The fungi kingdom is incredibly diverse and interesting - literally mind blowing in fact! These fascinating fungi, particularly Medicinal Mushrooms, have us geeking out on the regular over here at Happy Wholefoods HQ! There are an estimated 1.5 million different kinds of living organisms including yeasts, moulds and mushrooms making up the fungi kingdom, and they’re actually more closely related to animals than plants.
There are so many amazing facts and discoveries being made about medicinal mushrooms and their ancient health promoting superpowers. Scientists are even using mushrooms to solve some of the worlds biggest issues such as helping to break down plastics, tackling oil spills and reducing pollution. So, not only are mushrooms being put to use to help heal the planet, but specific medicinal mushrooms are used to create optimal health and healing by people all over the planet!
Mushrooms can be psychedelic or even poisonous, however when expertly processed they can also be powerfully medicinal. Some mushrooms are more magically potent than others, and have been used for centuries by Traditional Chinese Doctors and Ancient Herbal Healers all over the world. Interestingly, today medicinal mushrooms are processed as key ingredients in thousands of ‘household’ pharmaceutical drugs such as statins, cancer drugs and antibiotics.
When it comes to medicinal mushrooms as a superfood in their most natural form, some of the most well known and researched that you may have heard of are Chaga, Reishi and Lions Mane. Most species such as these grow on living trees or decaying wood, and when cultivated on these natural materials they develop the same special health promoting compounds. When processed correctly (hot water or hot water/alcohol extraction), these incredible compounds are made available and more easily absorbable when consumed. The most precious and potent compounds are hidden inside an indigestible layer of fibrous cell wall, so must be expertly extracted for the powerful compounds to be accessible. Plain mushroom powder just won’t cut it!
Once properly extracted, these Medicinal Mushrooms have been shown to reduce blood pressure, boost the immune system and increase athletic performance. There are a huge range of health benefits, and one of the reasons certain mushrooms are known as ‘medicinal mushrooms’ is that they are classed as ‘adaptogens’. This means they contain compounds that have extraordinary physiological properties which help the body move back into balance or ‘homeostasis’. It’s no surprise that medicinal mushrooms are the talk of the wellness world!
The compounds that contain the most amazing health boosting properties are known as ‘Polysaccharides’ and more specifically Beta-Glucans are the powerful adaptogenic compounds.
We hope you found this quick Medicinal Mushroom 101 run through helpful! If you enjoyed it, please share it with your fellow health hustlers! To learn more about what an adaptogen is, check out this post where we dive into the health benefits and use of adaptogens.
You probably read in a lot of articles that certain foods are rich in antioxidants and that is correct. But here’s the good news! You don’t need to stick to fruits and vegetables if you want to eat something rich in antioxidants.