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Myth Busting About Medicinal Mushrooms

Last updated: March-29,2022

Debunking the Myths About Medical Mushrooms

For thousands of years, medicinal mushrooms have been widely used in Egyptian, Chinese, Mesoamericans, and other traditional and folk medicines.[i]

At the same time, there are a host of half-truths and controversies about them that can mislead people. This blog aims to explore the medicinal mushroom myths[ii] and facts to unleash their true potential. But first, let’s understand what “medicinal mushrooms” are and the potential benefits they can offer.

What are Medicinal Mushrooms?

Medicinal mushrooms, by definition, are macroscopic fungi that hold therapeutic value in human health. They are used in the form of powders or extracts to promote health and wellness, and balance a healthy diet.[iii] [iv]

Medicinal Mushroom Mycology

Since the early 20th century, scientists have started identifying and extracting mushroom’s beneficial properties and continue to isolate new properties every year. As of this writing, research shows that there have been around 126 health benefits potentially supported by medicinal mushrooms and fungi, including support for the immune system, blood sugar, liver, detoxification, cholesterol, heart health, and free radical scavenging.[v]

Medicinal Mushroom Nutrition

Regardless of their size and shape, a cup or 96 grams of most of the whole, raw edible mushrooms offer the following nutritional and medicinal value-[vi]

Energy  21.1 calories
Carbohydrates 3.1 grams
Protein 3.0 grams
Iron 0.5 mg
Calcium 2.9 mg
Phosphorus 82.6 mg
Magnesium  8.6 mg
Sodium 4.8 mg
Zinc 0.5 mg
Potassium 305 mg
Selenium 8.9 mcg
Copper 305 mcg
Vitamin D 0.2 mg
Vitamin C  2 mg
Niacin 3.5 mg
Choline 16.6 mg
Folate 16.3 mcg (DFE)

 

Additionally, mushrooms also contain various B vitamins such as B-6, B-12, riboflavin, and thiamine.

Different Types of Medicinal Mushrooms

Packed with nutrition and health-promoting properties, medicinal mushrooms have the potential to nutritionally support and promote healthy energy levels, bone and joint health, and cardiovascular health.[vii] The following medicinal mushrooms’ list consists of 8 medicinal mushroom species that can offer significant benefits for human health:

  • Reishi Mushroom
  • Chaga Mushroom
  • Turkey Tail Mushroom
  • Maitake Mushroom
  • Lion’s Mane Mushroom
  • Cordyceps Mushroom
  • Shiitake Mushroom
  • Oyster Mushroom

What Are the Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms?

These are just some of the many health benefits of medicinal mushrooms.

Promotes Immunity

High amounts of polysaccharides and complex sugars in medicinal mushrooms help them promote healthy immune function. This may have benefit for the upper respiratory tract.

Mushrooms may also help inhibit histamine release.

Supports Healthy Energy Levels

Compounds in medicinal mushrooms support blood cells' capacity to carry and enhance energy production in your muscles. Further, it reduces lactic acid accumulation within your muscles and accelerates the process of clearing it from your body. This results in the enhanced capacity of an athlete to train effectively and longer with reduced fatigue.

Promotes Heart Health

Medicinal mushrooms like shiitake may help promote healthy cholesterol levels already in a normal range and support arterial health. Bio-components in the mushroom also help support various cardiovascular functions.

Supports Cognitive Health

Medicinal mushrooms can help enhance cognitive function and gain clearer and sharper focus. They support the production of nerve growth factors critical for promoting memory, various mental functions, and other brain-related issues.

Helps Support Blood Sugar Levels

Hypolipidemic and hypoglycemic activities of medicinal mushrooms help:

  • Support healthy blood sugar levels already in a normal range
  • Support healthy triglycerides levels already in a normal range
  • Promote insulin sensitivity

Supports Weight Management

Medicinal mushrooms are packed with nutrition and fiber and low in sodium and calories. They offer essential nutrients while keeping you feeling full and reducing the cravings to snack more - helping manage healthy body weight.

Are Medicinal Mushrooms Safe?

Many medicinal mushrooms have poisonous look-alikes. We recommend not to consume wild mushrooms unless you are 100% certain of their identification. What this means is that, unless you are a botanist who knows your plants, you shouldn’t pick any wild growing mushrooms and eat them. Stick to using mushroom materials sold by reputable brands.

Medicinal Mushroom Myths

Myth #1 Medicinal Mushrooms Stimulate the Immune System

Medicinal mushrooms are immune modulators. This means they optimize the immune function, whether excessive or deficient, and not likely to have a direct stimulatory effect.

Myth #2 All Medicinal Mushrooms are Edible

Most medicinal mushrooms, including turkey tail and reishi, are tough, woody, and difficult to digest. On the other hand, many edible mushrooms are medicinal.

Myth #3 Mushrooms Have High Toxicity Level

Some fungi may contain mycotoxins that can be poisonous to humans. Medicinal mushrooms, on the other hand, contain non-toxic adaptogens with significant health benefits. Studies show that out of 1.5 million types of mushrooms, around 60 species are poisonous.[viii] [ix]

Myth #4 All Fresh Medicinal Mushrooms in Food Stores Are Safe

Non-organically grown mushrooms may contain fungicides and hence are not safe to eat. Also, mushrooms from some countries can contain heavy metals. It’s essential to go for organic mushrooms that are free from heavy metals.

Myth #5 Wild-crafted Mushrooms Are Superior to Factory-Produced Products

It’s not entirely true. Wild-crafted mushrooms can be significantly expensive. On the other hand, a well-produced factory product can be affordable and provide related health benefits.

Myth #6 Companies Selling Medicinal Mushroom Products on the Internet Use Good Manufacturing Practices

This is far from the truth. It’s essential to trust only a reputable manufacturer and ensure that they are following GMPs.

Myth #7 Capsules of Medicinal Mushrooms Are Not as Potent as Tinctures

The quality of the ingredients and ratios are critical for the efficacy and not the final product format. This makes a high-quality capsule just as potent as a tincture.

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References:

[i] https://grocycle.com/medicinal-mushrooms-the-complete-guide/

[ii] https://www.academia.edu/14474004/The_19_Myths_of_Medicinal_Mushrooms

[iii] https://doubleblindmag.com/medicinal-mushrooms-uses/

[iv] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/medicinal-mushroom

[v] http://www.dl.begellhouse.com/journals/708ae68d64b17c52,7a925fcb5505d4dc,3ba1b0ce51e92e68.html

[vi] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/278858

[vii] https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/best-medicinal-mushrooms-to-try

[viii] https://theorganicgrocer.ca/blogs/blog/4-myths-mushrooms

[ix] https://www.escoffier.edu/blog/culinary-arts/what-are-functional-mushrooms-and-how-can-they-be-used/

March 12th, 2021

About the Author:

 
Gene Bruno

Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, RH(AHG) - Mr. Bruno possesses over 42 years of dietary supplement industry experience. With a Master's degree in nutrition and a second Master's degree in herbal medicine, he has a proven track record of formulating innovative, evidence-based dietary supplements. Mr. Bruno currently serves as both the Senior Director of Product Innovation at Twinlab Corporation and Professor of Nutraceutical Science at Huntington University of Health Sciences.