What are functional mushrooms?

Functional mushrooms are a type of edible fungi, found growing in dense forests or on logs in nature, that have been around for thousands of years.

They have often been used for their superfood benefits as they are packed with antioxidants and vitamins and have a high nutritional value. Functional mushrooms aren’t the same fungi used as hallucinogens. They are a distinct group of edible fungi commonly used for their medicinal purposes and have been a celebrated hero ingredient in holistic health communities globally.

Functional mushrooms are broken up into two different groups, namely medicinal mushrooms and adaptogenic mushrooms. Medicinal mushrooms contain compounds that provide specific health benefits such as antioxidant properties and are often considered as dietary supplements. Adaptogenic mushrooms, on the other hand, contain adaptogens which fight off physical, chemical, or biological stress. Basically, they help the body’s stress response system function the way that it should.

Types and benefits of functional mushrooms:

Whilst each functional mushroom variant has its own unique health benefits, some general benefits include – promoting immunity, improving bone strength, aiding in better digestive health, and giving your skin that extra glow!

There are many types of functional mushrooms but Reishi, Cordyceps, Chaga and Lion’s Mane are the most widely used. Let’s have a look at them in more detail:

  • Reishi – Comes from Asian healing traditions and is also known as ‘Linzhi’ in China. It is named for longevity and spirituality. Reishi is a type of adaptogenic mushroom and supports our body’s natural ability to fight viruses and destroy cancer cells. Reishi is commonly used as a tool to assist in stress management and can also help with enhancing your mood and giving you better sleep quality.

  • Cordyceps – This type of mushroom is considered as a parasitic mushroom because it grows on a living host. Don’t worry though, it is still perfectly safe and beneficial to consume. It is the most common functional mushroom taken by athletes or people that like to live an active lifestyle. Cordyceps support your body during workout (if taken before your activity) because it assists in regulating oxygen throughout your body while you exercise. It also boosts your metabolic rate and aids in muscle recovery after a powerful workout.

  • Lion’s Mane – Was originally used by Buddhist Monks who needed assistance in concentrating while meditating. This mushroom is also commonly used in the natural medicinal world for treatment/prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. Lion’s Mane is known for its ability to support productivity, improve focus, increase mood, and stimulate brain function.

  • Chaga – This is a medicinal mushroom and is one of the richest antioxidant mushrooms in nature. Fun fact: Chaga was used as a coffee ration in World War 2 because of its rich and full-bodied flavour and coffee-like colour. Chaga is mainly used to strengthen your immune system, and is known to fight inflammation, help fight cancer and lower your blood sugar levels.

How do you incorporate functional mushrooms into your diet?

There are various ways of ingesting functional mushrooms, so actually, it is up to your preference. The most popular ways include capsules, but powders come second in preference and popularity. Mix it into your smoothies, smoothie bowls, pre-workouts or in healthy desserts like healthy parfaits and chia pudding.

If you are a more ‘drink it’ type of person, try infusing it into tonics, teas or blending it into organic cocoa as a coffee alternative. Mixing it into hot, frothy milk can also give you a tasty, caffeine free latte!

Not into consuming it in food or drinks. That is no problem. Functional mushrooms are also available in powder form or as supplements which can be ingested however you prefer.