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The Power of Functional Mushrooms

Updated: May 29


The power of functional mushrooms

Mushroom coffee, mushroom gummies, mushroom supplements – they are everywhere these days.  What is all the hype about?  First – let’s just clarify that we are not talking about magic mushrooms (the ones that are psychoactive and cause a high or even hallucinations). Functional mushrooms are ones that perform a particular function in the body that may contribute to health and wellness.  They can be consumed as mushrooms, but are more often made into extracts for easier (and tastier) consumption. 


Functional mushrooms like Reishi, Chaga, and Lion’s Mane are gaining recognition for a variety of benefits. Many have been used for thousands of years in medicinal preparations and there is a long history of mushroom cultivation as a part of our food supply. So, why are they suddenly appearing online and on retail shelves everywhere?  Well, people say they have benefited from consuming them – many of them raving about the effects. This has created demand that has been filled by many enterprising and passionate companies. However, not all supplements are created equal. 


The FDA, of course, has not approved any mushroom supplement for the treatment or cure of any disease. However, there are a tremendous number of anecdotal testimonies and some scientific research that led us to begin carrying a few functional mushroom products. So far, the feedback has been very positive. 


The Key Benefits of Popular Functional Mushrooms


Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum):


Reishi Mushrooms Infographic

Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to Reishi as the  "mushroom of immortality." And while we wish that were accurate, it has not been demonstrated to actually lead to immortality. However, it is known for adaptogenic properties. These support stress reduction, immune system modulation, and overall well-being. Reishi is commonly found in products designed for relaxation and rest. 


Reishi has been studied for anti-cancer benefits, help in reducing depression, and a contribution to general relaxation. As with most supplements – more research is required to determine the full scope of these benefits. 


Reishi is often included in “sleep” blends as it is reputed to help promote a healthy sleep cycle. I will make one note about the feedback related to this. Most customers report that Reishi products do help with mild relaxation. That is, helping you lower your shoulders from around your ears and feel less tense. However, those that use CBD say that Reishi is less effective than CBD for both relaxation and stress. Those that take THC for sleep say Reishi does “nothing” in comparison. Therefore, I recommend Reishi sleep products for those that can’t or do not want to use full spectrum CBD products, but not for those that already find THC effective.    


Anyone taking anticoagulants and immunosuppressants should approach Reishi with caution and speak to their healthcare provider before adding Reishi to their daily routine. 


Lion's Mane (Hericium erinaceus)


Lion's Mane Mushrooms Infographic

These large shaggy mushrooms are known for their resemblance to a lion's mane. They are primarily promoted for their ability to enhance cognitive function and support nervous system health. There is also research suggesting Lion’s Mane mushrooms may promote nerve regeneration. This may make them a good choice for anyone recovering from nerve injury. They are also reputed to improve memory and focus.


These potential benefits makes Lion’s Mane an excellent addition to many “focus” or “concentration” supplements. I have personally found that the addition of Lion’s Mane to an energy drink makes me less susceptible to the “jitters” commonly associated with caffeine. They are touted to help offset exactly that, which makes them an excellent addition to mushroom coffees and energy drinks. 


Another potential benefit of Lion’s Mane is helping to reduce the risk of heart disease. To be clear – there are not any human studies yet, but studies in test tubes and rats demonstrate a significant ability to reduce the oxidation of cholesterol in the blood stream and lower triglyceride levels. 


Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)


Turkey Tail Mushrooms Infographic

This one is named (you won’t be surprised) because it resembles a turkey’s tail. This mushroom is rich in polysaccharopeptides, which have been researched for their immunomodulatory effects. Which just means that they can potentially help regulate the immune system. They have been used in both traditional and modern medicine to support immune function and as a complimentary therapy during cancer treatment.


Turkey Tail is also reputed to help improve gut health. It does this by promoting the growth of helpful bacterial which suppressing the nastier ones. 


Most remarkably, turkey tail has been shown in studies to improve insulin resistance and reduce blood sugar levels diabetic patients. The patients were rats, not people, but the results may be similar. More research is obviously needed.  


Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)


Chaga Mushrooms Infographic

Chaga is packed with antioxidants, which makes it a potential cancer fighter. Ironically, it looks like a cancerous growth on a birch tree, sometimes growing quite large. Test tube studies on cancer cells of the lung, breast, prostate, and colon were all prevented from growing by chaga extract. In one mouse study, chaga supplements resulted in a 60% reduction in cancer tumor size. 


Another study demonstrated that Chaga lowers blood sugar levels in diabetic mice. Yet another showed a reduction in “bad” cholesterol and an accompanying increase in “good” cholesterol. Compounds in chaga include polyphenols and melanin. It's prized for its high volume of anti-oxidants, which make it a popular choice for overall wellness.


Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)


Shiitake Mushrooms Infographic

These are widely used in Asian cuisine any many people are familiar with their savory / meaty taste. Supplements and powders provide shiitake mushrooms in concentrated and taste-free forms.  They contain compounds like lentinan, which may support immune function and cardiovascular health.


Traditional medicine employs the shitake mushroom to boost health, longevity and to improve circulations. As with other mushrooms mentioned here, animal studies of the components of shitake demonstrate protection against cancer and inflammation. 


