The medicinal use of mushrooms dates back thousands of years because of their varied and uniquely adaptive benefits for health. Now, in recent times with functional medicine and holistic nutrition going mainstream, we’re seeing a resurgence of interest in these marvelous superfoods. But, there are a few things you should know before running to your local supplement shop…
This article will encapsulate the top health benefits of 7 medicinal mushrooms, while also revealing why some mushroom supplements sold in today’s marketplace don’t contain mushrooms at all. And finally, it will explain how Real Mushrooms produces medicinal mushroom extracts for our supplements and what to shop for when you're looking to get true high-quality mushroom supplement benefits.
Medicinal mushrooms are nutritional powerhouses with a myriad of health benefits including the following:
Lion’s Mane is full of a multitude of important compounds, such as beta-glucans, which are immuno-modulating antioxidants and neuro-protective phytonutrients*. In vitro research suggests that certain compounds found in Lion’s mane, namely hericenones and erinacines, may help induce Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) synthesis in nerve cells . This dovetails with findings from animal research that Lion’s mane promotes nerve tissue growth and supports motor function. And research in adults with mild memory problems associated with aging found that those taking Lion’s Mane extract had better brain function compared with control participants who did not ingest the mushroom . All of this indicates that Lion’s Mane mushroom is an amazing helper for healthy brain function and may even support neurogenesis.
Lion’s Mane, or Hericium erinaceus, is a species of mushroom that is beautiful in appearance; it has long cascading shaggy spines resembling a waterfall. Lion’s Mane grows on the trunks of hardwood trees in Northern forests.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), names Lion’s Mane Hou Tou Gu (monkey head mushroom). Chinese medicine practitioners use this mushroom for the spleen, and its association with digestion, energy, and water regulation. TCM also uses this medicinal mushrooms as a tonic for stress-related disorders (neurasthenia) and for a lack of energy (qi deficiency).
The Japanese call Lion’s Mane Yamabushitake, after the worshipping Buddhist monks known as the Shugendō. These monks used Lion’s Mane tea to increase their ability to concentrate during meditation. Indigenous peoples of pre-colonial US, Canada, and Australia also used Lion’s Mane for medicine and food. This mushroom has become a well-established candidate in promoting cognitive function.
Real Mushrooms offers a superb Lion’s Mane supplement that is full of beneficial compounds because efficacy is our top priority. We recommend taking ½ teaspoon a day, over a prolonged period of time, to fully notice the effects. You can add this powder to your morning smoothie, coffee, or elixir of your choosing.
Learn more by reading our article, Lion’s Mane Mushroom Benefits: A Complete Supplement Guide.
The polysaccharides in reishi mushroom are associated with immune function, and if taken over time, reishi can significantly support the immune system*. It can also support restful sleep and a calm mind, reduce occasional stress and restlessness, can support lung and respiratory health, and support balanced blood sugar levels*.
One study has demonstrated that Reishi can decrease symptom scale scores for men experiencing lower urinary tract symptoms (urination difficulty) . Reishi can be used safely in adjunct with certain oncology medications and diagnoses .
Because of its well-rounded capacity to support numerous systems in the body, herbalists call reishi the King of Medicinal Mushrooms.
Reishi, or Ganoderma lingzhi, has a 2000-year-old written record in medicinal texts. Most notably, Chinese Taoist monks wrote of using it to promote calmness, as well as to enhance their meditative practices. Chinese royalty used reishi to promote longevity and held this “mushroom of immortality,” in high esteem. Reishi was listed as the most cherished among the superior herbs, which are considered to support a long life, support healthy aging, boost qi, and make the body light .
There are six different colors of reishi referenced in historical literature, each with their own unique benefits.
Real Mushrooms ensures that our reishi products are made from the mushroom (fruiting body) and contain higher levels of the medicinal compounds beta-d-glucans and triterpenes with NO grain fillers. Shockingly, a study analyzing commercially available Reishi mushroom supplements showed that only five of 19 products tested could be verified as genuine reishi mushroom.
One way to identify the purity of our reishi product is its dark colour and bitter taste, both characteristic of true reishi. We recommend taking two reishi capsules a day, over a prolonged period of time to notice the health benefits of this incredible medicinal mushroom.
Learn more by reading our article, Reishi Mushroom Benefits & Usage: A Complete Guide.
The cordyceps mushroom is an incredible energy-boosting fungi. Certain studies have shown that cordyceps can increase the production of ATP, the compound that gives cells energy, in rodents. This is why Cordyceps is a good mushroom supplement to take for exercise and physical performance*. In fact, two well-controlled clinical studies have found cordyceps improves exercise performance in healthy older individuals [4,5].
