Magic Mushrooms...Not that kind. But just as magic for the body.
After searching far and wide and digging into tons of research I thought I would break down the best mushrooms and adaptogens to take. What the benefits are of incorporating them into your daily routine and the improvements made to overall health physically and mentally. These are the best and most useful mycelium I have found over the years to aid me with everything I require in performance boosting physically and mentally.
Mushrooms make up nearly 15% of the entire Biomass of the earth which is really astonishing and leaves me with more questions than answers into what role they actually play in terms of how it interacts with the earth. Think of it this way in the human body the neurons and nervous system makes up around the same percentage. I digress, but I'll leave you with that thought!
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First up is Chaga - Inonotus Obliquus
Chaga’s uses in folk remedies range far and wide. Among them include: immunomodulating powers, fighting free radicals, cleansing the liver, treating psoriasis, assisting with digestive issues; has anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-parasitic properties; is regenerative to organs and glands; pain relief (especially rheumatic), gastric issues, and stomach ulcers — and even more! In Norwegian, chaga is kreftkjuke, which translates to “cancer fungus.”
Cordyceps - Ophiocordyceps sinensis
This fascinating species is actually a genus of parasitic fungi that grows on the larvae of insects. It includes over 400 different species which are found all over the world.Cordyceps typically infect other insects and arthropods.
When the Cordyceps spores land on the insect, the spore will germinate.Next, hyphae will begin to grow inside the insect and turn into mycelium which continues to consume the insect from the inside.When the insect is fully consumed and the environmental conditions are correct, cordyceps will be produced from the insect’s head. Here’s a picture of Cordyceps infecting ants:
1. It boosts exercise performance
According to this study, the polysaccharides from Cordyceps has an anti-fatigue effect.In another research, the effectiveness of the cultures Cordyceps Sinensis powder during an exhaustive running of human was tested.For the process, the supplements were given to 36 male sedentary subjects over a period of 2 weeks. During the test, bio-signals were measured.Results show that there is a significant difference between the placebo group. The participants who took Cordyceps supplements appears to have an augmentation of the energy generation and anti-fatigue ability.
2. It has anti-aging properties
Cordyceps has a high antioxidant content. According to research, their antioxidant content is the reason for its anti-aging potential.Antioxidants are the ones which fight cell damage by neutralizing free radicals. These radicals contribute to disease and aging so it is good news that Cordyceps contains a lot of these precious molecules.This study was done on mice aged by d-galactose and castrated rats to analyze the anti-anti-aging effect of Cordyceps. Results show an improved brain function and sexual function which confirms its anti-aging benefits.
3. It can prolong life
Another study was published which state that mice which were given Cordyceps lived several months longer compared to those given with placebo.Furthermore, a study made on fruit flies shows that Cordyceps Sinensis prolonged their lifespan by inhibiting oxidative stress.
4. It inhibits the growth of tumors
A study made on lung cancer found that Cordyceps has numerous potential medicinal properties including antitumor activity.Researchers found that Cordyceps extract has tumor cell growth inhibitory activity in several human tumor cell lines.Additionally, studies in mice show that the extract has anti-tumor effects on lymphoma, melanoma and lung cancer.Another interesting finding reveals that it can also reverse the side effects associated with many forms of cancer therapy such as leukopenia. This refers to a condition where the number of white blood cells (leukocytes) decreases. As such, it results in the lowering the body’s defenses and increasing the risk of infection.
5. It helps manage type 2 diabetes
Diabetes is a condition in which the body has a problem in producing or responding to the hormone insulin. People with diabetes are required to make sure their blood sugar levels are well controlled.Cordyceps contains a special type of sugar by mimicking the action of insulin. A study shows that the fruiting body, not carcass, of Cordyceps, has an anti-hyperglycemic effect on the subjects.Another study found that it can also improve the conditions of people with chronic kidney disease, a common complication of diabetes. The research concluded that the fruiting body of Cordyceps has the potential to be the functional food for diabetes.
6. It is good for the heart
According to this research, Cordyceps has been approved by the State Food and Drug Administration of China since 2002 because of its outstanding curative effects.A study made on rats found that it reduced heart injuries in rats chronic kidney disease. Instead of getting worse, heart failure was avoided.This is due to adenosine content of Cordyceps. One study shows that it has protective effects from heart diseases.
Shiitake - Lentinula edodes
Shiitake mushrooms grow naturally throughout East Asia in countries like China, Korea, Thailand, Japan, and Vietnam.
