Mushrooms have been used as medicine by our self-reliant plant & fungi savvy ancestors for millennia. Back in the day when life’s stressors were more primal - like trying to eat, rather than get eaten. Scientists recently uncovered a 5,300 year old mummy dubbed ‘Ötzi, the Ice Man’, from a glacier in the Italian Alps. Amongst his frozen preserved remains was a medicinal fungi known for its anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, and antibacterial properties.
A collection of ancient mushroom stones from Mesoamerica
Millenia later, we have actual recorded writings of the Aztec’s using teaonanacatl, translated to “Flesh of the Gods”, for sacred ceremonial use. At the same time but on the other side of the world, the ancient Chinese culture revered Reishi (Lingzhi) or “Mushroom of Immortality” for longevity & optimal health. Records of the symbiotic human-fungi relationship only increase from this point in history onwards. It's enough to think that if it weren’t for medicinal mushrooms and our ancestral knowledge & use of them, we humans may well have never made it to this modern era.
Painting of man holding Reishi mushroom by artist Chen Hungsho (1599-1652)
Look, you don’t need to take anything besides food & water to get through life. Eat decent, get some sleep, exercise a bit, try not to stress or smoke too much. Etc. But, what if you’re interested in diving deeper into your human potential? If you want to optimize your abilities at work, crush your goals, and not just survive but Thrive it will be in your best interest to have a few scientifically-backed mushroom “Power-Ups” in your daily routine.
Numerous scientific studies in the last few decades indicate an impressive list of health giving properties provided by medicinal mushrooms. The benefits range from anxiety and stress relief, immune support, improved brain and nervous system function, to combating cancer and other serious illnesses. With thousands of species, each medicinal mushroom brings its own unique benefits, not to mention a distinct personality to the table.
So where do you start, and how do you know which mushroom is for you? Read on for a break-down of the top medicinal mushrooms and their unique health benefit profiles to find your mushroom love match….
Known in Chinese as Lingzhi or the ‘Mushroom of Immortality’ the Reishi mushroom has over 2,000 years of known medical use. If you go to the Pubmed.gov website and type in Reishi’s scientific name “Ganoderma lucidum” thousands of scientific studies will pop up. Studies have found the Reishi mushroom to have anticancer properties, to help with asthma, immune support, anxiety and stress relief. Read more about Reishi studies here.
We have plenty of healthy daily options at our disposal for energy; coffee, green tea, black tea, mate, guayusa, the Redbulls and Monster Energy Drink’s of the world. etc. but what do we have to help us chill out naturally? That’s where Reishi comes in. Aside from its immunity, and general wellness boosting properties, escaping from stress, anxiety, and related fatigue is one of the most popular uses for Reishi mushrooms.
Thoughts aren’t inherently bad. We need to think for work, problem solving, and generally getting through life. But if you’re anything like me, sometimes you get ‘Thought Overload’ and need a way to slow-down the chattery brain. If you feel the same and too feel like sometimes you need a companion to help slow your racing thoughts, Reishi may be your ‘shroom, or at least, a botanical companion in your daily arsenal of healthy habits (right after washing your hands, and right before brushing your teeth! ;) )
Reishi can help those who are prone to over think & stress, draining our precious reserves of energy. If Reishi mushrooms could talk, they might say something like, “Hey friend, relaaaaaaax. Everythingis going to be all right.” Reishi mushroom powder mix is an excellent addition to your morning coffee to balance the stimulating caffeine jitter spike (A little yin for the yang, if you will…) or traveling via plane changing time zones, after a long day of work, or post-workout to help aide and kickstart recovery.
Like the Lion is the King of the Jungle, this mushroom is finding similar status in the world of health and human optimization! Scientific studies have found it to have incredible health giving properties for some of your body’s most important work horses - your brain and nervous system. Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is known to contain two special compounds that can stimulate the growth of brain cells: hericenones and erinacines. Those won’t be on the test so no need to remember those, but if you’re taking your Lion’s Mane, you probably will remember them anyway.
What isimportant to remember is a few of Lion’s Manes scientifically provenhealth benefits of which include improved cognition, reduction of depression and anxiety, and nerve regeneration. Its proven ability to prevent memory lossis showing much promise to be beneficial for humans suffering from Alzheimer’s. There is room for many more studies on this mushroom, which has been used in traditional Chinese medicine and cuisine for centuries.
The human mind and nervous system is an incredible feat of evolution, but like everything else, it is one that requires maintenance (like brain floss!) If you want to unleash the full potential of yours, Lion’s Mane is your mushroom. Harness your full brain power and maintain a healthy nervous system with this mushroom of the mind.
Rumored to be used as an aphrodisiac by Chinese emperors, the Cordyceps mushroom is no joke. What can you expect from a fungus that grows in the wild by taking over the body of a caterpillar? (Don’t worry, no insects were harmed in the growing of our cultivated Cordyceps mushrooms or the making of Malama Mushroom products.)
The Cordyceps fungus (C. Sinensis) was discovered in the high plateaus of Tibet and Western China more than a millennia ago - by yaks. Yes, yaks. Herdsmen noticed that their animals were feasting on this mystery fungus and becoming noticeably stronger and more vital. Soon, humans were trying it and it was adapted over time by the region’s traditional healers.
Since the original Yak experiment, modern science has found Cordyceps to enhance exercise performancein humans, improve sexual potency (a nod to the emperors), as well as a laundry list of other positive properties like anti-inflammatory, antioxidant/anti-aging, anti-tumor, anti-diabetic, and anti-fatigue. Read the full list here.
Even if you aren’t an athlete…or Yak, who wouldn’t want to have an extra gear to kick into for increased physical stamina, energy, and performance - Cordyceps is your mushroom.
Nicknamed the “King of Mushrooms”, Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)has been used medicinally for centuries in Siberia and Asia, commonly brewed into an tea. A truly discerning fungi with royal taste, it only grows on birch trees in the northern hemisphere, though a potential close cousin species has been reported in Hawai’i. Scientific studies have found it to have the following medicinal properties:
- Anti-oxidant activities
- Anti-cancer of liver & colon
- Increase endurance & fight to fatigue
- Cognitive Enhancing
- Lower blood sugar
Chaga is most widely used for immune support, skin health, and as an antioxidant. Chaga is your mushroom if your body is your temple. Put Chaga in, and radiate from the inside out.
Well friends, that’s a wrap. We hope you’ve found this post enlightening. The benefits of making medicinal mushrooms part of your daily self-care routine - whether as preventative medicine or to help a current ailment are many. Stay tuned for mush more content on (fun)gi related topics.
Have medicinal mushrooms made a difference in your health? We’d love to hear your story. Drop us a line.