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What Are the Effects of Reishi, Oyster Mushroom and Other Medicinal Fungi?

Reishi, shiitake, maitake or chaga. Haven’t heard about any of them yet? Don’t worry, this is not a Japanese spell that will make you grow another arm. These are the names of medicinal fungi that can be beneficial to your body in many ways. No wonder they are becoming more and more popular lately. Let’s get a better understanding of what they are and also get a closer look at what science says about them.

What are medicinal fungi?

Edible medicinal fungi or medicinal mushrooms belong to the so-called functional foods. Any food ingredient that positively affects body functions can be considered functional. These health benefits then exceed the nutritional value of the food. It can be an increase in a certain physiological response or, conversely, a reduction in the risk of a disease. Medicinal fungi definitely meet these criteria. In addition to the delicious taste, they often excel in the content of antioxidants, polysaccharides and other bioactive compounds with an undeniable positive effect on the body. Let’s take a look at the most popular medicinal fungi together. For each, we will tell you what it looks like, what it contains, what effects you can expect from it and we will also take a look at its dosage and use. [1–2] [89]

1. Reishi – mushroom of immortality that can increase cellular immunity

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is a fungus native to Asia, which you may also know as lingzhi. It is a dark mushroom with a woody structure that has a shiny surface. It is usually found on dying trees or hardwood stumps. In Chinese, its name is associated with spiritual strength, immortality, success, well-being and longevity. In the past, this mushroom was available mainly among the rich privileged Chinese society, but today it is much more accessible in various forms. [3–4] [90]

What does reishi contain?

The largest part of this fungus is water (up to 90%). However, its nutritional profile also includes carbohydrates, proteins and fat. In addition, however, reishi is also known for its content of bioactive compounds, which include terpenoids, steroids, phenols and nucleotides. Overwhelming majority of the effects of reishi is thanks to them. A great advantage of fungal proteins is also their content of essential amino acids, especially lysine and leucine. We consider polysaccharides, peptidoglycans and triterpenes to be the three main physiologically active components in reishi. [4–7]

What effects does reishi have?

Due to its polysaccharide content, reishi excels in anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, hypoglycemic and immunostimulatory effects. It can help stabilize blood sugar levels (glycemia) and support the body’s defences. However, the triptenes contained in the fungus also play a role, as they are also associated with increased resistance of the organism to diseases. However, the polysaccharides and triptenes contained in reishi also have a number of other effects. For example, they have chemopreventive or tumoricidal (tumor killing) abilities. These have been tested even through a study on more than a hundred patients with advanced cancer. The participants received 1800 mg of this mushroom extract every day for 12 weeks. This significantly increased cellular immunity in 80% of patients, consequently increasing the activity of cells that fight the tumour. [4] [8–10]

In addition, research also confirms that reishi can help reduce the symptoms of neurasthenia, a disease whose symptoms include headaches, irritability, fatigue and impaired concentration. [11]

This fungus is thus also popular among people who are trying to boost their immunity, fight inflammation or want to maximally support carbohydrate metabolism and optimal blood glucose levels.

How to use reishi?

For reishi, the dosage varies depending on how you take it. It should be noted that the extract is approximately 10 times stronger than the mushroom itself. 5 g of extract therefore corresponds to approximately 50 g of whole mushroom. The most common dose is 5.2 g of reishi extract per day. [12]

In addition to the popular extract in the form of tablets or capsules, you can also use reishi powder, you can add it to your favourite drink, smoothie, breakfast porridge or any other dish. However, you can also try instant coffee from reishi.

Reishi - mushroom of immortality that can increase cellular immunity

2. Shiitake – “elixir of life” with a high content of vitamin B

Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) is one of the most popular mushrooms worldwide, appearing regularly in the diets of many people. It grows on decayed trees and you may also know it as the black forest mushroom. It has a brown hat with a typical diameter of 5-10 cm. However, lighter and irregular parts may also appear on its surface. Shiitake excels in its meatiness and rich taste, for which it has been used as food for hundreds of years, especially in Asia. Its name means “fragrant mushroom” in Chinese, and, especially in the past, it was considered the elixir of life. [91]

What does shiitake contain?

