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I don’t know about you, but “healing” “respiratory support” and “cognitive function” are not the first things that pop into my mind when I think about mushrooms.
Some might think of psychedelics, some may think of savory dishes, but I want to discuss 5 different amazing benefits of mushrooms that can have a huge impact on your health!
5 Amazing Health Benefits of Mushrooms
1. Respiratory Wellness
Known as the “King of Immortality”, the reishi mushroom has amazing abilities to boost the respiratory system.
I love a delicious reishi hot cocoa at night for its calming attributes and improvement in sleep patterns but the list of benefits goes much further. Reishi is also used to aid in coughing, wheezing and even phlegm dispersion. Red reishi in particular has been shown to increase the body’s ability to absorb oxygen and reduce the coughing reflex for people suffering from bronchitis. It is also a natural antihistamine and is used for immune system support, helping your body to respond to irritants and toxins like mold and dust. (pretty epic news considering we are suffering from a world wide respiratory flu pandemic!)
It’s also been discovered that the polysaccharides in reishi strengthening the immune system in patients with lung cancer! But reishi isn’t the only mushroom that helps support the lungs. Cordyceps has also been studied in relation to asthma and has been shown in studies to have reduced airway inflammation.
2. Vitamin D
Did you know that research is now estimating that 75% of cancer can be prevented by adequate consumption of vitamin D! That is huge news that should be shouted from the rooftops. And surprise!- mushrooms are one of the greatest plant based foods that contains vitamin D.
Because shiitake mushrooms are typically more available in grocery stores I suggest starting there. Paul Stamets conducted a study on shiitake mushrooms and thier vitamin D level that was truly astounding.
shiitake mushrooms dried outdoors in 6 hours of sunlight over two days had more vitamin D when they were dried with their gills facing up—they went from 100 IU per 3.5 oz to nearly 46,000 IU!
Not only can we increase the levels of vitamin D drastically, but these mushrooms contained a significant amount of vitamin D even after being being preserved and stored for a year. In addition, the shiitake mushroom can withstand het levels up to 400 degrees with out detracting significant amounts of its precious vitamin resources.
3. Immune Support
Vitamin D is not the only way mushrooms improve our immune system.
The polysaccharides in chaga mushrooms are also fascinating immune “modulators”. This means, if your immune system needs to be boosted (when you catch a bug) or suppressed (when you are dealing with an allergy) the polysaccharides helps to regulate it.
Research published in Mycobiology discovered that the immune system T-cells increased in animals who consumed chaga mushrooms. This is important because your T-cells are responsible for your “adaptive immune system” that not only make antibodies. but also attack pathogens.
4. Brain Function
If dementia related illnesses run in your family like they do mine, you are going to want to read this next section!
Lion’s Mane is a mushroom known for its ability to promote nerve growth. This has lead researchers to study its affect on the brain and in particular, memory.
This research discovered two special compounds that stimulate the growth of brain cells: hericenones and erinacines. These power compounds have a low molecular weight which makes crossing the blood brain barrier a lot more effective than other neurotrophins. More studies need to be conducted on humans, however, when studied with mice, we see that lions mane extract reduced symptoms of memory loss in mice, as well as prevent neuronal damage caused by “amyloid-beta plaques”, which accumulate in the brain during Alzheimer’s disease.
In 2009 a double blind placebo study was done on participants from 50-80 years of age with memory loss. After 3 months, the group who received 3 grams of lions mane powder showed significantly increased scores on the cognitive function scale compared with the placebo group.
5. Reduces Inflammation And Oxidative Stress
So many of our modern illnesses are rooted in inflammation and oxidative stress including heart disease, cancer and auto-immune disease. Mushrooms are an excellent source of dietary antioxidants.
This study published in PubMed examined the antioxidant abilities of 14 different mushroom species to test their antioxidant activity. They discovered a significant amount of antioxidant activity in reishi, splitgill and lions mane mushroom making them a top dietary source of antioxidants in the mushroom world.
Even though the cordyceps mushroom didn’t make it on that list, its ability to slow the growth of cancerous tumors has drawn a lot of attention over the last few years. In fact, in this test tube study conducted on cordyceps, it was discovered that Cordyceps had the ability to reduce the growth of lung, skin, colon and liver cancer. It’s even been shown to reverse the side effects of many cancer treatments.
I think we can all agree that whether you like mushrooms or not, the benefits are hard to ignore. If you aren’t a mushroom lover like me, there are plenty of other ways to consume them! One way, my favorite, is by adding ground mushroom into your coffee in the morning or a hot chocolate at night! Four Sigmatic makes truly delicious blends of mushroom drinks to enjoy and a more affordable option is buying your own powder through Om. I have also purchased Host Defense, Breathe mushroom supplements during the winter months when I am prone to bronchitis.
Have you ever used mushrooms in a medicinal way? If so, drop a comment or question below! I’d love to hear from you.
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