Preliminary research in humans, animals, and test tubes also indicates that cordyceps supports healthy levels of inflammation and immune markers.
Related cordyceps species may have hormone regulatory properties shown in research studies to increase libido (in women) and improve sperm health in men . Cordyceps can support kidney health in certain populations [24, 25, 26].
Old Chinese medical books and Tibetan medicine describe cordyceps as a treasure. With hundreds of different species, it is a parasitic fungus that preys on insects. Traditional healers use the fungus as a powerful tonic to improve energy, appetite, stamina, and endurance .
Cordyceps was traditionally used as a tonic because it has the capacity to revitalize and restore symptoms like fatigue, exhaustion, and chronic stress. Out of all the medicinal mushrooms, Cordyceps is the most stimulating, warming, and powerful in a traditional context. It has an affinity to the kidneys and lungs, meaning it supports these organs the most.
The most well-known species of cordyceps is Cordyceps sinensis; the most expensive mushroom in the world, costing over $20,000 per kilogram and sold almost exclusively in Asia. It is a rare combination of a caterpillar and a mushroom and is found at high altitudes in the Himalayan Plateau.
For many years, Chinese scientists weren’t able to cultivate this mushroom, fueling an increasing demand on a small supply. Now, with this particular fungus, it is very important to be aware of what you are consuming, because wild Cordyceps sinensis rarely makes it to the North American market, yet companies are still advertising Cordyceps sinensis on their mushroom supplements. If a cordyceps product is grown in North America, it is almost certainly myceliated grain. A high amount of grain means a low amount of mycelium and decreased beta-glucans, which are the beneficial polysaccharides found in the cell wall.
Luckily, there is one type of Cordyceps species that can be cultivated commercially to produce a mushroom (fruiting body), and that is Cordyceps militaris, which has similar benefits to Cordyceps sinensis. If you would like to dive deeper into the realm of this fungus, we have written an engaging and extensive article on cordyceps supplements to help you keep informed.
Real Mushrooms has created an organic Cordyceps militaris extract, and this supplement has been verified for quality by a third-party laboratory for quality. Our supplement contains a bountiful amount of beta-D-glucans and cordycepin, and it contains NO starch. We recommend that adults take ½-1 tsp or up to 2gms per day over a long period of time.
Learn more by reading our article, Cordyceps Mushrooms: Supplement Types & Health Benefits.
Chaga has been studied for its use in skin and stomach disorders. Chaga has over 200 pre-clinical animal and cell studies showing promising health benefits including such as being high in antioxidants, supporting digestion, immune support, modulating inflammation, containing key anti-microbial substances, and being adaptogenic .
Chaga or Inonotus obliquus, which is commonly referred to as a mushroom, is actually a highly prized woody canker or conk that grows in the colder regions of the Northern Hemisphere on birch trees.
The first medicinal uses of chaga seem to have come out of Russia around the 16th century when it was used as a tea to enhance stomach health*. After 1966, Chaga gained more exposure after its powers were written about in Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s book, Le Pavillon des cancéreux. Many indigenous people continue to use Chaga around the world for varying health-supportive purposes.
As Chaga grows primarily on birch trees and much of the mass itself is actually wood fiber and not mycelium, many medicinal compounds from birch like betulin and betulinic acid end up in the chaga. The outer black layer on the canker contains high amounts of melanin, which can be beneficial for our skin*.
Until recently, Chaga could not be cultivated, but now in Finland they are inoculating birch trees with this fungus. Lab-cultivated Chaga does not develop into canker, and as it does not grow on birch but on grain, it does not contain the important medicinal compounds that come from birch.
Our Siberian Chaga extract is wild-harvested from Russia. Our mushroom supplements are tested by 3rd party laboratories for the active compounds beta-D-glucans, which are some of the most highly researched natural compounds for immune system support.
We care deeply about sourcing the best quality mushrooms that contain the highest concentration of beneficial compounds to ensure that your health is supported over long-term use. We recommend that adults take two capsules of our organic Chaga daily. It can be taken at any time during the day and are best used over an extended period of time to notice the effects.
Learn more by reading our article, Chaga Mushroom Benefits: A Science, Health, & Supplement Guide.
Turkey tail improves immune function by stimulating cytokine production, increasing natural killer cells, and through other immune-boosting functions*.
Protein-bound polysaccharides (PBP) found in Turkey Tail have the most research-backed immune-supportive effects. These PBP compounds can enhance key types of immune cells, like T-cells, when used alone or in combination with synergistic herbs . Turkey Tail is a safe mushroom to use long-term within the context of proper medical treatment [23, 32].
