Mushrooms have been used for thousands of years as a powerful medicinal ingredient, as well as for their delicious flavour and nutritional benefits in cooking. They are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre and have potent medicinal properties. Here are my favourite reasons to include mushrooms in my diet:
B vitamins are pivotal to maintain hundreds of bodily functions. The main B vitamins found in mushrooms are Vitamin B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12. They support the body’s energy production pathway, transport iron and are amazing for brain health. They also support the synthesis and regulation of neurotransmitters which may help improve mood.
Vitamin D is crucial for bone mineralisation which reduces the risk of osteoporosis. It also plays a key role in our immune system. Vitamin D is best absorbed from the sun on our skin, however mushrooms are the best plant-based source of vitamin D (D2). To improve the vitamin D levels in mushrooms, place them in direct sunlight before eating.
Beta-glucan is a polysaccharide known to have immune-modulating, anti-cancer properties. It is also a source of soluble fibre that remains undigested as it moves through your digestive tract which helps to stabilise blood sugar and support the excretion of cholesterol from your body. It plays an anti-inflammatory role in the body, with studies demonstrating mushroom extracts with beta-glucan having anti-cancer potential! This is an ever-growing space to watch.
Medicinal mushrooms are any mushroom that is safe to eat that has medicinal or health-enhancing properties (there are at least 650 species of mushrooms that fit into this category)! There are a number of them that are becoming more commonly found, such as Shiitake, Turkey Tail, Lions Mane, Reishi, Cordyceps, Maitake and Chaga. You may have already seen some of these in your local health food store!
In addition to beta-glucan, medicinal mushrooms contain triterpenes, metabolites and enzymes that all contribute to supporting the immune and nervous systems, help lower inflammation and assist with energy production to increase focus and vitality. They are adaptogenic, meaning that they increase the body’s ability to resist the damaging effects of stress, as well as work to restore normal physiological functioning. This basically means they go to work on where you need it most. Each medicinal mushroom contains their own active medicinal properties, for example, Chaga is known as the ‘king’ of medicinal mushrooms with anti-viral and anti-tumour properties. Lion’s Mane supports brain health and mental focus, Cordyceps is good for energy and stamina, and Reishi for anti-stress and longevity. A great book to read to understand just how powerful medicinal mushrooms are and how they can support your health and wellbeing is The Rebel’s Apothecary by Jenny Sansouci.
Medicinal mushrooms can be eaten in recipes, however, a common way to include these in your diet are through tinctures and powders. Tinctures are made using a double-extraction method (first by soaking them in alcohol to extract the fat-soluble triterpenes, and then by boiling to extract beta-glucans and enzymes). I have started playing around with making my own small-batch double-extractions of beautiful shiitake mushrooms from Touchwood Mushrooms in Denmark, WA so you can make them yourselves, but, if you decide to purchase a tincture (much easier!), please ensure they are double-extracted so you get the most benefit. My favourite company to purchase these tinctures from is Shroomunity, based in beautiful Byron Bay, NSW (I am not an affiliate, I just love all Shroomunity stand for and am a happy paying customer!) I especially love their Yoga blend.
I hope this post inspires you to try and include more mushrooms in your diet, especially the powerful medicinal kind. It is becoming common to find such tinctures and powders in health food stores now, however, please ensure you purchase from a trusted company that provides double-extracted compounds from organic and wild-harvested (where possible) mushrooms.