What are Functional Mushrooms?
By Regina Schoenberger
The Mushroom Movement, or Functional Mushroom Movement, is gaining serious momentum in America. Mushrooms are not new to Eastern Medicine as they have been utilized in herbal medicine for thousands of years. Today, most modern medicine is comprised of some mushroom compound. For example, fungi is found in many major antibiotics such as Penicillin.
This eukaryotic organism moved from the sea to land 1.3 billion years ago and plays a major role in life on Earth. Functional mushrooms are a powerhouse for health benefits including immune support, mental focus and clarity, stress reduction, cardiovascular longevity, metabolic support, and the list goes on.
Mushrooms contain powerful adaptogenic properties. You may have seen the term "adaptogen" saturate our beauty products, health blogs, and supplements. Adaptogens are natural compounds that help our bodies reduce mental and physical stress, are non-addictive, and restore the body’s balance. In the early 1900s, Russian military researchers used adaptogens to study the effects of stress reduction on the Central Nervous System (CNS) during combat. A number of plants contain adaptogenic properties such as ginseng, ashwagandha, and tumeric.
Interestingly, Mushrooms are not considered plants at all. Mushrooms belong to the Fungi Kingdom. This fungus is made up of a vegetative body, called a mycelium, where the mushrooms grow and produce spores (seeds for regeneration). Mycelium is also kind of like the internet connection of the natural world, it facilitates communication between different plants.
Humans and mushrooms share much in common. According to Tero Isokauppila, we share half our DNA with this complex organism and because of this it is extremely bioavailable for our bodies. Other similarities include:
- Mushrooms cannot produce their own food through photosynthesis like plants, they must eat (This is a distinguishing factor between plants and animals). There is a mushroom that can actually eat plastic!
- Mushrooms breathe oxygen and expel CO2 like animals
There are many natural compounds in Mushrooms that humans can utilize for whole body support and wellness. Let’s take a look at specific health benefits for popular strains of Mushrooms.
6 Medicinal Mushrooms for Health and Wellness
Agarikon is the oldest growing mushroom in the world and has been used in natural medicine for thousands of years. According to American Mycologist and mushroom entrepreneur, Paul Stamets, the antimicrobial and antiviral properties of Agarikon stood out during research after the Sept 11th attacks. When Stamets team submitted this species to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, “It was reported that of the 11 strains of Agarikon from North America that were tested, a few showed exceptionally strong activity against viruses including pox (cowpox), swine (H1N1) and bird (H5N1) flu, and herpes (HSV1, HSV2) viruses.”
Chaga holds the reputation of being an ugly mushroom because it looks like burnt charcoal, however, it’s packed with healthy medicinal properties. Chaga is rich in antioxidants and highly anti-inflammatory. Antioxidants protect our cells against free radicals in the environment. Chaga is also rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients essential for the brain's ability to maintain homeostasis.
Cordyceps has been used in traditional medicine for over 4,000 years. This specific medicine contains a certain polysaccharide that contributes to cellular communication. Cordyceps can improve and help balance the stress causing hormone – cortisol. Interestingly, cordyceps can also help men with Erectile Dysfunction through enhancement of testosterone production. Cordyceps is heart friendly by lowering cholesterol and triglycerides. This energy boosting mushroom is an adaptogen.
Lion’s Mane is brain food. It is known to boost cognitive function and fight dementia. Studies show that Lion’s Mane can stimulate production of myelin sheath. Myelin is the protective padding around your nerves found in the brain and spine. Lion’s Mane should be added to your supplement toolbox for its neuroprotective properties.
Reishi, also known as Ganoderma Lucidum is becoming a notoriously popular mushroom worldwide. In ancient Chinese culture, Reishi represents immortality and youth. Reishi is featured in PIH's beloved Organo Coffees and Teas -- available in our office. This functional mushroom is known for its powerful adaptogenic properties demonstrated by its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. Reishi mushroom addresses the HPA Axis by improving adrenal gland function. The natural compounds found in Reishi Mushroom prove as an excellent source of an adaptogenic herb that can ease anxiety, improve sleep, and calm chronic inflammation in the body. Based off the Reishi Mushroom's ability to interact with white blood cells, this plant can help boost the immune system.
Turkey Tail enhances the microbiome. It can help suppress inflammatory bacteria in the gut. A major principle of Functional Medicine is that much chronic illness starts in the gut. The gut-brain connection is paramount in stress reduction and can play a major role in anxiety, weight gain, and cognitive function.
Functional Mushrooms in everyday items
Mushroom coffee is one of Princeton Integrative Healths favorite ways to incorporate this powerhouse into your wellness routine. Organo Coffee is infused with Superfood Reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum). This clean coffee is a great alternative to Starbucks and McDonalds. It provides a multitude of benefits including immune support, stamina enhancement, improves blood circulation, balances the pH levels in the body. Ask us about Organo coffees and teas!
Hemp and Medicinal Mushrooms have a lot in common
Just like Hemp, there are countless possibilities for functional mushrooms. Mushrooms can provide material for biofuel, textiles, medicine, etc.
One of our favorite cannabis brands is BodyChek Wellness. BodyChek Wellness is one of the most innovative Hemp derived CBD brands on the market because they are incorporating a powerful mushroom blend with their phytocannabinoids. Founded in 2017 by former NHL Enforcer, Riley Cote, and NFL alumni, Todd Herremans, this line was created to help people optimize their health and wellness and assist in the recovery process. Check out the 10mg + 470mg mushroom blend capsules to combat inflammation and reduce anxiety. Biohack your HPA axis with plant based medicine.
Princeton Integrative Health carries this brand in our office. Give us a call 609-512-1468 to learn more about this product.