Medicinal mushrooms are all the rage right now and for good reason, as they’re tied to a whole host of health benefits. Used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years, these fungi have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years in the United States and are even popping up in the form of trendy coffees and lattes.
Health boosts from medicinal mushrooms, also sometimes called functional mushrooms, include reducing stress and anxiety, improving memory and cognition, and supporting the immune system.
There’s also some evidence that medicinal mushrooms can help you get a better night’s sleep. Here, we break down the benefits of medicinal mushrooms and how you can incorporate them into your routine.
Sleep benefits of reishi mushrooms
Reishi is a type of medicinal mushroom that has been shown to ease stress and anxiety and promote sleep. The secret lies in its calming properties. Reishi mushrooms contain the compound triterpene, which is often described as anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antimicrobial.
While traditional Chinese medicine has used reishi mushrooms to treat general restlessness and insomnia for centuries, there is some recent scientific evidence that lends more weight to these claims.
A study in rats found supplementation of reishi mushrooms was linked with a decrease in sleep latency (the amount of time it takes to fall asleep) and an increase in total sleep time.
Other research suggests reishi mushrooms may also have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits, promote wound healing, and protect the skin from the effects of aging.
Other health benefits of medicinal mushrooms
Other types of mushrooms also come with a host of health benefits. Lion’s mane, for example, has been shown to improve cognition and memory, as well as ease depression and anxiety.
If you’re looking for an energy boost, particularly for your workouts, cordyceps may be for you. Research studies have shown these fungi help boost aerobic exercise performance and enhance physical stamina.
Chaga mushrooms, meanwhile, are known for their antioxidant properties. These mushrooms may help fight inflammation, lower LDL (or bad) cholesterol, and support the immune system.
How to incorporate medicinal mushrooms into your routine
You may be wondering exactly how you can include medicinal mushrooms in your routine to reap the sleep and health benefits. The first thing to know is that these mushrooms aren’t meant to be eaten raw or whole. Rather, they can be taken in supplemental form. (Always speak to your doctor first before adding a new supplement to your routine.)
Perhaps the most popular way to get your fix of functional mushrooms is to add the supplement to your tea or coffee, but mushroom extracts can be mixed into any food, drink, or smoothie recipe. However, you’ll want to pay close attention to the labels on the product packaging.
“First and foremost, as with all functional mushrooms, consumers will want to scrutinize the products they purchase while understanding the difference between powders and extracts,” explains Jill Portman, co-founder of Good Pharma.
Products that use ground mushroom powder, in lieu of an extract, provide the least health benefits, she says. Portman suggests looking for highly concentrated extracts when choosing medicinal mushroom products.
Good Pharma, for instance, offers easy-to-use pour-over infuser bags containing highly concentrated blends of functional mushrooms woven into their coffee and tea.
The company also uses a traditional Chinese medicinal herb called suan zao ren in their tea that has sleep and relaxation benefits.
“Chinese medical texts teach us that suan zao ren has the effect of nourishing blood and calming nerves, regulating qi, and benefiting the heart and liver,” says Ann Wang, doctor of Chinese medicine, licensed acupuncturist, and member of Good Pharma’s advisory board. “The suan zao ren formula was recorded in the first herbal prescription for insomnia thousands of years ago and is still used today.”
Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.
What is the healthiest medicinal mushroom?
The healthiest medicinal mushroom depends on what benefits you’re looking to achieve. Reishi mushrooms can help ease stress and promote sleep, while lion’s mane can help improve cognition and calm anxiety. Cordyceps can help provide an energy boost and chaga mushrooms have antioxidant properties, which means they can help reduce inflammation.
Are there negative side effects to medicinal mushrooms?
Medicinal mushrooms typically have no side effects when taken in supplemental form, in moderation, and according to your product’s instructions. However, some studies have shown that reishi mushrooms can cause itching, rash, dry mouth, dizziness, nausea, and upset stomach.
To get more info on sleep-promoting ingredients, check out our article on the best herbs for sleep.