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Mushroom Supplements: Medicine or Snake Oil?

(Reviewing The 6 Popular Medicinal Mushroom Supplements)

Celebrated as an Asian medicine centerpiece, “medicinal mushrooms” are grabbing the attention of all of us in the western world.

[References to this Article]

From amongst over 14,000 known species of mushrooms, medicinal mushrooms are the fancy fungi species now being sold as health and nootropics supplements.

Some health optimizers are even adding mushroom supplements into their coffee.

[Related Article: The Best Adaptogenic Supplements]

As they continue gaining popularity across the world, we are seeing them in an array of supplement products and brands.

Whether the antioxidant-rich Chaga, energizing cordyceps, cognitive-enhancing lion’s mane, relaxing reishi, cardio-stimulating shitake, or anti-cancer turkey tail, all 6 of these medicinal mushrooms appear to deliver immune support.

Let’s look into these supplements some more.

Chaga — “The Antioxidant Mushroom”

 

  • Anti-Inflammatory
  • Antioxidants
  • Gut Health
  • Inflammation
  • LDL-Cholesterol

 

Containing the largest percentage of antioxidants, Chaga mushrooms are the apparent top anti-inflammatory and antioxidant mushroom.

While untested in humans, the black mushroom is effective against oxidative stress in animal and cell studies.

We find Chaga lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol. inked to skin aging), may prevent or slow the growth of cancer

Researchers are hopeful to replicate these studies in humans.

(Dosage and Use: Unknown. It may cause an overactive immune response and interact with diabetes and blood-thinning medications.)

Cordyceps — “The Energy” Mushroom

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidants
  • Antipathogenic
  • Blood Sugar
  • Cancer

Along with turkey tail, cordyceps, a parasitic mushroom of other fungi and insects, is the most potent mushroom.

Cordyceps is so potent; we see it in medical clinics in China and classified as a drug.

Celebrated as a vitality and aphrodisiac compound, researchers believe cordyceps provides protection against bacterial, kidney, and lung infections, causing some to suggest it could be effective against the coronavirus.

(Dosage and Use: 1 to 3 grams per day appears to be the cordyceps dosage.)

Lion’s Mane — “The Brain” Mushroom

  • Alzheimer’s (*Believed)
  • Cognition (Brain Fog)
  • Focus
  • Memory
  • Parkinson’s (*Believed)

 

Lion’s mane along with cordyceps are the two most promising mushroom supplements.

“Brain fog” is a blanket term in the nootropics and supplement community we use to represent experiencing cloudy focus and thinking.

The famous mycologist, Paul Stamets, claims lion’s mane improves cognition and is studying how along with psilocybin and niacin it can influence neurogenesis, the growth of new neurons forming in the brain.

This would offer enormous value to those with brain and nervous system injuries along with degenerative neurological diseases.

Imbalances in nerve growth factor (NFG) and myelin, (nerve fiber insulation), can increase the incidence of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.

Researchers believe lion’s mane is a stimulant of NFG and brain-derived growth factor (BDNF) and improving these targets can increase cognition and memory through the production of new neurons.

A human study, shows lion’s mane increasing concentration while lowering anxiety.

Lion’s mane appears to increase and decrease the following pro-inflammatory cytokines: AP-1, IL-1-beta, IL-6, IL-8, NF-κB, SOD, and TNF-alpha.

It appears to increase: CAT, GSH-Px, GSH, HSP70, IFN-γ, IL-12, iNOS, LXA4, NGF, NK cells, and PPAR alpha.

And it shows a decrease in 5-LOX, BAX, CHOP, COX-2, ICAM-1, JNK, MDA, MMP-9, TLR4, VEGF, PGE2, and p38MAPK.

(Dosage and Use: Typically we see 500 to 3,000 mg per day being used in divided doses. As with Ashwagandha, some claim it may cause Post SSRI-Sexual Dysfunction as a complication.)

Reishi — “The Relaxation Mushroom”

 

  • Anxiety
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Focus
  • Insomnia

 

Some have gone as far as calling reishi “nature’s Xanax.”

While this is a stretch, reishi delivers calming actions because of its active compound triterpene,

The mushroom has an array of studies under investigation including cancer, focus, immune, and even weight-loss and healing.

We see reishi improving anxiety, depression, and sleep in animal studies.

(Dosage and Use: Unclear. Follow us to get an update when we have one.)

Shiitake — “The Cardiovascular” Mushroom

 

  • Best Tasting
  • Blood Circulation
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cancer
  • LDL-Cholesterol

Shiitake mushrooms are the best-tasting mushrooms.

In the vegan community, we even see ridiculously tasty shiitake bacon recipes.

And this popular culinary mushroom offers benefits beyond cooking.

Shiitakes are heart healthy because of their phytonutrient content.

These active compounds in animal studies show a lowering of LDL, inhibit the absorption and production of cholesterol in the liver while preventing plaque buildup.

They finally show an influence on healthy blood pressure and circulation.

(Dosage and Use: Unknown. Follow up for an update when we have one)

Turkey Tail — “The Immune and Cancer” Mushroom

 

  • Antioxidants
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Cancer
  • Immune
  • Leukemia

 

While all medicinal mushrooms have anticancer actions because of their high antioxidant content, turkey tail appears to be an anti-cancer superstar.

Containing an immune-stimulating compound, polysaccharide-K (PSK), turkey tail increases survival rates of specific cancers.

Approved as a prescription anti-cancer medication in Japan, we can see PSK defending against leukemia cells while improving the immune system of individuals undergoing chemotherapy.

Based on the apparent success of its use in Asia, we can maintain some confidence for the replication of studies in the west.

While we await western clinical trials, turkey tail remains and interesting medicinal mushroom to follow.

(Dosage and Use: Unknown. Follow us for an update when it arrives).

Conclusions

 

Based on a strictly western model, we do not yet know enough about mushroom supplements and their effects on human health.

Meanwhile, to use this as an excuse to dismiss the evidence of the use and efficacy of medicinal mushrooms outside of the western world would be short-sighted and limiting.

For cooking, adding shiitakes to meals could not hurt as they pack a ton of taste.

Lion’s mane mushrooms appear to be an exciting BDNF cognition-enhancing compound.

Turkey Tail might offer some value as an anti-cancer compound, for certain cancers.

Cordyceps offers us an interesting choice to consider as an “adaptogen” type of mushroom.

As always, check for major interactions and consult with your medical professional prior to engaging in any activity.

Finally, cover all micronutrient deficiencies prior to adding other supplements.

Keep connected with us for our coming review on the most exciting of all medicinal mushrooms, the psilocybin “magic” mushroom.

What did you think of this review?

Would you leave us a comment below?

What is your experience with taking a medicinal mushroom supplement?

Your Friend in Health

Mark Stein

[Get The Essential 3 Sugars and Fat for Every Health Optimizer]