Yes, you read that correctly - we’re talking mushroom supplements. Also referred to as “medicinal mushrooms,” these are more than just a health fad (and may even be worth a spot in your supplement routine).
If you're into the latest wellness trends, there's a good chance you may have already have heard of mushroom extract supplements. These often include the extract of mushrooms like lion's mane, reishi, cordyceps, and chaga. These supplements can come in all shapes and forms! You can find them in the form of capsules that contain mushroom extract powder, or even blended with other healthy ingredients into delicious gummy form. Apparently, even chaga mushroom coffee is now a thing!
Mushrooms are packed with super-potent ingredients to help give your health and wellness a boost. They have been celebrated for centuries specifically for the nootropic (cognition-supporting) and adaptogenic (stress-fighting) properties of many mushroom varieties.
If you're interested in trying a mushroom supplement, there's a few bits of key information you need to know. Here are some of the best mushroom supplements to get you started.
1. Lion’s Mane Mushroom
These immune-boosting mushrooms are packed with antioxidants that offer support for your overall health, cognition, and overall wellness. As the most well-known nootropic mushroom variety, lion’s mane mushrooms are known to be a great way to boost healthy brain function. Studies suggest that lion’s mane mushroom helps with the production of NFG, also known as nerve growth factor. NFG are a group of proteins that are essential for brain health.
2. Reishi Mushrooms
Reishi mushrooms are one of the most popular types of mushrooms and are found in many mushroom supplements. And it’s no surprise either! Reishi, also known as Ganoderma lucidum or lingzhi, originally comes from Asia. These mushrooms have had a major role in traditional Eastern medicine thanks to their multiple wellness benefits. The multi-tasking properties of the reishi mushroom make it a must-have in any mushroom supplement.
Like most mushrooms, reishi mushrooms are also full of antioxidants and can help to support normal immune function. However, there’s one way that this mushroom is unique.
According to studies, reishi mushrooms are full of triterpene. These chemicals are thought to give reishi its purported calming properties. These studies suggest that reishi may have a positive effect on your mood. A study conducted in 2012, claimed that this soothing mushroom may also be beneficial for sleep.
3. Chaga Mushrooms
Chaga often grows on the bark of birch trees, which is why it’s also referred to as birch canker. This powerful mushroom is native to colder climates and thrives in places like Northern Europe, Siberia, Russia, Northern Canada, and Alaska.
People might brew this nutrient-dense mushroom as a tea or use it in supplements for optimum health benefits. Like reishi, chaga mushrooms are also full of potent antioxidants. Scientists claim that antioxidants may help to protect against free radicals that can cause oxidative stress. Some of the potential health benefits of chaga include supporting immune function and potentially lowering "bad" cholesterol levels, some studies suggest.
4. Cordyceps Mushrooms
Cordyceps mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to help with a wide range of health concerns. For one, they are thought to help boost energy levels, so if you’re feeling a little rundown, this mushroom might be just what you need.
According to studies, the cordyceps mushroom seems to have promising health and wellness benefits. Two specific species of the cordyceps mushroom are of particular interest to researchers, although over 400 have been discovered. These are Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris.
Aside from potentially promoting higher energy levels, it may also have a positive impact on athletic performance and muscle recovery. A 2014 study suggested that cordyceps mushrooms may help to enhance blood flow by helping the body use oxygen in a more efficient way. The study claimed that this could possibly help regular exercisers and athletes.
5. Shitake Mushroom
You may already be familiar with shitake (or shiitake) mushrooms. Especially if you’re a fan of East Asian cuisine. But did you also know that these tasty mushrooms are brimming with a wide range of health benefits?
In fact, dried shitake mushrooms have a great nutritional profile. They’re rich in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B5 and copper, not to mention other health-boosting compounds such as polysaccharides, lipids, and terpenoids.
Shitake mushrooms are also often found in supplements. As a mushroom supplement, shitake mushrooms can come in powder form. They might also be combined with other mushrooms in mushroom supplement blends. And for good reason! Studies suggest that shitake mushrooms may have a beneficial impact on heart health.
6. White Button Mushrooms
This next one on our list may also be familiar to you if you like to spend time in the kitchen. Also known as champignons, or the common mushroom, the white button mushroom is not only delicious but is also known for its potential wellness benefits.
When eaten, white button mushrooms are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, selenium, and phosphorus. They also have a pretty high protein content for a vegetable. This is definitely something to consider if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.