Shiitake has a high fibre content. In addition, it contains carbohydrates, proteins and a small amount of fat. The active ingredients also include terpenoids, sterols and lipids, which have many positive effects. The amount that occurs in them depends on the length of cultivation, storage and preparation. However, shiitake also excels in its high content of vitamins and minerals. We can name, for example, vitamin B5 (panthothenic acid), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6 and vitamin B9 (folic acid). Moreover, the nutritional profile also includes copperseleniummagnesium and zinc. [13–15]

What effects does shiitake have?

Shiitake has many benefits for our body. The results of the studies show that it can have a positive effect on cholesterol levels. This is mainly due to the content of eritadenine, sterols and beta-glucans. It can also support the proper functioning of immunity. This was confirmed, for example, by a study of 50 healthy women and men aged 21-40 who consumed the fungus every day. Shiitake also has anticancer effect. This is mainly due to the activity of polysaccharides, which can activate our immune system. [16–19]

However, certain effects of this fungus are also associated with the content of vitamins. For example, thanks to vitamin B6, regular consumption of shiitake can lead to a reduction in fatigue and exhaustion, proper functioning of the nervous system, psyche, immunity and also contribute to the regulation of hormonal activity. Thanks to vitamin B5, shiitake also has an effect on healthy mental performance. Vitamin B3, on the other hand, contributes to maintaining healthy skin and mucous membranes. Minerals in this mushroom also play a significant role. Copper contributes to the healthy pigmentation of hair, skin, proper iron transfer in the body and also protects cells from oxidative stress and supports the function of immunity. The zinc in this mushroom then has the effect of maintaining normal testosterone levels, and magnesium, in turn, helps proper function of the muscles and nervous system. [20]

Due to the possible effects of shiitake, this fungus is popular among people who want to reduce their levels of “bad” cholesterol, support immune function, reduce fatigue or help with the healthy appearance of skin and hair.

How to use shiitake?

There is no general recommendation for the use of shiitake mushroom extract. Some sources work with an intake of 1000-2000 mg per day. For dried mushrooms, the serving used could be around 15 g, which corresponds to 150 g of raw mushrooms. Shiitake also tastes great in a variety of dishes. You can prepare risotto, soup or add it to the sauce with meat or its plant alternatives. [21-23]

Shiitake - "elixir of life" with a high content of vitamin B

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3. Chaga – although it resembles a pile of dark-coloured dirt., it is beneficial for the health of the heart and blood vessels

A fungus called chaga (Inonotus obliquus) may also be known as black mass. It is a wood-destroying fungus that grows on birches and resembles a pile of dark-coloured dirt. But it can be distinguished by its orange part. Chaga grows under the bark of trees, which gradually starts to fall off. It can be found, for example, in Northern Europe, Russia and Asia. [24–25]

What does chaga contain?

Chaga contains polyphenols, triterpenoids and polysaccharides. It also boasts a decent portion of antioxidants that have a positive effect on our body. [26]

What effects does chaga have?

Chaga is best known for its potential ability to lower levels of the “bad” cholesterol, which is associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease. It can also slow down the growth of cancer cells or tumours. Some research also suggests that this fungus could also have a positive effect on our immune system. However, in order to be able to say with certainty that it has these effects, more studies on humans are needed. Experiments that focused on the chaga mushroom were mostly performed on rodents or in vitro, on a culture of cells grown in a test tube or on petri dishes. [27–29] [92]

So if you are among the people who would like to lower the level of “bad” cholesterol, the risk of developing heart disease or support the function of the immune system, then chaga could be a useful choice.

How to use chaga?

It is not yet clear what the optimal dose of chaga is. Since you can take chaga in the form of powder, capsules or herbal tea, always follow the recommendations on the packaging. [30]

Chaga - although its appearance resembles a pile of clay, it is beneficial for the health of the heart and blood vessels

4. Hericium erinaceus – looks like a lion’s mane and is popular thanks to its nootropic properties

Monkey head mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is, at first glance, a very atypical fungus, which is sometimes called lion’s mane. It is white and is divided into many hanging strings. It is an edible mushroom and it excels in its taste, which is reminiscent of lobster or other seafood. Furthermore, it grows in coniferous forests in the northern hemisphere, such as Canada, Russia and Northern Europe. At present, it is popular mainly thanks to its nootropic properties. [31–33]

What does hericium contain?

