Article reposted with permission from Real Mushrooms.

Exploring the Potency & Uses of the Top Medicinal Mushrooms

Mushrooms have long been touted for their myriad of health benefits, and the use of medicinal mushroom dates back thousands of years. Now, in recent times with functional medicine and nutrition going mainstream, we’re seeing a resurgence of interest in these marvelous superfoods. But there are a few things you should know before running to your local supplement shop…

This article will encapsulate the top health benefits of 7 medicinal mushrooms, while also explaining why some products sold in today’s marketplace don’t contain mushrooms at all. And finally, how Real Mushrooms is on a mission to provide the highest quality mushroom products available.

Bountiful Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms

Mushrooms are nutritional powerhouses with a myriad of health benefits including the following:

  • Immune support*
  • Full of antioxidants*
  • Anti-inflammatory*
  • Helps to manage blood sugar*
  • Support brain health and cognition*
  • Support the nervous system*
  • Increase energy and stamina*

But before we jump in, we need to take a moment to demystify the medicinal mushroom marketplace, so we can ultimately make well-informed decisions when choosing the best products for our health.

The Top 7 Medicinal Mushrooms and their Benefits

Lion’s Mane: The Mushroom for the Mind

Species name: Hericium erinaceus

Lion's Mane

Main Health Benefit: Supports healthy brain function

Lion’s Mane is rich in a multitude of important compound: beta-glucans, which are responsible for antitumor growth, immuno-modulating antioxidants and neuro-protective chemicals*. Oxidative stress, which these compounds protect against, is closely related to the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease [1]*. Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) synthesis in nerve cells may be induced by certain compounds (hericenones and erinacines) found in Hericium erinaceus, thus making Lion’s Mane an amazing helper with the development and function of nerves because of its neurotrophic factors. [2].

Historical Medicinal Use

Lion’s Mane, or Hericium erinaceus, is a species of mushroom that is beautiful in appearance, it has long cascading shaggy spines resembling a waterfall. Lion’s Mane grows on the trunks of hardwood trees in Northern forests and has been used in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) for millennia and has become a well-established candidate in promoting positive cognitive function.

Best way to include it

Real Mushroom’s offers a superb Lion’s Mane product that is rich in medicinal compounds, because purity is our top priority. It is recommended to take ½ teaspoon a day, over a prolonged period of time to fully notice the effects. You can add this powder in your morning smoothie, coffee or elixir of your choosing.

Reishi: The Mushroom of Immortality

Species name: Ganoderma lingzhi


Main Health Benefit: Sleep aid and potent immunomodulator 

Much of the polysaccharides in reishi mushroom are associated with immune functions, and if taken over time can significantly support the immune system through its effect on white blood cells*. It is also known to improve sleep, reduce stress and fatigue*. Reishi also aids in fighting liver and kidney disease*. It is used in the treatment of pulmonary diseases and has antitumorigenic properties*.

Historical and Medical Use

Reishi or Ganoderma lingzhi, has been recorded for its use for around 2000 years. Most notably used in China by Taoist monks to promote calmness, as well as enhance their meditative practices. It has even been used by Chinese royalty who sought longevity and held Reishi or “the mushroom of immortality” in high esteem. Reishi was listed the most cherished among the superior herbs, that are considered to prolong life, prevent aging, boost qi, and make the body light [3].

Best way to include it

Real Mushrooms ensures that their reishi products are made from the mushroom (fruiting body) and contain higher levels of the medicinal compound beta-d-glucans, triterpenes and NO grain fillers, unlike other so-called ‘mushroom’ products on the US market. One way to identify the purity of our reishi product is the dark colour and bitter taste. It is recommended to take two capsules a day, over a prolonged period of time to notice the health benefits of this incredible mushroom.

Cordyceps: The Caterpillar Fungus

Species name: Cordyceps Militaris


Main Health Benefit: Improves lung capacity and increases energy 

Cordyceps are an incredible immune boosting mushroom because of their ability to increase the number of NK (natural killer) cells that protect the body from bacteria and viruses*. They are also thought to enhance physical performance because they increase the bodies production of ATP, which delivers energy to muscle cells*.

Historical and Medical Use

Cordyceps has been described as a treasure in old Chinese medical books and Tibetan medicine. With hundreds of different species, it is a parasitic fungi that preys on insects. Traditional healers have recommended the fungus as a powerful tonic because it improves energy, appetite, stamina and endurance [4]. The most well known species of cordyceps is Cordyceps sinensis; the most expensive mushroom in the world costing over $20,000 per kilogram, sold almost exclusively in Asia. It is a rare combination of a caterpillar and a mushroom and found at high altitudes in the Himilayan Plateau.

