Health & Wellness

Nutritionally Speaking: Mushrooms provide many positive health benefits

Photo provided/Mushroom Council

Are you looking for ways to support your immune system, blood sugar balance, brain health, liver health, respiratory health and hormonal balance, and boost your energy level? Well, the ”fungus among us” – a.k.a., mushrooms – may be what you’ve been looking for.
The estimated number of mushroom species ranges from 30,000 to 1.5 million. We have had a close relationship with mushrooms and have enjoyed the benefits they offer for thousands of years. The mushroom life cycle includes three distinct phases: mycelium, fruiting body and spore. They spend most of their life as mycelia, extracting nutrients from the environment and protecting themselves from invaders.
Humans have evolved with them and many different cultures have relied on mushrooms as a wholesome food source and medicine. Through trial and error, and more recently through science, we have discovered the many benefits of these prolific fungi. Unlike most pharmaceuticals, mushrooms have extraordinarily low toxicity, even at high doses.
Most mushrooms appear, grow and disappear in a few days. Their sudden appearance is brief as compared to the mycelium web which makes up the strands of their global underground network. Picture the net of these filaments stretching the globe, all connected and supporting the planets’ health; in this way, all mushrooms are medicinal.
In his book, ”Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World,” Paul Stamets describes methods for mycoremediation – how fungi can decompose toxic substances (such as oil spills) and support habitat recovery and planetary health.
Stamets is a well-known expert mycologist, known for his books and inspiring lectures. He is a trusted supplier of everything needed to grow your own mushrooms and he sells a variety of medicinal mushroom supplements. He holds many patents and trademarks for his products and his lectures have inspired many to learn about mushrooms and be more conscious about our environment.
We are in the midst of a mushroom boom – one of the current popular array of remedies touted to support our optimal health. Mushrooms can support your immune system, blood sugar balance, brain health, liver health, respiratory health and hormonal balance, and even boost your energy level.
Let’s explore a bit some of the more popular mushrooms available as dietary supplements (and foods) to support our ongoing health goals.
Got stress? Reishi has a long history as a potent ”chill pill.” Polysaccharides and other constituents found on both the fruiting bodies (above ground) and the mycelium (below ground) have been isolated and found to support our body’s ability to adapt to stress, and will also promote deep and restful sleep.
Reishi also supports us during allergy season in many ways, including supporting a healthy histamine response. Got that itch? Reishi can also reduce the nerve impulses that send the ”please scratch” message to our brain.
Have you been looking for the ”fountain of youth?” Another mushroom variety, called chaga, known as ”the beautifier,” could be just what the doctor ordered. Chaga is one of the single richest sources of free-radical scavengers which are protective down to the cellular level. As a bonus, chaga will support us during times of stress, and will be a boost to our immune system as well.
Has your get-up-and-go got up and went? If so, cordyceps may be your new BFF. Cordyceps has a unique ability to boost our bodies’ energy currency, called ATP. Cordyceps has been studied as a support for energy and stamina, a healthy libido, and the increased oxygen uptake needed to support your exercise goals.
At any age, brain health is important to support. Lion’s mane has the ability to support improved mental clarity, focus, memory and overall cognitive function. Lion’s mane supports the growth of myelin, which functions as a protective covering around our nerve pathways throughout our body.
With healthy myelin, our nervous system can send out all of the important messages we take for granted. Feeling grumpy or gloomy? If so, get some lion’s mane and get that smile back!
With the headlines full of stories of the coronavirus in China, the immune-supporting properties of turkey tail will come in handy as this virus spreads to the U.S. Turkey tail is rich in an immune-supporting compound called beta-glucans. This compound can support our immune system to ward off pathogens, and is also being studied as a potent adjunct cancer-fighter. Check out Paul Stamets’ TED talk about turkey tail.
Last, but not least, we have agarikon – the cough-, sneeze- and sniffle-fighter that offers powerful immune support. Agarikon contains a spectrum of unique nutrients that support a healthy microbial and bacterial balance – a great ally during the cold and flu season – and for supporting an overactive immune system as well.
These mushrooms are found in easy-to-take capsules and liquid extracts – and also in combination formulas – and can support our general health and mood; along with our healthy diet, we can all be continuing our path down the hallway of life towards optimal health. Salud!
By the way, you can find me these days at Evergreen Nutrition in Eugene on Fridays and Saturdays.

Contact Yaakov at [email protected].



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