The Ultimate Guide to Medicinal Mushrooms for Your Most Vibrant Health

The Ultimate Guide to Medicinal Mushrooms for Your Most Vibrant Health

From Los Angeles to New York, medicinal mushrooms are showing up in lattés (even Dalgona lattés) in the trendiest cafés. The question is, why?

Are mushrooms including reishi, chaga and lion’s mane just the latest fleeting health trend or is there a real reason you should be considering how to slip mushrooms in your drink?

Medicinal Mushrooms: Ancient Remedies for Modern Lives

Rewind a few years…

“There is no way I am going to add mushrooms to my smoothie,” I thought.

After all, I was already pushing the limits of what flavours could be masked by bananas and berries with the addition of kale.

If I am completely honest, I can still sort of taste it. However, the reason I keep adding kale is because I KNOW it’s so good for me. The benefits of adding extra dark leafy greens to my day outweigh the slightly earthy, greens-y flavour my smoothie has taken on.

Everyone has their limits when it comes to sneaking foods into recipes. I get it, I really do. But stick with me. Fair warning, I am going to tell you to add whole foods mushroom powders and extracts to your:

  • Smoothie
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Latté
  • Superfoods Elixir
  • Soup
  • Stew
  • Porridge

Unlike those who may be slightly mis-representing when they say you can’t taste kale in smoothies, I am going to show you how to add medicinal mushrooms to your foods and drinks deliciously and undetectably. I promise.

Once you discover the reasons why medicinal mushrooms are so powerful for your health, I am willing to bet you’ll do it as happily as I do!

Reishi Dalgona Coffee Latte

Neuro Growth’s Andrea pouring up a Dalgona Latté. She used reishi mushroom spore powder in the coffee base to give it a de-stressing boost.

Where Did the Idea of Using Mushrooms for Better Health Come From?

Medicinal mushrooms (sometimes called functional mushrooms) have been used throughout Asia for thousands of years and are staples of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and herbalism.

Our forefathers in herbalism used medicinal mushrooms in applications including these:

  • Hippocrates (Greek Physician, 450 BC) used the amadou mushroom as an anti-inflammatory and for cauterizing wounds.
  • Tao Hongjing (Alchemist, 5th Century) documented the healing properties of reishi mushroom in China.
  • Ötzi, the Ice Man (lived 5300 years ago) carried amadou and birch polypore in a pouch. He did this to help him survive the harsh conditions of the Alps of northern Italy.
  • First Nations Peoples in North America used and still use puffball mushrooms to heal wounds.

Although you probably don’t realize it, chances are you have taken mushrooms as medicines. Many modern pharmaceuticals contain compounds from mushrooms. These drugs are used to treat:

  • Infections
  • Tumors
  • Cholesterol
  • Mood, depression and anxiety
  • Immune health
  • Fungal infections
  • Parasites

Medicinal mushrooms have long been used in traditional medicine, but the ability to identify and extract the ingredients responsible for healing started when penicillin was discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming. In the years since then, many modern medicines have benefited from the compounds in mushrooms.

Warnings About Mushrooms: Why Herbal Remedies Are Just Catching On

Modern Western society has been slower than others to use mushrooms medicinally.

That some mushrooms can feed you, some can heal you, some can kill you, and some can send you on a spiritual journey speaks of their diverse chemical constituents. From an evolutionary and survival point of view, it is safer to avoid that which is poorly understood yet so powerful. Hence, mushroom medicines have remained an eclectic science.

Paul Stamets, Medicinal Mushrooms: Ancient Remedies Meet Modern Science

Perhaps Paul Stamets is correct in attributing this lag to confusion about the functional uses of mushrooms. After all, no one wants to mistakenly poison themself.

That said, the fact that mushrooms are so functionally diverse and have incredibly long-standing use as medicine has stimulated a new wave of herbalism in North America.

Whatever the reason for our delay in curiosity about the benefits of mushrooms in the West, it’s sufficient to say mushrooms have our attention now.

Relax & Feel Connected with Reishi

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), reishi mushroom has a longstanding reputation as a longevity herb. Reishi has been found by many to have a grounding, de-stressing effect. It helps you to get out of your head and feel connected.

