Medicinal Mushrooms: Nature’s Pharmacological Powerhouses

Functional medicine July 5, 2024
What we’ll cover

    Medicinal mushrooms (MMs) have been utilized for centuries, especially in Asia, for their wide range of health benefits. For over 30 years, they’ve been an approved addition to standard cancer treatments in Japan and China, and today, they are also used to help treat lung diseases and cancer.

    Health Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms

    The biological effects of MMs depend on the bioactive metabolites within the mushroom’s fruiting body and mycelium, varying by species. Known for their anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anticancer properties, these mushrooms offer substantial health benefits.

    With around 14,000 described mushroom-producing fungi species (and estimates suggesting up to 140,000 species), only a fraction are edible. Of 300 edible species, 30 have been domesticated, and only 10 are commercially grown. Popular medicinal mushrooms include cordyceps, reishi, chaga, shiitake, lion’s mane, turkey tail, maitake, oyster, Agaricus, white button, portabella, cremini, and tremella. These are celebrated for their immune support, inflammation response, brain health, cognitive boost, nervous system support, and rich anti-aging antioxidants.

    Top 5 Health-Boosting Mushrooms:

    1. Cordyceps: Known for their energizing effects in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), cordyceps contain beta-glucans that boost oxygen delivery to cells, enhancing energy and stamina. They may also improve immunity, kidney function, sexual health, and digestion and lung health.
    2. Reishi: Dubbed the “mushroom of immortality” in Eastern medicine, reishi may boost the immune system, reduce tumour size, and improve cancer patients’ quality of life. They support sleep, reduce stress, encourage healthy aging, and promote respiratory health.
    3. Chaga: Rich in antioxidants, chaga protects cells from free radical damage, reducing chronic inflammation risk. They may lower cholesterol, slow cancer growth, support the immune system, and reduce blood pressure. Chaga has over 200 pre-clinical studies showing promising health benefits.
    4. Shiitake: A great source of protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, shiitake mushrooms support skin, hair, heart, and immune health. They may maintain cholesterol levels, modulate blood sugar, and support healthy inflammation responses.
    5. Lion’s Mane: Supports brain function and neuron generation due to its beta-glucans and neuroprotective phytonutrients. They are used in TCM for digestion, fatigue, water regulation, memory, and stress-related issues.


    Mushrooms, once considered fungi, are now recognized for their impressive health benefits. The average American consumes around three pounds of mushrooms annually. They enjoy their role as functional foods that reduce cancer risk, lower sodium and cholesterol, protect brain health, promote a healthy gut microbiome, fight inflammation, and support the immune system.

    Edible mushrooms are low in calories and fat and contain no cholesterol, protein, fibre, vitamins (including vitamin D), minerals, and antioxidants. Including mushrooms in your diet can support weight management and protect against cognitive decline, diabetes, and high blood pressure.