Last updated June 19, 2023
In recent years, mushrooms have taken the world of wellness by storm. With companies now tapping into the benefits of mushrooms—and with recent shows like Fantastic Fungi on Netflix—it’s impossible to ignore what everyone seems to be talking about these days: mushroom magic and the benefits of functional mushrooms.
Some functional mushroom names you may have already heard of are Reishi, Chaga, shitake, lion’s mane and cordyceps just to name a few. More and more studies show the incredible benefits of mushrooms, one of the earliest and most original superfoods known to us today.
What are Functional Mushrooms?
Mushrooms have been a staple of many cuisines around the world throughout time. But they aren’t just a pizza topping or something you put in a risotto. Mushrooms provide us with a food source yet are also a lot more than that.
Functional mushrooms refer to mushrooms that are cultivated for health benefits rather than solely as a food source. They can help consumers in a number of ways. Some key benefits include reducing inflammation and coping with the stress of everyday life to improving general wellness. Mushrooms are found deep in forests, under logs or in the mountains where they can grow with little human interference.
You might see these kinds of mushrooms fresh at your local farmer’s market, depending on where you live. However, they are more often found in powder and supplement form. Functional mushroom powders pair really well with coffee, cocoa and soup broths due to their earthy and slightly bitter taste. More recently you’ll also find functional mushrooms in hair care and a variety of other beauty and body care products.
Benefits of Consuming Mushrooms
For years mushrooms have been cultivated for medicinal benefits. Different mushrooms may have different benefits but they can all contribute to improved overall wellness as well as deal with other common conditions.
1. Reduce Stress
Functional mushrooms are also known as adaptogens—superfoods that are so nutritionally dense that they help us to adapt to new environments and changes and, in short, stress. In recent studies of various functional mushrooms, research shows that certain types of mushrooms can actually help us to adapt to times of stress and can also help to reduce anxiety by improving the function of the adrenal glands.
Reishi in particular is a great functional mushroom to consume if you lead a busy lifestyle. Especially if you are susceptible to stress. Full of nutritional benefits, Reishi not only helps with adaptation to stress, but it also has immune-supporting abilities and it also acts as a microbial helping to get rid of bacteria, viruses and even other damaging fungi like candida.
2. Immune System Strengthening
Throughout history, functional mushrooms have been used to help a wide range of ailments and support general well-being. While most of the studies of mushrooms seem to have been conducted on animal subjects, research now reveals that certain mushrooms can benefit immune health by supporting immune responses.
Many functional mushrooms can support immune health but the most common ones include Chaga, shitake, Reishi, cordyceps, lion’s mane and oyster. You can pick up a number of these in powder form at your local health food store or even buy fresh at a local farmer’s market depending on where you live.
3. Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
If you’re looking for a way to get more antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatories into your system, consuming functional mushrooms might be just what you need. Antioxidants help to fight free radicals in the body that contribute to a variety of different common diseases and improve your immune system. Anti-inflammatories can help the body fight disease, heal and recover. Both are essential for overall well-being.
The best mushroom to consider for an antioxidant boost is Chaga as it’s one of the richest antioxidants on the planet. These functional mushrooms are known to act as a detoxifier, helping the body get rid of carcinogens and reducing the risk of cancerous cell growth. Chaga also has some anti-inflammatory benefits that can help ailments such as joint pain, arthritis and swelling. Chaga is also a good source of B12 and calcium.
4. Improve Energy Levels
Recent studies on cordyceps have shown the mushroom has some anti-fatigue effects, promoting higher energy levels throughout the day. Through their ability to support the body and boost the immune system, it makes complete sense that you’d feel more energetic and renewed afterward. In fact, cordyceps have been used for thousands of years in China. These functional mushrooms were consumed by emperors and aristocrats to improve energy levels and increase immune health.
Reishi, cordyceps and shitake are the functional mushrooms that can help to improve energy levels the most.
5. Improve Focus and Concentration
One other known benefit of functional mushrooms is their ability to help improve focus and concentration. This is something that can really help us in our productivity-focused lives today.
Fungi such as lion’s mane especially have a history of positive effects on the brain. Lion’s mane is known for boosting brain cell production. Its anti-inflammatory properties make sure that blood flow to the brain is plentiful and that the brain is always getting enough oxygen. With ample amounts of oxygen, we can concentrate and focus much more efficiently than we might be able to otherwise.
Functional mushrooms really are hitting the holistic wellness world by storm. And with so many benefits to improve well-being, they might also have positive effects on your body and mind. Have you tried any yet?