Mushrooms have always been known as healthy food and are especially popular among vegans as they are a great meat substitute.
However, most people associate mushrooms with those found in their local grocery store. Typically, large mushrooms are known for their meaty texture, and smaller-cap mushrooms make for a great addition when chopped and added to dishes alongside vegetables.
Beyond their size, most people do not put much thought into the mushrooms they purchase, believing them to all be the same. However, there are hundreds of different types of mushrooms, and each one has its own flavor profile, texture, and potential health benefits.
In recent years, there has been growing interest in what is known as functional mushrooms. These mushrooms are believed to have noticeable health benefits and are used primarily for medicinal reasons rather than as part of a meal.
What are functional mushrooms?
All mushrooms are good for you as they are chock full of nutrients, but some are better than others. The typical mushrooms found in grocery stores are grown primarily for taste and texture, and while they are still healthy food, they are not considered functional mushrooms.
Functional mushrooms offer health benefits beyond simply being a healthy, low fat, nutrient-dense food. Some of the most well-known functional mushrooms are lion’s mane, cordyceps, reishi, and turkey tail mushrooms.
Some functional mushrooms still make for a tasty food. For example, lion’s mane is one of the most gourmet mushrooms, thanks to its rich meaty flavor. However, functional mushrooms are rarely eaten as a food and are instead only consumed as a supplement.
What are the benefits of medicinal mushrooms?
Medicinal mushrooms are known for being nutrient-rich foods that can provide health benefits beyond those of common mushrooms. For this reason, medicinal mushrooms are often used as a dietary health supplement.
Some functional mushrooms can also be used to help manage chronic health conditions. For example, many people choose to use mushrooms for anxiety and help regulate mood disorders.
The specific benefits of medicinal mushrooms depend on the type of mushrooms. Certain mushrooms are good for cognitive function, while others are better at treating pain, inflammation-related conditions, and improving digestive health.
Here are the most common uses of medicinal mushrooms.
Medicinal mushrooms and digestive health
Throughout history, mushrooms have been used to improve digestive health and ease stomach-related issues. While people may not have understood the exact science behind what was happening, many cultures started to notice that certain mushrooms would ease stomach problems. This led to these mushrooms becoming popular in various Asian recipes and dishes.
In recent years, studies have been carried out to understand further why certain mushrooms can positively affect the body. Digestive health is a primary benefit of these mushrooms, thanks to a combination of key compounds found within.
Medicinal mushrooms and cognitive function
Functional mushrooms such as lion’s mane may help improve cognitive function and memory recognition when consumed regularly.
There are two key compounds within lion’s mane mushrooms, hericenones and erinacines, which have been found to stimulate important nerve growth factors in the brain. These two compounds can help to improve cognitive function over a prolonged time.
Other mushrooms, like cordyceps, have also been shown to affect mental health. Cordyceps mushroom supplements are often used to improve concentration and motivation. The mushroom has natural energy-boosting properties, which can help the brain to stay focused for longer.
Medicinal mushrooms and immune function
Functional mushrooms are increasingly used as a natural dietary supplement due to their rich nutrient contents.
Certain mushrooms are better than others as a general-purpose health supplement. Reishi and turkey tail mushrooms are rich in antioxidants and, therefore, considered some of the best mushrooms to use as a health supplement.
Adding regular mushroom supplements to a healthy diet may help improve both physical and mental health. The combination of amino acids, vitamins, and fatty acids found within mushrooms provides the immune system with the vital nutrients needed to protect the body and fight external threats.
Reishi mushrooms have a calming effect that can help regulate mood fluctuations and sleep patterns. There has been some evidence suggesting that reishi mushroom supplements improve sleep quality and help prevent energy drops throughout the day.
Final thoughts on medicinal mushrooms
There is growing evidence to support the use of mushrooms as a health supplement. The dense nutritional content of functional mushrooms makes them an excellent way to ensure that the body gets the basic resources needed to stay fit and healthy.
Thanks to the growing interest in medicinal mushrooms, an increasing range of mushroom supplements are available. Popular options include mushroom powders that can be added to foods and mushroom capsules for a super quick way to pack functional mushrooms into every day.