Functional Fungus

11 mushrooms that deliver a wealth of benefits to help consumers look and feel their best.

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Mushrooms are having a moment: These gems from nature are gaining popularity thanks to consumers’ growing awareness about the health benefits they offer, according to a report by Fortune Business Insights (1). And the experts are projecting that the functional mushroom market will continue to grow over the next six years.

Demand is expected to be “huge” for reishi and cordyceps, followed by lion’s mane, turkey tail, shiitake, chaga, and other types, according to a report from Research and Markets (2). Functional mushrooms are sprouting up in a variety of products, including pills or powders that can be added to coffee, tea or smoothies. The report notes that consumers tend to like mushroom supplements in the form of pills because they are nutrient-dense, convenient and tasteless.

What are the health perks that are driving consumers to the category? “Some of the benefits you could expect from mushroom supplements include increased energy, improved muscle recovery, immune support, heart health, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and concentration or cognition,” said Alix Turroff, RD, CPT, in the Parade article “What Are Mushroom Supplements and Why is Everyone Suddenly Obsessed With Them?” by Mary Sauer (3).

Here, a look at mushrooms and their many benefits:

Chaga: Chaga might not be the prettiest mushroom, but it can be pretty helpful in lowering blood sugar levels, according to Mary Jane Brown Ph.D., RD, in her Healthline article “What Are Chaga Mushrooms And Are They Healthy?” Chaga mushrooms grow on trees in cold climates; on the outside they look like burnt charcoal, but inside is a soft, orange core. “Several animal studies link chaga to lower blood sugar levels. Therefore, it may help manage diabetes,” Dr. Brown wrote, adding that more studies need to be done to see what other effects chaga could have on blood sugar in humans (4).

Cordyceps: “To treat general weakness, low mood or compromised overall vitality, I recommend taking cordyceps,”Andrew Weil, M.D., told readers in “Cordyceps for better Exercise?” He pointed to a study that found supplementation with a cordyceps mushroom blend improved energy during high-intensity exercise. Dr. Weil recommends taking a cordyceps supplement in liquid extracts, capsules, and powder forms for an energy boost (5).

Lion’s Mane: Named after it’s mane or beard-like appearance, this little mushroom has big promise. “Lion’s mane could decrease the symptoms and proteins associated with gut inflammation by as much as 40%,” reported William W. Li, M.D., in his book Eat to Beat Disease. “Lion’s Mane simultaneously increases good gut bacteria while decreasing bad gut bacteria” (6).

And as experts outline in the Healthline article “9 Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom,” lion’s mane mushrooms contain compounds “that can stimulate the growth of brain cells: hericenones and erinacines.” Furthermore, animal studies have shown that lion’s mane can prevent Alzheimer’s disease, according to Healthline (7).

Maitake: Maitake means “dancing mushroom” in Japanese because people were said to have danced with happiness upon discovering it. This mushroom is known for “its anti-cancer, antiviral and immune-enhancing properties,” according to Dr. Weil. In addition, he reports, the maitake mushroom may be helpful for managing diabetes and works as an anti-inflammatory (8).

Meshima Mushroom (Phellinus linteus): Found growing on mulberry trees, this mushroom might help with a number of health concerns, according to the Very Well Health article “The Health Benefits of Phellinus Linteus” by Cathy Wong, medically reviewed by Richard N. Fogoros, M.D. “While more research is needed to confirm any health benefits of Phellinus linteus,” Wong says, “a 2019 review of published studies note the medicinal mushroom contains bioactive compounds—polysaccharides, triterpenoids, phenylpropanoids, and furans—that have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, antioxidative, and antifungal activities, as well as antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, and neuroprotective effects” (9).

Reishi: This powerful mushroom could help with a person’s overall health, from weight management to immune health, according to the Healthline article “6 Mushrooms That Act as Turbo-Shots for Your Immune System.” What’s more, reishi mushroom supplements could help ease anxiety and stress, while improving sleep (10). And that’s not all: “Reishi mushrooms contain beta-glucans, complex sugars that may stop or slow the growth of cancer cells and help prevent their spread,” says Dr. Weil, who also noted that reishi supplements may help reduce blood pressure and could protect the liver (11).

Royal Agaricus (Agaricus blazei): This mushroom is believed to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and hypoglycemic effects, according to Wong (12). “Alternative practitioners believe that many of the compounds in the mushroom (including isoflavonoids and plant-based steroids) can prevent or treat certain health conditions, including: asthma, atherosclerosis, cancer, dermatitis, diabetes, hepatitis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).”

Shiitake: Shiitake mushrooms are particularly helpful for heart health. “Shiitakes have been shown to lower LDL in mice, and they contain compounds that inhibit the absorption and production of cholesterol in the liver,”according to the article “6 Mushrooms That Act as Turbo-Shots For Your Immune System” (10). This mushroom is also said to help to lower cholesterol, improve blood pressure, and improve overall heart health.

