Mushrooms are fast becoming one of the hottest 'trends' in the health & wellness space to date, and there's good reason why. They are biologically impressive and very beneficial to human health, which is why they're beginning to be recognised as a superfood.
Whole Foods Market named so-called 'functional mushrooms' as one of the top 10 food trends. Believe it or not, these functional mushrooms have been used for centuries as traditional medicine all over the world.
1) Cordyceps Mushroom
Cordyceps are unique species of mushrooms that thrive on the larvae of insects or trees. Cordyceps Sinensis and Cordyceps Militaris are the most common species of interest to humans. They are distributed worldwide, but more so distributed in tropical forests and humid temperate regions of Asia. Cordyceps are mainly found in Asian countries like China, Nepal, Thailand, Korea, Bhutan, Japan, and Vietnam.
Cordyceps play a crucial role in traditional Chinese medicine. They are popularly applied to tackle low sex drive, fatigue, and kidney diseases. Many products and supplements contain Cordyceps because of their medical benefits.
Cordyceps offers health benefits such as supporting exercise performance, heart health, and immune system. They produce anti-ageing, anti-tumour, and anti-diabetes effects on the body.
Cordyceps is considered safe and has little to no side effects on the body.
2) Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s Mane (Hericium Erinaceus) is also known as the bearded hedgehog or mountain-priest. They are white, long, hairy, orb-shaped mushrooms from North America, Europe, and Asia. They thrive on spines of hardwoods. For centuries, Lion’s Mane have also been crucial in traditional Chinese medicine. The taste of Lion’s Mane is similar to that of a lobster. Lion’s Mane mushrooms can be consumed raw, dried, cooked, or brewed into tea.
Since Lion’s Mane mushroom is rare and endangered, the UK government prohibits picking and selling this mushroom.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms have bioactive compounds that impact the health of the heart, stomach, and brain. They can fight dementia, heart diseases, diabetes, cancer, stomach ulcers, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. They support the nervous and immune systems.
A study on older adults shows that Lion’s Mane mushroom improves cognitive functions. Studies on mice reveal that Lion’s Mane mushroom has anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant effects. More studies on mice indicate that Lion’s Mane improves recovery time from nervous system injuries. Many animal studies demonstrate that Lion’s Mane can reduce blood sugar levels in diabetic mice.
3) Oyster Mushroom
Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) are also known as tree oysters mushrooms or pearl oyster mushrooms. They have white, board, and oyster-shaped caps. They were first grown in Germany during world war 1 for survival. They are now grown all over the world today.
Oyster mushrooms are integral ingredients in many Chinese, Korean, and Japanese dishes. There are over 40 types of oyster mushrooms in existence, but they are all edible. For centuries, these mushrooms have played an essential role in traditional medicine. They are popular for their medicinal benefits and contain different potent compounds.
Oyster mushrooms contain many nutrients like fibre, vitamins, minerals, and low carbohydrates. They are a good source of anti-oxidants, that can promote blood sugar regulation, heart, and gut health.
A study on mice shows that Oyster mushrooms enhance the anti-oxidant level during ageing, reducing age-related disorders. More studies suggest that consuming oyster mushrooms reduces triglycerides, cholesterol, and oxidized LDL, which affects heart health. Further studies on mice reveal that Oyster mushrooms promote gut health. More scientific research on mice shows that Oyster mushrooms possess anti-tumour and anti-inflammatory properties.
4) Maitake Mushroom
Maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa) are also known as the hen-of-the-woods mushroom. ‘Maitake Mushroom’ is also known as ‘dancing mushrooms’ in Japan. They are edible mushrooms that thrive on the bottom of oak, elm, or maples trees. They originated from China, Europe, and North America. They have been an important component of many Japanese and Chinese dishes for centuries. Today they serve as a substitute for meat in many dishes. They are popular because of their potential health benefits and delicious taste. They have an earthy and peppery flavour and are best enjoyed cooked.
Maitake Mushrooms contain a good amount of fibre, minerals, antioxidants, vitamins B and C, beta-glucans, potassium, copper, and amino acids. They contain low sodium, calories and are free from fat and cholesterol. They can support the immune system and regulate blood pressure levels.
A study suggests that Maitake Mushrooms hinder the growth and development of cancerous cells. A study on mice reveals that Maitake Mushrooms reduces levels of cholesterol. More animal studies show that Maitake mushrooms produce positive results on type 2 diabetic mice.
Young Maitake mushrooms are easily digestible, but older ones are difficult to digest because of their toughness (cooking it will help). Since Mailtake mushrooms affect blood pressure and blood sugar, it’s best to consult your doctor if you have diabetes or suffering from low or high blood pressure levels. Avoid consuming Maitake mushrooms within two weeks of surgery to prevent complications. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should see a doctor.
5) Chaga Mushroom
Chaga Mushrooms (Inonotus Obliquus) are irregular, dark brown to black mushrooms. They sometimes resemble burnt charcoal. They are found on birch, alder, beech, oak, and poplar trees within the cold regions of North America, Europe, Siberia, Korea, Russia, and Northern Canada. They are also known as clinker polypore, cinker conk, and sterile conk trunk rot of birch. Chaga Mushrooms’ dark colour is linked to its melanin content. For centuries, they have been components of traditional Russian, Siberia, and Asian medicine.
Chaga Mushrooms contain many beneficial nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. They reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels. They are also anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory agents, which may help to improve the immune system.
Animal studies demonstrate that Chaga mushrooms promote the creation of healthy cytokines that regulate the immune system. More animal studies show that Chaga mushrooms reduce blood sugar levels. Clinical trials on humans suggest that Chaga mushrooms inhibit cancerous cells’ growth and induce the death of cancer cells.
Chaga mushrooms are generally safe. Nevertheless, they can interact with diabetic or blood-thinning medications. If you are on any of those medications, please avoid this mushroom. Consult your physician before consuming Chaga mushrooms if you are pregnant or nursing.