Reishi Helps You Chill Out Without Making You Feel Drowsy

Reishi mushroom, like many medicinal mushrooms, has adaptogenic properties. Adaptogens are natural compounds that encourage your body to recognize the symptoms of stress on the body, mind, and spirit and bring you back into balance.

If you take reishi mushroom during the day, it’s going to help you achieve a calm, focused state. If you take it in the evening, it can help you unwind and improve your sleep cycles. This versatility is due to being an adaptogen. 

Reishi is a tonic herb, which means it is safe for daily use. Taking it consistently, rather than just here and there, is most effective for yielding noticeable improvements.

Relax and unwind with reishi, nature's answer to stress.

Reishi is Not Simply an Immune Booster (You Need to Know This)

Many people believe that medicinal mushrooms, including reishi mushroom, are immune boosters. 

This is more about marketing than the true nature of medicinal mushrooms. What medicinal mushrooms ACTUALLY are is immuno-modulators. This is way cooler than simply having the ability to boost the immune system. 

Immuno-modulation is the capacity to up-regulate, down-regulate or maintain the immune system, according to each individual’s need. This internal intelligence makes medicinal mushrooms, including reishi, more like living organisms than plants. It is one of the reasons reishi was viewed as a treasure of tonic herbalism and was once reserved for royalty.

Can Reishi Improve Brain Health? Find Out HERE.

Chaga: The Protector

Chaga is the defender of the body from pain and frailty. It’s appearance is unlike that of any other mushroom. Chaga is found growing on birch trees in masses that resemble charcoal. Reishi is often referred to as the king of the Medicinal Mushroom Kingdom and Chaga is the queen.

5,000 years ago, the earliest documented uses of chaga were by herbalists and Shaman across Siberia, Asia and North America. In the 21st century, chaga is enjoying a renaissance. The full spectrum of compounds in Chaga make it very impressive and a mighty defender for modern health needs.

Chaga strengthens and fortifies.

Chaga Builds a Strong Foundation

Chaga is one of the most nutritive foods on the planet. It is loaded with antioxidants, melanin, triterpenes, polysaccharides, vitamins and minerals.

Where chaga shines above other mushrooms is in its antioxidant capacity. It is possible chaga is the highest nutritive source of antioxidants. This makes chaga great potential to protect the body from cellular aging and painful inflammatory conditions. Humans are living longer than ever before and those who consistently use chaga are acutely aware of its potency for decreasing the physical pains that often go hand in hand with living to an old age. 

Like all other mushrooms, chaga possesses anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and immuno-modulating benefits.

Lion's Mane for the Brain

Lion’s mane mushroom looks more like a fluffy bunny tail than a mushroom, but it is a perfect example of how diverse medicinal mushrooms can be in their appearances and benefits!

More than a medicinal mushroom, lion’s mane is a popular culinary mushroom. Though varieties of it grow here in North America, it is most popular in Asia. Lion’s mane has a wonderful lobster-like flavour when cooked. 

Dried lion’s mane can be found in Asian markets commonly, but if you want to enjoy it fresh, we recommend purchasing a grow kit and cultivating your own mushrooms at home.

Lion's Mane Every Day Keeps Procrastination Away

Sometimes it’s a struggle to get into a task. There are just so many things competing for our attention. Lion’s mane mushroom, when taken daily, has the ability to refine our neural network, help us break away from default patterns of thinking, and zoom in on the task at hand. 

Will lion’s mane make you smarter? Put it to the test! The brain benefits of lion’s mane have been well-documented.  

There was a study done in Japan involving elderly adults who suffered from mild cognitive impairment. The participants were given lion’s mane for 16 weeks and their measures of cognitive function were observed to be significantly higher than the placebo group’s. There was one catch though… when they stopped taking lion’s mane, the results disappeared.

Why would the cognitive benefits stop when the participants stopped eating lion’s mane? We don’t have all the answers but we do know that to receive the benefits of the gentle power of nourishing foods, consistency is important. You receive the benefits of the food when you consume the food.

Lion's Mane is perhaps the only substance on earth that can reverse neurological damage.

Lion's Mane has Some Nerve... Nerve Healing Ability!

Lion’s many mushroom is the only substance on earth proven to heal nerve damage. Diabetic or trauma-induced neuropathy have seen marked improvements when study participants are treated with lion’s mane! 

Lion’s mane has been shown to activate Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), a peptide essential for the development, growth and maintenance of brain health.