White button mushrooms are also found in many mushroom supplements because they contain powerful antioxidants and may be beneficial in supporting heart and gut health.
7. Turkey Tail Mushroom
Like most of the other types of fungi we’ve included on this list, the turkey tail mushroom is yet another antioxidant powerhouse. Also known as Trametes versicolor, this mushroom also contains other potent compounds. These include polysaccharopeptides and prebiotics, which come with a range of purported health benefits.
Polysaccharopeptides, for example, might play a role in boosting immune function. According to researchers, the turkey tail also has potential gut-supporting qualities thanks to its prebiotic content, which may be helpful in promoting gut health and digestion.
8. Maitake Mushroom
Maitake mushrooms, also called hen-of-the-woods and sheep’s head, are native to Japan, China, and North America. In fact, ‘maitake’ means ‘dancing mushroom’ in Japanese, which may be a reference to their appearance. These mushrooms are usually found growing at the base of Oak, Elm, and Maple trees.
These immune-boosting mushrooms are packed with antioxidants and amino acids, as well as vitamins and minerals like copper, potassium, and vitamins B and C. Scientists are conducting more and more research to discover more about the potential health benefits of these fungi, especially over the last ten years. Their latest findings look pretty promising.
For example, a study conducted in 2013 examined a compound in maitake mushrooms called D-Fraction. The findings of this study suggested that maitake D-Fraction may have a significant and positive effect on our general health.
9. Royal Sun Mushrooms
Royal sun, or Agaricus blazei, is also high in antioxidants and may help support immune function. This mushroom mostly grows in Brazil, Japan, and China and has been used in folk medicine in these countries for many centuries. It’s only in more recent years that royal sun mushrooms have been discovered in the West.
Researchers are conducting an increasing amount of studies into the potential benefits of royal sun. One of its main purported benefits is in supporting healthy inflammatory responses that may aid gut health. One study conducted in 2010, for example, examined its potential effects on various gut conditions and found positive results.
10. Black Fungus Mushroom
Because it loves tropical climates, black fungus is often found in places such as Hawaii, India, and Nigeria, although it mostly grows in China. Black fungus is also known as Auricularia polytricha, tree ear, or cloud ear fungus. It’s frequently used in Chinese cuisine and in traditional Chinese medicine.
The potential health benefits of black fungus mushrooms are fairly similar to many of the types of fungi found on this list. Black fungus may, for example, also have a positive effect on oxidative stress. Research suggests that this is due to the high number of antioxidants it contains. It also contains polyphenols, which are compounds also found in red wine, cocoa, and berries. Polyphenols are thought to help lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels, according to some studies.
Are mushroom supplements effective?
The extent to which mushroom supplements are effective varies from individual to individual. Because of our personal needs and wellness concerns, some people may find taking a mushroom supplement more effective than others.
Like with any dietary supplement, it's always a good idea to reflect on your own wellness goals and reasons for taking a mushroom supplement, and consult a medical professional when needed.
In general, the scientific studies and long history of ancient use leaves us feeling confident that, when included as part of a healthy lifestyle, mushroom supplements can offer many wonderful benefits for your brain, performance, immunity, and overall vitality.
Choosing the best mushroom supplements: the bottom line
There are lots of ways that you can incorporate a blend of mushrooms into your health and wellness routine. Some mushrooms, like button and shitake mushrooms, are perhaps easier to include in your diet through food. If you like the taste of mushrooms that is. Other types of mushrooms, like lion’s mane, cordyceps, or reishi mushrooms are harder to get a hold of and might be a little trickier to consume on a regular basis.
Taking mushrooms in supplement form is an easy, convenient, and effective way to reap the benefits of these natural superstars. Especially if you don’t like eating mushrooms!
Thanks to their growing popularity, mushroom supplements now come in a variety of different forms, from teas and coffees to capsules, powders, and gummies. Yes, mushroom gummies are definitely now a thing! These chewable mushroom supplements are usually a blend of different mushroom extracts. Plus, they’re usually mixed with fruit extracts so they taste more like candy than mushrooms.
Many mushroom supplement gummies are also non-GMO, vegan, and gluten-free.
Before trying any new dietary supplement, it’s generally a good idea to discuss any particular concerns that you have with a physician or medical professional. This is particularly the case if you have prior or existing health conditions.