Updated: Feb 1
Unless you've been hiding under a rock you have most likely heard of a newest health craze - Medicinal Mushrooms.
Nutritional news headlines are constantly claiming the newest potions, lotions and remedies. It can be overwhelming to sort the total fads from the must haves.
So, let me give you the download on all things mushroom mania, why they are worth your time and how to use them properly.
First things first, I need to clarify that I am not talking about the mushrooms you see at your local grocery store. Although they to are fabulous immunity boosters loaded with antioxidants, they are not the superfoods we are focusing on today.
HISTORY OF MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS
The types of fungi I'm referring to have been used in ancient cultures all across the world for thousands of years. Today, they are having a moment in the spotlight as clinical research is surfacing confirming the claims that Eastern medicine have understood by for centuries.
When it comes to “food as medicine” few foods perfectly embody the concept like mushrooms. Medicinal mushrooms have given us endless pharmaceutical medicines, from the first statin drugs, to penicillin and a handful of anti-cancer treatments. Around 40% of Western medicines today actually utilise mushrooms.
HOW TO USE MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS
Medicinal mushrooms come in a powdered form and are most commonly used today as an addition to drinks such as mushroom coffees, mushroom smoothies, mushroom lattes and my personal favourite; mushroom hot chocolates.
Now before you freak out, no, it does NOT taste like a cup of coffee with an aftertaste of portobello, I promise.
Each type of medicinal mushroom has its own unique healing benefits. You can use each different strain as a little superfood sidekick to give your body exactly what it needs, whether that be stress relief, anti-inflammatory or cancer support, an energy boost - anything! Get in tune with your mushrooms and they can be an incredible boost for your health.
WHY ARE THEY SO BENEFICIAL
Ready for a crazy fact?
Humans share almost half of our genetic makeup with mushrooms and they are actually more closely related to us than to vegetables. Because of this, mushrooms are affected by many of the same diseases and problems that we humans are. This is why we can benefit from many of their specific health-enhancing survival methods.
All medicinal mushrooms are extremely nutrient dense and powerful immune boosters. Beyond that, each has its own impressive healing components. Medicinal mushrooms are huge in the US right now but Aus is (finally) beginning to catch up. If you are keen to try some out, I highly recommend Evolution Botanicals.
MY 5 FAVOURITE MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS
CHILL OUT WITH REISHI
Reishi mushrooms are one of the most popular types, and for great reason. Think of them like nature’s Xanax. Reishi's calming properties are thanks to the mood-boosting compound triterpene, which can help to alleviate anxiety, induce deep sleep, promote nervous system healing, heighten focus and even fight depression.
Anxiety. Immunity. Sleep. Depression. Focus.
THINK WITH LION’S MANE
If you feel like sometimes you live in a cloud of brain fog then this is the mushroom for you. Lion’s Mane is a nootropic, which means it improves cognitive function. This brain-boosting mushroom is rich is Nerve Growth Factor (NFG) as well as something called myelin, both of which are essential for brain health. A deficiency in either of these can cause neurological conditions such as Alzheimers and Multiple Sclerosis.
This miraculous mushroom also calms irritability, increases cognition and improves memory. On top of the mental benefits, Lion’s Mane strengthens your immunity through improving gut health. Did you know that 70% of your immune system cells live in your gut? To find out more about how to heal yourself from the inside out by boosting gut health check out my Good Gut Guide.
Mental clarity. Concentration. Memory. Immunity. Gut Health.
HEAL WITH CHAGA
If the aim of the game is disease prevention and eternal youth, then Chaga is where it’s at. They are packed with antioxidants which fight free radicals and lower inflammation. This process prevents the buildup of what is known as oxidative stress; the cause of skin ageing, the first step in the development of many chronic diseases and a key factor in cancer cell growth.
Anti-ageing. Cancer Fighting. Anti-inflammatory. Blood Sugar Lowering. Creativity.
