How These Unique Mushrooms Do Magic for Your Health
"Don’t you want to sit down?" my friend asked me.
She had calmly been waiting for me at Voulez Vouz - our favorite local French cafe - sipping her mint tea meditatively, when I late and in a Sex-And-The-City way had entered with my hands full of designer shopping bags, which is very unlike me, is normally very bored with shopping.
I was pulling up stuff from my bags, showing her all my new acquisitions, while gabbling about this and that, when her question made me aware of my energy this day. A day where I’d done morning training drove two hours by car to and from my cottage, cleaned the whole house, done the gardening, and shopped, and yet I didn’t feel any urge to park my arse, or let my mouth run less.
"Do I seem manic?" I asked.
"No, I don’t think so... but a tad fresh, though." my friend replied - who is a psychologist by the way.
"It must be the mushrooms I’ve eaten today...”
"What are you up to now?" she asked, frowning and smiling at the same time.
"I am testing medical mushrooms. And just saying that half an hour after I've eaten them, I feel a warmth in my body, spreading all the way from the tip of my toes to the top of my head, as if my immune system totally calms, and at the same time I get a boost of good energy… I've lost weight too. "
The lady pricked up her ears, so I continued to entertain her about these strange looking rootless and leafless sprouts that had caught my interest lately.
This post contain links to the products that I use myself or can recommend. If you buy products through these links the price will be the same for you and I will receive a small commission, which helps to support this blog. You can read about my affiliate policy here.
Chaga - for a strong health
Reishi - for balance
Maitake - for blood sugar and weight loss
Shiitake - for extra nourishment and great complexion
Where to buy your Mushrooms
1. Medicinal Mushrooms
It's not the psychedelic mushrooms I'm interested in, nor the mushrooms you have with your breakkie tomatoes and sausages. No, we are talking species like Chaga, Lion's mane, Maitake, Reishi, Shiitake, Cordyceps, Himematsutake, Turkey tail and the likes.
These mushrooms have the ability to protect our bodies from toxins and help balance out the stressors we constantly face, and they’ve never been needed as much as today.
Far from being curiosities of the past, medicinal mushrooms are gaining an ever-wider popularity today. This new interest is greatly stimulated by the large number of scientific studies that’ve been conducted on them.
One of the key results that have come out of both laboratory and human clinical studies conducted on mushrooms are a number of compounds in fungis that can stimulate immune function and inhibit tumor growth. In particular compounds called beta-glucan polysaccharides (sugar molecules) have been shown to have antitumor and immune stimulating properties by stimulating the body’s innate ability to marshal cellular defenses. On top of that, they have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties; they support the body's hormone systems, provide protein and act as strong antioxidants.
Many of these mushrooms also act like adaptogens or hormone balancers, helping people struggling with fatigue increase their levels of energy and endurance.
They assist your body in adapting to the different stress factors of modern life, and they are able to stimulate and inhibit bodily functions depending on the need at any given time. They give you a little extra when you are low and hold the reins when we have a little too much, so to speak.
Mushrooms that have been exposed to sun can also be one of the few natural sources of vitamin D2, ranging from 3.5 to 50 micrograms per day per 100 grams. Recommended daily supplement of vitamin D is approximately 10 micrograms.
The Mushrooms One By One
The types of mushrooms that I’ve been able to get hold of, and that’ve been through my digestive system lately, are Chaga, Reishi, Maitake and Shiitake.
2. Chaga-for a strong health
Inonotus obliquus or Chaga is a mushroom that grows on birch trees. Unlike most fungus, Chaga is hard and woody, bearing no resemblance to mushrooms. Instead, it looks more like a cracked piece of burned charcoal.
Chaga’s black color is due to a concentration of melanin, the same pigment that colors human skin. Because Chaga can be used to start fires, it is also known as the “tinder fungus”.
It is highly popular in Russia and parts of Europe, and it enjoys a major body of science for its health benefits.
Chaga's 7 impressive health benefits
1. Immune boosting agent. Chaga has one of the highest ORAC scores of any food! ORAC stands for “Oxygen Radical Absorbent Capacity.” The higher the ORAC score the better a food’s ability to protect the body from disease-causing free radicals. It also means that Chaga mushrooms are one of the best sources of antioxidants.
Chaga also contains beta-glucan polysaccharides, which have been shown to have strong anti-inflammatory and immune balancing properties and successful in the treatment of psoriasis, which is an immune related skin disease.
Research has shown that the beta-glucan polysaccharides in Chaga increase the body's production of natural killer cells - these cells are the body's first line of defense, when a potential threat is detected.
