Medicinal mushrooms have been used traditionally for thousands of years as powerful healers – to balance the immune system and promote well-being and longevity. Still, most people tend to lump mushrooms into the “vegetable” category, or the “psychedelics” category. Medicinal mushrooms, however, are in a class of their own. These health-supporting fungi, also known as functional mushrooms, are just beginning to be celebrated again in the mainstream as the powerful medicines they’ve always been since ancient times.
If you’re new to using mushrooms for their health and healing benefits, it can be confusing to figure out which ones to start with. There are hundreds of varieties of mushrooms that have health-supportive benefits, and I’ve covered 7 of the most powerful ones in depth in my new book, The Rebel’s Apothecary. Today, I’ll share where to start when it comes to adding 4 of the most popular medicinal mushrooms 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 a few of the most powerful 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, 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, 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 simmer the actual mushroom in hot water to extract the medicinal benefits). 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 capsules or tincture form – they’ll have it at most health food stores.
Reishi is known as the mushroom of longevity. It’s a calming mushroom that reduces inflammation and is often used for lowering stress and helping with sleep. It’s the perfect 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 in tinctures or 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. Try adding cordyceps powder to hot water, coffee, or tea — 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. I love adding cordyceps to my morning smoothie, or drinking cordyceps tea if I hit an afternoon energy dip. Just like with chaga and reishi, you can also find it in tinctures or capsules.
Lion’s mane is the brain power mushroom! It’s 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, smoothie or take it in capsules to prepare for a more productive, creative day. You can also cook this one, if you’re lucky enough to find it at your local farmer’s market. It’s delicious sauteed in coconut oil or grass-fed butter.
All 4 of these mushrooms can be powerful additions to your wellness routine – supporting your energy, stamina, focus, concentration, immune system, sleep and more. You can add mushrooms to your coffee, tea, 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, herb store, or farmer’s market.
If you’re looking for specific brands you can trust to get started with, 4 companies I love and recommend are Four Sigmatic (for coffees, teas, and elixirs to mix into hot water), SuperFeast (powders), Catskill Fungi (tinctures) and Host Defense (capsules).
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.
Have you tried any of these powerhouse medicinal mushrooms? What’s your favorite way to take them?
Jenny Sansouci is a health coach and author of The Rebel’s Apothecary: A Practical Guide To The Healing Magic of Cannabis, CBD, and Mushrooms