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There’s something magical about the mushroom. It grows deep in verdant, mossy forests, quiet and mysterious and hidden from view. Because it doesn’t contain chlorophyll, the mushroom requires no sunlight. Instead, it exists quite independently, drawing its nutrients from the organic matter in which it lives. This has, for thousands of years, enchanted mycophiles-those who passionately study mushrooms-as well as mycophagists-those who eat mushrooms.
The beguiling mushroom’s followers date back to several hundred years BC in China, where mushrooms were used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. The mushroom’s medicinal and healing uses have been confirmed in many recent studies. Mushrooms are rich in polysaccharide and beta-glucan components that enhance immune function and protect against cancer. Most research has focused on shiitakes and “specialty” mushrooms, such as maitake and reishi, but common button mushrooms have recently been shown to protect against breast cancer by modulating excessive levels of estrogen. Shiitake, oyster, and maitake mushrooms are also the best source of L-ergothioneine, a potent antioxidant. Of more commonly consumed mushrooms, portabellas and criminis are highest in L-ergothioneine, followed by white buttons. Portabellas and white buttons are also rich in two important trace minerals-selenium and copper. And there is also some naturally occurring vitamin D in both types.
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Heal Brain & Body with Medicinal Mushrooms
Magical as mushrooms are in recipes, sometimes you need a little extra support. High-quality supplements concentrate the healing compounds in mushrooms in one easy dose. Here’s a look at five standout medicinal mushrooms and their unique health benefits. Each of these can be taken as a single supplement or as part of a combination mushroom formula.
Good for: Cancer Prevention, Blood Sugar Balance, Immune Support
This “King of Mushrooms,” as it is known in Japan, contains a unique compound called maitake D-fraction, which has been shown to stimulate cancer-fighting immune cells. Other research on D-fraction and maitake has revealed that it can help reduce high blood sugar in diabetics.
Good for: Antiaging, Heart Disease, Inflammation, Cancer Prevention, Ulcers, and Immune Support
Reishi, which is thought to have the longest historical use of any medicinal mushroom, has numerous compounds that have been shown in scientific studies to have therapeutic effects. In fact, research supports reishi’s use for boosting life expectancy, stimulating neurons in the brain, killing cancer cells, and helping to prevent the development of new fat cells in overweight individuals.
Good for: Increased Stamina and Exercise Performance, Fatigue/Low Energy, Immune Support, Healthy Libido, Kidney Health
Cordyceps is a fungus that grows on caterpillars in Tibet (giving it the nickname “caterpillar fungus”). This energy-building mushroom has a long history of use in Chinese medicine. In fact, cordyceps has been used by Olympic athletes to improve performance.
Good for: Prevention of Alzheimer’s, Memory Enhancement, Mood Disorders, Improved Focus
Known for its beautiful “cascading” appearance, lion’s mane has both brain and immunity-boosting benefits. Newer research shows that compounds in the mushroom help guard against brain cell death, thereby enhancing mental clarity and memory. One clinical study in Phytotherapy Research showed that lion’s mane improved brain function among seniors with mild cognitive impairment.
Good for: Lowering Blood Sugar, Immune Support, Antioxidant Support
Chaga is a parasitic fungus that grows on birch trees. It’s a rich source of antioxidants and has been shown to have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antitumor effects.
Mushroom Shopping Guide
Mushroom Wisdom Grifron Maitake incorporates the whole mushroom for a range of benefits that includes blood sugar and blood pressure balancing.
North American Herb & Spice Chaga Black lets you reap the benefits of wild, raw chaga mushroom in a delicious, coffee-like beverage.
Host Defense Cordyceps Energy Support features freeze-dried organic mushrooms that are grown in the United States. This product is also non-GMO.
Paradise Herbs Reishi Supreme is made using a natural extraction process and has a high concentration of reishi extract. The capsules are vegetarian.
New Chapter LifeShield Mind Force contains lion’s mane for cognitive support, as well as reishi and chaga. Also try LifeShield Reishi and Immune Support.