This fungus is known mainly for its content of beta-glucan polysaccharides, which have a number of positive effects on the human body. Other beneficial substances in hericium erinaceus include erinacines and hericenones, which are known, for example, for their neuroprotective effects. However, the nutritional profile of hericium erinaceus also includes a number of antioxidants. [34–35]

What effects does hericium erinaceus have?

Research shows promising effects of this fungus in many areas. We can mention, for example, the positive effect on cognitive functions, such as memory or attention. This puts it in the category of nootropics. In adults with mild cognitive impairment, 16 weeks of taking the fungus resulted in a significant improvement in these functions compared with those taking only placebo. The influence of the hericium erinaceus on the psyche has also been proven. In a study focusing on women in menopause, the symptoms of depression and anxiety were reduced after a month of regular consumption of this mushroom. Another study concludes that Lion’s mane could be a potential alternative to treating depression. Further research suggests that it could have an effect in the fight against leukaemia. Studies in rodents have also shown a possible positive effect on heart health, blood sugar level control, gastrointestinal support and wound healing. However, once again, to confirm these abilities, more human research is needed. [36–43]

Thanks to its properties, hericium is very popular among managers, students and other people who need to perform maximum mental performance on a daily basis. However, it is also popular among people who like to try different coffee substitutes.

How to use hericium?

It is not clear what the optimal intake of this mushroom is. However, one study worked with a daily dose of 3000 mg of 96% extract. This amount has been shown to be effective. In addition to the typical capsules or powder, you can also use it in the form of a tincture or drink it as an additive to various drinks. [44]

Hericium erinaceus - looks like a lion's mane and is popular due to its nootropic properties

5. Cordyceps – a fungus in the shape of a caterpillar, which can have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects

In ancient Chinese books, cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) was described as a literal treasure. You may also know it as the Chinese caterpillar fungus. This fungus resembles a caterpillar in shape and is known to parasitize on insect larvae. The most common host for these fungi are moth caterpillars. Spores from the fungi get into the body of the animal, from which they obtain nutrients. The fungus then gradually replaces the caterpillar’s tissue with its own. When the caterpillar burrows under the ground and dies, the fruiting body of the fungus grows out of its body. Although there are more than 400 species of cordyceps, research focuses on the health effects of Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris. [45] [93]

What does cordyceps contain?

Cordyceps is known for its content of nucleosides, polysaccharides, sterols, proteins, amino acids and also polypeptides. Other bioactive ingredients include cordycepin, ergosterol, mannitol and adenosine. As a result, it boasts many positive effects on the human body. [51]

What are the effects of cordyceps?

Research suggests that cordyceps could have both anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, mainly due to its cordycepin content. Research on the elderly even concludes that just 12 weeks of supplementation has helped these respondents improve performance and well-being. The findings of the research also show that cordyceps could be used as an accompaniment in the treatment of cancer due to its content of cordycepin. This bioactive substance could be able to, to some extent, suppress the spread of metastases in the bodyLikewise, cordyceps can help reduce oxidative stress, thanks to the antioxidants it contains. A positive effect can also be seen in connection with heart health and immunity. [46–50]

Due to its effects, cordyceps is popular among people who are trying to get rid of inflammation, want to improve their performance and physical well-being, or would like to alleviate pain without the use of drugs.

How to use cordyceps?

The optimal dose for cordyceps has not been determined. However, human studies have often used 1000-3000 mg per day. You can take it, for example, in the form of capsule supplement.

Cordyceps - a fungus in the shape of a caterpillar, which can have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects

6. Maitake – a dancing mushroom that helps reduce fatigue and exhaustion

Maitake (Grifola frondosa) is a pathogenic fungus that you may also know as the hen-of-the-wood. However, it is sometimes nicknamed as the “dancing mushroom”. However, its purpose is not to make you dance from Friday night until Sunday morning. The name allegedly originated when Buddhist nuns searched for food and accidentally discovered the fungus. Since it was a great delicacy, they celebrated the find by dancing. Its fruiting body looks like a large bunch of several hundred fused hats, each about 3-4 cm in size. They can be found, for example, on tree stumps. The mushroom thrives in Asia, Europe and North America. It is considered an adaptogen. [52–54]

What does maitake contain?

