We have recently been hearing a lot about the power of medicinal mushrooms, but are they a super food fad, or here to stay?
Mushrooms have been used throughout history for their taste and medicinal properties, particularly in Traditional Chinese Medicine, where it is said they improve ‘chi’ (your life force), as well as many other ailments. It was not just Asia that was aware of the power of these mushrooms however, with references to their use found in many other regions. In 1991, a 5000-year-old mummy found in the Alps was found buried with Piptoporus Betulinus (Birch Bracket Mushroom), which was believed to be used to help clear parasitic worms, as it had laxative effects. Today the mushroom is still used, to boost the immune system, soothe nerves and eliminate fatigue.
To see Medicinal Mushrooms as a new fad in superfoods is therefore doing the humble mushroom a disservice. There are many different types of mushrooms, each with their own specific benefits, so it can be difficult to know where to start and how to incorporate them into your diet.
HOW TO POWER UP YOUR HEALTH WITH MUSHROOMS
As well as being super yummy, mushrooms are low in fat, high in protein and are a good source of many vitamins and minerals. The common chestnut mushroom, for example, has anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties and are also recognised as slowing down the effects of osteoporosis.
Get creative and incorporate some of the more unusual types, such as the red reishi mushroom or oyster mushrooms.
Move over Matcha! Chaga lattes are the new healthy alternative to coffee. As a good source of B vitamins, it’ll give you the pick me up you might need in the mornings, without the jitters (and potential anxiety) that come with caffeine.
Chaga has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-candida and anti-parasitic properties, so you will be supporting your immune and digestive systems to defend your body from any nasties. Chaga is also a rich source of beta-glucans that can help to support the immune system, so is a good choice for anyone with autoimmune disorders, such as PCOS, arthritis or Lupus.
Reishi, Cordyceps and Lions Mane teas are also becoming more popular. Reishi is a good alternative if you have been feeling overwhelmed as it can help regulate hormones, including cortisol and help to lower the effects of stress. Cordyceps are popular with athletes, as it helps to increase energy and the amount of oxygen intake. This also makes it a good option for anyone suffering with respiratory conditions, such as asthma.
Lion’s Mane helps to increase cognitive function, memory and brain function, making it a good one if you are studying or if you have noticed that your memory and concentration is not what it was
If you’re using mushrooms for an ailment, supplementation can be the most effective way to ingest large doses. There are a few things to think about to make sure you get the best supplements. Firstly, the supplement should be a mushroom extract, ideally dual extracts. Many people can’t digest non-extracted mushrooms, and if your body isn’t able to process it, you’re essentially flushing your investment down the toilet. Secondly, it should state on the facts label that they contain beta-glucans or polysaccharides. Beta-glucans are the bioactive ingredients.
1 Chi-Sing Cho, William, 2011 ǮEvidence-based Anticancer Materia Medicaǯ2 Medicinal Mushrooms – Piptoporus Betulinus http://www.medicalmushrooms.net/piptoporus-betulinus/3 Erjavec I, et al. 2016 –ǮMushroom extracts decrease bone resorption and improve bone formationǯ PubMed. 4 Sissi Wachtel-Galor, et al. 2011 –Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects 2nd Ed. – Chapter 9 Reishi 5 Sissi Wachtel-Galor, et al. 2011 –Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects 2nd Ed. – Chapter 5 – Cordyceps