No need to mutter about your mushroom habit; these days announcing that you’re a fungi lover will get you a reputation as both health conscious and on trend. Praised by functional medicine experts and nutritionists for their medicinal properties, these miniature pharmaceutical powerhouses have (quite literally) mushroomed in popularity, with sales of Rawligion’s Brain Milk Latte (essentially walnut milk, mushrooms n’ vanilla) sky-rocketing since launching by 250% whilst mushroom powder supplier Indigo Herbs’s boasts a six-monthly 40% sales boost. Seems we’re finally getting the message: “Mushrooms are packed with vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, magnesium and vitamin D and contain a unique number of immune supporting compounds,” says Nutritionist Christine Bailey, author of The Gut Health Diet (www.christinebailey.co.uk). Clearly it’s not all just Shitake! Studies show they can even help stave off cancer… So bake with them, blend with them or brew with them – just add some far-flung fungi to your life.
REISHI – LONGEVITY AND DIGESTION
Want to live forever? Nicknamed the ‘Mushroom of Immortality’, the Reishi mushroom hails from East Asia and contains polysaccharides, a complex carbohydrate shown in a study by the Peking University Health Care Centre to regulate the immune system and prevent the growth of tumours. “Reishi contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds which help protect our cells against damage from oxidative stress, thought to be the primary cause of ageing, and may also help relieve conditions such as arthritis and dementia,” says Nutritionist, Bailey. They might even help you lose weight or look trimmer; recent research shows that Reishi can act like a prebiotic (in mice, anyway), reducing gut issues and consequent bloating.
Try: Bailey’s Immunity boost smoothie: 250ml Coconut water, 1-2 tsp Reishi powder, 1tbsp almond nut butter or Brazil nut butter, 1tsp flaxseed oil, 1-2tbsp raw cacao powder to taste, 1tsp Maca powder, 1tsp acai powder, 1tbsp lucuma powder, 1/2 cup frozen cherries or mixed berries, 1tsp Manuka honey.
Reishi Mushroom Pure Powder, £7.99 for 50g: www.indigo-herbs.co.uk
CORDYCEPS – INCREASED VERVE
Also known as ‘caterpillar fungus’ this finger-like ‘shroom is a favourite among athletes, said to boost energy production, strength and endurance, as suggested by a study published in 2010 in the Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine. How? It could be their ability to nourish the adrenals, making them a tonic against stress and help with stamina. Not just running or weightlifting either; in Chinese and Tibetan medicine cordyceps are used as an aphrodisiac and to support sexual function…
Try: Planet Organic cordyceps ‘tea’ http://www.planetorganic.com/four-sigma-cordyceps-60g-60g/16725/ £23.99 for 20 bags.
CHAGA – YOUNGER, BETTER SKIN
Granted, it looks like a piece of burnt charcoal but in Siberian folklore, Chaga is considered the ‘King of the Mushrooms.’ “Like all medicinal mushrooms, Chaga contains complex polysaccharides known for their potent immune supporting properties,” says Bailey. However, Chaga also has an extremely high ORAC value – a measure of its antioxidant properties. This may be why it is regarding as an anti-ageing tonic.” One of the most surprising benefits of Chaga is in regards to psoriasis. In one Russian study, psoriasis patients who took Chaga recovered from their condition.
Try Indigo Herb’s antioxidant-rich Chaga Smoothie: 100 ml of Nut Milk, 75g Mixed Berries 1 Heaped Tsp Chaga Extract Powder, 1 Heaped Tsp Organic Pure Cacao Powder, 1 Tbsp Organic Raw Almond Butter, 1/4 Tsp Organic Raw Vanilla Powder, Pinch of Cinnamon Powder
Chaga Extract Powder 100g for £9.99 https://www.indigo-herbs.co.uk
LION’S MANE – MOOD AND NERVE BOOSTER
Having recently caught researchers’ attention for their notable nerve-regenerative properties, these little little fungi found in North America look uncannily like white pom-poms and can now be bought at selected health foods including Planet Organic (http://www.planetorganic.com/hybrid-herbs-lions-mane-mushroom-powder-57g/22261/). “This nutritious mushroom is roughly 20 percent protein, and resembles the taste of lobster or shrimp,” says nutritionist Christine Bailey. About a dozen studies have been published on the neuro-regenerative properties of lion’s mane mushrooms since 1991 and a study published in the Journal of Biomedical Research in 2010 found that post-menopausal women who consumed lion’s mane (hidden in cookies!) showed less anxiety and depression with improved concentration.
Try diluting it with water: Bailey advises a teaspoon of powder (1-2g) every day mixed with a large glass of water for increased effectiveness.
TURKEY TAIL MUSHROOMS – FIGHTING BREAST CANCER
Call it an unsung hero; these ‘shrooms grow on dead trees and stumps yet they’ve certainly stood the test of time. “Records of turkey tail brewed as medicinal tea in China date from the early 15th century,’ says Mycologist and Author Paul Stamets (www.fungi.com). “Turkey tail is renowned in Asia as a source for cancer therapy. The Japanese company Kureha first screened many polypore mushrooms and found that turkey tails produced a profound immune response, a discovery confirmed by many other subsequent studies.” One study published in the ISRN Oncology Journal suggested turkey tail mushrooms may work well alongside conventional therapies like chemotherapy and radiation therapy for treating breast cancer.
Try: pop these like vitamins! http://www.fungi.com/product-detail/product/host-defense-turkey-tail-capsules-120ct.html
– By Lucy Fry
First appeared in Women’s Health Magazine.
INTRO – MUSHROOMS AND CANCER
REISHI (a.k.a. Ganoderma lucidum) and immunity/tumours
REISHI AND GUT HEALTH
BREAST CANCER AND TURKEY TAIL
CORDYCEPS AND ENDURANCE
CORDYCEPS AND LIVER
One study in the Journal Herbal Medicine showed it could reverse liber fibrosis (though admittedly that was in rats and mice, so the jury’s still out on humans).
LIONS MANE AND MENOPAUSE, ANXIETY, DEPRESSION
TURKEY TAIL BREAST CANCER