Travel to one of these places and you’ll find shiitakes as a staple ingredient in pho, miso soup, and vegetarian stir-fries.Traditional Chinese and Japanese medicines have taken advantage of the health benefits of shiitake for centuries as a remedy for reducing mucous and supporting blood flow.
Although most shiitake mushrooms are still grown in Japan, many farms large and small grow Shiitake throughout North America.In their natural habitat, you may find shiitakes growing on fallen hardwood trees.
Nutritional Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms
Most of the health benefits of shiitake mushrooms come from their extensive nutritional profile.
Since they’re low in calories and contain similar amino acids to red meat, shiitakes make an excellent substitute for meat – especially when combined with other veggie protein sources.
In addition to fiber, shiitake mushrooms provide nice doses of vital minerals that aren’t easy to find in other food sources. Four shiitake mushrooms will give you 39% of your daily recommended amount of copper, 33% of your recommended B5, and 10% of your suggested selenium.
If shiitake mushrooms are grown under special UV lights, they’ll also provide a nice dose of vitamin D – which is virtually impossible to find in food sources.
To top it off, shiitakes also contain special compounds studied for their role in supporting the immune system and defending against cancer: lipids, sterols, terpenoids, and polysaccharides.
Top 7 Shiitake Benefits
1. Activates the Immune System
When it comes to activating the immune system, the modest shiitake mushroom is pretty powerful. That’s why folks with autoimmune disorders might want to be careful when consuming shiitakes: they can cause symptoms to flare up.
Research shows that the polysaccharides in shiitake may support the immune system to help it fend off disease and illness.
Not only that, but much of the immune-boosting support in shiitakes comes from their nice dose of zinc. Zinc helps the body fight infections and oxidative stress while warding away age-related diseases.
2. Supports Heart Health
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 30% of british residents suffer from high blood pressure. Chronic high blood pressure is dangerous because it can lead to stroke, heart attacks, and even aneurysms.
Studies done on rats show significant promise for using shiitake mushroom to reduce blood pressure. Rats who consumed 5% shiitake powder with water for nine weeks displayed lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
3. Fights Cancerous Cells
Studies show that the polysaccharides in shiitake mushrooms have an anti-cancer effect. Their activation of the immune system helps fight cancerous cells, in particular.
Shiitake mushrooms also contain a compound called lentinan. Lentinan can slow down the growth of leukemia cells and stop them from spreading. Doctors in China and Japan prescribe injectable lentinan as part of a broader cancer treatment to boost the immune system in patients with stomach cancer.
4. Provides Natural Energy
Several health benefits of shiitake mushrooms stem from their hefty dose of B vitamins. Vitamin B3, otherwise known as niacin, plays a crucial role in supporting energy production and overall wellbeing.
Without niacin, your body couldn’t convert food into enough energy to make it through the day. This B vitamin also supports healthy cell growth and turnover.
Every cell in your body requires niacin and since it’s water soluble, your cells don’t store it to use later. That’s why it’s so important to consume enough niacin on a daily basis.
5. Supports Healthy Skin and Hair
You’ve probably seen all the Pantene hair commercials touting the benefits of vitamin B5, also known as pantothenic acid. Like niacin, every cell in the body needs B5 to process protein and carbohydrates into usable energy.
B5 also plays an important role in supporting hair and skin health. Although consuming B5 or applying it to the scalp won’t make hair start growing again, it can stop hair from thinning.
6. Decreases Inflammation
Inflammation causes problems across all parts of the body. Acne, joint pain, depression, weight gain, anxiety, fatigue, and gut problems are all linked with chronic inflammation.
High-fat, high-sugar, high-sodium, and heavily processed foods all contribute to widespread chronic inflammation but anti-inflammatory fruits and veggies can help your body fight back.
Research shows that the compounds in shiitake mushrooms can reduce inflammation. Some studies suggest that shiitake mushrooms fight inflammation by supporting the immune system and the body’s response to inflammation.
7. Lowers Cholesterol
The special substances in shiitake mushrooms – polysaccharides, lipids, sterols, and terpenoids – are all believed to give the medicinal mushroom its power to lower cholesterol.
Not only that, but shiitake mushrooms also contain two other special enzymes called eritadenine and beta-glucans. Beta-glucans are a special fiber known to lower cholesterol. Eritadenine acts on a specific enzyme responsible for producing cholesterol by slowing it down.
