Mushrooms have been used as food and medicine for the entirety of human existence in every geographical area and traditional medicine system. Even Neanderthal man ate mushrooms!
Many people consider that the medicinal benefits of mushrooms and the psychedelic effects of some mushroom varieties were even critical to our development of language, culture, and customs. [This is known as the ‘Stoned Ape Hypothesis’]
Mushrooms contain tens of thousands of genes that code for hundreds of thousands of different compounds, hundreds of which have already been identified as biologically and medicinally active compounds.1
More recently, since best-selling author and renowned ‘Lifehacker’ Tim Ferriss posted about Lion’s Mane Coffee, saying; “I was on FIRE for the entire day… I got more done that day than three or four days prior to that”—there has been a surge in interest in these exotic mushrooms, and how they can help to improve health and performance.
General benefits to health
Mushrooms are very nutritive as a food. They are one of the very few vegetarian foods that contain viable B12.2, 3 Even the common mushroom (white button/portobello) reduces oxidative damage by restoring glutathione and antioxidant enzyme levels,4 and might support neuronal health,5 and many other mushroom species are also indicated to aid neuronal health and reduce neurodegeneration.6, 7 The common mushroom also helped to normalise the microbiome of mice and reduce inflammation.8
Benefits to weight management
When white button mushrooms are substituted for meat, weight-loss results because people do not compensate for the reduced calories.9 and many mushrooms might improve glycaemic control and lipidaemia.10
Lion’s Mane has been shown to increase ‘Nerve Growth Factor’ (NGF)11 which helps nerves and brain cells to grow and repair.12-17 Because of this brain-repair effect, Lion’s Mane is being considered as one of the most promising preventative treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.18, 19 It’s also being shown to be effective for treating depression and anxiety, both being significantly reduced after 4 weeks of Lion’s Mane treatment,13 and for boosting brain power with subjects taking Lion’s Mane significantly improving cognitive function (the ability to think and focus well).20
In vitro and in vivo evidence also suggests a potential role for Reishi in neuroprotection.21, 22
Immunity and cell health
Animal studies have demonstrated that Lion’s Mane can improve immunity,23 and is effective as a treatment against drug-resistant bacteria.24
Chaga mushrooms protect cells against oxidation,25 and might help to protect against a range of stressors including UV radiation, free radicals, heavy metals, oxidised LDL and bacteria and viruses.26 In lymphocytes from human bowel disease patients, Chaga extract reduced oxidative stress.27
Combination therapy of Reishi and Turkey Tail shows promise as a treatment for herpes viruses.28
Anti-cancer properties demonstrated in animal and human studies
Lion’s Mane has been studied both in vitro (test-tube) and in animals, for its anti-cancer and anti-leukaemia properties.29, 30 It has already been demonstrated to have potent anti-cancer activity and can reduce tumour size31 in liver, gastric, skin, and oesophageal and colon cancer cells, in vitro and in vivo,18, 32 and can inhibit metastasis (the spread of cancer) in mice.33
Cordyceps has also demonstrated anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties in vitro.34, 35
In vitro evidence suggests that Reishi might be immune-modulating, and cancer-protective.36
Chaga has also demonstrated anti-cancer effects in vitro and in vivo with reductions of tumour volume of 24-34% in mice treated with 0.1mg to 0.2mg of a Chaga extract,37 and suppression of colon cancer cell growth (also in mice),38 and reduced proliferation of neurogliocytoma cells.39
Protein-polysaccharides from Turkey Tail show improvements in survival time and quality of life when used alongside chemotherapy.40 A recent English-language review concluded PSK may improve immune function, reduce tumour-associated symptoms, and extend survival in lung cancer patients.41 A further review of the efficacy of PSK for gastro-intestinal cancers showed positive trends in survival times with no increase in adverse effects.42