The main bioactive compounds in fungi are beta-glucans. However, various polysaccharide fractions are also present. Due to its structure, it has a high water content, in addition to which it contains carbohydrates and proteins. Of course, there is also a decent amount of amino acids. Maitake also boasts a high content of vitamin B3 (niacin) [55–56]

What are the effects of maitake?

As already mentioned, maitake is one of the adaptogens. Therefore, it is generally used to increase the body’s resistance to stress and other external influences. The fungus is also often inflected as a supportive supplement in the treatment of cancer. Indeed, some studies show that the D-fractions contained in the fungus could have a potential effect in killing cancer cells. [57–59]

The results of research also show that regular use of this fungus could help increase insulin sensitivity, i.e. the ability of tissues to respond to insulin produced and get blood sugar into cells. This is desirable, for example, in people who suffer from type 2 diabetes. It can also be assumed that the fungus can also have a positive effect on cholesterol levels. However, so far there is only a limited amount of human research in this area. [60–63]

Since maitake is also a source of vitamin B3, we can say that it contributes to proper metabolism, which is important for energy production and optimal functioning of the nervous system and psyche. It also helps maintain healthy skin, mucous membranes and reduces fatigue and exhaustion. [20]

Due to its effects, maitake is especially popular among people who want to lower their cholesterol levels, support the functioning of the nervous system or would like to reduce fatigue.

How to use maitake?

The recommended amount for the intake of this fungus has not yet been clearly established. However, according to some sources, adults most often take 1-1.5 g of concentrated extract per day. However, you should primarily follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. However, you do not have to consume Maitake only in the form of an extract. Due to the fact that it has a great taste, you could certainly use it in the kitchen as well. You can prepare many delicious dishes from it. It tastes great on pizza, with pasta, but also as part of sauces. Because they are delicious mushrooms, people also add powdered Maitake to their dishes to achieve a better taste. [55] [64]

Maitake - a dancing mushroom that helps reduce fatigue and exhaustion

7. Turkey tail – a shiny fungus that can improve immune function

Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) is a fungus also known as the Polyporus versicolor. You can find it, for example, on tree trunks, branches and stumps. It has a shiny striped hat with a width of 2-8 cm, on which we can find shades of red, brown, black, blue and white. [65]

What does turkey tail contain?

This fungus boasts a decent amount of amino acids, such as leucine, isoleucine, methionine, tyrosine, glutamine or asparagine. It also contains vitamin B3 (niacin) and fatty acids. However, the nutritional profile of the Polyporus also includes a decent portion of polysaccharides and antioxidants, such as phenols and flavonoids. [66–68]

What are the effects of turkey tail?

The results of studies show that turkey tail can act as a supportive tool in the fight against cancer. For example, a qualitative research confirmed a possible improvement in the immune system in women diagnosed with breast cancer. A meta-analysis also focused on the treatment of cancer, and it confirmed the potential positive effects of the fungus in cancer patients. Thanks to the contained antioxidants, Polyporus can also protect cells from oxidative stress, which can have a positive effect on our immunity. Our digestive system can also benefit from consuming the Polyporus. The polysaccharidopeptides it contains function in the intestines as prebiotics (food for intestinal bacteria). [69–72]

Turkey tail can be beneficial for people who have intestinal problems or want to support optimal immune function.

How to use turkey tail?

The safest way to take a turkey tail is as a supplement. It is not recommended to directly consume the fungus, which occurs in nature, as it may be contaminated with harmful bacteria. There is no recommended daily allowance for turkey tail intake. Therefore, always follow the instructions on the packaging.

Turkey tail - a shiny fungus that can improve immune function

8. Oyster mushroom – a supplement to support immunity, but also a delicious mushroom that will spice up any dish

Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) is a popular, easily obtainable mushroom, which you may also know as hiratake. You can recognize it by the white to light-brown fruiting body in the shape of a funnel, which has a diameter of approximately 5-25 cm. Another characteristic feature is the short leg and also the fact that it occurs in clusters. We can find it mainly in summer or autumn, on logs or dying trees. It has a delicate taste and a velvety structure – that’s why it is so popular as an ingredient in meals. [74]

What does oyster mushroom contain?

Oyster mushroom is known for its content of bioactive substances, such as polysaccharides, peptides, proteins, terpenoids, fatty acid esters or polyphenols. However, it also has a high water content (more than 80%), which you can easily get rid of by drying. The fungus is also a source of vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin B2 (riboflavin), thanks to which it has many effects on our body. You will also find important antioxidants in this mushroom. [75–76]

What are the effects of oyster mushroom?

