Functional Mushrooms: A Brief Overview
When people talk about functional mushrooms, they’re not talking about your typical grocery store varieties like Portobello, Button, or Cremini. You can save those for your omelet.
Alongside oat milk and Peloton, functional mushrooms have become one of the latest health trends, known as superfoods –– and for good reason. Functional mushrooms have powerful health benefits and have been utilized in medicine for thousands of years. And we’ve only just scratched the surface of their immense potential to improve our lives.
What are Functional Mushrooms?
Functional mushrooms are a specific subclass of mushrooms that have shown –– through clinical testing and anecdotal evidence –– to improve health, wellness, and vitality. Many of these mushrooms have a rich history which, in some cases, dates back nearly 5,000 years. Due to their powerful properties, functional mushrooms have been the cornerstone of countless medicinal lineages.
What makes functional mushrooms unique to other mushrooms is that they’re absolutely packed with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals and have been used to treat a wide variety of health conditions and illnesses throughout history. Western medicine is now beginning to catch up to the ancestral knowledge that indigenous cultures around the world have utilized for generations upon generations.
What are Some of the Health Benefits of Functional Mushrooms?
The health benefits of functional mushrooms are potent and wide-ranging. To date, clinical studies have been done on a host of different mushrooms including Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, Reishi, and Turkey Tail. While more human trials are necessary, preliminary trials with functional mushrooms have shown a lot of promise for regenerating nerve cells, improving immune function, increasing energy levels, and even fighting certain forms of cancer. These benefits span across the health spectrum because functional mushrooms contain high amounts of beneficial nutrients, vitamins, and compounds like polysaccharides, antioxidants, and polyphenols that have a positive impact across the body’s systems.
For example, a 2011 study from the University of Florida showed that eating just one shiitake mushroom per day for a month reduced inflammation and boosted immune function. Talk about nutrient-dense!
Over 35,000 species of mushrooms have shown to have some medicinal benefit. As far as clinical research is concerned, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the potential of mushrooms to improve the function of our body and mind. It’s a rich and exciting research path that is now getting the traction it deserves.
But What About Magic(al) Mushrooms?
Psilocybin –– the psychoactive component of psychedelic mushrooms –– is back on researchers’ radar after showing a lot of promise as an effective treatment for depression and end-of-life care. However, don’t confuse functional mushrooms with their magical cousins! Functional mushrooms are NOT psychoactive.
Unlike psychedelic mushrooms, you can think of functional mushrooms as one of nature’s superfoods, boasting an abundance of nutrients that can have a positive impact on nearly every system in your body.
What are the Best Ways to Take Functional Mushrooms?
There are a number of ways to incorporate functional mushrooms into your day-to-day life. Due to difficulties with sourcing, their inedible nature, and the need for extraction, supplements are a great way to reap the benefits every day. Just make sure that you’re buying high-quality supplements that utilize a safe method of extraction (such as water) from a reputable supplier like Spore!
Supplements typically come in powders, capsules, or extracts –– all super easy ways to fit them into your diet. Some functional mushrooms, like Shiitake, can be found fresh in supermarkets, so be on the lookout! These are great to add into a stir-fry, soup, or a breakfast burrito.
If you don’t know, now you know! Functional mushrooms have the potential to transform our understanding of human health, wellness, and longevity. As science continues to show what’s possible, we’ll continue to share it with you!
Until then, we’ll keep making it easy for you to incorporate their benefits into your daily life. You can click here to check out our innovative blends!
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- National Center for Biotechnology Information, Neurohealth Properties of Hericium erinaceus Mycella Enriched with Erinacines
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, Antiinflammatory and Immunomodulating Properties of Fungal Metabolites
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, Altifatigue Functions and Mechanisms of Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology
- Science Daily, Mushrooms Boost Immunity, Suggests Research
- Ecowatch, 5 Medicinal Mushrooms
- MAPS, John Hopkins Study of Psilocybin in Cancer Patients