What comes to mind when you hear the word mushrooms?
It could be the yummy morsels scattered on your Friday night pizza. But you might be thinking about the myriad of food, drink, and wellness supplement products that tout the benefits of “functional mushrooms.”
Either way, mushrooms of all ilk are having a moment these days. These fungi are packed with flavor and nutrients in their most basic form.
She adds that they help feed the immune system with nutrients such as B vitamins and selenium, essential antioxidants, and, in some instances, vitamin D. But that’s not all, Smith says. They also keep the digestive and nervous systems running smoothly and help regulate cholesterol, blood sugar levels, energy, and moods.
But what the heck are functional mushrooms, AKA adaptogenic mushrooms? And how are they different from the ones we throw into our stir-fry? Keep reading to find out …
What are adaptogenic mushrooms?
According to Healthline.com, adaptogenic mushrooms may help reduce the effects of stress on your body. They’re not the same as hallucinogenic or “magic” mushrooms and do not act on the mind or perception.
An adaptogen is a substance that helps reduce the adverse effects of stress on the body. Researchers believe that adaptogens increase the body’s resistance to physical, biological, and chemical stress, help promote normal functioning during times of stress, and protect against stress-related damage.
Studies have shown that certain mushrooms have adaptagenic properties.
But before we continue, it’s important to note that adaptagenic and medicinal aren’t the same. For instance, many mushrooms offer proven medicinal effects, including anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.
Five functional mushroom varieties
Let’s look at some of the buzz-worthy functional mushroom varieties and their benefits.
1. Lion's Mane Mushroom
Lion's Mane mushroom is known for its brain-boosting properties. It contains compounds that stimulate the growth of nerve cells, which can help improve cognitive function, memory, and concentration. Lion's Mane also has anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
2. Chaga Mushroom
Chaga mushroom is packed with antioxidants, which help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the body. Chaga may help boost the immune system and improve digestive health.
3. Tremella Mushroom
Tremella mushroom is rich in polysaccharides, which are compounds that help boost the immune system. It also contains antioxidants that help protect against free radical damage. Tremella has been traditionally used in Chinese medicine to nourish the skin, and recent studies have shown that it may help improve skin hydration and elasticity.
4. Reishi Mushroom
Reishi mushroom is often referred to as the "mushroom of immortality" in traditional Chinese medicine due to its numerous health benefits. It has anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Reishi may also help boost the immune system and improve liver function.
5. Cordyceps Mushroom
Cordyceps mushroom is known for its energy-boosting properties. It helps increase oxygen uptake by the body, which can improve athletic performance and endurance. Cordyceps also has anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Functional mushroom consumption
You’re probably wondering, what’s the best way to include these mushrooms into my everyday life?
Some of them, like lion's mane, are becoming readily available in fresh form. You can steep them in water to create an earthy, mushroom tea. However, most varieties are easier to consume in supplement form, including powders, pills, or tinctures.
As with any supplement, it’s important to do your research. Look for a supplement that uses high-quality mushrooms grown in a controlled environment. And find a supplement that uses an extraction method that preserves the beneficial compounds in the mushrooms.
You’ll also want to a supplement that provides an effective dose of the mushroom extract. We would like to add, that it’s also critical that your supplement has third-party certifications.
And finally, it’s not a bad idea to check in with a trusted health care professional, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or are currents taking prescription medicines.
Registered dietitian Abbey Sharp offers some additional precautions in a Real Simple interview.
“Research has found that these mushrooms are generally safe and well-tolerated, however, some may cause dizziness or headaches and are not advised for people who take medication to lower their blood pressure or those who are pregnant. Some people may also display allergic reactions,” Sharp says.
While adaptogenic mushrooms may help some, they may not be the best choice for you. Research in this area is limited. However, there is evidence to show that these fantastic fungi do offer impressive nutrition and health benefits.
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