For many years, the Chinese weren’t able to cultivate this mushroom, fueling an increasing demand on a small supply. Now, with this particular fungus, it is very important to be aware of what you are consuming because wild Cordyceps sinensis rarely make it to the North American market, yet companies are still advertising Cordyceps sinensis on their products. If a cordyceps product is grown in North America, it is almost certainly myceliated grain. High amount of grain means low amount of mycelium, and decreased beta-glucans, which are the beneficial polysaccharides found in the cell wall.

Luckily, there is one type of Cordyceps species that can be cultivated commercially to produce a mushroom (fruiting body), and that is Cordyceps militaris. If you would like to dive deeper into the realm of this fungi, we have written an engaging and extensive article on cordyceps supplements to help you keep informed.

Best way to include it

Real Mushrooms has created an organic Cordyceps militaris extract, verified for quality by 3rd party labs, that contains those beautiful beta-D-glucans, cordycepin and NO starch. It is recommended that adults take ½-1 tsp or up to 2gms per day over a long period of time.

Chaga: The Mushroom that’s not a Mushroom

Species name: Inonotus Obliquus


Main Health Benefit: Boosts digestion and clears skin 

Chaga is one of the most powerful antioxidants in the world, and supports immune function, liver health, brain health and increases longevity [5]*.

Medicinal and Historical Uses

Chaga or Inonotus obliquus, which is commonly referred to as a mushroom is actually a highly prized sclerotium or woody canker that grows in the colder regions of the Northern Hemisphere on birch trees. First medicinal uses seem to have come out of Russia around the 16th century when used as a tea to treat stomach ailments*. After 1966, Chaga gained more exposure after its healing powers were written about in Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s book, Cancer Ward. As Chaga grows primarily on birch trees and much of the sclerotium itself is actually wood fiber and not mycelium, many medicinal compounds from birch like betulin and betulinic acid end up in the sclerotium. The outer black layer on the canker contains high amounts of melanin which can be beneficial for our skin*.

Until recently Chaga could not be cultivated but now in Finland they are inoculating birch trees with this fungus. Lab cultivated Chaga does not develop in to sclerotium and as it does not grow on birch but on grain, it does not contain the important medicinal compounds that come from birch.

Best way to include it

Our Siberian Chaga extract is wild harvested from Russia, and tested by 3rd party laboratories for the active compounds beta-D-glucans that are quintessential nutrients for the immune system. We care deeply about sourcing the highest quality mushrooms that contain the most medicinal compounds to ensure that your health is supported over long term use. It is recommended that adults take two capsules of our organic chaga daily. These can be taken at any time during the day, and used over an extended period of time to notice the effects.

Turkey Tail: The Mushroom of Multiple Colors

Species name: Trametes Versicolor

Turkey Tail

Main Health Benefit: Boosts immune system function 

Turkey tail improves immune function by stimulating cytokine production, increasing natural killer cells and other antitumor fighting cells*.

Medicinal and Historical Uses

Turkey Tail mushroom, or Trametes Versicolor, is one of the most well researched medicinal mushrooms. It grows on dead logs worldwide, and receives its name because its rings of brown and tan look like the tail feathers of a turkey. In TCM (traditional Chinese Medicine) turkey tail has been used for treating lung disease, and in Japan, the drug PSK, which is derived from turkey tail has been used to strengthen the immune system when given with standard cancer treatment [6]*. China also has a similar drug called PSP. Turkey tail contains one of the highest amounts of beta-glucans for all mushrooms, which will help keep our immune systems healthy when used over an extended period of time [7]*.

Best way to include it

Real Mushrooms’ turkey tail is certified organic and guaranteed NO added starch, mycelium or grain of any kind – just pure mushroom (fruiting body), so you receive all the wonderful, healing medicinal properties. It is suggested to take ½-1 tsp per day or up to 2 grams.

Shiitake: The Fragrant Mushroom

Species name: Lentinula edodes


Main Health Benefit: Improves cardiovascular health 

Shiitake mushroom is great for immunity, liver function, and supports the cardiovascular system*.

