(Natural News) Medicinal mushrooms, such as chaga, reishi, shiitake, lion’s mane, and cordyceps, are some of the most dynamic healing foods available. Listed below are five health benefits that medicinal mushrooms offer.
They increase antioxidant activity: Many mushrooms have high antioxidant properties and neutralize the harmful effects of free radicals. For example, reishi mushroom extracts are reported to reduce free radical activity. Chaga, another medicinal mushroom, also has potent antioxidant activity for scavenging free radicals, according to a study published in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules. Another study in the journal Carbohydrate Polymers reported that polysaccharides in cordyceps mushrooms can improve the antioxidant activity in immunosuppression in mice and can significantly increase total antioxidant capacity.
They strengthen the immune system: Medicinal mushrooms can boost the levels and activity of many important components of the immune system. They may even enhance the ability of immune cells to respond more effectively to future infections and attacks. Chaga mushrooms are also found to induce rapid increases in macrophages – a type of immune white blood cell – in mice. A study in the journal Mycobiology also showed that chaga mushrooms can increase the numbers of protective white blood cells in the bone marrow of mice with weakened immune system. Reishi mushrooms are also shown to increase the production of immune system components, such as natural killer cells that detect and destroy cancer cells and virus-infected cells. In addition, shiitake mushrooms are found to contain a polysaccharide called lentinan, which helps in improving the quality of life and extending survival. Eating these medicinal mushrooms can result in a stronger immune system and reduced inflammation in the body. (Related: Medicinal mushrooms found to strengthen the immune system.)
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They regulate blood sugar levels: Medicinal mushrooms may also be helpful in blood sugar control. Cordyceps contain compounds that regulate levels of blood sugar. In a study in the journal Biological and Pharmaceutical, a cordyceps polysaccharide was shown to lower blood sugar in genetic diabetic in mice, as well as in normal and streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice. The same cordyceps polysaccharide can also reduce triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Another study in the journal PLoS One showed that cordyceps could be used to treat diabetic nephropathy, as it significantly lowers blood sugar levels and kidney breakdown markers, and preserves kidney function in mice.
They improve brain health: Mushrooms, especially lion’s mane, also support brain health. This type of mushroom contains compounds that are shown to activate nerve growth factor (NGF), which is vital for the growth, maintenance, and survival of the neurons in the brain. These compounds stimulate neurons to re-grow and trigger re-myelination, a process that helps in maintaining the health of neurons and their ability to conduct electrical signals properly.
They boost exercise performance: Mushrooms, particularly cordyceps, can boost your exercise performance. The extracts of cordyceps can increase blood flow and significantly boost endurance as they dilate the aorta, the main artery in the body that provides oxygenated blood to the circulatory system. In addition, cordyceps mushrooms contain adenosine and can promote the production of ATP, a primary source of energy in cells, which in turn, boost stamina in athletic performance. Lion’s mane also helps in preventing the breakdown of spatial short-term and visual recognition memory and slowing the progression of cognitive decline.
Medicinal mushrooms may be quite tricky to add to your diet because they have a strong earthy and bitter flavor. It is best to pair them with other strong, yet complementary flavors. You can mix mushroom powder with black tea or hot chocolate or add it to brownie bites or soups.