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5 of the best functional mushrooms – How do they work and what are their benefits?

wild mushrooms on a marble background
Extensive research has shown that there are many different chemical compounds in mushrooms that are responsible for their health-giving properties including vitamins, minerals, alkaloids, proteins and terpenoids.

For centuries, particularly in China and Japan, certain mushrooms have been valued for their health benefits.

Today, many of these so called “functional” mushroom species have been recognised as containing super nutrients that may boost immunity, energy levels, cognitive performance, sleep, and gut health - as well as helping us to cope better with stress.

So, what are functional mushrooms?

So, what are functional mushrooms?

Extensive research has shown that there are many different chemical compounds in mushrooms that are responsible for their health-giving properties including vitamins, minerals, alkaloids, proteins and terpenoids.

As an example, Beta-D-glucans are a specific type of polysaccharide found in mushrooms that have immunity-boosting properties and stimulate the production of white blood cells and antibodies. While Triterpenoids are lipids and play a complementary role with beta-glucans in immune system activation and delivering antioxidant properties.

Each type of mushroom delivers varying combinations and concentrations of all these compounds (and others) and offers its own specific advantages.

Consuming mushroom extract supplements ensures they deliver more powerful and bioavailable benefits than edible mushrooms.

5 of the Best Functional Mushrooms
  1. Reishi Mushrooms 

In ancient China and Japan, Reishi mushrooms, also known as Lingzhi, were considered extremely valuable. Their first recorded use dates back more than 2000 years. At the time, Reishi was known as “the mushroom of immortality”.

Reishi mushrooms may help with immune system support. Many people also report that they feel less stressed when using Reishi mushrooms, and that they sleep better. 

Reishi mushrooms contain a wide range of compounds including proteins, carbohydrates, triterpenes, and minerals. The high nutritional value of Reishi mushrooms is among one of many interesting benefits of this mushroom and has been confirmed in laboratory analyses.

  1. Lion's Mane Mushrooms

Lion’s Mane mushrooms have been valued for millennia as plants that support health and longevity, calming the mind, aiding meditation, and improving memory.

Today, many people report that Lion’s Mane helps them to think more clearly and feel more focused.

Lion’s Mane contains erinacines and hericenones which help stimulate the synthesis of important proteins called nerve-growth factors. These proteins are important for healthy nerve cell functioning. Lion’s Mane is also believed to help signal transmission between neurons.

Some studies have shown it to act as a protective mechanism against neurological disease. With this unique mushroom’s fascinating connections to a meditative lifestyle comes a sense of connection for seekers who are searching for spiritual harmony and enlightenment.

  1. Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms, once rare in the west, come from the warm climates of south-east Asia. In ancient China, Shiitake mushrooms were considered to be a gift from the gods. It was believed that they helped boost Qi, or life energy.

Shiitake mushrooms contain eritadenine, sterols, and beta-glucans - nutrients that are believed to help combat “bad” cholesterol and improve stamina. Shitake may also improve heart health and immune function

People choose Shiitake as a supplement because these mushrooms also contain amino acids, B Vitamins, Vitamin D, and a range of trace elements including iron, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, potassium, copper, and zinc.

Shiitake also contains a unique polysaccharide known as lentinan, the benefits of which are still under debate in the scientific community.

  1. Chaga Mushrooms

Chaga mushrooms include a cocktail of triterpenoids, melanins, polysaccharides, polyphenols and flavins that act as prebiotics as they inhibit the proliferation of endogenous pathogens in the gut. A healthy microbiome is essential to our health and longevity.

Chaga mushrooms are also valued as an excellent source of natural antioxidants and minerals including calcium, manganese, and magnesium as well as B Vitamins, Vitamin D, and amino acids. They may help to improve immunity.

Most people can benefit from using Chaga, but if you’re prone to kidney stones, it may be wise to avoid.

  1. Maitake Mushrooms

Maitake mushrooms are known as the ‘dancing mushroom’ in Japanese as it is said that people danced in happiness when discovering their healing properties.

Maitake contains a range of beta-glucans, polyphenolics, flavonoids, and fatty acids such as linoleic acid.

This essential organic compound has been shown in studies to promote relaxation and studies suggest in may lower blood pressure.

Maitake may also possess immunomodulation, antioxidant, and other wide-ranging benefits.

Final say

So, could functional mushrooms give you the nutritional boost you need most? The best way to find out is to give them a try!

Since people have been using these mushrooms for centuries with no harmful effects, they’re certainly safe for most people to use.

Choosing a convenient mushroom supplement capsule is the most consistent and pure way to benefit from a dose of the active ingredients. But your body may need time to get used to the new “superfood” you are giving it; we recommend you start low with small servings when trying mushroom supplements for the first time and go slow.

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