By Anja Springthorpe
Mushrooms have served as both food and medicine for centuries. Chinese herbal medicine particularly recognized the healing powers of mushrooms and used them to treat influenza, depression and cancer. Thanks to modern technology, cultivating micromushrooms is easier than ever. Now, researchers study these fungi for their proposed health benefits.
While more than 300 species of micromushrooms, also referred to as medical mushrooms, have been identified, a select number of those already stand out for their powerful therapeutic properties.
Chaga mushrooms contain strikingly high amounts of antioxidants. These high concentrations of antioxidants can inhibit DNA damage, the main culprit for premature aging and cancer. Chaga mushrooms also reduce inflammation throughout the body and support immune defenses against bacteria and viruses.
Lion’s Mane functions as a tonic for the nervous system by stimulating the growth of nerve cells. This may be useful in the management of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s or other brain-related diseases. Lion’s mane also sharpens the mind, improving concentration and focus. Shaolin monks use lion’s mane to prepare their minds before walking on burning coals or breaking concrete blocks with bare hands.
Reishi, also called “the mushroom of immortality,” has more established health benefits than any other micromushroom. Polysaccharides in reishi nourish the immune system by stimulating bone marrow to produce immune cells. This may protect from infections, inflammation or even cancer development. Reishi also improves resilience to stress, which may explain why it is used to combat depression, fatigue and insomnia.
Turkey tail mushrooms increase the activity of T cells, a type of immune cell that protects from tumors, viruses and bacteria. Turkey tails are especially good for treating hepatitis, lowering cholesterol and preventing heart disease and stroke.
Purchasing fresh micromushrooms can be a challenge, depending on your location. However, many health food stores offer dried mushrooms, powders, extracts, teas or tinctures. You can also soak or boil micromushrooms in homemade broths and teas to extract their healing properties.
* Some micromushrooms can affect medications and worsen blood clotting disorders. Always talk with your doctor or pharmacist prior to consuming micromushroom products.