Maitake (Grifola frondosa)


Maitake Mushrooms Infographic

Maitake means dancing mushroom in Japanese, which is made more beautiful by the tale that people danced with happiness upon finding it in the wild. Maitake mushrooms have been used medicinally for thousands of years in traditional Japanese and Chinese medicine. They are reputed to modulate the immune system and can potentially help regulate blood sugar levels.


Maitake has also been shown to have cancer fighting properties and to help regulate blood sugar levels. One study showed that a maitake extraction was efficient in killing human cancer cells and improved the effectiveness of a cancer fighting protein. Researchers have also been looking into Maitake’s effects on cholesterol levels. They theorize that consuming maitake may help keep your arteries healthy.  


Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis)


Cordyceps Mushrooms Infographic

OK, I’m a little grossed out by this part and am thankful for people that cultivate and collect these so I don’t have to.  Cordyceps are a parasitic variety and grow on the larvae of insects. 

Now that I have stopped shuddering, I can share that in traditional medicine, cordyceps are prized for their ability to boost energy and enhance endurance. Cordyceps may also support respiratory health and exercise performance. One study showed that VO2 max, which is a measure of fitness, improved by 7% in participants who took cordyceps. Participants that took placebo experienced no change in VO2 max.   


Cordyceps may impact longevity as well. Apparently, one study found that mice who were given cordyceps lived several months longer than their cohorts who were taking placebo.  This has led to the belief that cordyceps may have anti-aging properties.  Unless, of course, you are the unfortunate insect they have chosen to grow upon.  



Cautions To Be Aware of - Mushroom Supplements


As we said before – the FDA has not approved mushroom supplements for the treatment or cure of any disease. They are also virtually unregulated, so make sure you obtain them from a trustworthy source.  


In addition to sourcing, there are some fundamental precautions that go with many supplements. All of the above mushrooms have potential health benefits, but many share some common cautions.  Any supplement that may impact blood sugar should be consumed with caution and upon the advice of a physician by anyone with diabetes. Those that impact immune function should potentially be avoided by those with autoimmune disorders. And no supplement (including mushroom based ones) are typically recommended for those who are pregnant or nursing. 



Mycelium vs. Fruiting Bodies


mycelium vs. fruiting bodies

The fruiting body of the mushroom is the part that is seen and consumed. It is the reproductive structure of the mushroom that produces spores. The mycelia is the “root” of that mushroom and often makes up 90% of the mushroom’s mass. Both parts can provide some nutrition and health benefits. However, the fruiting body is where the full range of bioactive compounds exists. Polysaccharides, terpenoids, and phenolic compounds all exist at their highest concentrations in the fruiting bodies.  Therefore, supplements made only from the fruiting bodies are generally the most potent. 



Extracts vs. Powders 


There are many ways to grow and extract the compounds from mushrooms.  Similar to the world of Hemp, it is important to understand what makes a supplement the most effective. This includes both the concentration and the bioavailability of the compounds from the mushrooms. In addition to fruiting bodies being the most desirable source, the most desirable process is an extraction process, which removes the compounds by using liquid and / or alcohol. Don’t worry, the alcohol is food grade and evaporates during the process, leaving behind a concentrated and healthful powder. 



Third Party Testing


Just like in the world of hemp, producers that third party test their finished product for the presence of mold, mycotoxins, and heavy metals are ideal. Transparency in the production of supplement products is essential given the sparsity of regulation. There is currently no requirement for providing these test results, so the companies that do are going “above and beyond.” The resulting products will be a little more expensive than some mass produced supplements, but how much of a premium can you place on safety?



Organic Mushroom Growing and Processing


Mushroom growing and processing

With the recent increases in demand for functional mushrooms, many consumers prioritize organic sources. Organic practices for mushroom cultivation use natural materials like sawdust, straw, or compost. They also refrain from using synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. This ensures the purity and integrity of the mushrooms while minimizing environmental impact.


Responsible processing methods also preserve the potency of the mushrooms. These methods include processes such as freeze-drying or low-temperature dehydration. Both retain most of the delicate compounds from which the health benefits are derived. When we source products for our boutique and online store, we look for organic practices, fruiting body extracts and responsible processing.  



Some of Our Healthful Mushroom Supplements


Mushroom Coffee is an excellent way to incorporate mushrooms into your routine if you already drink coffee.  I have been using it daily and really do feel like my days have been more productive. I feel more “present in the moment” and have had fewer struggles with getting my days going.  Despite sleeping really well with Kush Kubes, I am not a morning person.  La Republica Ground Mushroom Coffee is the one many people asked for and has quickly become my favorite:



These Microjoy gummies taste great and have been very well received by many of our customers – and they taste really good:




These vegan, fairtrade Alice Mushroom Chocolates are an indulgent way to enjoy your mushrooms:




These Enjoy Hemp DeStress gummies allow you to enjoy some functional mushrooms along with your CBD. They are effective, but be aware, they are fairly bitter:




When we judge the value of a product for our store and website, we listen carefully to customer feedback and try the products ourselves. So, if you decide to try one of these products – be sure to let us know what you think!


We hope you enjoy learning about and exploring the world of mushroom supplements. If you have any questions or concerns (or product requests), please feel free to reach out to us via chat right here on this page, via phone at 407-235-0653 or by email at info@bluelotuswellnessandcbd.com

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