Tremella: Also known as the white jelly-fish mushroom, snow mushroom and silver ear mushroom (due to its beautiful, flaky, white appearance) this mushroom is recommended by beauty experts thanks to its polysaccharides, which have anti-aging properties. In the Allure article “The Benefits of Adding Snow Mushroom to Your Skin-Care Routine,” dermatologist Dendy Engleman tells readers, “The fungus acts similar to that of hydration powerhouse hyaluronic acid by pulling moisture to the skin” (13).

Turkey Tail (Coriolus): This mushroom, which quite literally looks like a Turkey’s rear view, is rich in antioxidants that may support immune health. A natural supplement rich in antioxidants, like the Turkey Tail mushroom, might be the perfect dietary addition for consumers looking to decrease inflammation and chance of heart disease, reported Jillian Kubala, RD, in “5 Immune Boosting Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushroom” (14).

Poria Cocos: This gem was once one of the most popularly prescribed remedies in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). These mushrooms contain polysaccharides, which enhance immune function, and triterpenoids, which deliver antioxidant effects, according to the Very Well Health article, “The Health Benefits of Poria Mushrooms,” by Wong. She notes that some studies suggest that the Poria Cocos may help fight Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and cancer. though further research is needed (15). WF 

 

References

  1. “Functional Mushrooms Market Size, Share & Industry Analysis, By Type (Cordyceps, Reishi, Turkey Tail, Shiitake, Lion’s Mane, Chaga), By Application (Functional Food & Beverage, Dietary Supplements, Personal Care, Pharmaceuticals) and Regional Forecast, 2019-2026,” com. Posted 2018. Accessed 2/6/2020. https://www.fortunebusinessinsights.com/industry-reports/functional-mushrooms-market-101511
  2. “Global Functional Mushroom Market to 2024: Market is Expected to Experience Demand for Reishi and Cordyceps,” com. Posted 5/23/2019. Accessed 2/6/2020. https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2019/05/23/1841683/0/en/Global-Functional-Mushroom-Market-to-2024-Market-is-Expected-to-Experience-Demand-for-Reishi-and-Cordyceps.html
  3. Mary Sauer, “What Are Mushroom Supplements and Why Is Everyone Suddenly Obsessed With Them?” Parade Magazine. Posted 9/25/19. Accessed 2/6/2020. https://parade.com/928122/marysauer/mushroom-supplements/
  4. Mary Brown, “What Are Chaga Mushrooms and Are They Healthy?” com. Posted 10/25/2018. Accessed 2/6/2020. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/chaga-mushroom#side-effects
  5. Andrew Weil, “Cordyceps For Better Exercise?” com. Posted 3/14/2018. Accessed 2/6/2020. https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/balanced-living/exercise-fitness/cordyceps-for-better-exercise/
  6. William Li, “Eat to Beat Disease,” Grand Central Publishing (2019).
  7. Erica Julson, “9 Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Plus Side Effects)” com. Posted 5/19/2018. Accessed 2/6/2020.  https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lions-mane-mushroom#section1
  8. Andrew Weil, “Maitake,”com. Posted 9/2016. Accessed 2/6/20. https://www.drweil.com/vitamins-supplements-herbs/herbs/maitake/
  9. Cathy Wong, “The Health Benefits of Phellinus Linteus,” com. Posted 9/10/2019. Accessed 2/6/2020. https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-benefits-of-phellinus-linteus-88684
  10. Tiffany LaForge, “6 Mushrooms That Act as Turbo-Shots for Your Immune System,” Healthline.com. Posted 4/5/2018. Accessed 2/6/2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/best-medicinal-mushrooms-to-try
  11. Andrew Weil, “Ready For Reishi Mushrooms?” com. Posted 3/16/2018. Accessed 2/6/2020. https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/hair-skin-nails/ready-for-reishi-mushrooms/
  12. Cathy Wong, “The Health Benefits of Agaricus Blazei Mushroom,” com. Posted 11/12/2019. Accessed 2/6/2020.  https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-benefits-of-agaricus-89398
  13. Meirav Devash, Rebecca Norris, “The Benefits of Adding Snow Mushroom to Your Skin-Care Routine,” Allure Magazine. Posted 11/5/2018. Accessed 2/6/2020. https://www.allure.com/story/snow-mushroom-skin-care-benefits
  14. Jillian Kubala, “5 Immune-Boosting Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushroom,” com. Posted 11/6/2018. Accessed 2/6/2020. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/turkey-tail-mushroom
  15. Cathy Wong, “The Health Benefits of Poria Mushrooms,” com. Posted 8/26/2019. Accessed 2/6/20. https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-benefits-of-poria-88643

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