Studies are currently underway to see how Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis symptoms are impacted when people living with these health challenges take lion’s mane.

The neuro-protective properties of lion’s mane have been shown in mammalian studies to be able to re-myelinate nerves and increase brain function. 

 

Have More Fight in You With Turkey Tail

Turkey tail mushroom’s medicinal uses are first documented about 500 years ago in China. Its fan-shaped tail has become an iconic symbol representing fortification and longevity.

Protect the Immune System from Attacks

Modern scientific research has revealed turkey tail is promising in many immunotherapy applications. The mycelium of turkey tail is rich in protein-bound polysaccharides (such as PSK and PSP) and also newly recognized compounds beneficial in decreasing tumor sizes. Turkey tail has also been identified as having anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

In Japan, turkey tail has been approved as pharmaceutical grade medicine for more than 30 years in the treatment of cancer. In clinical trials, PSK has been used as an adjuvant (kind of like a booster or potentiator) to chemotherapy as a way to manage gastric, colon and colorectal cancers. PSP has been used in extract form in lung cancer treatment and as a prebiotic.

Turkey Tail may be able to help you miss fewer days of work.

Fortify the Gut Microbiome for a Healthier Life

Recently, it has become clear that the gut microbiome (made up of the tiny bacteria that live in our digestive system) is responsible for a large portion of our immune health. Some studies suggest between 75-80% of our immune system is regulated by the bacteria in our gut. We are more bacteria than human: each of us is comprised of more bacteria than human cells! No wonder the integrity of these microorganisms and the environment that sustains them plays such a massive role in our health.

Probiotic bacteria in the gut feed on prebiotics, of which Turkey tail is high in. Consuming prebiotics bolsters probiotic bacteria in our system.

For more information on immuno-protective mushrooms and herbs, click HERE.

PRO TIP: During cold and flu season consider taking a tablespoon of turkey tail whole foods powder a day.

Fuel Up With Cordyceps

Wild harvested Cordyceps sinensis are one of the rarest medicinal mushrooms. Their preciousness comes with a price. They are the most expensive mushroom in the world, costing $20,000 per kilogram.

Before you write them off as unattainable, you need to become acquainted with their affordable relative, Cordyceps militaris. Unless you venture to a specialty herbalist in Nepal or China, the only cordyceps mushroom you are likely to find on the market is “militaris,” commonly called Scarlet Cordyceps, which is still a premiere tonic herb and has very similar properties to sinensis.

Like Taking Two Breaths in One

Consistent use of cordyceps over time has shown to have excellent benefits for the lungs. 

Athletes who take cordyceps regularly have found them to increase the efficiency of the lungs for absorbing and utilizing oxygen. Many have experienced a measurable improvement of their V02 Max, the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilize and transport in their blood to their muscles while engaged in physical activity.

In the World Tour Track and Field Championship in Germany in August 1993, the Chinese Women’s Olympic distance running team smashed 3 world records. It wasn’t long before rumours of doping began to spread- while breaking records isn’t uncommon, to break 3 at one event raised many eyebrows. After investigation, their coach pointed to the team’s usage of cordyceps, which the runners were taking regularly. For the first time, cordyceps made international news as a food that could improve athletic performance.

We like to add 1-3 tsp of cordyceps whole foods powder or 1/2-1 tsp of extract powder to elixirs, tea, hot cacao and coffee.

Increase the Energy Available to Your Body

Cordyceps stimulates production of your body’s building blocks for energy, Adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The body can store and use ATP. When it has excellent reserves, it can help you engage in quick, explosive movements. 

A lower heart rate is another potential side effect of taking cordyceps. A lower heart rate during physical activity and at rest is often indicative of a more efficiently performing heart muscle. It slightly lowers your body’s temperature and blood pressure, which can be a great benefit to athletes

Sexual energy also benefits from regularly consuming cordyceps. Taking cordyceps improves blood circulation to… all the organs. It also improves overall wellbeing by increasing both physical and sexual endurance.

Poria to Get you Glowing

Poria mushroom grows around the roots of pine trees, similar to where one might find truffles on the roots of oaks. It is native to North America where it has been nicknamed “Indian Bread.” Native Americans traditionally ground it into a flour, which they used to make a sort of bread. Poria can also be found in Asia, Australia and Africa. 

Some poria fungi grow to be quite large, even 15-30 lbs. in size! 

