Medicinal mushroom supplements are becoming an increasingly popular health-food trend and with good reason. Depending on the mushroom supplements you choose, you may notice an improvement in both your physical and mental health.
If you’ve been asking yourself “Should I take mushroom supplements” for a while now, we’re here to give you the answer. Below, we’ll look at what mushroom supplements are potentially capable of doing, what you should look out for when choosing your supplements, and which type of mushroom powder is best.
Are Mushroom Extracts Effective?
The first thing you need to think about when asking if mushroom extracts are effective is what effect you actually want from them. Are you looking for a way to reduce anxiety and stress? Or are you looking for a natural supplement that can help aid digestion?
There has been a lot of research into mushroom extracts over recent years and for the most part, studies are starting to prove that they are effective. However, each mushroom extract works in a different way. This means that not every mushroom extract may be effective for what you want it to do.
Below, we’ve put together a list of three of the most popular mushroom extracts along with a brief explanation of what they can do.
Lion’s Mane is believed to be one of the best mushroom extracts for relieving depression and managing anxiety. It contains compounds that may boost certain neurotransmitters including serotonin and dopamine. In turn, our bodies are given that ‘feel-good’ feeling. It’s also believed to help protect against dementia by stimulating the growth of brain cells.
Reishi is known to be super-effective at boosting the immune system, reducing the risk of contracting an infectious disease and helping you recover faster if you do become ill. It is also believed to have cancer-fighting properties.
It could be particularly effective used alongside modern medicine in fighting prostate cancer as it has an effect on the level of testosterone in the body.
One study on Chaga extract found that it reduced LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides. It simultaneously increased antioxidant levels. It’s also believed that Chaga is capable of lowering blood sugar, meaning it could be a great supplement for anybody with diabetes.
It is worth noting that each of the mushrooms listed above can also work effectively in other ways. For instance, Reishi is also great for managing anxiety. We’ve simply chosen to focus on what each of them is most effective at doing.
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Are Mushroom Supplements Safe?
If you’d like to start taking mushroom supplements but you have safety concerns, be assured that mushroom supplements are entirely safe for most people. The majority of mushroom supplements are recognized as safe dietary supplements.
But, as with all supplements, there can be some side effects. These vary between mushroom supplements and, as your body adjusts to you taking them, you may suffer from headaches, itchiness, or an upset stomach.
There are some mushroom supplements that you should consider discussing with your doctor before taking. Chaga, for example, contains a protein that can prevent blood clotting. This means it could be unsafe if you’re taking blood-thinning medication, or if you’re pregnant.
Certain mushroom supplements may negatively interact with other illnesses or medications. If you have a medical condition or are on medication, make sure to discuss mushroom supplements with your doctor before taking them.
However, for the most part, if you stick to the correct dosage for your age and the condition you’re using the mushroom supplement for, there shouldn’t be any safety concerns.
Do Mushroom Extracts Work?
Research is beginning to show that mushroom extracts do work. However, as we’ve mentioned above, the effectiveness of each mushroom extract depends on what you’re taking it for. There isn’t a “one size fits all” mushroom extract.
For instance, if you’re looking to use mushroom extracts as a way of managing anxiety and relieving stress, you would be better using Reishi, Lion’s Mane, or Cordyceps. If you want a natural supplement that will help lower your cholesterol levels, you’ll find Chaga works most effectively.
You can also mix mushroom extracts together to get the benefits from different mushrooms in one single dose. For example, it is believed that mixing Chaga and Reishi can supercharge your immune system and regulate your mood.
While studies are beginning to show the benefits and effectiveness of mushroom extracts, please note that most of the studies are carried out on mice or rats. This means that there is a limited amount of evidence that entirely proves they work on the human body.
What Mushroom Supplements Should I Take?
The mushroom supplement you decide to take depends on what you’re taking it for. All mushroom supplements are great for improving your overall health, but each of them also has unique abilities that may be helpful in treating certain conditions.
To help you work out which mushroom supplements you should take, we’ve put together a list of the most popular types of mushrooms along with what it is they are believed to help with.
