Jun 04, 2020 05:12PM
By Joseph Condora
Medicinal mushrooms are gaining popularity in the natural health world as of late. However, mushrooms have been used medicinally in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years and western medicine since 1928. The first thing that most of us think of when we hear the word mushrooms is the cremini mushrooms or portobellos that we eat as a side dish with our dinners. However, there are over 10,000 known species of mushrooms that have been identified and researchers believe that there are countless more species that remain undiscovered.
While many species are known, only a select few have been clinically studied and found to be especially effective for increasing immune function, lowering blood sugar, improving exercise performance, and improving energy levels.
Here are three of the most well-researched mushrooms and their various benefits.
Also referred to as “the mushroom of immortality”, reishi mushroom has gained a significant amount of attention during the COVID-19 pandemic for its potential role in the prevention phase of immune health protocols. New research published in Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal explored the possibility of reishi mushroom in providing protective effects against COVID-19 and other viral infections.
Reishi mushrooms stimulate NK cells (natural killer cells). These are specialized immune surveillance cells that seek out virally infected cells and formulate a response to contain a potential infection. For this reason, the researches surmise that utilizing reishi mushrooms as part of an immune health protocol may offer powerful protection against viral infection.
Cordyceps mushroom is actually a fungi that grows on caterpillars at high altitudes in Asia. Cordyceps gained mainstream attention in 1993, when the Chinese Woman’s Track and Field team credited their impressive performances during the Chinese National Games to the use of cordyceps mushroom.
Following this claim, cordyceps mushroom began being clinically studied to assess whether the reports of improved physical performance were founded. A 2017 trial published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements assessed the effect that cordyceps mushroom supplementation had on the performance competitive cyclists.
The researchers found that those who were given cordyceps mushroom significantly increased their “time-to-fatigue”, meaning that they were able to cycle for a longer period before getting tired. Additionally, the cyclists who supplemented also improved their V02 Max by 11%. V02 max is a measurement that is used to determine how much oxygen is being utilized during physical activity. Higher V02 max scores are associated with increased fitness performance.
Similar to reishi mushroom, chaga mushroom has been used medicinally for thousands of years throughout Russia, Korea, and Eastern and Northern Europe. Referred to as the “King of Herbs”, chaga mushroom has been the subject of over 190 studies to assess the potential anti-cancer, anti-viral, and blood-sugar regulating effects.
Research published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology aimed to assess the impact that chaga mushroom supplementation has on blood-sugar levels of type 2 diabetic mice. The researchers found that chaga mushroom supplementation was able to lower blood-sugar levels of the mice by 31% over a three-week period.
Chaga mushrooms, like reishi, are potent NK cell stimulators and exhibit anti-cancer properties. A 2016 study published in the Heliyon journal investigated the effect of chaga mushroom supplementation on mice with lung cancer. The researchers found that the tumor-bearing mice who received chaga mushroom had a 60% tumor reduction. Additionally, mice with metastatic cancer, the number of nodules present decreased by 25% compared to the control group.
Keep in mind, most medicinal mushrooms are powerful immune stimulators. Immune stimulants should be avoided by those with an autoimmune condition because these individuals already have an overactive immune system. Be sure to consult with your physician before beginning any supplement protocol.
Joseph Condora is a nutrition and health coach at Valley Integrative Pharmacy, located at 75 Washington Valley Road in Bedminster. For information, call 908-658-4900 or visit ValleyPharmacyRX.com.