Turkey Tail mushroom, or Trametes Versicolor, is one of the most common and local mushrooms to many peoples around the world. It grows on dead logs worldwide and received its name because its rings of brown and tan look like the tail feathers of a turkey.
In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) turkey tail has been used for supporting digestion, lung health, body fluid regulation, and supporting vitality. In Japan and China, a derivative of turkey tail has been used to strengthen the immune system *. Turkey tail contains one of the highest amounts of beta-glucans of all mushrooms, which can help keep our immune systems healthy when used over an extended period of time*.
Real Mushrooms’ Turkey tail supplement is certified organic and guaranteed to contain NO added starch, mycelium, or grain of any kind – just pure mushroom (fruiting body), so you receive all the wonderful medicinal properties. We suggest taking ½-1 tsp per day or up to 2 grams.
Learn more by reading our article, Turkey Tail Mushroom Benefits & Usage: A Complete Guide.
Shiitake mushroom is great for immunity and liver health, and it supports the cardiovascular system*. Lentinan, a polysaccharide in shiitake mushrooms, has shown great promise as an immune system-boosting agent *. Research has also discovered a compound in shiitake, eritadenine, that can help maintain cholesterol already within a healthy range *. The mushrooms are great to cook with and are also loaded with B-vitamins, helping to modulate blood sugar levels in the body and support a healthy inflammation response.
Shiitake mushrooms have been shown to increase igA, a key immune cell (immunoglobulin) associated with our first line of defense when it comes to immunity . Shiitake mushrooms can decrease C-Reactive Protein (CRP), a blood marker that detects inflammation .
Shiitake mushrooms are the most popular mushrooms in the world and have a meaty and versatile flavor, which is why they’ve been used as a food source in Asia for hundreds of years.
In China, shiitake is called Xiang gu (香菇), which translates to "fragrant mushroom." During the Ming Dynasty in China, shiitake was deemed “the elixir of life”.
Shiitake mushrooms have been cultivated in Japan for centuries and received their name from the shii trees (related to beech and oak) they’re found growing on. Shiitake has long been used as both a food and a supplement in TCM, as it is thought to support a long healthy life and support healthy circulation*.
Real Mushrooms proudly uses only the mushroom (fruiting body) and absolutely NO added filler, mycelium, or grain in our mushroom supplements. Our product 5 Defenders Organic Mushroom Blend is a pure and highly beneficial supplement for immune health maintenance. We recommend taking ½-1 tsp a day, or up to two grams. It can be taken at any time of the day; use it for at least 6-8 weeks to feel the effects on the body.
Maitake mushrooms support immune function by stimulating the immune system’s lymphocytes, natural killer cells, monocytes, and T-helper cells* [10,11].
Maitake, Grifola frondosa is commonly known as Hen of the Woods or the Dancing Mushroom. It is plentiful in the deciduous forests of North America and Japan. It is an edible mushroom with an earthy flavour. Traditional Chinese Medicine has used this mushroom for its support of the spleen, and for benefiting qi. The mushroom (fruiting body) contains polysaccharides such as beta-glucans, which have been linked to healthy cell growth and turnover*.
Maitake became quite famous in the 1990's after Dr. Hiroaki Nanba, a pharmacologist at Kobe Pharmaceutical University in Japan, began isolating and testing different polysaccharide fractions from Maitake. Many of these fractions were quite potent immunomodulating agents.
The Maitake we use in our 5 Defenders Mushroom Blend is made from ONLY the mushroom (fruiting body), so you can be assured that you are getting the full potency this mushroom can offer for your health. We recommend taking two capsules of our mushroom supplements a day over at least a 3-month period to feel the full beneficial effect.
As one of the most actively cultivated edible mushrooms found worldwide, oyster mushrooms boast an excellent nutritional profile, including low calories, low fat, high protein, a wide range of vitamins and minerals (including niacin), and antioxidants.*
A number of research studies show that oyster mushrooms can improve immune system function against respiratory infections [33, 34, 35]. Oyster mushrooms have unique compounds contributing to the lowering of cholesterol known as lovastatin, ergothioneine, ergosterol, ACE-inhibiting peptides, and chrysin . Lovastatin is a natural “statin” that inhibits cholesterol synthesis. Oysters have the capacity to help the body maintain healthy levels of cholesterol and triglycerides .
Oyster mushrooms are also renowned for their ability to help clean up environmental toxins and pests. This fascinating mushroom is one of the few species of carnivorous fungi, attacking and killing ne’er-do-wells with its extracellular toxins .