2. Cancer. The ability of these beta-glucan polysaccharides to produce natural killer cells is now also many places being used as an anti-cancer supplement, as it can help the body to destroy tumors and fight infections.
Lab tests have shown that Chaga has anti-tumor effect and has a beneficial effect on breast cancer, liver cancer, uterine cancer and stomach cancer.
3. Anti-age. Eating foods with high ORAC score also helps to protect against premature aging and age-related memory loss.
Chaga has the highest antioxidant capacities of all known plants, hence the best anti-aging effect too. In addition, Chaga contains an enzyme called superoxide dismutase, which is able to neutralize damage caused by free radicals, thus protecting the body against disease. It also has compounds in it that lower disease-causing inflammation in the body.
4. Beauty booster. Besides the regenerating and protective antioxidants, as mentioned, Chaga also has a very high melanin content.
Where the sun shines a lot, Mother nature has given us furless types good layer of the protective melanin, and where it doesn’t shine so much, we typically have fair skin with very little melanin, so we can be nourished with the scarcely sun as quick as possible.
Melanin is pigment produced in the cells of the epidermis and is what gives skin, hair, and eye their color. It’s known for ability to protect genes and DNA.
Melanin strengthens skin, vision and hair and protects against damage from UV rays. With age we produce less melanin.
5. Anti-inflammatory. The compound ergosterol in Chaga, along with related agents, shows strong anti-inflammatory activity. Chronic inflammations in the body are what can cause the immune system to overreact, and is often the what causes a large number of the diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, inflammation in the joints, arthritis, some types of dementia, overweight etc.
6. Improves Physical Endurance. In animal studies, Chaga has significantly improved physical endurance. One study with mice showed that when they were given Chaga mushroom polysaccharides they were able to swim longer. The glycogen (fuel) content of both muscles and liver increased while lactic acid levels in the bloodstream decreased. Put that all together and it’s a recipe for less fatigue and better endurance.
7. Metabolism. Birch trees naturally contain betulin and betulinic acid substances, which are absorbed by the Chaga as it matures on the tree. Betulin as found in birch bark is indigestible by humans, but the Chaga converts it into a form that can be absorbed. Recent studies have shown that betulin from birch bark can lower cholesterol, obesity and improve insulin resistance.
How to Dose
I use approx. 1 tsp. of an organic Chaga powder a day.
Chaga has a mild vanilla flavor and is ideal as tea. Let it steep for 3-5 minutes. You can also use cooled Chaga tea in smoothies and porridges.
3. Reishi - for balance
Ganoderma lucidum or Reishi in Japanese or Ling Zhi in Chinese.
This large fiery red mushroom that traditionally has grown on the forest floor in the depths of China's mountains is said, "to fight deep-seated diseases, promote vitality and lift the spirit".
Many revered Taoists and monks have long claimed that Reishi is a powerful ‘Shen tonic,’ which translates loosely to an herb that ‘nourishes the spirit’.
While this is a claim that cannot directly be verified by science, Reishi has consistently demonstrated the ability to profoundly relax the nervous system, calm the mind and induce a state of relaxed focus, for which it has long been valued by spiritual seekers, meditators and those looking to relieve the stresses of daily life.
As described in the book “Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects,” in Chinese the name for the Reishi mushroom represents “a combination of spiritual potency and essence of immortality … it’s tied to success, well-being, divine power, and longevity.
Reishi mushrooms, like most adaptogenic herbs, also supports and balances the endocrine and hormonal systems in the body, which are likely related to its spiritually activating properties.
Hormones are the ‘molecules of consciousness’—powerful bio peptides that control mood, perception, sleep-wake cycles, bonding and connection and our awareness of reality. Reishi’s effect on the hormonal system is legendary. Its gentle yet powerful, working to balance the body’s many glands and organs steadily overtime, which makes it ideal for daily use. Read much more about these potent secretions in my post about balancing hormones.
Over the past several decades, dozens of different studies conducted in Japan, China, the U.S. and the U.K. have demonstrated that Reishi mushrooms are capable of offering protection against numerous diseases or illnesses, and
can be either stimulating or soothing, depending on the needs of the body.
The Active Ingredients the Reishi Mushroom include:
- The plant sterols that can act as precursors to hormones in the body.
- Beta glucan polysaccharides can fight cancer cell development.
- Acidic substances called triterpenes can turn off the body’s response to allergies.
Some of Reishi's many benefits:
- Blood sugar balancing
- Improves blood circulation
- Immune balancing
- Lowers Cholesterol
- Improves liver function - Supports detoxification
- Supports the lungs
- Supports the kidneys
- Reduces blood pressure
- Stress reducer
- Tumor inhibitor
- Virus inhibitor
Reishi is also regarded as aphrodisiac, and as a tonic herb.
