial infections, and harmful microorganisms.
As a cancer preventative and treatment, it shows great promise. In animal studies, the triterpenes in Chaga caused tumor cells to die-off without causing any harm to healthy cells.
Check out this simple morning Chaga Coffee recipe.
Another immune system superstar, turkey tail, contains a unique compound named PSK (polysaccharide krestin). In Japan, PSK supplements are approved to treat cancer in conjunction with chemotherapy. This is due to the immune-stimulating capabilities of the compound, and the demonstrated ability of it to increase survival rates in cancer patients. Additionally, it does so without side effects.
PSP, another unique element of turkey tail, is also demonstrating excellent results in stimulating the immune system, and therefore, inhibiting cancer cell growth. Breast cancer patients who took a turkey tail supplement along with chemotherapy and radiation produced higher amounts of cancer fighting cells.
Turkey tail studies indicate a positive increase in beneficial gut bacteria. PSP shows prebiotic abilities, which means it feeds the healthy bacteria in the gut. Balanced gut bacteria is critical to a healthy immune system. A balanced and healthy gut also contributes to healthy weight and can prevent obesity.
A unique fungi, cordyceps is used to treat fatigue, enhance kidney and liver function, improve sexual and reproductive function, and treat hypoglycemia. Cordyceps consumption directly correlates with increased oxygen intake, which leads to higher endurance, enhanced exercise capability, and a better quality of life.
In addition, findings suggest cordyceps will increase longevity, and researchers are exploring its ability to slow the aging process.
For diabetics, preliminary studies demonstrate cordyceps is able to reduce weight-loss and hypoglycemia. Additionally, blood glucose levels were lowered without any change in body weight.
Lull C, Wichers HJ, Savelkoul HF. Antiinflammatory and immunomodulating properties of fungal metabolites. Mediators Inflamm. 2005;2005(2):63–80. doi:10.1155/MI.2005.63
Guggenheim AG, Wright KM, Zwickey HL. Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014;13(1):32‐44.
Spelman, Kevin & Sutherland, Elizabeth & Bagade, Aravind. (2017). Neurological Activity of Lion’s Mane ( Hericium erinaceus ). Journal of Restorative Medicine. 6. 19-26. 10.14200/jrm.2017.6.0108.
Powell, M. 2014. Medicinal Mushrooms: A Clinical Guide. Mycology Press.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Chaga: https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/chaga-mushroom
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