In Asia, Poria is known as the mushroom of beauty, where its properties have been found to support healthy, glowing skin with an even complexion. 

One of the mechanisms for poria’s effectiveness as a beauty tonic is its ability to balance the movement of fluid through the body. Poria supports the kidneys, stomach and spleen in relieving bloat and in removing toxins. 

Join the Club - Poria is the Most Widely Used Mushroom in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Poria is a potent beauty tonic. It helps your skin stay smooth and evens complexion when eaten.

There are many more reasons why Poria is the most widely used medicinal mushroom in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM):

  • Assists with balancing fluids levels in the body
  • Liver supportive
  • Decreases uncomfortable excess mucous associated with coughing
  • Helps your body respond more effectively to sick and damaged cells
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Mildly sedative
PRO TIP: If during your menstrual cycle you have symptoms like bloating, gas, nausea, heartburn, diarrhea or constipation, 1-3 tsp of whole foods poria mushroom powder once or twice a day can improve digestive function.

Maitake Mushrooms Taste Good and are Good for You

Maitake mushroom is both a culinary and medicinal mushroom. Sometimes it is called “hen of the woods.” They grow in China, Japan and North America and have broad uses in the kitchen. They are often used is soups, stir frys, stews, and medicinal mushroom teas.

Dried maitake mushrooms or whole foods powders are great additions to broths, stews, elixirs, coffee, tea, sauces or smoothies.

Not only do they taste great, maitake mushrooms have some impressive health benefits:

  • Stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce uncomfortable correlating symptoms like headaches, increased thirst and blurred vision.
  • Animal studies show they may help keep cholesterol levels in check.
  • Support immune function, especially when paired with shiitake mushrooms.
  •  Promote fertility and induce ovulation in women who have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) as effectively as some commonly used drugs. 

Agarikon- The Great Defender Against Viruses

Paul Stamets believes Agarikon will be invaluable if scientists become confident in its antiviral potential.

Back in 2012 a study was done at the University of Illinois at Chicago that pitted agarikon against tuberculosis. The Institute for Tuberculosis Research found agarikon to be about one or two orders of magnitude away from being considered a pharmaceutical drug. They believe the potential is there for agarikon to someday be an accepted treatment for multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

More benefits with practical applications in disease management were discovered in another 2012 study. Eleven North American varieties of agarikon were put to the test against these viruses:

  • Cowpox
  • Swine flu (H1N1)
  • Bird flu (H5N1)
  • Herpes (HSV1, HSV2)

Remarkably, in several sets of these tests, diluted agarikon ethanol extracts were more potent against flu viruses than the positive drug control, ribavirin… by a factor of 10 or more.  As an added bonus, agarikon was found to be non-toxic to human cells (1). 

In March of 2019, the journal Mycology published a study that confirmed agarikon is indeed anti-viral, and that it performed particularly well when it was used in the treatment of viral lung infections. Agarikon’s efficiency at treating viruses was not fully understood by the researchers who felt more studies are needed to investigate its full potential. 

This isn’t surprising. Agarikon contains anti-viral molecules that are new to science. As more studies are completed, we expect to see an even stronger body of evidence in support of the anti-viral properties of this medicinal mushroom.

Honey Mushroom (One of These is the Largest Living Thing on Earth!)

Some incredible facts about honey mushroom captured have captured many an imagination:

  • The myceliem of a honey mushroom in the Blue Mountans of Washington state is throught to be the largest living organism in the world, measuring 3.8 km across. Our best estimates is that it is around 2500 years old and weights 400,000 kg!
  • Honey mushroom species’ myceliem is light-producing: this mushroom can glow in the dark!
  • Honey mushrooms are poisonous when consumed raw but non-toxic when cooked.
Honey mushrooms are poisonous if consumed raw but humans can enjoy their broad medicinal properties by cooking them.

Protect Your Brain with Honey Mushroom

The brain health benefits of honey mushroom are impressive discoveries that hold a lot of potential. A recent animal study has shown honey mushroom can improve neuron function, prevent cell damage and decrease the accumulation of certain proteins in the brain linked to Alzheimer’s Disease. 

How does honey mushroom function medicinally?

Part of the reason it is protective for the brain is likely due to honey mushroom being a rich source of antioxidants. Antioxidants scavenge for cell-damaging free radicals and offer protection to cells.

