Everything You Need To Know About Functional Mushrooms And Their Benefits

Josh Beaty

Everything You Need To Know About Functional Mushrooms And Their Benefits

December 9, 2019

As the years pass, new health trends emerge and begin to take over the market. One of these trends can be seen with functional mushrooms.

Although, when you really look into the history of these seemingly magical fungi, they couldn't be considered a true fad. Functional mushrooms have been around for centuries even though they are just starting to attract some attention in Western countries.

Functional mushrooms gained notice for their medicinal purposes, and have been used for thousands of years in Asia for just that.

To learn the secrets of functional mushrooms and why you should be using them, keep reading below. 

What are Functional Mushrooms?

When you hear the term functional mushroom, people aren't talking about the white buttons you can find and buy at your local grocery store. They are usually referring to the more rare mushrooms that grow in dense forests, on fallen logs, or even high on the Himalayan plateau on the head of a caterpillar.

These types of mushrooms are known to be packed with antioxidants and nutritional value, with a plethora of health claims for each.

These mushrooms have been used for hundreds of years due to their medicinal properties and superfood benefits. Their rise in popularity is thanks to the intensive research conducted over the years and the increased demand for natural solutions to health.

What Are the Health Benefits of Mushrooms?

Research has shown that eating certain functional mushrooms can help to strengthen immune systems, so your body is better able to ward off illnesses. Some can also be used as a dietary option that is low in calories and high in protein which is great for those who feel as if they are lacking these in their diet, in addition to providing multiple vitamins and essential minerals. 

What Mushrooms Are Considered Functional Mushrooms?

With the extensive range of functional mushrooms on the market, it can be hard to navigate and find the one that is truly right for you or your product. We have compiled a list below of some of the more popular and beneficial mushrooms on the market:

Reishi

Reishi, also known as lingzhi in China, has been an integral part of Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years and was named for longevity and spirituality.

Reishi is known as an adaptogen, a substance in herbal medicine that is claimed to help the body adapt to stress, and works to normalize body processes. Reishi is most commonly used to support healthy and restful sleep, reduce stress, and to boost the immune system.  

Chaga

Chaga is one of the richest antioxidant mushrooms in nature and has been claimed by some to have anti-inflammatory benefits. Having a healthy intake of these antioxidants could help strengthen your immune system.

A fun fact about Chaga is that it was used as a coffee ration back in World War II due to its robust flavor and color. This mushroom generally takes 15 to 20 years to reach full maturity where benefits can be best utilized. 

Cordyceps

Cordyceps is another popular mushroom that can be found within worldwide medicine. Cordyceps is a parasitic mushroom that grows on a living host.  Cordyceps sinensis specifically can be found growing on the head of a caterpillar in the Tibetan high plateau.

This mushroom has been used in China for thousands of years by royal and elite families as a tonic for energy, vitality, endurance, and to support a healthy immune system. Most commonly, cordyceps are used to help with energy levels which is why it can be found in natural pre-workout formulas. Using this mushroom as a daily supplement could help lengthen stamina endurance. 

Lion's Mane

This mushroom got its name from its fluffy mane-like appearance. Lion's Mane mushroom was traditionally used by Buddhist monks to help focus while meditating.

Supplementing with this mushroom is said to help improve focus and boost your concentration levels and memory. 

Shiitake

Shiitake mushrooms are the most common fungi on this list. Shiitakes have also been used for a long time as a part of Chinese medicine. In the United States, many people recognize shiitake as a superfood and have incorporated it into food, healthcare, and even beauty.

This superfood contains a variety of vitamins and minerals. It's a well-known fact that shiitake mushrooms contain 9 amino acids that are essential to our bodies. This mushroom also works to enhance skin and hair, claiming to make skin glow and hair shine.  

Turkey Tail

The turkey tail mushroom is a polypore, meaning that the meat, or portion of the mushroom you'd want to consume, grows on its underside. In the wild, it can be found growing on dead fallen trees.

Turkey tail is commonly used in cooking and teas. It contains prebiotics and antioxidants that help with the digestive system.

Maitake

In Japanese, Maitake can be directly translated into dancing mushroom. This is because the Japenese believe if you find this mushroom in the wild you will dance for joy.

This mushroom has been taken in between meals to help with digestion. If your stomach is usually sensitive, maitake could work to bring that sensitivity down. It has also been used in both cooking and teas for this purpose, or by taking a natural supplement. 

Enokitake

Enokitake is a small delicate white mushroom that is native to Asia. Mostly found in Japan, China, and Korea.

These mushrooms are used as an addition to any dish because they are great for cooking. Along with their amazing flavor, they have nutritional benefits that can help fill spots in your diet that are lacking.

They are known to have a good amount of niacin, a form of vitamin B3, that is required for the proper function of fats and sugars in the body and to maintain healthy cells. These mushrooms are also a great source of antioxidants.

Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms have a healthy amount of beta-glucans. Beta-glucans are polysaccharides that are claimed to have benefits for cholesterol, blood sugar management, and boosting the immune system.

An oyster mushroom supplement could also help to calm your nerves making it beneficial for winding down after a stressful day.  

Tremella

Tremella is a popular supplement among those who are going through chemotherapy. The tremella supplement is said to help patients feel comforted after treatment and help to fill nutritional gaps. 

Tremella contains the most vitamin D out of any food source on the planet. It also has a great amount of fiber and antioxidants. 

Where Can These Mushrooms be Found?

You may have never heard of the mushrooms listed above, but thanks to new research these mushrooms are making their way into the mainstream. If you're interested in buying a supplement you can purchase search for them online, check your local farmers market, or at a specialty store. If you are formulating a product with functional mushrooms you can find more information here

What's the Best Way to Incorporate Them Into Your Diet?

Incorporating mushrooms into your diet isn't that hard to do.  The simplest way to incorporate into your diet is to find a good quality supplement of your mushroom of choice. Since many of these are not commonly sold fresh in stores, a supplement or mushroom powder is often the way to go. If you choose a powder, you will then be able to add to your cooking, smoothies, protein shakes, or make teas.

If cooking isn't something you're keen on or you just don't like to do it, go for a supplement. There are many supplements on the market of single mushrooms or a blend. 

How Will You Take Your Mushrooms?

You now know what functional mushrooms are and how they can be used to help enhance your wellness, beauty, sleep, and more. You also know the top functional mushrooms on the market and how they differ from one another. With this knowledge, it should be much easier to navigate the market and decide what will work best for your lifestyle or formulation. 

For more information on alternative health, be sure to check out our blog here