How to Use Medicinal Mushrooms to Fight Aging, Inflammation, Stress, and More
Mushrooms make an awesome filling for omelettes, and they’re delectable sautéed with a little butter and olive oil on their own, but did you know that you can also use medicinal mushrooms to fight aging, inflammation, stress, and more?
Most people know that mushrooms are healthy fungi, but they have actually been used medicinally for THOUSANDS of years!
There is loads of evidence that ancient Greek, Chinese, Japanese, and even Native American cultures use mushrooms for healing, but people nowadays can tend to shy away from using them for that purpose.
If you think about it, they’re mighty little plants! They can feed you, heal you, make you hallucinate or get sick, and even kill you, depending on what kind you’re ingesting.
Paul Stamet, a major proponent of medicinal mushrooms, discusses the fear of mushrooms-mycophobia-in his TED Talk. He believes that people don’t feel comfortable using them because they ARE so powerful.
Don’t worry, though. The mushrooms you can buy in the grocery store and in supplements from reputable sources are safe for you to use. They’ve got some amazing health benefits!
What are Medicinal Mushrooms?
There are over 150,000 varieties of mushrooms on this planet, and only about 200 of them are used medicinally. Picking them out of your front yard probably won’t be safe for this reason, or good for your health.
What makes medicinal mushrooms different from other mushrooms are the compounds they produce, which are called polysaccharides. (1) These complex carbohydrates do everything from regulating blood pressure and sugar levels to affecting our moods.
All the mushrooms species that are used medicinally contain these powerful carbs that pack a mean punch on our immune systems. They’re antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial.
Medicinal Mushrooms Can Prevent and Fight Cancer
Mushrooms really are mighty and one of their superpowers is preventing and fighting cancer. Research consistently shows that certain medicinal mushrooms can increase the survival time of some types of cancer, slow the blood supply to tumors, and even shrink them as much as 70%!
They can also reduce the side-effects of cancer treatments.
Here are a few of the most potent cancer busters:
- Reishi: Reishi mushrooms, often known by their Chinese name lingzhi, have been used for thousands of years in Asia medicinally. You can also find them in warm climates in North and South America, Australia, and Europe.
They can also help you sleep and feel calmer.
What they are most known for is their scientifically proven ability to fight aggressive forms of breast cancer. One study showed that they reduced the growth and weight of breast cancer cells by 50%. (2)
Reishi mushrooms are usually available in powdered form, as a tea, tincture, or supplement.
- Shitake: It’s one of the most popular mushrooms around for plenty of reasons. If you’ve got a green thumb you can grow them right in your backyard, and they’re easy to identify in the wild.
Whether you like them stuffed or sautéed, these heart-friendly mushrooms have a powerful effect on the immune system. (3)
Like the reishi mushroom, shitakes are cancer busters and can reduce tumor size by making cancer cells destroy themselves. They’ve also been shown to prevent cancer.
If you want to lower your cholesterol levels, look no farther than adding shitakes to your diet. The rate of people who have hypertension and high cholesterol in Japan is lower than in the United States, and studies show that their use of shitake mushrooms in both the diet and as medicinal mushrooms might be why. (4)
They’re best eaten fresh, but if you’re not a fan of their taste or texture, you can take them in capsule form.
- Turkey Tail: Mushroom enthusiasts love turkey tail because it’s so easy to find in the wild. It grows just about everywhere in the world and loves to attach to dead logs.
The abundance of turkey tail mushrooms in the world is great for us because it’s got some amazing healing properties.
Japanese scientists isolated one of its compounds and turned in into a prescription drug that improves the rate of survival in patients with leukemia and colorectal cancer.
Radiation therapy completely messes up the immune system and makes it less capable of fighting off infections. Patients that take turkey tail medicinally while they’re having treatments have found that it helps their immune systems to rebound. (5)
Medicinal Mushrooms Can Help Fight the Aging Process.
Many mushrooms contain antioxidants and are anti-inflammatory, which makes them great for your skin. Some of them are also a rich source of kojic acid, which is used as a skin lightener.
Shitake mushrooms encourage skin rejuvenation and collagen production, fade sunspots and acne scars, and make your skin brighter. They’re often found in skincare products for topical use, but taking them internally is just as beneficial for your skin.
They don’t only fight the external signs of aging, though. Some varieties are known to prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Have you noticed the fluffy fungus on some tree stumps that look a little bit like toupees? They’re a type of mushroom called lion’s mane.
Lion’s mane mushrooms can stimulate neurite outgrowth in the brain. They reduce plaque that forms in the membranes that surround nerve cells and help cause Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurological problems. (6)
They also help with short-term memory loss, so if you’ve got a test to study for, have some Lion’s Mane for lunch. In Asia, it’s said that this mushroom gives you “nerves of steel and the memory of a lion.”
Chaga mushrooms are wonderful for stress relief, and excessive stress speeds up the aging process. They’re adaptogens that fight free radicals and help your body function well during stressful times.
Sipping on some chaga tea is a pleasant way to relax, and it’s deliciously good for your health.
Medicinal Mushrooms are Anti-Inflammatory
Excessive or chronic inflammation is responsible for so many problems, both inside and out. It can cause pain, heart disease, skin conditions, digestion problems, and much more.
Anti-inflammatory drugs like NSAIDS have serious side effects when used for a long period of time, and they do nothing to get to the root of the inflammation. They can cause ulcers, gastrointestinal issues, and renal failure.
A study published in the journal Mediators of Inflammation show that medicinal mushrooms are a safe and effective natural anti-inflammatory. (7) Not only do they fight inflammation, but they help heal the long-term damage that happens when it’s chronic.
It’s Easy to Add Medicinal Mushrooms to Your Diet
Some medicinal mushrooms, like the shitake, taste fantastic to mushrooms lovers, while others are bitter. There are also people who can’t stand the flavor or texture of mushrooms, so eating them raw isn’t an option.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to get the health benefits of mushrooms without having to eat them fresh.
You can add dried mushrooms to soups and sauces. There are some medicinal mushrooms that are difficult to get fresh, but you can find dried ones in health food stores or online.
You can drink them. There are some wonderful mushroom teas and coffee. Mushroom hot chocolate is a real thing, so your superfood can be enjoyed as a sweet treat.
You can add a bit of mushroom powder to smoothies or juice, and mushroom tonics are also a tasty way to take them.
They can be taken in extract form. Many people have a hard time digesting non-extracted mushrooms, so you can get therapeutically useful amounts of all the good stuff that makes mushrooms so healthy in an extract.
No matter how you decide to add medicinal mushrooms to your life, it’s important to remember how powerful they are. There are some types that can interact with medications, or you might be allergic or sensitive to them, so use a small amount to start.
Like all good things, too much of it can be a bad thing, so go gently. Also, check with your doctor if you’re taking prescriptions.
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