Doses of between 3 and 9 g of dried Turkey Tail powder effectively improved lymphocyte and natural killer cell activity in post-radiation therapy cancer patients without significant adverse effects.43
Turkey Tail polysaccharides demonstrate prebiotic activity and positive effects on the gut biome.44
Lion’s Mane improves fat metabolism (in mice fed a high-fat diet)45 and reduces total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, blood glucose, and triglycerides while increasing HDL (‘good’ cholesterol).46, 47 Lion’s Mane also appears to be a strong liver-protector48 even protecting against Salmonella and alcohol-induced liver damage.49, 50
In a randomised, placebo-controlled human study of 42 people, Reishi improved total antioxidant capacity, increased glutathione levels, and significantly increased the activity of antioxidant enzymes, along with effectively reversing fatty liver disease.51
Some evidence also suggests that Chaga might improve metabolic syndrome. Improved liver enzyme profiles, reduced oxidation, and increased glutathione have been observed in rats treated with Chaga mushroom powder,52 and similarly, reduced oxidation and improved liver enzyme profiles in rats treated with a water extract of Chaga, even at low concentrations of around 10 ug/mL.53
In diabetic mice, Chaga significantly increased HDL, while reducing triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL. The extract also helped to restore damaged pancreatic tissue and increase insulin levels.54
Lion’s Mane can improve your physical performance by reducing fatigue, as well as increasing tissue glycogen content (stored carbohydrate fuel in the muscle and liver) and improved antioxidant activity.55
In a randomised controlled trial of 37 elderly Chinese, improved aerobic function (VO2 max) and anaerobic threshold were significantly improved after 6 weeks of use of cordyceps (3 g per day).56
Male sexual health
Animal studies show a strong effect of Cordyceps on testosterone function.57 Further research will examine the role of cordyceps in human reproductive function.
There is now a large body of research in humans showing positive effects from medicinal mushrooms. This backs up the huge amounts of anecdotal reports of immense health benefits and the traditional uses of these mushrooms stretching back millennia.
Get 20% off your next purchase of any Mushroom product! Just use code: MUSHVIRGIN
- Stamets P, Zwickey H. Medicinal Mushrooms: Ancient Remedies Meet Modern Science. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal. 2014;13(1):46-7.
- Watanabe F, Yabuta Y, Tanioka Y, Bito T. Biologically active vitamin B12 compounds in foods for preventing deficiency among vegetarians and elderly subjects. J Agric Food Chem. 2013;61(28):6769-75.
- Watanabe F, Yabuta Y, Bito T, Teng F. Vitamin B(1)(2)-containing plant food sources for vegetarians. Nutrients. 2014;6(5):1861-73.
- Guizani N, Waly MI. Mushroom extract protects against hydrogen peroxide-induced toxicity in hepatic and neuronal human cultured cells. Pak J Biol Sci. 2012;15(22):1069-74.
- Bennett L, Kersaitis C, Macaulay SL, Munch G, Niedermayer G, Nigro J, et al. Vitamin D2-enriched button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) improves memory in both wild type and APPswe/PS1dE9 transgenic mice. PloS one. 2013;8(10):e76362.
- Sabaratnam V, Kah-Hui W, Naidu M, Rosie David P. Neuronal health - can culinary and medicinal mushrooms help? Journal of traditional and complementary medicine. 2013;3(1):62-8.
- Phan CW, David P, Naidu M, Wong KH, Sabaratnam V. Therapeutic potential of culinary-medicinal mushrooms for the management of neurodegenerative diseases: diversity, metabolite, and mechanism. Critical reviews in biotechnology. 2015;35(3):355-68.
- Varshney J, Ooi JH, Jayarao BM, Albert I, Fisher J, Smith RL, et al. White button mushrooms increase microbial diversity and accelerate the resolution of Citrobacter rodentium infection in mice. J Nutr. 2013;143(4):526-32.
- Cheskin LJ, Davis LM, Lipsky LM, Mitola AH, Lycan T, Mitchell V, et al. Lack of energy compensation over 4 days when white button mushrooms are substituted for beef. Appetite. 2008;51(1):50-7.
