THEY HELP WITH STRESS
“Medicinal mushrooms are adaptogenic, which means they’ve been identified as having therapeutic properties – they’re particularly prized for their ability to help the body adapt to stress,” Tom says. “Whether that’s emotional or physical stress, mushrooms can help restore balance or equilibrium in the body.” According to Tom, this is down to their ability to modulate levels of stress hormones produced by our adrenal glands. While the majority of medicinal mushrooms have anti-inflammatory properties, chaga mushrooms have been shown to be particularly potent when it comes to reducing systemic inflammation triggered by chronic stress. “Flavour-wise, chaga is good for those trying mushrooms for the first time. Mix with hot water and a bit of milk – the outcome isn’t dissimilar to your regular cup of tea.”
THEY BOOST ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
Cordyceps mushrooms are beloved by athletes and gym enthusiasts who reckon they provide extra energy without extra stimulation. Studies show cordyceps can increase oxygen intake by up to 20%. In the early 1990s, China’s women’s athletic team broke multiple world records and that success was attributed in part to their regular intake of cordyceps. “Add a teaspoon of cordyceps powder to your coffee 30 minutes before exercise for the best results,” advises Tom.
THEY SUPPORT MALE HEALTH
Cordyceps can also help with stamina in the bedroom. “There have been various studies looking at the impact of medicinal mushrooms on male health,” Tom says. “Research suggests cordyceps might improve sperm count and erectile dysfunction. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years as a remedy for these health issues.” One study found that when cordyceps was given to 22 men for eight weeks, they showed a 33% increase in sperm count, a 29% decrease in sperm malformations and a 79% increase in sperm survival rate.
THEY PROTECT THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Often referred to as the ‘king of mushrooms’, chaga is an incredible immune booster, but Tom says it’s also worth trying reishi mushrooms. “Reishi is immune-modulatory, helping us achieve homeostasis – i.e. balance – in our system. It also helps promote sleep and relaxation, which are often underrated in maintaining general wellbeing in today’s world.” Reishi is packed with polysaccharides and beta-glucans, and has strong antioxidant properties that can help to bolster the immune system. “Reishi is best to take all year round, not just when you’re feeling run down,” says Tom.
THEY AID BRAIN POWER
Want to improve your memory and future-proof your brain? It could be worth adding medicinal mushrooms to your diet. “Cordyceps, chaga and lion’s mane are the most common mushrooms for focus and energy. They are also sometimes referred to as nootropics, due to their ability to improve or enhance cognitive function and sharpen the mind,” says Tom. Try adding half a teaspoon of Sun Potion’s lion’s mane powder to your smoothies – blend with banana, nut butter, cacao powder and almond milk for a brain-boosting breakfast. A 2012 study also revealed reishi mushrooms have neuroprotective effects, which could be a way forward for future research surrounding Alzheimer’s disease. The study found reishi extract supports production of a protein called nerve growth factor, which is crucial for healthy neurological function.
THEY HELP THE GUT
Recent research has revealed medicinal mushrooms are rich in fibre, making them one of nature’s most potent probiotics, and a strong ally in your quest for good gut health. Because any dysfunction in your gut tends to show in your skin first, taking mushrooms could help with acne, eczema and psoriasis. Incorporating mushrooms into your diet can increase the growth of bifidobacterium and lactobacillus, optimum levels of which are crucial for a balanced and happy gut microbiome, and more balanced skin.
HOW TO TAKE THEM
“Digestion begins in the mouth, so taking medicinal mushrooms in powder form can be really effective as the product will be absorbed in small amounts by blood vessels under the tongue. Mixing mushrooms into a hot drink is really effective as heat increases the rate of absorption. By mixing a powder with other foods, it also increases the time in your digestive system without having to break down a capsule first.”
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
“Medicinal mushrooms have a layer of fibrous protein around them, which is good for digestion but can shield us from some of the beneficial micronutrients. Dual extraction enables greater access to these nutrients by removing these fibrous proteins. That’s why it’s necessary to look for the extraction ratio when buying a product to ensure you’re buying something that’s potent and bioavailable. For example, a ratio of 10:1 tells you that 10 parts mushroom have been processed to produce one part powder.”