The oyster mushroom, or Pleurotus ostreatus, gets its name from its shape and color, not its taste. This white, shell-shaped mushroom has a subtle but sweet, nutty taste and prefers to grow on dead hardwood trees, though the ease of its cultivation has resulted in its inclusion in many grow-at-home mushroom kits in recent years. P. ostreatus was first described by Nikolaus Joseph Freiherr von Jacquin in 1775, though he named it Agaricus ostreatus. It was transferred to the genus Pleurotus by German mycologist Paul Kummer in 1871.
Beyond beta-glucans, oyster mushrooms are known for their stores of the compound ergothioneine (also known as l-ergothioneine), an unusual amino acid with powerful antioxidant properties that can only be derived from the diet.
Research studies have demonstrated that ergothioneine has cytoprotective (i.e. cell-protecting) properties *, though there is a lack of human trials. The functional bioactive compounds in the oyster mushroom may also help maintain blood pressure already within a healthy range, support a healthy body weight, balance blood sugar levels, and support lipid metabolism, according to a systematic review of clinical trials *.
Real Mushrooms Ergo+ uses only the fruiting bodies of P. ostreatus, which contain the highest amount of ergothioneine. Our products are of the highest quality because we use ONLY certified organic mushrooms (fruiting bodies) in our products. We also go to painstaking lengths, including 3rd party laboratory testing, to ensure the highest quality possible.
We recommend taking just one capsule a day of Ergo+ for health maintenance. Over time, you will notice the incredible nutritional and health benefits of the oyster mushroom.
Learn more about oyster mushrooms and ergothioneine by reading our article, Ergothioneine Supplement Guide: Facts, Benefits, and Usage.
Agaricus bisporus, often called “the button mushroom” or “the white mushroom,” dominates the U.S. commercial mushroom industry, representing approximately 90% of mushrooms consumed in the country . It has become so common that many refer to it simply as “the mushroom.” With its pleasant taste, many people may think of this mushroom as just an ingredient on pizza or in a salad, but the agaricus mushroom provides numerous health benefits, including a substantial amount of vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin.
Agaricus mushrooms show positive modulation of PSA levels in those with prostate health concerns . These mushrooms also have the capacity to increase bacteroidetes species in the microbiome, a theorized favourable shift for gut health .
While common, Agaricus bisporus is anything but boring. Historical evidence suggests that A. bisporus was first cultivated in France by botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort in 1707 . TCM practitioners have used it to help regulate the body’s qi and to promote overall well-being. Recent research studies have also found that the carbohydrate profile of agaricus mushrooms may benefit gut health *. It also contains ergothioneine and polyphenols that may support a healthy inflammation response and benefit cardiovascular health *.
Most notably, agaricus mushrooms are known for their vitamin D2 content. Mushrooms exposed to sunlight or UV radiation are an excellent vegan source of the incredibly important sunshine vitamin. Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency has become all too common, particularly during the fall and winter months when days are shorter. Want to learn more about mushrooms and vitamin D? Check out our in-depth discussion on the topic in our article Vegan Vitamin D from Mushrooms.
If you are looking to supplement your vitamin D intake with mushrooms, look no further than agaricus mushrooms. It is important that the mushrooms be exposed to sunlight or UV radiation. Many agaricus mushrooms are grown in the dark and therefore contain negligible amounts of vitamin D2. However, when exposed to UV light, they can become an abundant source of the vitamin *.
Real Mushrooms uses only the mushroom (fruiting body) of organic, UV-exposed A. bisporus in Mushroom D2Z, which combines the powers of agaricus, reishi, and chaga mushroom extracts without any fillers or starch. You can also find it in our Mushroom D2 product, which provides 1000 IU of vitamin D per capsule. We recommend taking just one capsule consistently for several weeks to feel the benefits of the button mushroom.
Learn more about the benefits of agaricus mushroom and Vitamin D in our article, Vegan Vitamin D from Mushrooms.
It may look a bit like a loofah, but don’t let its innocent appearance fool you — this mushroom may just be the beauty powerhouse you’ve been looking for. The unique polysaccharides found in Tremella fuciformis are known for their intense hydrating properties, much like hyaluronic acid, without the cost of high-end anti-aging cosmetic products. In fact, these polysaccharides are smaller than hyaluronic acid, allowing them to penetrate the skin more easily.
One study suggested that topical products with T. fuciformis polysaccharides (TFPS) had a better moisture retention rate than those with hyaluronic acid *. Could the tremella mushroom be the next hyaluronic acid?
