Medicinal mushrooms are mighty magical. Try saying that five times fast. It is, however, important to note that while magical in their healing powers, I’m not talking about magic shrooms, popular in the 70’s. Medicinal mushrooms lack psilocybin, the compound responsible for hallucinations. These medicinal mushrooms are 100% legal and completely safe. In recent years, they have exploded in popularity for their antioxidant, antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Medicinal mushrooms have been used in traditional forms of medicine for centuries. They are particularly revered in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and used as a functional food daily to help strengthen the immune system, reduce stress and fatigue, support detoxification, enhance digestion and absorption of nutrients, and act as a natural pain killer. They also provide a boost of energy, and reduce respiratory symptoms like asthma. With so many medicinal mushroom options, they are the perfect healing tonic for any season.
There are many varieties of medicinal mushrooms used around the globe. Several have gained popularity in the western world, specifically reishi, chaga, cordyceps and turkey tail are popular options that are easy to source and come with a wide variety of health benefits.
Reishi is the most popular nutraceutical mushroom in the world. Known as the king of mushrooms, it is praised for its anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, allergy-preventing and liver detoxifying functions. Studies have repeatedly shown that the reishi mushroom contains strong antioxidant abilities, helps to strengthen the body’s defences against infections, increases fertility and balances hormones.
It is easily distinguishable thanks to its flat, red-varnished, kidney-shaped cap and can be harvested wild for use at home. If harvesting mushrooms isn’t your idea of a fun time, reishi is found in a variety of supplement forms including tinctures, teas, powders and capsules at your local health food store.
Out in the forest, chaga looks less like a typical mushroom and more like a lump of black coal. It is traditionally used in the treatment and prevention of heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, parasites, stomach pain, and certain types of cancer.
More recently, chaga has become popular as a caffeine-free, antioxidant-rich coffee alternative. It tastes surprisingly like coffee, and is a great way to enjoy the benefits of this medicinal mushroom.
Popular for its calming and uplifting effect on the neuroendocrine system, cordyceps is commonly used to counteract the effects of stress and fatigue.
A study published in 2016 in the Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin found that cordycepin, one of the active compounds in the cordyceps, can be used in the treatment of inflammatory diseases like asthma, dermatitis, rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune conditions.
Cordyceps is available in tincture, powder and capsule form at your local health food store.
Brewed in medicinal teas for thousands of years in Asia, turkey tail is one of the most common varieties of fungi growing wild in Canada; you’ve probably passed it on your hikes.
Turkey Tail is best known for its immune-boosting and immune-modulating properties. It can help stave off infection and is a great supplement to add to your regime during cold and flu season.
The body of research on medicinal mushrooms continues to rapidly grow revealing a potentially non-toxic and side-effect-free alternative to modern medicines. To reap the benefits of medicinal mushrooms, visit your local health food store for an assortment of options that can easily be included in your daily routine.