Medicinal and Historical Uses

Shiitake mushrooms are the most popular mushrooms in the world and have a meaty and versatile flavor, hence why they’ve been used as a food source in Asia for hundreds of years. In China, shiitake is called Xiang gu (香菇), which translates to fragrant mushroom. During the Ming Dynasty in China, shiitake was deemed “the elixir of life”. They’re great to cook with, and are also loaded with B-vitamins, helping to control blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation in the body. Shiitake has been cultivated in Japan for centuries, and has received its name from shii trees (related to beech and oak) they’re found growing on. Shiitake has a long been used as both a food and a supplement in TCM, as it is thought to boost longevity and improve circulation*. Lentinan is a polysaccharide in shiitake mushrooms that may help fight viruses and infectious cells [8]*. Research has also discovered a compound in shiitake, eritadenine, that has lowered cholesterol in some studies [9]*.

Best way to include it

Real Mushroom’s proudly uses only the mushroom (fruiting body) and absolutely NO added filler, mycelium or grain; our product 5 Defenders is pure and highly medicinal. Recommended dosing is ½-1 tsp a day, or up to two grams. Can be taken at any time of the day, use for at least 6-8 weeks to feel the effects on the body.

Maitake: The Dancing Mushroom

Species name: Grifola frondosa


Main Health Benefit: Helps to regulate blood pressure and supports immune function 

Maitake mushrooms are known to help fight tumors by activating the immune system’s lymphocytes (a white blood cell) such as natural killer cells and t-helper cells*.

Medicinal and Historical Uses

Miatake, Grifola frondosa is commonly known as Hen of the Woods or the Dancing Mushroom. It is plentiful in the deciduous forests of North America and Japan. It is an edible mushroom with an earthy flavour. TCM has used this mushroom for its support on the immune system. The fruiting body contains polysaccharides such as beta-glucans, which have been linked to healthy cell growth and turnover*.

Best way to include it

The Maitake we use in our 5 Defenders is made from ONLY the mushroom (fruiting body), so you can be assured that you are getting the full potency this mushroom can offer for your health. We recommend taking two capsules a day over a long period to feel the full beneficial effect of the mushroom.

Understanding the Market of Medicinal Mushrooms

As people are waking up to the powerful healing properties found in medicinal mushrooms, so are the companies that are growing them, producing a product, and selling it to the masses. Medicinal mushrooms are rising up into the mainstream health community for their incredible ability to heal and support the human body.

These extremely intelligent organisms have been utilized in Asia for thousands of years for their support in immunity and longevity. However, in recent years the Western market in which these mushrooms are marketed and sold has few control standards, resulting in a high chance that the “mushroom” products being sold contain little to no mushrooms at all, and are mostly mycelium and starch, from rice or other grains, ground up into a powder. This should come as an alarming fact about which most consumers are unaware. Let us explain to you more in detail why this fact should raise a concern.

What is Mycelium?

Mycelium is the root system of the mushroom, it is the precursor to the fruiting body we simply know as a mushroom. Mycelium and mushrooms are not synonymous. The key active compounds found in mushrooms that research has linked to health benefits are: beta-D-glucans, triterpenoids and ergosterol.

Beta-D-glucans have been identified as primary sources of medicinal activity; they are a naturally occurring structural component of the cell walls of mushrooms that can activate or potentiate both innate and adaptive immunity.

Triterpenoids play a complementary role with beta-glucans in immune system activation; primary activities include: liver protection, antioxidant activity, reduced histamine response and reduced inflammation.

Furthermore, a substance called ergosterol is present in all fungi which has recently been discovered to have antitumor and antioxidant properties. Ergosterol in fungi is similar to cholesterol in humans.

As myriad of mushroom benefits for health spark global interest, Real Mushrooms prides itself on always using mushrooms (fruiting body) in our products to ensure the highest quality with the most benefits for optimal health.

In Summary

That was a lot of information, yes? That’s because the Fungi Kingdom is one of the most diverse groups of organisms that are neither plant nor animal, and absorb nutrition from other organisms while playing the important role of ecological decomposers. Suffice it to say, these mushrooms (lion’s mane, reishi, chaga, cordyceps, chaga, turkey tail, shiitake and maitake) offer a slew of health benefits.

Real Mushrooms is committed to providing you with real wisdom, so that you can become empowered to start adding these super organisms into your diet right away! It is SO important to understand exactly what you’re consuming. We truly believe that the quality of products determines the quality of health, and we will continue to strive towards greatness and transparency in our process by offering you products that are made with genuine mushrooms; grown organically as nature intended.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

*Disclaimer: The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is intended for educational purposes. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by licensed medical physicians. Please consult your doctor or health practitioner for any medical advice.