The mushroom is used against the following disorders and conditions:
- Allergies, asthma and bronchitis
- Altitude sickness
- Anxiety and depression
- Arthritis and joint diseases
- Autoimmune diseases
- Digestive problems, stomach ulcers and leaky gut syndrome
- Fatigue (including chronic fatigue syndrome)
- Frequent infections (urinary tract, bronchitis, respiratory infections, etc.)
- Heart diseases, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels
- Leukopenia (decreased white blood cell count)
- Liver Diseases
- Protects the body during radiation and chemotherapy treatments associated with cancer.
- Skin conditions
- Sleep disorders and insomnia
- Tumor growth and cancer
- Virus, including flu, HIV / AIDS and hepatitis
How to Dose
One of the best things about using Reishi mushrooms is that they’re capable of doing so much good, yet compared to medications they’re non-toxic and produce hardly any side effects. In fact, most people quickly notice an improvement in energy, mental capabilities and mood, plus also experiencing reduction in aches, pains, allergies, digestive issues and infections.
As with any new herbal product, it’s recommended to start off slowly and work up to higher dosages as you become familiar with its effects on your mind and body. Reishi is safe to take long term, and doing so is necessary to attain the full benefits of its qualities.
Extracts and powders are more effective than fresh mushrooms.
Hot. For best absorption, it’s recommended to drink it as tea or in other hot liquids. Some believe they are most effective if taken in the mornings on empty stomach.
Powder. I use ½ -1 tsp. of an organic powder version a day.
Sorts. According to Ron Teeguarden, one of the world’s foremost experts on Chinese herbal medicine, the red and purple varieties of Reishi, although harder to find, are generally superior to other types.
Wild. Lookout for wild harvested/crafted products.
’Duanwood Reishi’— is referring to the type of wood that the mushrooms grown on—known particularly for enhancing its immune-stimulating properties and overall potency and quality. Grown without chemicals in pristine mountain environments, Duanwood Reishi is typically superior to most other products and naturally organic.
4. Maitake - for blood sugar and weight loss
Grifola frondosa or Maitake in Japanese and Huishu Hua in Chinese.
We find many names for those we love, thus Maitake is also known as “Sheep’s head” or “Hen of the woods.”
In Japan Maitake is known as “the dancing mushroom”, as the legend goes, that a group of Buddhist nuns and woodcutters danced to celebrate when they discovered a fruiting of Maitake mushrooms emerging from the forest floor.
It does very well look like a sheep's head or a hen's behind when you see it where it prefers to grow, which is at the foot of oaks, elms and other trees.
You will normally find it in the northeast of Japan, but Maitake can also be found in the northern temperate hardwood forests of Asia, Europe and Eastern North America.
Its flesh is soft and white, and like the other mushrooms Maitake also contains the very immune enhancing beta-glucan polysaccharides, which make it a loyal and strong warrior against all potentially hostile microbes that attack the body.
6 of the great health benefits of Maitake Mushroom
1. Cancer and Immune Enhancer
The polysaccharides in Maitake have a unique structure and are among the most powerful that have been studied to date, demonstrating more pronounced antitumor activity in animal tests than other mushrooms.
For many of the same reasons that Maitake may help protect against cancer, it also plays a critical role in supporting immune system health. The important polysaccharides in Maitake, as mentioned previously, help to enhance the activity of certain immune system cells, such as T cells, B cells, macrophages, and natural killer cells.
These beta-glucan polysaccharides, which are also found in medicinal herbs such as Echinacea angustifolia, have been shown to enhance both the innate and adaptive immune response, working as an adaptogen on the deeper immune reserves.
The mushroom has also proved beneficial in the treatment of illnesses such as hepatitis and HIV / AIDS.
Maitake mushroom extracts have been shown to demonstrate protection against diabetes in several studies, and research has shown that Maitake prevents elevated blood sugar levels and may increase insulin sensitivity, thus have an antidiabetic effect.
3. Blood pressure
In a study spontaneously hypertensive rats were fed with powdered Maitake. Unlike a control group (where blood pressure increased with age), the Maitake group experienced a decrease in blood pressure. When the Maitake group returned to their normal diet, blood pressure increased again. But the blood pressure fell again when the animals again were fed with Maitake.
4. Weight Control
As Maitake is rich in fiber yet low in calories and fat, it’s been cited as a potential weight-loss aid. Animal studies have shown that Maitake as a major component of the diet can inhibit weight gain.