The antioxidants contained in this fungus help our body cope with oxidative stress. Thanks to the presence of linoleic acid and ergosterol, it can then help reduce the level of “bad” cholesterol in the blood. There is also a study which claims that it helped to improve blood pressure and blood glucose levels in patients with diabetes. However, oyster mushroom can also be beneficial for people who want to strengthen their immunity. The results of studies show that it may be able to stimulate the immune system to some extent, and thus help protect against various infectious diseases. [76–80]

The vitamins contained in this mushroom also have an effect on the body. Thanks to vitamin B3, oyster mushroom helps reduce fatigue and exhaustion. In addition, it supports the optimal functioning of the psyche, nervous system and helps maintain healthy skin and mucous membranes. The contained vitamin B2 then contributes to the correct functioning of metabolism, which is important for energy production, optimal functioning of the nervous system, maintenance of healthy red blood cells, skin and good eyesight. It also helps protect cells from oxidative stress and helps reduce fatigue and exhaustion. [20]

Oyster mushroom is regularly used mainly by people who want to support the proper functioning of immunity. It is also suitable if you suffer from fatigue or high levels of “bad” cholesterol.

How to use oyster mushroom?

It is not clear what the optimal daily intake of this mushroom should look like. If you decide to include it in the form of food supplements, always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, which you can find on the packaging. However, you can also use it as a great ingredient in the kitchen and prepare many delicious dishes from it. It goes well with soups, sauces, pasta, salads, but also with rice or goulash. It’s up to you to incorporate it into your diet so that you can take advantage of its benefits.

Oyster mushroom - a supplement to support immunity, but also a delicious mushroom that will brighten up any dish

9. Snow fungus – a popular fungus that is used to promote health and longevity

White fungus or snow fungus (Tremella fuciformis) is also known as the white jelly mushroom. It is a white to transparent mushroom, which has an average size of approximately 7 cm. At first glance, it may slightly resemble jelly or gelatine. It grows, for example, in Asia, Australia or New Zealand. In the past, this fungus has been used to promote health and longevity. [81–82]

What does white fungus contain?

In terms of nutritional profile, this fungus boasts polysaccharides, proteins, fibre, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, which all have important roles in the body. However, it also contains monosaccharides such as mannose, xylose, glucose or galactose. This fungus also contains lots of bioactive substances, such as fatty acids, proteins, enzymes, phenols, flavonoids or fibre. [83–84]

What are the effects of white fungus?

The results of studies show that regular consumption of this fungus can help reduce the development of inflammation. It also helps reduce oxidative stress. Studies further suggest that the substances contained in white mushrooms could also have a neuroprotective function. This would mean that white jelly mushroom can also be used as a supportive treatment for various neurodegenerative diseases. This mushroom could also function as a potentially functional dietary supplement for people who want to promote skin protection or fight cancer. In connection with its appearance, you will certainly appreciate that this fungus also has a so-called anti-ageing effect. [85–88]

If you want to take maximum care of the health of the nervous system, support cognitive function, immunity or your youthful appearance, this fungus can be a great choice.

How to use white fungus?

It is not clear how much extract of this mushroom you should take daily. Therefore, always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on the packaging.

White fungus - a popular fungus that is used to promote health and longevity

What is the conclusion?

As you can see, mushrooms don’t just add flavour to your meals. They can also have many benefits for your body. According to research, medicinal mushrooms can, to some extent, function as a supportive supplement for patients suffering from cancer, as they can affect the proper functioning of immunity. However, they also act as an antioxidant, contribute to the proper functioning of the circulatory system, digestive tract and help reduce the level of bad cholesterol. Thanks to the vitamins they contain, they can serve as a means to potentially reduce fatigue, exhaustion, support healthy skin and also cognitive functions. Therefore, some of them belong to the category of nootropics. So, everyone can probably find a reason to give medicinal mushrooms a chance.

And if you don’t know which one is the best, you can try, for example, a complex in which you will find 7 of these medicinal mushrooms. These often complement each other in effect and act synergistically, so you can really get the most out of the supplement.

If you want to broaden your friends’ horizons, share this article with them. They will definitely appreciate learning something about medicinal mushrooms.

Sources:

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