Have you ever done ‘shrooms?
Mushroom supplements are fairly new to the popular supplementation scene, but they’re making waves in ways you’d never think some fungus could.
And they’ve been around as treatments for a long time – traditional healers from around the world claim to use the Cordyceps strain alone for 21 different ailments (1).
To be clear, we’re talking adaptogenic mushrooms here. Not just any ‘shrooms you can buy at the grocery store… and definitely not just any you can buy from that guy at that music festival.
First, let’s get straight on some terminology.
What are adaptogens?
Mushroom supplements are often referred to as adaptogens. This means they are substances that can enhance our bodies’ ability to adapt to stress, but not in any one particular way.
That sounds vague and scammy, but it’s true!
Because each person’s body is different, we each react to adaptogens in a slightly different way.
We can generally look at certain mushroom strands and say they usually have X effect, but at the end of the day, we will each notice different benefits.
Cordyceps, for example, is touted as having anti-tumorous properties and athletic performance enhancing effects. But some people also notice better mental focus and drive when they supplement with this particular strand of mushroom.
Reishi is sold as the calming mushroom, but some people also notice mental clarity.
You can see the pattern.
Mushrooms seem to be the latest popular adaptogen to supplement with, and as such there are several new companies sprouting up around the craze.
But what are some of the true, proven benefits of supplementing with adaptogenic mushrooms?
Here’s what the science says about that.
The 5 Proven ways Mushroom Supplements Improve Your Health
1. Mushrooms contain the power to stop tumor growth & even activate tumor-killing properties in the body.
Mushrooms contain compounds called beta-glucans, which have been studied as tumor-killing compounds for decades now.
β-glucans are polysaccharides (sugar chains) that, when placed in a setting where there is dangerous tumor growth, seem to give cells the power to stop that growth.
Furthermore, they seem to have the ability to prevent the spread of tumors to other parts of the body. They might even have the power to activate tumor-killing mechanisms in the cells of your body (1).
For a more intense look at β-glucans, check out this .pdf from Medicina Kaunas.
The two strands to look out for in particular to get these benefits are chaga and shiitake.
Maybe fungus is what’s been needed against cancer this whole time?
2. Mushrooms have strong antioxidant properties
Reishi is often referred to as the “relaxing” strand of mushroom, and maybe its antioxidant benefits are the reason why.
It’s been shown to have a range of key natural compounds that have functional benefits in the body… including the anti-aging and chemically protective benefits of antioxidants(4).
But beyond reishi, even just the mushrooms you find at the store to cook dinner with have some sort of antioxidant properties. So really any mushrooms you can get into your diet will help your body’s cells to stay clear of free radicals (3).
3. Mushroom supplements can help improve athletic performance
Cordyceps was mentioned at the top of this article – but here’s where it really shines again. It’s been shown to help improve athletic performance.
Beware with this one. Cordyceps is a fungus that has several different strands, and the Cordyceps sinensis strand is the one shown to help improve athletic endurance (5).
The other highly-studied strand is Cordyceps militaris, which has anti-inflammatory properties (6). This is also an important piece of health, but it’s not directly measured as part of athletic performance.
However, some might argue that inflammation reduction also helps with athletic performance when it comes to recovery.
The whole point of exercise is to temporarily break down the body so it builds itself up better than before. So if a supplement improves that process, doesn’t that just mean it’s helping two-fold?
It’s interesting, if nothing else. Use one strand (sinesis) for endurance & performance. Use the other (militaris) for recovery.
Reap the athletic benefits.
4. Certain mushrooms contain compounds that prevent diabetes
This one is HUGE, and our friend reishi is coming to the rescue here again.
There’s a compound called Ganoderol B found in reishi strands that has been studied as a potential type 2 diabetes drug because it prevents the body from digesting carbohydrates (7).
Read that again. This compound literally keeps the body from breaking down carbs in the body.
While the health implications of that function can be debated for healthy people, it’s no secret that sugar is the problem in diabetics.
Diabetes is not just a matter of eating “smart carbs.” You need fewer of them.
And if using a supplement that trains the body not to break them down is an easier stepping stone than making someone go full-keto when they’re diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, reishi could be potentially helping millions of people in the near future.
5. Mushrooms have stellar immune boosting properties
The mushrooms to pay attention to here are chaga and turkey tail. They each have slightly different funcitons, but both are great at keeping you healthy.
Chaga is an anti-viral mushroom that has been proven to ward off infection by hepatitis C – no small feat, indeed (8). It also seems to boast some of the antioxidant benefits of reishi.
Turkey tail, on the other hand, seems to improve overall immune status, even in cancer patients. It’s also hugely beneficial for balancing the gut bacteria.
Gut health is still being rigorously studied, but we do know some of the key components of what makes up a healthy gut. Turkey tail has been shown to help reduce the overgrowth of both SIBO and candida, which are known to cause a slew of health problems in anyone suffering from too much of either (9).
Mushrooms can do much more than this.
Keep in mind – these 5 properties we touched on are just the beginning of the many benefits adaptogenic mushrooms offer.
There are far more things being researched in this field of supplementation. It’s an exciting time for science, that’s for sure!
Keep your eyes peeled in the near future, because this area of research is exploding and the findings will be interesting. Who knows… maybe you’ll be able to say you knew about this before it was “mainstream.”
(1) Panda, A.K., Swain, K.C., (2011). Journal of Ayurveda Integrative Medicine, 2 (9-13). Traditional uses and medicinal potential of Cordyceps sinesis of Sikkim. doi: 10.4103/0975-9476.78183]
(2) Akramiene, D., et.al., (2007). Medicina Kaunas, 43 (597-606). Effects of beta-glucans on the immune system. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17895634
(3) Kozarski, M., et.al., (2015). Molecules, 20 (19489 – 19525). Antioxidants of edibile mushrooms. doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules201019489
(4) Saltarelli, R., et.al., (2018). Journal of Ethnopharmacol. Phytochemical composition, antioxidant and antiproliferative activities and effects on nuclear DNA of ethanolic extract from an Italian mycelial isolate of Ganoderma lucidum. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2018.11.041
(5) Kumar, R., et.al., (2011). Journal of Ethnopharmacology (136, 260 – 266). Cordyceps sinensis promotes exercise endurance capacity of rats by activating skeletal muscle metabolic regulators. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2011.04.040
(6) Won, S., Park, E., (2005). Journal of Ethnopharmacology (96, 555-561). Anti-inflammatory and related pharmacological activities of cultured mycelia and fruiting bodies of Cordyceps militaris. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2004.10.009
(7) Fatmawati, S., Shimizu, K., Kondo, R., (2011). Phytomedicine. Ganoderol B: a potent α-glucosidase inhibitor isolated from the fruiting body of Ganoderma lucidum. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2011.03.011
(8) Shibnev, V.A., et.al., (2011). Bull. Exp. Biological Medicine. Antiviral activity of Inonotus obliquus fungus extract towards infection caused by hepatitis C virus in cell cultures. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22462058
(9) Cole, W., (2016). Dr. Will Cole. My top 7 fave adaptogenic mushromos + what they can do for you. Retrieved from: https://drwillcole.com/7-adaptogenic-mushrooms-benefits-explained-functional-medicine-doctor/