Mushrooms for Wellness
By Dr. John Walker, MD, CPE
DrVita Chief Medical Officer
While visiting Spain in 2016, our group had dinner at a restaurant where we were treated to one of the most delicious mushroom dishes I had ever tasted. Although I was aware that many mushrooms had general health benefits, only later did I realize the vast effects of these delectable treats.* Mushrooms may help support our health in many ways and contain beneficial properties, including:
- Hepatoprotective (supports liver health)*
- Immunomodulating (supports immune system health)*
Mushrooms have been used as food and herbal medicine for thousands of years, and there are over 14,000 species of this macroscopic fungus that have been classified. However, not all are fit for consumption nor have the same health-promoting benefits. In this article, I’ll highlight some of the most important medicinal mushrooms, and how they can support wellness.*
Reishi (Ganoderma lingzhi)
Reishi is a mushroom sometimes referred to as the “king of mushrooms”. It has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine and is thought to act as an immunomodulator, as some of the components may have a beneficial effect on immune support.* Additionally, Reishi contains a compound called triterpene which appears to have beneficial effects on mood and restful sleep.* Try Nature's Lab Reishi Mushroom for 1,000 mg of this potent mushroom species.
Himematsutake (Agaricus blazei)
The origin of the Himematsutake mushroom species stems from the mountain village of Piedade, about 60 miles north of São Paulo, Brazil. Historically, this species of mushroom was first referenced medicinally as far back as the Byzantine empire, illustrating that this potent mushroom has a long tradition of medicinal use. Himematsutake contains compounds that help support antioxidant health as as well as a healthy inflammatory response.*
Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
One of the more commonly used culinary mushrooms, maitake is known for its immune supporting properties.* It has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine and is thought to act as an immunomodulator.* Maitake may also protect against a variety of viruses in humans.* In addition to its immune-supporting properties, studies in mice have demonstrated that maitake may support healthy cholesterol and glucose levels (within normal range).*
Lion's Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
Lion’s Mane derives its name from a white, fur-like appearance that resembles the mane of a lion. Lion's mane may help support the gut microbiota (intestinal bacteria) that play a role in healthy immune response.* In fact, there are more immune cells in the gut than in the remainder of your body. In an animal model of a digestive disorder this mushroom was shown to activate T cells and modulate inflammatory mediators, in addition to having a pre-biotic effect (which may help support healthy bacteria in the gut).* Lion’s mane may also support the production of nerve growth factor and myelin (the insulating sheath that surrounds nerve cells).* This mushroom may also support cognitive health and memory as well as anxiety.*
Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
Another staple of traditional Chinese medicine, shiitake mushrooms are often used to treat the common cold, with some clinical support showing that its use induces a favorable change in the amount of several immune compounds.* Some of the changes may be mediated by changes in the gut microbiota, as will other mushrooms.* In addition, several of the components of shiitake mushroom may support heart health, may help lower cholesterol, and may help support healthy blood pressure (within normal range) and circulation (in experimental models). Nature's Lab Shiitake Mushroom contains 1,000 mg of organic shiitake to support general wellness and immune health.*
Fu Ling (Wolfiporia cocos)
Considered an ancient Chinese herb, the fu ling mushroom, also known as poria mushroom, has been used medicinally for about 2,000 years. The filaments of fu ling mushrooms- where all the nutrients are stored- are harvested for their medicinal qualities and ground into powder for utilization in many natural remedies. Fu ling mushrooms contain several compounds such as polysaccharides and triterpenoids to support antioxidant health and immune health.*
Turkey Tail (Coriolus versicolor)
Turkey tail is a colorful mushroom that grows on fallen logs or tree stumps and has a fanned-out shape, giving it the characteristic name. Turkey tail is considered a potent mushroom and contains several compounds that may help promote healthy immune response by activating beneficial immune cells.* Turkey tail may also help support healthy inflammatory response.*
The above seven species of mushrooms can be found in Nature's Lab Mushroom 7.
Nature's Lab Mushroom 7 is a superior blend of the above mushroom species grown on organic brown rice. This blend provides wide-ranging nutritional benefits and immune-health support.* Containing biologically active folate 5-MTHF (5-methyltetrahydrofolate) along with a spectrum of polysaccharides, Mushroom 7 supports immune function, promotes healthy cell replication, and increases energy.*
Additional Mushrooms for Wellness
Cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps sinensis)
Although technically not a mushroom but a caterpillar fungus that grows in high-altitude regions in northeast India, cordyceps contains several bioactive components.* One recent study revealed that an extract of cordyceps enhanced the activity of an important immune system cell, the natural killer (NK) cell. The study concluded that the cordyceps extract was safe and effective for enhancing cell mediated immunity in humans. This mechanism of action may be protective against viral infections.* The active compound in Cordyceps is Cordycepin, a compound which may have beneficial effects on exercise and athletic performance by helping the body utilize oxygen more efficiently.* Check out Nature's Lab Cordyceps Mushroom for 1,000 mg of this energy-supporting mushroom.*
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
Chaga is also referred to as birch mushroom, as it is often found growing on birch trees. This mushroom contains compounds (polyphenols) that have anti-oxidant properties.* Chaga may also support healthy cholesterol levels (within normal range) and, because of its anti-oxidant properties, may combat oxidative stress that can be caused by free radicals, the by-products of metabolism that may damage cells.*
Oyster (Pleurotus florida and Pleurotus ostreatus)
Pleurotus mushroom is a genus, or group, of widely used culinary mushrooms commonly known as oyster mushrooms. Experimental models have demonstrated that oyster mushroom may have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, likely due to the presence of an abundance of compounds such as flavonoids, phenolics, and polysaccharides.*
In summary, mushrooms can be an important part of your health and wellness program, with multiple layers of support.* Adding mushrooms to your diet is a good way to add some flavor, fiber, and important health-promoting compounds.* However, to achieve maximal benefit, one should consider supplements that contain the mushroom(s) with the desired health benefit.* A typical daily dose for most medicinal mushrooms is 1000 mg per day.
About the Author
Dr. John Walker is a gastroenterologist with nearly 30 years of experience in the medical field, including almost 20 years of experience in practice. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University, where he graduated with honors. He currently shares his knowledge and expertise with DrVita as our Chief Medical Officer, where he conducts research, compiles articles, and delivers health and wellness recommendations to DrVita customers.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of DrVita or its affiliated brands.