- Su CH, Lu TM, Lai MN, Ng LT. Inhibitory potential of Grifola frondosa bioactive fractions on alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase for management of hyperglycemia. Biotechnology and applied biochemistry. 2013;60(4):446-52.
- Lai P-L, Naidu M, Sabaratnam V, Wong K-H, David RP, Kuppusamy UR, et al. Neurotrophic Properties of the Lion's Mane Medicinal Mushroom, <i>Hericium erinaceus</i> (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia. 2013;15(6):539-54.
- Park YS, Lee HS, Won MH, Lee JH, Lee SY, Lee HY. Effect of an exo-polysaccharide from the culture broth of Hericium erinaceus on enhancement of growth and differentiation of rat adrenal nerve cells. Cytotechnology. 2002;39(3):155.
- Nagano M, Shimizu K, Kondo R, Hayashi C, Sato D, Kitagawa K, et al. Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks <I>Hericium erinaceus</I> intake. Biomedical Research. 2010;31(4):231-7.
- Wong K-H, Vikineswary S, Naidu M, Keynes R. Activity of Aqueous Extracts of Lion's Mane Mushroom <i>Hericium erinaceus</i> (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae) on the Neural Cell Line NG108-15. 2007;9(1):57-65.
- Wong K-H, Naidu M, David P, Abdulla MA, Abdullah N, Kuppusamy UR, et al. Peripheral Nerve Regeneration Following Crush Injury to Rat Peroneal Nerve by Aqueous Extract of Medicinal Mushroom Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae). Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2011;2011:10.
- Wong K-H, Naidu M, David RP, Abdulla MA, Kuppusamy UR. Functional Recovery Enhancement Following Injury to Rodent Peroneal Nerve by Lion's Mane Mushroom, <i>Hericium erinaceus</i> (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae). 2009;11(3):225-36.
- Moldavan M, Grygansky AP, Kolotushkina OV, Kirchhoff B, Skibo GG, Pedarzani P. Neurotropic and Trophic Action of Lion's Mane Mushroom <i>Hericium erinaceus</i> (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae) Extracts on Nerve Cells <i>in Vitro</i>. 2007;9(1):15-28.
- Mizuno T. Bioactive Substances in <i>Hericium erinaceus</i> (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (Yamabushitake), and Its Medicinal Utilization. 1999;1(2):105-19.
- Mori K, Obara Y, Moriya T, Inatomi S, Nakahata N. Effects of <I>Hericium erinaceus</I> on amyloid β(25-35) peptide-induced learning and memory deficits in mice. Biomedical Research. 2011;32(1):67-72.
- Mori K, Inatomi S, Ouchi K, Azumi Y, Tuchida T. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytotherapy Research. 2009;23(3):367-72.
- Zhou ZY, Tang YP, Xiang J, Wua P, Jin HM, Wang Z, et al. Neuroprotective effects of water-soluble Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides on cerebral ischemic injury in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010;131(1):154-64.
- Gokce EC, Kahveci R, Atanur OM, Gurer B, Aksoy N, Gokce A, et al. Neuroprotective effects of Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides against traumatic spinal cord injury in rats. Injury. 2015;46(11):2146-55.
- Sheu S-C, Lyu Y, Lee M-S, Cheng J-H. Immunomodulatory effects of polysaccharides isolated from Hericium erinaceus on dendritic cells. Process Biochemistry. 2013;48(9):1402-8.
- Kawagishi H. Anti-MRSA Compounds from <i>Hericium erinaceus</i> (Bull.:Fr.) Pers. 2005;7(3):350.
- Ham S-S, Kim S-H, Moon S-Y, Chung MJ, Cui C-B, Han E-K, et al. Antimutagenic effects of subfractions of Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) extract. Mutation Research/Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis. 2009;672(1):55-9.