What to Know Before You Buy Medicinal Mushrooms

If you want to receive the benefits of medicinal mushrooms and herbs, you have to take them consistently. If you are going to invest the resources into taking something for long periods of time, you want to make sure the quality is excellent. This is particularly true when it comes to medicinal mushrooms. 

There are a few key things you need to know before choosing a brand and type of medicinal mushrooms to ensure quality and potency:

Always Choose Organic

Whether eating fresh, dried, powdered, extracted or tinctured mushrooms, always choose organic. Mushrooms are very good at eliminating toxins from your body. There’s an important reason for this: mushrooms are excellent at absorbing toxins (including heavy metals and chemicals) from the natural environment. Consequently, you should always choose mushrooms grown organically so you are minimizing your ingestion of these contaminants.

Do Your Own Quality Control

 When ordering powdered medicinal mushrooms from herbal companies for the first time, always look to see if they have a Certificate of Analysis and check and make sure their mushrooms are “verified for active compounds.” The most commonly listed mushroom compounds are beta-glucans, polysaccharides, and triterpenes. 

Most medicinal mushroom companies do not have their Certificates of Analysis available on their website but will send them to you by request. 

Choose Real Foods

When buying medicinal mushroom powders and extracts, look for products that only contain mushrooms. Sometimes starches are used as fillers and this decreases the potency of the products. Choose products with no fillers. 

Mushrooms do naturally contain some starches and glycogen (Alpha-glucans) but this should be pretty low, around 5% or less. The types of starches you are trying to avoid are fillers like grains. 

Mushroom powders should be rich and dark in colour. Tan or light-coloured products may be indicative of added starches or fillers. 

Mushrooms should also have rich smells: think earthy, salty, savoury, fishy or even chocolatey. If a mushroom product smells grainy or cereal like, it may contain added starches. 

PRO TIP: Often medicinal mushrooms are part of drink mixes and added to other prepared foods you can purchase. In most cases, the therapeutic value of the mushrooms is diminished because the producer of the product does not use enough mushrooms in each serving for you to receive a benefit. These products can be delicious, healthful foods that make it convenient to get your medicinal mushrooms in! Consider having a whole foods mushroom powder or extract on hand that you can add to bolster these convenient food and mixes if you enjoy them.

Packaging Matters

Always purchase mushrooms that are sold in opaque/solid or amber glass packaging. 

Mushroom powders, extracts and tictures lose their potency when exposed to light. Proper packaging ensures their quality for longer. 

When you bring your mushrooms home it is best to store them at room temperature in a dry place away from direct sunlight.

What You Need to Know About Mushrooms Originating from China

It’s okay to buy mushrooms from China if they meet the above criteria. In fact, the best organic medicinal mushroom powders and extracts generally do come from China. 

Very few mushroom powders and extracts are made from mushrooms cultivated in Europe or North America UNLESS the mushroom is a native species (such as chaga ). Sadly though, China also has a reputation for supplying the worst of the worst quality when it comes to medicinal mushrooms. 

If you use the shopping criteria above, you can be pretty confident in your supplier. 

Helping You Understand Labels: Medicinal Mushroom Packaging Lingo

Medicinal mushroom products come in many forms. Some of what you will read on their labels is important and relevant. Some of it is persuasive marketing. We are going to provide you with a list of some of the most commonly seen words on medicinal mushroom products so you can make educated consumer decisions.

These terms are the most common ones we see on medicinal mushroom product lists. There are certainly other terms you will see.

Neuro Growth helps make shopping for quality medicinal mushroom products easy.

Parts of a Mushroom

Fruiting Bodies: The fruiting body of the mushroom is the portion of the mushroom you see growing above the ground. It contains the reproductive part of the mushroom, the spores. The fruiting body, when grown full life cycle, contains all of the active compounds of the mushroom. 

Spores: Spores are produced in the gills of a mushroom. When mushroom spores germinate, they create a network of mycelium. 

Mycelium: Mycelium is the portion of the mushroom that grows underground. They are like the roots system of a mushroom. This system is vast and intertwined over huge areas and is called the “mycelium network.” We are always in contact with mycelium. Mycelium is thin and wispy, like strands of a spiderweb. Mycelium contains the building blocks of the mushroom. 