- Chaga: Full of vitamins and minerals, Chaga is most commonly used to boost the immune system, fight inflammation, lower cholesterol, and lower blood sugar.
- Cordyceps: Can be used as a natural pre-workout supplement as it boosts exercise performance and helps to improve heart health. It’s also believed to be effective at reducing anxiety as it helps to modulate the nervous system.
- Reishi: This is thought to help reduce stress and anxiety by encouraging the release of endorphins and helping our bodies respond more appropriately to stressful situations. Reishi is also good for supporting the immune system.
- Lion’s Mane: Used most commonly to improve cognitive function and reduce memory loss. It’s also a great mushroom supplement for relieving stress and managing anxiety.
- Enokitake: This mushroom supplement would be the one to choose if you’re looking for overall health support. It’s packed with vitamins and minerals including B-complex vitamins, selenium, phosphorus, calcium, and copper.
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As you can see, there are many different mushroom supplements to choose from, each of which can be used to support your body differently. You can also mix certain mushroom supplements together to get multiple benefits or double the effectiveness on a certain condition.
What Should I Look For in a Mushroom Supplement?
Once you’ve worked out which mushroom supplement is right for your individual needs, you’ll need to spend a little time researching to make sure you’re getting the best mushroom supplement possible. Below, we’ll discuss a couple of points that you need to pay attention to before you purchase.
Just because the mushroom supplement bottle says “mushroom” on it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s all it contains. Some supplements are a mixture of mushrooms and mycelium and, occasionally, they’ll actually contain more mycelium than mushrooms!
But Why Is This Bad?
Mycelium has a significantly lower potency than medicinal mushrooms. This is because it is the vegetative state of the fungi before it gets established and begins to grow into mushrooms. This means that the supplement won’t be anywhere near as effective at helping to manage certain conditions.
If a mushroom supplement does contain mycelium, it will likely be listed as “myceliated grain” on the bottle. It’s also worth noting that it is an FDA requirement to state what is contained within a supplement. So, if there isn’t any information at all, it’s best to steer clear.
Powder Vs. Pills
You also need to think about whether you’d prefer your mushroom supplements to be in powder or pill form. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these.
Mushroom supplement pills are easy to take, and can simply be swallowed down with a glass of water. They aren’t as versatile as powder and you won’t be able to add them to coffee or make mushroom tea, but it is easier to mix supplements.
With mushroom supplement powder, you can make mushroom tea or coffee, giving you a different way to take your supplements and allowing you to enjoy the flavor of the mushrooms. It’s not as easy to mix supplements with powder though, especially if you're mixing more than two.
Which Mushroom Powder is Best?
Again, this really depends on what you’re looking to achieve from taking a mushroom powder. Each type of medicinal mushroom has its own benefits, which means that some are going to be more effective than others in helping you treat a certain condition or simply improve your overall health.
With that being said, Chaga is often referred to as the “ultimate medicinal mushroom”. If you’re looking for a mushroom powder that could potentially boost your immune system, help prevent cancer, protect your liver, lower blood sugar, and lower cholesterol, Chaga is the one to go for. It also has an earthy taste that isn’t dissimilar to coffee, which is another reason why it’s so popular.
However, if you’re looking for a mushroom powder that can help you manage stress and anxiety more effectively, you would be better off choosing Reishi or Lion’s Mane. These are also fantastic, natural alternatives to prescription antidepressants as they are believed to enhance your mood and encourage a more appropriate response to stressful situations without causing any drowsiness.
Finally, if you’re not looking to treat any particular issue and you simply want to support your health, go for Enokitake mushroom powder. This is packed with vitamins and minerals that support immune health including B-complex vitamins, selenium, phosphorus, calcium, and copper.
In turn, it is believed that you’ll have a much lower chance of catching an infectious disease (such as the flu) and, if you ever do become ill, your immune system will have a much better chance of fighting off the infection.
If you’d like to learn more about the different types of medicinal mushrooms and where to find them, check out our ultimate guide!