(Jenny Sansouci) Mushrooms have been used traditionally for thousands of years as powerful healers — to boost the immune system and promote wellbeing and longevity. Still, many people tend to lump mushrooms into the “vegetable” category or the “psychedelics” category. Medicinal mushrooms, also known as functional mushrooms, are only recently starting to be celebrated again in the mainstream as the powerful medicines they’ve always been. If you’re new to using mushrooms — which are actually not vegetables, but fungi — for their health and healing benefits, it can be confusing to figure out which ones to start with.
There are many varieties of mushrooms that have health-supportive benefits, but we’re going to cover four common medicinal mushrooms — and where to start when it comes to adding them to your self-care regimen. It’s important to note that the medicinal mushrooms we’re covering here as part of a wellness protocol aren’t psychedelic mushrooms — meaning, they won’t cause you to hallucinate!
If you’ve been curious to add medicinal mushrooms to your life, here’s an overview of four of the most common medicinal mushrooms and the wellness benefits they’re known for.
Chaga mushroom is known for its immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory properties, and it’s the perfect mushroom to add to your daily wellness routine. Chaga has been shown to help reduce inflammation and fight free radicals — and it’s even been shown in studies to have anti-cancer properties. If your goal is to keep your immune system strong during the winter months, start with making yourself a hot cup of chaga tea (you can find it in tea bags, powder that dissolves in hot water, or you can boil the actual mushroom in hot water). Chaga can be particularly helpful to take if you feel you’re on the verge of getting sick. If making a chaga tea doesn’t strike your fancy, you can take chaga in capsules or tincture form — they’ll have it at most health food stores.
Reishi is a calming mushroom that reduces inflammation and is used for lowering stress and helping with sleep. It’s an awesome mushroom to take at night, or any time you want to relax. In addition to its relaxing properties, reishi is also a powerful mushroom for immunity. It’s another mushroom that’s been promising for cancer. Studies have shown that the beta-glucans in reishi could help stop the growth of tumors. Start with reishi by making a calming evening tea with it (or, as with the other mushrooms, you can easily find reishi capsules).
Cordyceps is often used for performance and adrenal support, helping to boost energy and stamina. For that reason, it’s a popular mushroom to take before a workout. When cordyceps powder is added to coffee, it can blunt the crash you might feel from coffee and help provide a steadier energy. There have been studies that show cordyceps mushroom reduces fatigue and improves endurance. Just like with chaga and reishi, you can start by drinking cordyceps as a tea with hot water, stir it into your coffee, or take it in capsules.
Lion’s mane is commonly used for focus and brain health, which makes it the perfect mushroom for working or studying. It’s also used for supporting the nervous system, improving concentration and memory. Lion’s Mane has been shown in studies to aid in neuroprotection and neuroregeneration — which can improve cognitive function. Add lion’s mane into your favorite drink or smoothie or take it in capsules to prepare for a more productive, creative day.
All four of these mushrooms can be powerful additions to your wellness routine — supporting your energy, stamina, focus, concentration, immune system, sleep and more. Again, you can add mushrooms to your coffee, tea, or smoothies, or simply take them as capsules or tinctures. If you want to buy whole mushrooms, you may be able to find them at your local health food store or farmers’ market.
If you’re looking for specific brands you can trust to get started with, two companies I love and recommend are Four Sigmatic (for coffees, teas, and elixirs to mix into hot water), and Host Defense (for capsules and tinctures). Otherwise, go to your local health food store and ask them what medicinal mushrooms they have available.
If you’re on any medications, make sure to check the Memorial Sloan Kettering site, which has a huge list of herbs, supplements, and mushrooms — and what drug interactions they have.
Now go off and start experimenting with these powerhouse medicinal mushrooms! You’ll soon figure out which are your favorites — and the best ways to take them.