Furthermore. Maitake contains the beta-glucan that can increase satiety, reduce food intake, delay nutrition absorption and reduce plasma lipid (fat) levels. Beta-glucan also has the effect of lowering cholesterol with the additional benefits of weight loss and helping control diabetes.
Maitake is rich in the amino acid and the highly potent antioxidant, ergothionein, which seems to play a crucial role in preventing oxidative stress from attacking our DNA. Ergothionein concentrates and protects cells in those parts of the body that are particularly exposed to oxidative stress - such as the liver, the lens of the eye, and in sensitive tissues such as bone marrow and seamen.
6. Other nutrients
Maitake is a good source of B-vitamins, copper, antioxidants, selenium, ergosterol / provitamin D2, magnesium, potassium, calcium, unsaturated fatty acids, phosphatidylserine and other phospholipids and proteins.
How to Dose
You can get Maitake as a powder or as extracts and it blends well with tea or coffee.
¼ tsp. 1 to 3 times a day.
There’s not much literature about side effects, but as the mushroom can lower blood pressure and blood sugar, you should avoid eating it for at least two weeks before surgery.
If you are diabetic or suffer from low blood pressure, you should consult your doctor before eating Maitake.
5. Shiitake- for extra nourishment and great complexion
Lentinula edodes or Shiitake is Japanese. ’Shii’ refers to the name of the tree these mushroom originally grew on, and ’také’ simply means mushroom.
Shiitake is very social and a bit of a diva, likes flashlight and loves music - especially classic and rock & roll, at least that’s what some farmers who deal with Shiitake on a daily basis say. They also assert that if you grow Shiitake on an isolated log, it does not produce as much as when the log is in a cluster. Word has it that it also produces generously when the people attending to it emit positive energy.
If there are some clumsy people near it or arguments or fighting going on, Shiitake tends to be defiant and wilts. In fact some Shiitake farmers simulate the ideal environment in anticipation for better yields.
In return, Shiitake too provides a unique variety known as Donko whose inside remains moist and soft even when its surface is dry. The variety has white pores well patterned against its dark brown caps. According to Asians, Donko is a potent aphrodisiac. For that reason, while it sells for $40 a pound in the US, it goes for double that amount and more in the Asian countries.
Shiitake’s native land is Asia with a great presence in China
It’s one of the most common mushrooms and can be bought all over the globe in both dried and fresh form. It’s possible to grow the mushroom yourself if you can get hold of a grafted oak trunk in the garden center.
7 health benefits of Shiitake
1. Powerful antioxidant
As I also mentioned in the section about Maitake, ergothioneine is a highly potent antioxidant amino acid that occurs naturally in the body, and it’s found in high concentrations around cells that are subjected to free radical damage. Shiitake is that food that is richest in this stuff.
2. Extra Nutritional Content
Shiitake is particularly nutritious compared to the other mushrooms.
Shiitakes are also unique for a plant because they contain all eight essential amino acids, along with a type of essential fatty acid called linoleic acid.
Linoleic acid helps with weight loss and building muscle. It also has bone-building benefits, improves digestion, and reduces food allergies and sensitivities. Linoleic acid also has bone-building properties, improves digestion and reduces food allergies and sensitivity.
Shiitake is also rich in cobber with about 65% of the daily value per serving, significant because copper is one of the few metallic elements essential to human health. Since the body can't synthesize copper, our diets must supply it regularly. Researchers say that deficiency can be a factor in coronary heart disease development.
In addition, Shiitake is rich in selenium, zinc and manganese and B vitamins riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3) and pantothenic acid (B5).
3. Beauty Booster
Shiitake's high content of selenium, zinc, strong antioxidants and B vitamins and the fact that it’s anti-inflammatory is a treat for the skin and a great anti-aging cocktail.
And if you top up your mushrooms with vitamin E (olive oil, almonds) and vitamin A (carrots, dark green vegetables), there is a good chance of getting that fine attractive complexion and becoming acne free - if the latter one is something you should be dealing with.
4. Fights Cancer and enhance the Immune System
Shiitake is, like the other mushroom types, also rich in beta-glucan polysaccharides, which, as now mentioned many times, has been proven to be extremely helpful to the immune system and in cancer prevention and cancer treatment. But Shiitake also has another and particularly potent polysaccharide called lentinan.
Researchers have demonstrated that lentinan works by stimulating immune system cells to rid the body of tumor cells. In clinical trials, lentinan administered with chemotherapy has increased the life span of cancer patients, improved the effectiveness of chemotherapy and kept tumors from growing. In Japan, lentinan is approved for use as a drug to prolong the lives of patients undergoing chemotherapy for stomach cancer.
