Are mushrooms the new CBD? These exotic health-boosters not only contain vitamins, and antioxidants, they’re capable of truly miraculous, occasionally mind-bending things... For instance, special trippy compounds called psilocybin and psilocin, contained in Magic Mushrooms, are being used to treat extreme anxiety and depression with growing success; numerous studies, including one at Johns Hopkins performed with cancer patients, discovered these unusual compounds have great potential to relieve suffering.
Even edible mushrooms could justifiably be called magical because of the unique wellness/healing properties they offer. There’s one special fungi that retains mythical status; known simply as Oregon’s Monster Mushroom, the gargantuan honey mushroom spreads over 1500 acres, and is said to be the world’s largest living organism. Even seemingly ordinary fungi can have transformative effects. Did you know that when bathed in ultraviolet light, Mother Nature's marvels can produce massive amounts of vitamin D, even after they're picked? And since vitamin D is extremely tough to find in vegan form, that's pretty special. Boost the D in your mushrooms, by placing them in an area rich in natural sunlight. You can even perform this cool trick with the ordinary white button kind. Although, keep in mind: the type of mushroom you choose does influence how much vitamin D will be absorbed.
Here are some ways to integrate mushrooms into your daily health and wellness practice...
What's the best way to get your fungi?
Chinese medicine specialist, Tsao-Lin Moy, founder of Integrative Healing Arts, sees food and medicine as intertwined, especially when it comes to mushrooms. “In my practice I use them in supplement form as immune boosters and for helping with memory,” says Tsao-Lin.
No matter the season you can have a plentiful supply. Store mushrooms throughout the year, and they won’t lose their efficacy. “The beauty of mushrooms is that they can be eaten after being dried, they don’t lose their benefits. Fresh is better if you can get them when cooking, but flavor is usually stronger when they are dried in particular shiitake, Maitake, and porcini mushrooms,” According to Tsao-Lin.
*If you enjoy gardening, and seeing things bloom gives you joy, consider keeping your bounty close to home. Tsao-Lin says, “more and more people using home grow kits to grow their own mushrooms.” Here's a list of the Top 11 Mushroom Growers Kits from Gardener's Path.
Food, capsules, tinctures, what form should you take?
“Extracts are a concentration of nutrients from the mushrooms, they will have more of some of the medicinal properties and are easier to absorb,” explains Tsao-lin. But that doesn't mean they are the best choice for your needs. Consider this, “synergistically, when we remove the fiber and meat of the mushroom, how the nutrients are delivered and absorbed through our digestion changes. Dried mushrooms in capsules are also concentrated and closer to the original mushroom as a whole,” says Tsao-Lin.
Which mushrooms does Tsao-Lin recommend for clients?
“(fresh or dry) Reishi, Maitake, shiitake, mu er (wood ear) in food and turkey tail (supplement), to boost their immune system. These mushrooms have cancer fighting properties and are easy to incorporate into the diet,” advises Tsao-Lin. Family history plays an integral part in which kinds of mushrooms Tsao-Lin will suggest clients take. Preventative fungi such as these are important if clients “have a history of cancer in their family or if they have had it or undergoing therapy,”says Tsao-Lin.
Are there certain foods that will maximize nutrition when eaten with mushrooms?
Tsao-Lin says, “Onions, garlic, shallots, leeks and chives are excellent accompaniments for cooking with mushrooms. They belong to the Allium genus whose properties are filled with vitamins, minerals and plant compounds and antioxidants.” They enhance the flavor of the mushrooms by adding pizzazz to your recipes, but more importantly, they compound health benefits. Tsao-Lin says they’re, “excellent for supporting immune function, reducing cholesterol and blood sugar. In Chinese medicine onions and garlic are used in medicinal soups to open up the sinuses and lungs during a cold.”
For a breakdown of specific mushrooms, read on...
Lion's Mane (Hericium Erinaceus) - This is Tsao-Lin's go-to mushroom “for memory and supporting the gut. Lion’s Mane I recommend as a supplement as it is not so easy to find, but can be cooked,” says Tsao-Lin. It’s also said to help ease anxiety and depression, as well as boost immunity.
Maitake aka Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa) - Studied for its immune boosting, and remarkable anticancer properties, Maitake is also a natural adaptogen that can destress the body and mind. A true super-food and gourmet delicacy, enjoy as a main or side dish.
*It’s best not to consume raw; since in order for Maitake to release its benefits it needs to be cooked. If you want a stronger dose of its medicinal effects, take a tincture or supplement.
Oyster (Pleurotus Ostreatus) – iron, zinc, potassium, research shows that oyster mushrooms have the capacity to lower cholesterol and reduce blood glucose levels in diabetic patients. Better cooked, or lightly fried, remove the stems when cooking with oysters, add to soups, sauces, etc...
Enokitake (Flammulina velutipes) – This odd-looking mushroom resembles spaghetti with it's long white stalk-like appearance. Research has found it to have anti-tumor activity. It's a Japanese favorite in soups, but works well in stir-fry, and salads as well.
Portobello (Agaricus Bisporus)– More meaty in texture, it’s often served on its own as a vegan burger substitute. In addition to immune boosting anti-inflammatory effects, according to Dr. Axe, portobello has possible anticancer properties as well.
Reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum) – Reishi’s boasts an abundance of wellness benefits; It promotes relaxation, helps you achieve a better night's sleep. The soothing fungi is crafted into a coffee alternative, and also made into hot chocolate. In addition to calming the body and mind, Reishi has powerful healing benefits; according to Cynthia Thurlow, nurse practitioner, nutrition expert or NP/nutrition expert, “Data suggests that reishi helps to boost immunity by impacting natural killer cells which can help fight off infection.”
Shitake (Lentinula edodes) – Smoky, a bit chewy, yet delicate, shitake is a highly prized mushroom that finds its way onto the plates of fine cuisine in the poshest restaurants. Cynthia says, “shitake can help reduce inflammation and positively impact SigA (marker for immunity).
*Before taking any natural supplement check with your doctor to make sure it's safe for you.
Food or medicine, there's no doubt that we've only begun to tap into the abundant gifts that mushrooms have to offer. Filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg, illuminates the hidden universe of fungi in his enlightening feature film, Fantastic Fungi: Schwartzberg shows how these free-form fungi have the ability to communicate with one another, fight disease, manifest life out of decay, and they even produce their own antibiotics! Not surprisingly, many life-changing drugs such as penicillin, and streptomycin were created by mushrooms. Discover some of the amazing ways mycelium — the teensy interconnected colony of threadlike fragments — can potentially impact the planet, on Paul Stamets Ted Talk, 6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World.