The 411 on Medicinal Mushrooms
We’re about to go a little bit psychedelic on you. Today’s lesson is on ‘shrooms.
We’re talking about nutrient-dense, vitamin-rich, life-giving, ultra healing, medicinal mushrooms, in all their varieties (it's reported there are anywhere between 1.5 and 5.4 million different species of fungi!).
Think about it: fungi are pretty invincible, spanning across millions of years and surviving a vast variety of ecosystems and climate changes, surpassing the dinosaurs and able to exist underwater and outer space. When we consume foods with that caliber of evolutionary prowess, we are ingesting something incredibly adaptable and prized, which is why most, if not all, ancient civilizations have admired the mushroom.
And, while you may have slapped a portobello on your grill at the family BBQ last weekend, or tossed a couple of white buttons on your vegan, non-GMO, gluten free slice of ‘za, have you explored blending up a transformational tonic with a food nicknamed the “diamond of the forest”???
Mushrooms are considered to be a longevity hot spot food, which indicates that the people who live the longest consume it regularly.
Let’s break a few of these little guys down:
Enoki, Flammulina velutipes: These tall and slender mushrooms contain CLA, a compound that helps to reduce visceral fat from your gut and can also lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol. Mostly found in Asian cuisine, the "golden needle mushroom" is a staple in salads and stir-frys and overflowing with amino acids — great for memory and mental health!
Chaga, Inonotus obliquus: Charcoal black in hue, Chaga is a total MVP on the mushroom squad and has been used for thousands of years in Eastern medicine, typically in teas. It is found on birch trees, in the Northern Hemisphere. It works hard to repair oxidative stress to DNA, is antimicrobial (aka great for your botanical body), and is incredibly high in B vitamins, flavonoids and zinc — all critical micronutrients for a thriving you.
Cordyceps, Cordyceps sinensis: This group of mushrooms is called upon for mental clarity and athletic performance — an ideal mushroom to shine in a business meeting or run a half marathon. Cordyceps enhances your yang, or your transformative, hot and excitable qualities and therefore increases libido, endurance and muscle tone.
Oyster, Pleurotus betulinus: This one you may have come across in your gourmet dinner adventuring, as it is an of-the-moment ingredient in the restaurant world. Oyster mushrooms are like a booster shot for your immune system by bringing a more alkaline food into your microbiome, as well as providing ample fiber and folate to help those with an iron deficiency.
Brazilian Blazei, Agaricus blazei: With humble roots in a small Brazilian village called Piedade, this variety packs a major nutrient punch, containing polysaccharides called beta-glucans which tone down inflammation and heal the immune system. In addition, clinical tests have been run with the Blazei to show its positive effects on liver function and aid with insulin resistance.
Ice-Man Fungus, Fomes fomentarius: It reads like an adventure novel akin to Moby Dick; 5000 years ago, the “iceman” died on an alpine glacier but was survived by 3 fungal objects. This specific type of mushroom, also known as Tinder polypore, has been researched extensively and the medical yield is pretty astounding. The Chinese have used it for cancers, particularly in the esophagus, stomach, and uterus. It has also been used as a diuretic and natural laxative, being extremely detoxifying to the GI tract.
Maitake, Grifola frondosa: A Japanese variety, grown in little flocks and therefore nicknamed “the hen of the woods” (how quaint!), Maitake is excellent at regulating blood sugar, lowering blood pressure, and an excellent source for Vitamin D2 — a vitamin we’re learning more and more about, as it's important for neurological, endocrine and lymphatic health. Maitake also contains D-Fraction, a polysaccharide that combats breast and bladder cancer cells.
Lion’s Mane, Hericium erinaceus: Ancient physicians and modern doctors alike recognize the restorative and memory-enhancing qualities of Lion’s Mane, which visually resembles the lustrous locks of the King of Pride Rock. It has been shown to increase Nerve Growth Factors in the human brain, improve nerve regeneration, and create protectant for neural pathways. All of this noggin-lovin’ leads to enhanced memory, better reasoning, and less of a chance for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, anxiety and depression. They also call this guy the "tofu of the mushroom kingdom", as it looks, tastes, and feels a lot like it. Sauté in some coconut oil, and prepare to be amazed.
Reishi, Ganoderma lucidum: We recently waxed poetic about this one, but here’s what you need to know: It’s one of the most potent adaptogens on the planet, it aids in immune health, lowers blood pressure, regulates blood sugar and can help regulate mood and the oxidative effects of stress. #mushroomgoals
Turkey Tail, Coriolus versicolor: On Turkey Tail's resumé: can help restore bone marrow, is anti-inflammatory, and can excrete antiviral compounds specifically aimed to fight HPV and hep-C that can lead to liver cancer. Whoa, baby.
Shiitake, Lentinula edodes: We look to shiitake for its abundance of linoleic acid, and copper, which the body cannot produce itself but craves in order to perform at its peak and for optimal heart health. It’s also a ninja, fighting off pathogens and viruses thanks to lentinan, a powerful antifungal protein.
And that’s just the tip of the nutritional iceberg! What we love most about mushrooms is how easy they are to incorporate in your meals already, and health food companies have seized the moment and taken a liking to these superhero spores — Sakara has taken the lead too! Shrooms offer a cumulative effect, meaning, their healing benefits will electrify your life the more you regularly that you consume them. In powdered form, they are almost too easy to boost your smoothies, juices, tonics, salad dressings, soups, stews, baked goods — the world is your oyster (oyster mushroom, that is).