5. better Circulation
Shiitake mushrooms contain the special protective substance named eritadenine that in several studies has showed to help reduce cholesterol levels and support cardiovascular health.
Researchers are not quite sure how it works, but think that it interferes with the production of cholesterol in the liver and in that way helps keep cells from sticking to blood vessel walls and forming plaque buildup, which maintains healthy blood pressure and improves circulation.
6. Weight Control
Three great things in Shiitake support the weight loss project - linoleic acid, eritadenine, and beta-glucan.
Linoleic acid improves digestion, and beta-glucan can increase satiety, reduce food intake, delay nutrition absorption and reduce plasma lipid (fat) levels. Eritadenine can lower cholesterol levels, thus providing weight loss and help control diabetes.
7. Energy and Brain Function
Shiitake mushrooms are a great source of B vitamins, which help support adrenal function and turn nutrients from food into useable energy. They also help balance hormones naturally and break through the brain fog to maintain focus all day long — even improving cognitive performance.
How to Dose
You can buy fresh or dried Shiitakes in many supermarkets - and powders in most health food stores.
As Shiitake is also considered a delicacy, you’ll find billions of delicious recipes online.
I use organic Shiitake powder and mix it in tea, coffee and soups.
Recommended daily dose: ½ tsp.
Potential side effects
Normal portions of Shiitake are considered safe to eat for most people.
Use beyond this is not sufficiently investigated.
However, large amount of Shiitake may cause side effects such as stomach problems, eosinophilia, photosensitivity, respiratory distress and so-called Shiitake dermatitis. Raw Shiitake, which comes into contact with the skin, can also cause eczema.
6. Where to buy your Mushrooms
Except for Shiitake, these medical mushrooms are not easy to find in Denmark - not even as a powder.
I prefer powders as they are easy to fit into my daily diet, and it’s also in that form you’ll get the most of their beneficial substances.
So far the only mushroom I've managed to find in Denmark is Chaga.
The best way to have your mushrooms is when they’re cooked. In this way, the beneficial substances in them become more bioavailable for the body.
The mushroom powder I put in my recipes are far below the doses that I’ve noticed others use in their recipes. Where others use 1 tbsp. I use 1 tsp. It works well for me, and you can always increase if you need to.
Most mushrooms and herbs like collaborating with other species, thus giving a synergy effect. So I’ve made a ready-made powder mixture of the four mushrooms that I’ve described above. I use on average 1 tsp. of it a day in times of need or when I just want an extra energy kick or mood boost.
Note that fresh and dried mushrooms contain the substance agaritine, and there are slightly different opinions about whether it’s toxic. However. The available evidence to date suggests that agaritine from consumption of cultivated mushrooms poses no known toxicological risk to healthy humans.
If you boil your fresh mushrooms for 30 seconds or your dried ones for 5 minutes, most of the agaritine will disappear. Deep-freezing fresh mushrooms also removes the agaritine.
* My mushroom mixture:
You can also buy a blend of 5 good mushrooms.
4 delicious recipes with mushrooms
You can alway just add mushrooms to your normal cup of tea or coffee, but these three drinks and the energy bars are really delicious and perfect for warming your body in the cold seasons.
Side Effects in General
Mushrooms are highly immune-resistant and, as you can tell from the above rant, they have many other healing properties, and they have been grown and eaten for millennia.
But they are also to be considered as medicine, so they should be eaten with care and for limited periods of time.
I particularly take my mushrooms when I sense that my immune system is a bit challenged, when I feel a little stressed, or when many people around me start to get the flu.
Mushrooms also assist my body to adapt to new places and climates when I’m traveling and they help me get over jetlag faster.
Mushrooms contain a moderate amount of the waste products, purines. Uric acid is a by-product of the decomposition of this. Uric acid is usually secreted by urination, but some people with a tendency to get gout, may accumulate it in the blood where it can increase to the point where it "overflows" and deposit in the blood and possible in the skin.
However, many people have an increased amount of uric acid in the blood and never develop gout.
Most often gout is triggered by lifestyle factors such as high alcohol intake, high calorie intake, overweight, and diseases with increased cellular decline, such as psoriasis and cancerous diseases.
All information in this blog is strictly for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. The statements made in this blog have not been evaluated by The Danish Health Authority. The products linked to in this blog and any information published in this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information provided by this blog is not a substitute for a face to-face consultation with your physician, and should not be construed as medical advice. The entire contents of this blog are based upon the opinions of Hanne Robinson. By reading and using this blog, you agree to only use this publication for personal informational use and not as a substitute for medical or other professional advice.