In addition to their remarkable hydrating properties, TFPS exhibit potent antioxidant, anti-aging, immune-boosting, gut-nourishing, and neuroprotective properties, though the mechanism behind these effects remains unclear [20,21]*.
Tremella, or Tremella fuciformis, is a highly valued historical treasure of China. Due to the rarity of T. fuciformis in the wild, this gorgeous mushroom was once only available to royalty or the wealthy who could afford it. It has been said that concubine Yang Guifei —one of the “Four Great Beauties” of Chinese history — used the superfood to maintain her youthful appearance.
Despite its bland taste, tremella is still highly popular in China, where it is known as “yin er” (silver ear) or “baimuer” (snow ear). TCM practitioners have recommended tremella as a yin tonic for thousands of years to promote health, long life, and beauty. Being a stomach and lung yin tonic, TCM treatments of dry conditions include Tremella (dry cough, skin, throat, etc).
Real Mushrooms only uses certified organic tremella mushrooms (fruiting bodies) in Tremella. All our products are verified for quality at accredited 3rd party labs, something many other mushroom supplement companies don’t do. We also tell you the beta-glucan content of our products upfront, meaning there’s no guesswork involved. Don’t settle for anything less. We recommend taking 2 capsules a day consistently for 6 to 8 weeks, and you just may notice brighter, tighter, more youthful-looking skin.
Learn more about the skin-enhancing properties of Tremella and other mushrooms in our article, Mushroom Benefits for Skin: 5 Ways Fungi Foster Dermal Health.
As people are waking up to the powerful properties found in mushrooms, many companies are jumping on the trend and are producing or private-labeling mushroom supplements for the masses. The mushroom benefits for health maintenance are so unique because fungi adaptively support the health and resiliency of the human body.
These extremely intelligent organisms have been utilized in Asia for thousands of years for supporting immune strength and promoting a long and healthy life. However, in recent years the Western market in which these mushroom supplements are marketed and sold has few control standards. The result? A vast majority of the “mushroom” products sold in North America contain little to no mushrooms at all and are mostly mycelium and starch, from rice or other grains, ground up into a powder. This is an alarming fact about which most consumers are unaware. Let us explain why this fact should be of concern.
Mycelium is the root system of the mushroom; it is the precursor to the fruiting body we simply know as a mushroom. Mycelium and mushrooms are not synonymous.
The key active compounds found in mushrooms that research has linked to health benefits are: beta-D-glucans, triterpenoids, and ergosterol. These beneficial compounds occur in higher concentrations in the fruiting body, as opposed to the mycelium.
Beta-D-glucans have been identified as primary sources of medicinal activity; they are a naturally occurring structural component of the cell walls of mushrooms that can activate or potentiate both innate and adaptive immunity.
Triterpenoids play a complementary role with beta-glucans in immune system activation; primary activities include: liver protection, antioxidant activity, histamine response, and inflammation response.
Ergosterol is present in all fungi, and it has recently been discovered to also have immunomodulating and antioxidant properties.
As a myriad of mushroom benefits for health spark global interest, Real Mushrooms prides itself on only using the fruiting body in our mushroom supplements to ensure the highest quality with the most benefits for optimal health.
Learn more about the difference between mushrooms and mycelium and why it matters in our article, Medicinal Mushroom Benefits: Mycelium vs Fruiting Body.
That was a lot of information, yes? That’s because the Fungi Kingdom is one of the most diverse groups of organisms in the world. Fungi existed before any other terrestrial plants or animals, and they have spent billions of years learning how to adapt to any environmental threat. They play the important role of ecological decomposers while absorbing nutrition from the plant matter they live off of. As a result, mushrooms like lion’s mane, reishi, chaga, cordyceps, turkey tail, shiitake, and maitake offer a slew of health benefits. They share their power of resiliency and adaptation and the bio-compounds they absorb from other plants.
Real Mushrooms is committed to providing you with real wisdom so that you can become empowered to start adding these super organisms into your diet right away! It is SO important to understand exactly what you’re consuming when it comes to mushroom supplements because of the lack of control standards on the market.
We truly believe that the quality of products you take determines the quality of your health, and we will continue to strive towards greatness and transparency in our process by offering you products that are made with genuine mushrooms, grown organically as nature intended.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." -Hippocrates
Disclaimer: The information or products mentioned in this article are provided as information resources only, and are not to be used or relied on to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information does not create any patient-doctor relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. The information is intended for health care professionals only. The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is intended for educational purposes. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by licensed medical physicians. Please consult your doctor or health practitioner for any medical advice.