Medicinal mushrooms: what are the health benefits? From gut health to sleep
As science catches up with tradition, providing evidence of the real potency of these mushrooms, they are quickly becoming an essential part of everyone’s wellness routine, perhaps surpassing CBD which has exploded in recent years as a natural aid to manage stress and anxiety, improve sleep and calm inflammation. With stress being a common feature of most of our lives, it’s no wonder we’re turning to scientifically proven methods to support ourselves, and the benefits of choosing natural over synthetic aids are becoming increasingly apparent. According to Clarissa Berry, nutritionist for DIRTYA unique range of powders and super blends that harness the healing powers of mushrooms, adaptogens and Ayurvedic herbs to naturally improve your well-being, medicinal mushrooms are very safe to consume and offer a host of benefits.
She said: “I recommend picking one up to start with, and although you may feel the effects after just a few days, take it regularly for about two months to really see results.”
Berry details some of the benefits that medicinal mushrooms can provide:
Stress and anxiety
The most popular medicinal mushrooms are all considered “adaptogens”, which means that they help the body cope with stress. They increase our resilience to life’s stressors and regulate body systems so that we are ready to adapt to what life throws at us. Reishi is a particularly powerful painkiller for stress and anxiety. It has calming effects on the nervous system, calming the mind without overpowering or sedating. Lion’s Mane may elevate mood, and research suggests it may reduce symptoms of mild depression and anxiety. Due to their adaptogenic nature, any medicinal mushroom you add to your routine is likely to add a layer of armor against the stresses of everyday life.
Beta-glucans, present in all medicinal mushrooms, are one of their most powerful active components. They stimulate the immune system to fight infections, as well as to find and destroy damaged or cancerous cells. They also nourish and support the gut microbiota, which further contributes to healthy immunity. Reishi has one of the highest concentrations of beta-glucans, making it a fantastic immune booster. Chaga, with more antioxidants than any other food, has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that boost and support the immune system alongside its beta-glucans.
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Mushrooms are actually the most fiber-rich foods on the planet, which means they’re packed with goodness that only our resident microorganisms can digest. Beta-glucans act as prebiotics, feeding good bacteria in the digestive tract to support a healthy and thriving gut microbiome. This is extremely beneficial for digestive function, as well as cardiovascular, immune, and brain health. The anti-inflammatory compounds in Lion’s Mane also soothe the intestinal lining and may relieve symptoms of gastritis.
Cordyceps has been used traditionally for centuries to enhance sexual vitality, and science is beginning to back this claim. With as little as one teaspoon a day, cordyceps has been shown to increase sperm count and testosterone levels in men. It can also help improve libido in people with low libido and fight erectile dysfunction. Studies so far have focused on benefits in men, but anecdotal evidence reports similar effects in women.
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Another property of medicinal mushrooms is their ability to improve energy levels without jitters or crashes. Best at this is cordyceps, which is believed to support energy systems at the cellular level, perhaps even improving our cells’ ability to use oxygen. Cordyceps can help fight fatigue as it makes energy more available to our cells and also promotes healthy energy production throughout the day. DIRTEA’s Cordyceps Extract Powder (£29.99 at www.dirteaworld.com) ensures a high concentration of active ingredients, making it the perfect way to boost energy naturally in the morning. Simply stir a spoonful into boiling water in the morning and enjoy the natural energy-enhancing benefits all day long.
Likewise, cordyceps can improve athletic performance. Its ability to support our energy systems and oxygenation can improve endurance, and studies suggest it may improve physical performance in older adults. Athletes in China traditionally take cordyceps as a natural performance enhancer and attribute many of their successes to this amazing mushroom. Cordyceps isn’t your typical pre-workout – it doesn’t excite you or make you jittery, but it could provide a natural boost to improve not only your performance but also your recovery.
Focus and brainpower
The lion’s mane is the absolute star when it comes to cognition. Compounds in Lion’s Mane called terpenes can regenerate nerve cells and are neuroprotective. This potent mushroom can improve cognitive performance, focus, memory, and mental clarity, making it a brilliant addition to anyone’s morning routine. There is also promising research on its ability to reduce symptoms in people with dementia and speed recovery from nervous system damage.
For the skin, there is no better mushroom than chaga. It’s the most antioxidant-rich food known, with one teaspoon containing more antioxidants than 600 blueberries – it’s a powerful health punch. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, reactive molecules that damage cells and are responsible for aging. The antioxidants in chaga help slow skin aging and pigmentation, and their anti-inflammatory effects also calm irritation, redness, and skin blemishes. Chaga is also one of the richest sources of melanin, the skin pigment. Consuming chaga stimulates the production of melanin in the skin, providing internal protection against UV damage. Another compound in chaga, betulonic acid, helps regenerate damaged skin cells. This is the skin toner you never knew you needed.
The beta-glucans in reishi, in addition to their immunomodulatory effects, reduce inflammation and may affect the production of neurotransmitters. Consuming reishi releases serotonin and GABA in the brain. These soothing and calming neurotransmitters relax the brain and body, making reishi a support for anxiety when taken in the morning and a natural sleep aid when taken at night. A teaspoon of DIRTEA’s Reishi extract powder (£29.99 from www.dirteaworld.com) before bed is a wonderful way to encourage healthy sleep while supporting overall wellbeing.