Functional mushrooms have been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine systems around the world. In recent years, they have gained popularity in the West as a natural way to support overall health and wellness. But what exactly are functional mushrooms, and how do they work? In this blog post, we'll explore the basics of functional mushrooms and their potential benefits.
What Are Functional Mushrooms?
Functional mushrooms are a group of mushrooms that have been found to have specific health benefits beyond basic nutrition. They are sometimes referred to as medicinal mushrooms or adaptogenic mushrooms. Some of the most commonly used functional mushrooms include:
- Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
- Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
- Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis)
- Lion's Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
- Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)
Each of these mushrooms has unique compounds that contribute to their potential health benefits. For example, reishi mushrooms contain beta-glucans, triterpenes, and polysaccharides that have been found to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immune-boosting properties .
How Do Functional Mushrooms Work?
Functional mushrooms are believed to work by interacting with the body's immune system and stress response. They contain bioactive compounds that can support overall wellness and help the body adapt to stressors. Here are a few ways functional mushrooms may work in the body:
- Immune system support: Many functional mushrooms contain beta-glucans, which have been shown to enhance the activity of immune cells like natural killer cells and macrophages. This can help the body fight off infections and diseases .
- Anti-inflammatory effects: Some functional mushrooms, such as reishi and turkey tail, contain compounds that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. This may help reduce inflammation in the body, which can contribute to a variety of health issues .
- Adaptogenic properties: Functional mushrooms are sometimes classified as adaptogens, which are substances that help the body adapt to stress. Adaptogens can help regulate the body's stress response, which may help improve overall health and resilience .
- Antioxidant activity: Many functional mushrooms contain compounds that have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help protect the body from oxidative stress, which can damage cells and contribute to aging and disease .
How to Use Functional Mushrooms
Functional mushrooms can be consumed in a variety of forms, including gummies, teas, tinctures, powders, and supplements. Some people also enjoy cooking with mushrooms like shiitake and maitake, which also have potential health benefits. When choosing functional mushroom products, it's important to look for high-quality sources that have been tested for purity and potency.
Functional mushrooms are a fascinating group of mushrooms with potential health benefits supported by scientific research. By interacting with the immune system, stress response, and other systems in the body, functional mushrooms may help support overall wellness and resilience. If you're interested in trying functional mushrooms, be sure to do your research and talk to a healthcare professional. With proper care and attention, functional mushrooms can be a valuable addition to a healthy lifestyle.