Types of Medicinal Mushroom Products

Whole Food Powder: Whole food powders are made from the dried whole fruiting body and/or spores of the mushroom. Some also contain the mycelium. Whole food mushroom powders that contain both the fruiting body and the mycelium possess the nutritional value of the whole mushroom and the sum of all of its compounds. Mushroom powders do not completely dissolve in liquids but are very fine so they stir well into teas, coffee, sauces, soups, stews, smoothies, elixirs and nut butters. 

Full Spectrum: Whole food powders or mushroom extracts that contain all of the nutritional compounds from the mushroom.

Extract: Different extraction methods are used to concentrate different compounds of the mushroom. Water extractions (conducted with no, low or high pressure) concentrate water soluble compounds. Alcohol extractions concentrate alcohol soluble compounds.  Extracts are sold in powdered or tinctured form. Powdered extracts are created by spray drying the mushrooms to evaporate the water after the extraction process is completed. Alcohol-only extractions are rarely done to make extract powders. Tinctured mushroom extracts are sold in liquid form. Just because a mushroom is concentrated through extraction does not necessarily mean it is better for you. 

Dual Extract: Refers to mushroom extract products created with both a water and alcohol extraction process. Some mushrooms have non-water soluble compounds, so not all varieties of mushrooms benefit from a dual extraction process. For some kinds of mushrooms, dual extraction weakens their medicinal capacity.  

Hot Water Full Extraction: High pressure hot water extractions provide the most complete extraction results achievable with water. This process protects and concentrates the compounds in the mushrooms. 

Tincture: A tincture is a mushroom product in liquid form that used alcohol (usually ethanol or another high spirit alcohol like vodka) to separate the nutrients from the mushroom. All tinctures are extracts but not all extracts are tinctures. We have made several videos on how to prepare your own tinctures with medicinal mushrooms here

Producer Growing Practice Terminology

Wild Harvested: Wild harvested can mean one of a couple of things when it comes to medicinal mushrooms. It can mean that a) they were harvested in their natural environment, not farmed or grown or b) it was grown by mushroom farmers on a natural substrate like a hardwood log inoculated with mushroom spores (as opposed to in other substrates like grains or even sawdust). We tend to think of this more as “less wild” than wild, because it isn’t quite the same as cultivated mushrooms either.

Cultivated: Cultivated mushrooms are grown intentionally by humans, outside of their natural habitats. The material the mushrooms are grown in can vary greatly and greatly impacts the quality. From sawdust to grains to manure and straw to superfoods, there are a variety of ways mushrooms can be grown outside of their natural habitats. The substrate mushrooms are cultivated on matters and impacts their quality.

Commonly Mentioned Compounds

 

Beta-glucans: Beta-glucans are sugars found in the cell walls of mushrooms (and other organisms/plants).  They are one of the key compounds in medicinal mushrooms. Animal and human studies have revealed potential benefits for balancing cholesterol and blood sugar, supporting the liver and kidneys, and modulating the immune system. Most medicinal mushroom research is based on the effects of Beta-glucans. 

Polysaccharides: Polysaccharides are a second compound people commonly look for in medicinal mushrooms. They are carbohydrates found in the cell walls of fungi. Alpha-glucans, Beta-glucans, cellulose, glucose and fructose are all examples of polysaccharides. Reishi, turkey tail and maitake tend to have higher amounts of polysaccharides than other varieties of medicinal mushrooms. When the polysaccharide count is represented by a product label, it is impossible for the consumer to know for certain whether the value comes from Alpha-glucans (added fillers and starches with no medicinal properties at all that inflate polysaccharide values) or Beta-glucans (which come from the mushrooms). When mushrooms are “verfied for active compounds” the testing can reveal whether the polysaccharides come from Beta-glucans or Alpha-glucans (added starches/grains).

Triterpenes: Triterpenes are a different compound than triterpenoids (like in cannabis). We wanted to clarify that immediately because this is a common misunderstanding. Typically, triterpenes appear in undetectable amounts in all mushroom products with the exception of spore-only products. Triterpenes are unsaturated hydrocarbons responsible for the adaptogenic mood-elevating properties of the mushroom. They are also known be cell and DNA protective, immuno-modulating, grounding for the nervous system, tonifying for the liver and kidneys, and one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-viral natural compounds.

