The magic of medicinal mushrooms
YOU PUT WHAT IN YOUR COFFEE?
Does the thought of medicinal mushrooms scare you off? Take a deep breath and stay with me. Yes, I put mushrooms in my coffee. But there’s good reason for this, and I swear you can't taste them.
Medicinal mushrooms have been used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years and have gained even more popularity lately. Destined to be taken as powders (they’re never meant to be eaten raw or whole), you can find these fungi in all different forms, including in coffee mixtures, and cocoa elixirs. I use Four Sigmatic coffee blend, and love it!
The list of health benefits medicinal mushrooms provide is lengthy (think: brain booster, hormone helper, antioxidant powerhouse). But each mushroom is unique and provides its distinct health advantages.
So which ones have I been adding to my coffee?
Lion's Mane for its BRAIN BOOSTING superpower
Lion's Mane is considered to help increase mental clarity (and I really feel that it has helped me to feel less brain fog.)
It has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for millennia and has become a well-established candidate in promoting positive cognitive function.
This feathery “pom-pom” mushroom is packed with antioxidants and strengthens the immune system, like most medicinal mushrooms.
But lion’s mane is rare in the fact that it fosters the production of the bioprotein nerve growth factor (NFG) and myelin (insulation around nerve fibres).
These Lion’s Mane compounds stimulate your neurons to re-grow and trigger a process known as remyelination, which helps to keep your neurons healthy and maintains their ability to conduct electrical signals efficiently.
Both NFG and myelin are crucial to brain health. An imbalance in them can contribute to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.
That makes lion’s mane some serious brain food! This miraculous mushroom has also been shown to improve cognition, memory, increase concentration, and alleviate anxiety and irritability.
And CHAGA for its ANTIOXIDANT SUPPORT
Known as the "king of the medicinal mushrooms" Chaga mushrooms are an antioxidant powerhouse, making them excellent contenders for fighting free radicals and inflammation.
This dark black mushroom combats oxidative stress (which is linked to skin ageing), may prevent or slow the growth of cancer, and has been found to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol.
Most of the studies on Chaga are done on human cells and mice, but the signs point to this shroom being good for you — inside and out.
I also get my dose of cordyceps from my Mito2Max supplements.
This mushroom is known for being very stimulating — for both energy and libido.
Cordyceps can help the body utilize oxygen more efficiently and enhance blood flow. This can be especially helpful for athletes or those who regularly work out. This mushroom has been shown to not only improve exercise and athletic performance but also speed up post-workout muscle recovery.
The Cordyceps mushroom is an incredible energy-boosting fungi because of its ability to increase ATP production through pre-cursor compounds like adenosine and cordycepin. ATP is the compound that gives our cells energy. This is why Cordyceps is recommended when it comes to physical performance. In TCM, Cordyceps is also used for lung-related issues like asthma or even seasonal allergies.
Other medicinal mushrooms to consider are:
Think of reishi as nature’s Xanax. This favoured fungus is one of the most popular medicinal mushrooms, and for good reason. Reishi may be able to do it all: aid in weight loss, keep the immune system in check, and may even fight cancer cells.
What makes this mushroom unique, however, is its calming properties — all of which are thanks to the compound triterpene, which reishi has its fair share of. These mood-boosting compounds may alleviate anxiety, ease depression, and encourage better sleep. But triterpenes’ positive effect on the nervous system doesn’t stop there. Reishi can promote healing and sharpen focus, too.
These mushrooms you can buy and cook, to make a delicious soup or add to stir-fry.
These mushrooms are particularly good for the heart. Shiitakes have been shown to lower LDL in mice, and they contain compounds that inhibit the absorption and production of cholesterol in the liver. These nifty shrooms also contain phytonutrients, which aid in preventing plaque buildup and, as shown in a rat study maintain healthy blood pressure and circulation.
TRY THIS YUMMY SHITAKE SOUP RECIPE
- 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and sliced
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup finely chopped scallions (3-4 scallions roughly)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons grated ginger
- 5 cups (1.25 L) water
- 3 tablespoons white miso paste (*see notes)
- 4 ounces soba noodles or somen or capellini pasta
- 2 cups (2 ounces roughly) packed baby spinach
- 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- kosher salt
- Prepare the mushrooms by removing the stems and cleaning with a damp cloth or paper towel, then slice.
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and a few pinches of salt and stir.
- Let the mushrooms cook until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring only occasionally.
- Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger, and cook for 1 more minute.
- Add the water and bring to a low simmer. Scoop some of the simmering water into a small bowl and add the miso paste, stirring until it dissolves, then add it back into the soup pot.
- Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.
- Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Prepare the noodles according to the instructions on the package (*I prefer to cook them fairly al dente because they will be going into the hot soup).
- Drain the noodles and add them to the soup pot, followed by spinach, tamari (or soy sauce, if using), sesame oil, rice vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Stir until the spinach is wilted. Season to taste with tamari and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil.
Nothing to lose, everything to gain. Medicinal mushrooms are now a firm staple in my wellness routine. As with most things they need to be taken regularly to experience benefits. Try experimenting with one or two, and be sure to tell me if you notice positive effects!