Functional Mushrooms & Mushroom Supplements: A Comprehensive Guide.

Functional Mushrooms & Mushroom Supplements: A Comprehensive Guide.

What are Functional Mushrooms? 

For centuries, traditional cultures have used functional mushrooms for their potent wellness properties and superfood, medicinal benefits. Stated simply, functional mushrooms are types of fungi know for more than just their nutritional and nutritional composition benefits, but also are well-known and regarded for their health and wellness benefits.

In addition to offering low-calorie flavour and texture to our favourite dishes as well as fibre and protein to our diets, let’s take a look how we can improve our lives with some of the lesser-known, yet highly-beneficial wellness benefits.

If you're looking for natural ways to improve your health and wellness, functional mushrooms, integrated in mushrooms supplements, could be just what you need.

 What are the Benefits of Functional Mushrooms?Function Mushrooms Health and Wellness Benefits

Functional mushrooms provide many health and wellness benefits: from boosting the immune system and supporting cardiovascular health, to reducing inflammation and improving focus and concentration. Indeed each functional mushroom type contains unique properties which can benefit both body and mind.

According to Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, some functional mushrooms have been shows in animal and cell studies to potentially contain, “antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer effects,” though “the exact mechanism is still not clear, and will need to be further researched.

Let's dig into the key benefits of various functional mushroom types, so you can know which suits you best when exploring mushroom supplement options - and to educate yourself on how to incorporate into your daily wellness routine. 


 Types of Functional Mushrooms

1. Shiitake

Though native to both China and Japan, Shitake mushrooms are now cultivated around the world, contributing to a whopping 25% of global annual mushroom production. Shiitake functional mushrooms are rich in a variety of B vitamins and contain all 8 essential amino acids, For an added beauty boost, they also are packed with potassium, a natural electrolyte which supports new skin cell growth.

Shiitake mushrooms are an excellent source of beta-glucans, which help boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. These functional mushroom superstars are also rich in minerals like copper, which is essential for healthy hair and skin. They've also been known to help control blood-sugar levels and to reduce inflammation.

Shiitake mushrooms are delicious when sautéed and added to stir-fries, soups. It is recommended to cook the mushrooms thoroughly to improve their digestibility and nutrient absorption. They can be purchased as a supplement in capsule, tincture or powder form, for easy daily integration.

 2. Reishi

For the Chinese, Reishi Functional mushrooms, also known as “Lingzhi”, have long symbolised health and longevity in both traditional medicine and the arts. Due to their bitter taste, Reishi mushrooms are often processed into tablets, capsules or teas.

Reishi mushrooms contain over 400 different nutrients including beta-glucans, triterpenoids, and rare substances that help normalise the production of oestrogen and progesterone providing enhanced hormonal balance as well. Studies have shown that Reishi functional mushrooms help to boost your immune system, as well as helping to potentially reduce stress due to high levels of antioxidants, and to help with lessening fatigue.

 3. Lion's Mane

Lion's Mane mushrooms are known for their cognitive-boosting properties. They contain compounds with high levels of protein, vitamin D, potassium and iron, which can help with memory and concentration, reduce fatigue, support the Immune system, gut health, and mental health. It is recommended to take Lion's Mane regularly for at least two weeks to notice its benefits. 

Lion's Mane functional mushrooms are thought to have neuroprotective and cognitive enhancing properties due to the presence of Hericenones. Thus Lion’s Mane mushrooms are also thought to promote neuron growth, and enhance neurotransmission, which is an important regulator of cognitive function, focus, memory and mood.  

You can find them in multiple forms, from functional mushroom drops, to capsules and creams.

Did you know?

 The Latin name, Herineum erinaceus, actually means 'hedgehog.'


 4. Chaga

Chaga Mushrooms grow in colder climates like Russie, the Northern Hemisphere, and Asia. of the Northern Hemisphere, specifically in Europe, Asia and Russia. In fact, the name Chaga is derived from the Russian word for mushroom. Known for their tough consistency, Chaga mushroom are often ground into powders to be used as a dietary ingredient, or they can be made into teas.

n addition to being rich in antioxidants as well as nutrients such as calcium and iron, Chaga mushrooms have been the subject of many recent studies linking this fungi’s cytotoxic polyphenols & terpenoids to potential breast and colon cancer therapy.