SHIITAKE FOR A HAPPY HEART
You may already be familiar with this guy but shiitake has many more benefits than simply adding flavour to your favourite stir-fry. Shiitake contain compounds that interfere with the production of cholesterol in the liver as well as phytonutrients which help keep cells from sticking to blood vessel walls and therefore forming plaque buildup. This helps to maintain both healthy blood pressure and circulation. Shiitake is also a great source of essential vitamin D, which is another factor making it preventive against heart disease.
Cholesterol Lowering. Heart Health. Blood Pressure. Circulation.
BALANCE WITH ASHWAGANDHA
This incredible adaptogen (meaning it helps the body to find homeostasis and ‘adapt’ to both physical and mental stress) is extremely popular in Ayurvedic medicine and is the most extensively researched medicinal mushrooms. It works as a stress-protective agent that helps to lower cortisol, balance hormones, protect against mood disorders and boost energy.
Anxiety. Depression. Thyroid support. Energy.
GET GOING WITH CORDYCEPS
If you want something to help you get up and at ‘em, nothing beats cordyceps. They are a type of energising adaptogen (similar to superfoods such as cacao and maca) however they also have the added ability to help fight fatigue, treat muscle pains and prevent weakness. Cordyceps boost athletic ability by improving stamina, endurance and physical ability. How you ask? Well they boost your body's supply of ATP, which is one of your primary sources of energy during exercise.
Energy. Recovery. Inflammation. Strength.
Now the question on everyone’s mind: WTF IS MUSHROOM COFFEE?!
You know about decaf, half-caf and bulletproof but do you know about the newest coffee craze? Mushroom coffee.
Now, I know it sounds like a weird as hell combination but this fungi-focused coffee is all the rage right now and I am totally into it. Don’t worry, it still tastes like coffee!
After suffering from serious adrenal fatigue last year I had to completely remove caffeine from my diet which meant no more morning cuppa. Instead I substituted with a morning superfood hot cacao with Medicinal Mushrooms (recipe). Since then I have managed to balance my hormones and have very recently been able to re-incorporate one weak coffee in the morning - thanks to mushroom coffee. Yay!
Mushrooms will take your coffee to the next level by giving you a double dose of antioxidants with far fewer jitters.
Regular coffee can cause cortisol spikes which push your body into fight or flight mode leaving you feeling anxious and wired. The addition of mushrooms give a much more balanced cuppa. Personally, I even think that the slightly earthy taste actually smoothes out coffees flavour profile too.
If you also struggle with your cortisol but want to try mushroom coffee I recommend using my coconut latte recipe below. The addition of coconut cream will give you a dose of healthy fats which will sooth your adrenals and protect against a cortisol spike.
Basically, you get all the usual benefits of your regular cup of joe but now also the added mushroom benefits - same concept applies for mushroom tea or my personal favourite, mushroom hot chocolate.
If you’re not into creating your own witches brews at home there are companies out there who can do it for you. All you need to do is order them online and add hot water. Easy as! For the best of the best pre-made mushroom blends check out LifeCykel and Four Sigmatic. My personal faves are their regular mushroom coffee infusions and the Reishi chilli hot chocolate. Drool!
MY GO TO MUSHROOM COCONUT LATTE
1 long black coffee (I use organic decaf)
1 - 2 TBSP organic coconut cream
1/2 - 1 tsp Medicinal Mushroom of choice (right now I'm using Lion's Mane)
Pinch pink sea salt
Sweetness (optional) : 1 date, 2 drops of liquid stevia or 1/2 tsp raw honey
* right now I love making this a vanilla latte by adding some natural organic vanilla essence, vanilla bean or vanilla stevia drops.
* you can pimp it up with any other superfoods you are having at the moment too. I love using collagen and also adding a little nut butter for energy if I am having it before working out. Pop all ingredients into a blender for a couple of seconds to get it frothy and then enjoy.
I hope this intro to Medicinal Mushies has inspired you to give them a try. Get creative with your recipes. Mushrooms are also fun to add into baked goods for a superfood kick. If you come up with any absolute winners, let me know as I'd love to try them myself. Ps. If you have any more mushroom questions, feel free to ask me via my website or Instagram. Always happy to chat. Have fun-guys ;)