Studies have looked at shiitake mushrooms for their ability to fight cholesterol in rats. Researchers found that rats who consumed shiitake mushroom daily had less fat in their livers and lower cholesterol levels overall.
Lions Mane - Hericium erinaceus
Most of us would love to be smarter, happier and healthier. And while there are many things needed to accomplish that, the research emerging around the highly medicinal Lion’s Mane mushroom is showing that it actually could be a big part of the puzzle. Revered in many ancient cultures and used medicinally for thousands of years, this powerhouse fungi can do everything from protect your brain against cognitive decline, boost memory, support immunity, reduce anxiety, boost mood and enhance a sense of focus throughout your day, among many other things.
Lion’s Mane mushroom grows abundantly throughout North America, Europe and Asia. While native to all four continents, it has been only recently used amongst Western culture, although its value has been widely known and understood throughout Asia in regions like China and Japan for millennia. The mushroom physically looks like the mane of lion—long, white and shaggy—with rich tentacle-like dreadlocks of mushroom wisdom bursting out from all sides. It resembles spongy neuronal tissue, just like that of the brain (often in nature plants very conveniently provide visual cues to the things they are good for). It generally grows on harder surfaces rich in plant cellulose, namely trees in wooded areas.
Lion’s Mane benefits have been studied fairly extensively in animal models and more recently in clinical trials with humans. While Lion’s Mane has revealed itself as a solution for various health concerns, this mushroom has rapidly grown a reputation for its brain-health benefits and mood- and cognitive-boosting properties. While there are more studies needed in humans to truly establish this as one of the great medicinal herbs of all time, there has been fairly extensive research in animal models that are showing some promising results. However, because of its remarkable safety, its use has grown widely in recent years amongst biohackers and wellness seekers, with rave reviews across the board and more research is to be published.
1. Protects and Regenerates the Brain and Nervous System
Lion’s Mane is truly one of a kind. There is no other herb or mushroom that’s been found in nature that seems to have the same effect on stimulating the production of nerve growth factor and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). These are two remarkable compounds that essentially stimulate the growth of new nerve tissues and brain cells. Harvard psychiatrist John Ratey describes BDNF as “Miracle-Gro for your brain.” BDNF is a powerful protein that essentially stimulates the production of new brain cells and strengthens existing ones. More specifically, when your body releases BDNF, it flips the switch on a series of genes that grow brand new brain cells and pathways. High levels of BDNF make you learn faster, remember better, age slower and rapidly rewire your brain.
As if that wasn’t enough, BDNF also increases your brain’s neuroplasticity. When your brain cells get damaged or if you are facing a stressful situation, BDNF protects them and helps them come back even stronger. It causes your neural pathways to become more flexible instead of shutting down.
And that’s just BDNF. This mushroom is also the closest thing that’s been found in nature to a solution to regenerate nerve cell functioning via its stimulating effects on the production of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). NGF is similar to BDNF, but it works throughout your nervous system—not just in the brain. It has been shown to repair damaged nerve tissue, cause regeneration of nerve fibers and also improve the communication between neurons and axons. It is currently being tested as an experimental treatment for depression, Alzheimer’s, Multiple sclerosis and other illnesses resulting from nervous system degeneration. These compounds, among others, are also thought to help protect the brain against environmental toxins and defend against the natural effects of aging.
2. Improves Cognitive Functioning, Memory and Ability to Focus
If you’re looking for natural, non-toxin brain steroids, then you need look no further than our fungal friend Lion’s Mane. Mounting evidence points to this mushroom as helping to support cognitive functioning, boost mental focus and improve memory. Research in humans found positive results on mental functioning in the elderly, and the mushroom’s mood-boosting properties (more on that soon) help to promote a focused, calm and peaceful state of mind. Animal models show reduction in beta-amyloid plaque, a major bio-indicator that this mushroom can help to restore brain health; and there is also evidence that Lion’s Mane interacts with parts of the brain’s reward circuitry, specifically kappa-opioid receptors in the brain, that are related to learning and memory. The biologically active compounds in Lion’s Mane are thought to easily cross the blood-brain barrier for optimal neural-activity.
It’s important to understand too that memory is innately tied to how neurons and nerves function in the brain. If Lion’s Mane has the potential to protect these through its stimulation of NGF and BDNF, then it can improve a lot of different functions, memory included. Early research is indicating this is possible and happening to varying degrees—in one study where test subjects were given extracts of Lion’s Mane mushroom, they demonstrated significant improvements in short-term memory.