Further, early research on mice shows has sown that Chaga extract may also help to regulate production of cytokines, which can stimulate blood cells and strengthen the immune system's functioning.

Research studies have also shown that Chaga mushrooms possess the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) antioxidants, protect cells from highly reactive molecules known as free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS), which work to cause oxidative stress in cells throughout the body.

Known also for their immune-boosting and anti-aging properties, Chaga mushrooms tend to have a slightly bitter taste and are thus best consumed as a tea or in supplement form.

Did you know?

Chaga is technically not a mushroom, although it is grouped with mushrooms. It is actually a sclerotia, the hardened mass of mycelium (the vegetative, threadlike part of the fungi that helps it grow and reproduce).

 5. Cordyceps

Cordyceps are native to Asia and were originally discovered by Tibetan herdsmen. Cordyceps mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine. With over 600 species, or variants, Cordyceps functional mushrooms are loaded with enzymes, amino acids and vitamins, as well as hormone-balancing phytoestrogens which help mitigate many menopause symptoms including mood swings. Cordyceps are also believes to help in regulating and helping with sleep.

Some additional health benefits include: reducing fatigues, reducing inflammation, improving stamina, and improving oxygen consumption.

Cordyceps functional mushrooms are known for their energy-boosting properties, useful in athletic performance, increase endurance, and reduce fatigue, great for women who enjoy regular exercise or sports. Cordyceps mushrooms have a slightly sweet taste and can be added to smoothies or consumed as a supplement.

Did you know?

A Chinese women's distance running team attributed taking cordyceps with their record-setting speeds in the 1993 National Games in Beijing, China.


Types of Functional Mushrooms

6. Turkey Tail

Turkey tail functional mushrooms that's are full of antioxidants and other compounds. Research indicates that it may help fortify your immune system, maintain healthy gut bacteria, and aid in supporting the treatment of certain cancers.

Turkey Tail functional mushrooms contain various compounds including polysaccharopeptides and polysaccharides, that help to explain the immunomodulating effects of this mushroom type. Turkey tail is also known for fighting off colds and infections, improving gut health, and boosting your immune system.


What to Look for in Mushroom Supplements.

Now that you know about the health benefits of functional mushrooms, why not incorporate them into your daily, wellness routine?

If the culinary art is not your forte, by using mushroom supplements and skincare formulated with these amazing fungi, you can experience their benefits in a convenient and effective way.

Here are some things to look out for when choosing the right mushroom supplements for your wellness routine:


1) Choose 'Fruiting' Body Mushroom Supplements.

Recent research has shown that the concentration of wellness benefiting compounds such as beta glucans, is the most rich in the fruiting body of the mushroom, as opposed to the mycelium. Look for companies that use the fruiting body, to get more bang for your buck (since some companies use the mycelium in their formulas, and thus have less beneficial, active phytochemicals). Sometime you'll find a full spectrum supplement, which contain both the mycelium and fruiting body part of the mushroom.

2) Evaluate the Mushroom Supplement Extraction Process.

Proper mushroom extraction helps to capitalise on the benefits mentioned in this guide. Dual extraction is typically preferred - using alcohol such as Reishi extract alcohol. This will confer more immunity and antioxidative properties. The Dual extraction method is particularly important in any kind of functional mushroom supplement production, including drops and powders. Many brands will simply user a water-based extraction method, and this is less desirable.

3) Active Compound Testing.

Beta-glucans and triterpenes are easy to test for, so for pure mushroom products, these should be printed on the label. You should compare levels on the labels you're examining. Ensure also that the beta-glucan is sourced from functional mushrooms and not from something else.

 Mushroom Supplements - what to look for.

Bea Lyus

Bea Lyus is an experienced Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist. She is a member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT), the regulatory body for Nutritional Therapists and is registered by the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).