 

How to Choose the Best Medicinal Mushroom For You

When you first start investigating the potential of medicinal mushrooms to benefit your health, it can be hard to decide on which one is best. If you are in the care of a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor, Herbalist, Naturopathic doctor, or Functional Medicine doctor they may have some suggestions for you.

However, if you are like most people, you are probably researching on your own. We aren’t doctors, so we can’t provide specific medical advice and we must recommend that you always consult with your health care provider prior to making dietary or lifestyle changes, especially if you are taking medications, are pregnant or breastfeeding. Now that that is out of the way, be confident that for most people, medicinal mushrooms are a great option.

One of the things we believe at Neuro Growth is that food is best consumed in a form as close to nature intended as possible. We believe this will support the best long term positive results. That said, the technology that enables us to make medicinal mushrooms easy to use in the forms of whole food powders, extracts, and tictures is not something to frown upon: they are excellent delivery systems.

We have a formula to help you decide which medicinal mushroom product is right for you:

1. Choose one whole food mushroom powder (or a product that is a blend) that feels right for you based on the potential benefits to your overall health. For example, if you struggle with focus and memory and are concerned about your brain health, you might select a lion’s mane mushroom whole foods powder.

2. Choose one extract OR spore product that addresses a more pressing health need. For example, if you are a runner or cyclist trying to strengthen your lungs you may choose a scarlet cordyceps extract. Or maybe lately you have struggled fiercely with stress, in which case reishi spore powder may be your choice. 

Use both mushroom products together. There is a good reason for this. 

Firstly, combining a whole foods mushroom powder with an extract will help to improve digestion and possibly absorption. Whole foods mushroom powders are sources of prebiotics that enhance the way we process and utilize compounds and nutrients from food.

Secondly, mushrooms work better together than they do separately. When used in combination they potentiate (intensify) each other’s benefits!

PRO TIP: If you are looking for a fast and easy solution when you are on the go, tinctures may be convenient for you because they come in dropper bottles. They can simply be squirted onto your tongue at any time.

How to Consume Medicinal Mushrooms Deliciously, Daily

The beautiful thing about consuming medicinal mushrooms is they can literally be consumed as easily as stirring them into foods or drinks you already enjoy. It really is that simple. 

Some people,  however, like a special little ritual for taking in their plant medicines and for that, there are elixirs. 

What is an Elixir?

An elixir is just a fancy way of saying a health tonic or herbal drink. They can be very elaborate or very simple. As your experience with elixirs grows, you will likely get much more creative with your crafting. 

To make this as fast and uncomplicated as possible, this elixir formula we are going to share with you uses common ingredients and can be tailored to a wide variety of dietary needs.

Simple Medicinal Mushroom Elixir Formula

1.5 cups hot liquid + 2 tablespoons fat + 1-3 teaspoons of sweetener + 1-2 teaspoons whole food mushroom powder or spores +1/4-1 teaspoons mushroom extract + Pinch of Sea Salt

1.5 cups hot liquid. Choose one or a mix of: milk or dairy alternative, water, tea or coffee

2 tablespoons of fat. Choose one or a mix of: almond/cashew/peanut/coconut butter, cream, salted butter, ghee, cacao/cocoa butter, cacao paste

1-3 teaspoons of sweetener. Choose one of: honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar or blackstrap molasses. Low glycemic drops like monk fruit or stevia may also be used.

1-2 teaspoons of whole foods mushroom powder or spores 

1/4-1 teaspoon of mushroom extract powder

Pinch of Sea Salt

Optional: Cacao/cocoa powder, spices, other powdered herbs and/or extracts

Blend in a blender or with a stick/immersion blender until smooth.

Now… obviously you can get as fancy as you want. 

Perhaps you feel inspired to use matcha as a base and create more of a latté with a foamy froth. 

Maybe you fancy a mocha so you use a coffee and milk base, and add some cocoa powder. 

If chai is your thing, you could use a chai tea and milk base, add some creamy cashew butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon and cardamom. 

The possibilities for making medicinal mushrooms enjoyable daily are truly endless.

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Citations:

(1) Teplyakova, T.V, N.V. Purtseva, T.A. Kosogova, V.A. Khanin, V.A. Vlassenko. 2012. Antiviral activity of polyporoid mushrooms (higher Basidiomycetes) from Altal mountains from Russia. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. 14 (1):37-45.