3. Improves Mood and Helps Relieve Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression
A few recent studies seem to indicate a positive, mood-boosting effect from Lion’s Mane. Recently, a study conducted on Japanese menopausal women (they gave them either Lion’s Mane cookies or the control placebo) found positive results in supporting emotional well-being and alleviating stress. Other compounds such as Amycenone (a patented Lion’s Mane extract) have been tested in mice and have been found in animal models to help reduce depression and anxiety. Additional studies in mice have also shown that the mushroom boosts levels of acetylcholine, an essential neurotransmitter that’s important for mood and mental functioning.
Lion’s Mane mushroom benefits may also help to alleviate anxiety and depression through its powerful effects on reducing inflammation. A growing body of research is showing clear links between mental illness and brain inflammation, and Lion’s Mane has been shown to reduce the production of inflammatory proteins.
And, finally, preliminary studies on mice are showing that it may achieve its effects on the mood front by upregulating neurogenesis in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the area of the brain that neuroscientists believe to be responsible for regulating things like emotional stability and memory.
Turkey Tail -Trametes versicolor
Turkey Tail is a one of the most studied, the most storied, and the most ancient of all the medicinal mushrooms.It’s also the one you’re most likely to see on a short walk through your local wooded area.And even though the mushroom itself is quite common, the benefits and amazing medicinal properties of this mushroom are anything but common.When it comes to medicinal mushrooms, Turkey Tail is in a league of its own.
Turkey Tail has a long history of use, and has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. It became more popular recently after a 2011 Ted Talk by famed mycologist Paul Stamets, where he tells the story of his mother’s battle with cancer and the amazing powers of Turkey Tail. Check it out, it’s definitely worth a watch.
Ashwagandha root -Withania somnifera
Many of its health benefits live up to this centuries-old reputation, but there is a catch here. In order for you to reap the health benefits of ashwagandha, like reduced cortisol levels and improved heart health, you need to be absorbing it properly. Ashwagandha gets its potent medicinal power from withanolides, naturally occurring steroidal lactones that are found in the root, but they need to be absorbed and pass through the intestinal wall to confer their benefits. This means taking on an empty stomach for best results.
Top 3 Benefits
1.Reduce blood sugar
Powder made from ashwagandha root was able to lower blood sugar a similar amount as an oral diabetes medication in patients with type 2 diabetes, one very small study found. Another also found effects on blood sugar levels, noting significant differences in fasting blood glucose between patients taking high-dose ashwagandha and those given a placebo. The second found that the effects were dose-dependent: the larger the dose of the adaptogenic root, the larger the reduction in blood sugar levels. Researchers think this is because of how it acts on cortisol, which plays a role in regulating blood sugar.
2.Boost testosterone and improve fertility in men
Sperm count and motility increased in infertile men treated with ashwagandha powder in one study that included 75 fertile and 75 infertile men, and their oxidative stress, an imbalance between damaging free radicals and health-boosting antioxidants in the body, also decreased. Subjects’ testosterone levels also increased. But another small study is especially promising for men struggling with infertility. Men given ashwagandha for stress saw decreased stress levels, increased antioxidants in the blood, and improved sperm quality. In fact, by the end of the study, the partners of 14% of the men had become pregnant.
3.May increase muscle mass and strength
One of the longest-recognized effects of ashwagandha is its ability to increase strength and energy. In fact, the word ashwagandha is Sanskrit for “smell of the horse,” and references the herb’s unique smell as well as its ability to increase strength. (Don’t worry, you can side-step the smell issue by opting for capsules over loose powder.) Participants in one study designed to assess tolerability of the Ayurvedic herb showed positive composition and strength changes over 30 days. Enough to show it was worth devoting a study solely to how ashwagandha could help in these areas.
Although it was a small study, another showed that supplementing with ashwagandha may prove beneficial to those on a weight lifting regimen. At the end of the 8 week study, participants taking the supplement had increased their bench press by 176% more than those taking the placebo. Their strength gains on leg extension also outpaced their placebo-taking counterparts and they gained significantly more muscle size and lost more body fat.
If you managed to make it this far! Well done I nearly gave up on several occasions myself. It must have been the mushroom supplements keeping me going to the end! ;)
The benefits as you can see are astonishing and as the research grows who knows what might be uncovered in the future! The power of the mushroom is unprecedented.
To help support me and TAF if you are interested in purchasing these supplements for yourself follow the links to timehealth throughout the article and use code TAFit15 for 15% off at checkout
have a great week and stay healthy.