- Song H-S, Lee Y-J, Kim S-K, Moon K, Moon W, Kim D, et al. Downregulatory Effect of AGI-1120 (Ñß-Glucosidase Inhibitor) and Chaga Mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) on Cellular NF-kB Activation and Their Antioxidant Activity. Korean Journal of Phamacognosy. 2004.
- Najafzadeh M, Reynolds PD, Baumgartner A, Jerwood D, Anderson D. Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in lymphocytes of patients with inflammatory bowel disease. BioFactors. 2008;31(3‐4):191-200.
- Donatini B. Control of Oral Human Papillomavirus (HPV) by Medicinal Mushrooms, <i>Trametes versicolor</i> and <i>Ganoderma lucidum</i>: A Preliminary Clinical Trial. 2014;16(5):497-8.
- Kim SP, Kang MY, Choi YH, Kim JH, Nam SH, Friedman M. Mechanism of Hericium erinaceus (Yamabushitake) mushroom-induced apoptosis of U937 human monocytic leukemia cells. Food & Function. 2011;2(6):348-56.
- Wang JC, Hu SH, Lee WL, Tsai LY. Antimutagenicity of extracts of Hericium erinaceus. Kaohsiung J Med Sci. 2001;17(5):230-8.
- Kim SP, Kang MY, Kim JH, Nam SH, Friedman M. Composition and Mechanism of Antitumor Effects of Hericium erinaceus Mushroom Extracts in Tumor-Bearing Mice. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2011;59(18):9861-9.
- Li G, Yu K, Li F, Xu K, Li J, He S, et al. Anticancer potential of Hericium erinaceus extracts against human gastrointestinal cancers. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2014;153(2):521-30.
- Kim SP, Nam SH, Friedman M. Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) Mushroom Extracts Inhibit Metastasis of Cancer Cells to the Lung in CT-26 Colon Cancer-Tansplanted Mice. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2013;61(20):4898-904.
- Chen PX, Wang S, Nie S, Marcone M. Properties of Cordyceps Sinensis: A review. Journal of Functional Foods. 2013;5(2):550-69.
- Shashidhar MG, Giridhar P, Udaya Sankar K, Manohar B. Bioactive principles from Cordyceps sinensis: A potent food supplement – A review. Journal of Functional Foods. 2013;5(3):1013-30.
- Reishi [Internet]. 2013.
- Chung MJ, Chung C-K, Jeong Y, Ham S-S. Anticancer activity of subfractions containing pure compounds of Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) extract in human cancer cells and in Balbc/c mice bearing Sarcoma-180 cells. Nutr Res Pract. 2010;4(3):177-82.
- Kang J-H, Jang J-E, Mishra SK, Lee H-J, Nho CW, Shin D, et al. Ergosterol peroxide from Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) exhibits anti-cancer activity by down-regulation of the β-catenin pathway in colorectal cancer. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2015;173:303-12.
- Ning X, Luo Q, Li C, Ding Z, Pang J, Zhao C. Inhibitory Effects of a Polysaccharide Extract from the Chaga Medicinal Mushroom, <i>Inonotus obliquus</i> (Higher Basidiomycetes), on the Proliferation of Human Neurogliocytoma Cells. 2014;16(1):29-36.
- Hobbs C. Medicinal Value of Turkey Tail Fungus <i>Trametes versicolor</i> (L.:Fr.) Pilát (Aphyllophoromycetideae). A Literature Review. 2004;6(3):24.
- Fritz H, Kennedy DA, Ishii M, Fergusson D, Fernandes R, Cooley K, et al. Polysaccharide K and Coriolus versicolor Extracts for Lung Cancer: A Systematic Review. Integrative Cancer Therapies. 2015;14(3):201-11.
- Ma Y, Wu X, Yu J, Zhu J, Pen X, Meng X. Can polysaccharide K improve therapeutic efficacy and safety in gastrointestinal cancer? a systematic review and network meta-analysis. Oncotarget. 2017;8(51):89108-18.
- Torkelson CJ, Sweet E, Martzen MR, Sasagawa M, Wenner CA, Gay J, et al. Phase 1 Clinical Trial of Trametes versicolor in Women with Breast Cancer. ISRN oncology. 2012;2012:251632-.
- Pallav K, Dowd SE, Villafuerte J, Yang X, Kabbani T, Hansen J, et al. Effects of polysaccharopeptide from Trametes Versicolor and amoxicillin on the gut microbiome of healthy volunteers. Gut Microbes. 2014;5(4):458-67.
- Hiwatashi K, Kosaka Y, Suzuki N, Hata K, Mukaiyama T, Sakamoto K, et al. Yamabushitake Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) Improved Lipid Metabolism in Mice Fed a High-Fat Diet. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. 2010;74(7):1447-51.
- Yang B-K, Park J-B, Song C-H. Hypolipidemic Effect of an Exo-biopolymer Produced from a Submerged Mycelial Culture of Hericium erinaceus. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. 2003;67(6):1292-8.
- Wang JC, Hu SH, Wang JT, Chen KS, Chia YC. Hypoglycemic effect of extract of Hericium erinaceus. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 2005;85(4):641-6.
- Zhang Z, Lv G, Pan H, Pandey A, He W, Fan L. Antioxidant and hepatoprotective potential of endo-polysaccharides from Hericium erinaceus grown on tofu whey. International Journal of Biological Macromolecules. 2012;51(5):1140-6.
- Kim SP, Moon E, Nam SH, Friedman M. Hericium erinaceus Mushroom Extracts Protect Infected Mice against Salmonella Typhimurium-Induced Liver Damage and Mortality by Stimulation of Innate Immune Cells. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2012;60(22):5590-6.
- Hao L, Xie Y, Wu G, Cheng A, Liu X, Zheng R, et al. Protective Effect of Hericium erinaceus on Alcohol Induced Hepatotoxicity in Mice. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2015;2015:5.
- Chiu HF, Fu HY, Lu YY, Han YC, Shen YC, Venkatakrishnan K, et al. Triterpenoids and polysaccharide peptides-enriched Ganoderma lucidum: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study of its antioxidation and hepatoprotective efficacy in healthy volunteers. Pharm Biol. 2017;55(1):1041-6.
- Cha J-Y, Jun B-S, Lee C-H, Yooi K-S, Moon J-C, Cho Y-S. Hypoglycemic and antioxidative effects of fermented Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) on streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Journal of Life Science. 2005;15(5):809-18.
- Hong KB, Noh DO, Park Y, Suh HJ. Hepatoprotective Activity of Water Extracts from Chaga Medicinal Mushroom, Inonotus obliquus (Higher Basidiomycetes) Against Tert-Butyl Hydroperoxide-Induced Oxidative Liver Injury in Primary Cultured Rat Hepatocytes. 2015;17(11):1069-76.
- Xu X, Pang C, Yang C, Zheng Y, Xu H, Lu Z, et al. Antihyperglycemic and Antilipidperoxidative Effects of Polysaccharides Extracted from Medicinal Mushroom Chaga, Inonotus obliquus (Pers.: Fr.) (Aphyllophoromycetideae) on Alloxan-Diabetes Mice. 2010;12(3):235-44.
- Liu J, Du C, Wang Y, Yu Z. Anti-fatigue activities of polysaccharides extracted from Hericium erinaceus. Experimental and therapeutic medicine. 2015;9(2):483-7.
- Yi X, Xi-zhen H, Jia-shi Z. Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial and assessment of fermentation product of Cordyceps sinensis (Cs-4) in enhancing aerobic capacity and respiratory function of the healthy elderly volunteers. Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine. 2004;10(3):187-92.
- Chen Y-C, Chen Y-H, Pan B-S, Chang M-M, Huang B-M. Functional study of Cordyceps sinensis and cordycepin in male reproduction: A review. Journal of Food and Drug Analysis. 2017;25(1):197-205.