And when you hear the word "mushroom," you probably visualize something like this:
But the most common mushrooms that you and I see on a regular basis are not the ones we will be talking about today.
The mushrooms we are going to cover are a bit more exotic.
They look more like this:
A certain class of mushrooms are called "medicinal mushrooms" due to research that suggests certain compounds in these mushrooms may have anti-inflammatory and health improving properties.
Man has been using mushrooms for centuries to remedy various illnesses and maladies. They have been chopped, ground, chewed, boiled, brewed into tea, and mixed into food to cure everything from the common cold to fatigue.
Mushrooms are packed with something called beta-glucans, which research suggests may inhibit the growth of certain cancer cells. In addition to beta-glucans in medicinal mushrooms, they also contain many other beneficial compounds, including essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and protein.
Some research suggests that mushrooms are probiotic—which help the body to strengthen the immune system and fight off illness.
Here are some types of mushrooms, their uses and benefits, and how you can add them to your diet.
The next time you pass a birch tree, take a closer look to see if there are any dark masses growing on the trunk. This might be chaga.
Chaga doesn't look like your typical mushroom with the cap and stem. It actually has the appearance of burnt charcoal and is even classified as a canker disease on birch trees.
(Some may argue they aren't actually mushrooms at all.)
Chaga naturally grows in birch forests in the northern areas of the United States, Alaska, in the North Carolina mountains, and in Canada. Chaga is quite abundant in Russia, Korea and China.
Chaga lives off birch trees by drawing on precursor compounds such as triterpenoid botulin and turning them into inotodiol, trametenolic acid, and betulinic acid, which can be helpful to humans. Chaga can also grow on trees other than birch.
Wild Shroom #2 is a Wild harvested Birch Chaga—this means that the chaga is cultivated by hand after it is found in the wild growing on trees in their natural habitat.
Chaga has traditionally been used as a folk remedy for stomach illnesses and to boost immunity in Russia and other North European countries for centuries. Limited studies show possibility of chaga killing certain cancer cells while stimulating the immune system.
Studies by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center also revealed that chaga can inhibit the progression of inflammation and activate some types of immune cells.
Chaga is not a fungi you can eat in its raw form because it not palatable nor is it bioavailable to your body (it won't absorb nutrients). This is why water-extracted chaga powder extract is the most common way chaga is consumed.
You can also make a kind of chaga tea, similar to making a bone broth. The only problem with this method is the density of the extracted nutrients are not usually abundant enough to provide any significant metabolic benefit.
This is why the best way, in our opinion, is to use a mushroom extract that is extracted using an ample amount of material and then reduced down to a concentrated powder. (Like our Wild Shroom line.)
With this powder, you can make a hot cocoa-like beverage or—the best way, methinks—you can add it to your coffee, smoothies and shakes.
In 1993, a group of Chinese runners broke nine world records in the World Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Germany.
How did they pull this off?
Their coach said they regularly drank a cordyceps-based tonic.
This single promotion of this super-shroom has helped bring cordyceps into the limelight as a medicinal mushroom worth considering.
Of course, Cordyceps has also long been used in traditional Chinese and Buddhist medicine. Cordyceps species are particularly abundant and diverse in humid temperate and tropical forests including areas in Nepal, China, Japan, Bhutan, Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand
Before modern cultivation of this strain came along, cordyceps reproduced itself using insects. Cordyceps fungus would attack a host, the mycelium would then replace the host tissue. Some cordyceps species are able to affect the behavior of their insect host, causing them to seek out areas of optimal temperature and humidity, or attaching themselves to plants to ensure nutrients.
After the insect dies, the spores sprout from the body of the insect and these develop into the mushroom we know as cordyceps.
You may be glad to know that modern science has allowed the cultivation of cordyceps without the need to sacrifice any caterpillars.
What insect do these remind you of?
Cordyceps mushrooms were traditionally used for combating fatigue and general weakness among ancient Chinese and Tibetans. After ingestion, cordyceps invigorates the kidneys and protects the lungs. It doesn’t hurt that the mushroom has an acceptable sweet and acrid taste.
Since 1993 it has also become a top-selling health supplement for athletes.
Aside from improving respiratory functions, cordyceps is also credited with improving sexual functions. However, there have yet to be definitive clinical trials to prove this claim.
Toxicology-wise, cordyceps is safe for humans to consume directly. However, the most popular way to consume cordyceps is by preparing a decoction. When used as a tonic in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the fruit bodies are often cooked into a chicken broth.
Like Chaga, we recommend consuming it in a powdered extract form and then added to smoothies, shakes, coffee or as a hot tea beverage.
So-called because it looks like the tail of a turkey, coriolus versicolor has been used by humans as early as the 15th century, particularly the Chinese during the Ming Dynasty.
Unlike other types of mushrooms that require certain temperatures or certain types of trees to thrive, coriolus grows abundantly on dead and fallen trees, branches, and stumps. In fact they are one of the most common mushrooms found today.
Not like shiitake mushrooms that have gills underneath the top, coriolus contain tiny pores that release spores, making them a part of the polypore family.
Coriolus is a powerful immunomodulator, which means it has been shown to modulate the immune system, helping fight infections, illness and diseases. In particular the mushroom has long been known to fight off any infection, including those associated with the common cold or flu.
Coriolus was also credited with helping a woman beat breast cancer. According to a study published in Global Advances in Health and Medicine, an 83-year-old woman who was diagnosed with advanced, metastatic inflammatory breast cancer was cured after using the mushroom throughout her chemotherapy. The mushroom has also been credited with helping other patients cope with chemotherapy. Since chemotherapy suppresses the immune system, coriolus can build it up for them. (Research.)
According to another study, coriolus may also help heal infections such as the human papillomavirus. There was a study conducted on 61 patients with gum disease testing positive for HPV, 88 percent of the 41 patients who received both coriolus and reishi mushrooms showed positive results after only two months of treatment. (Research.)
The mushroom is also said to help in digestion. Coriolus has prebiotics that help the good bacteria in your body process food more efficiently.
Turkey tail mushroom shows some promise in limited studies with cancer patients, but more research is needed.
The most common way to prepare coriolus is to boil it into a tea.
Chop the mushroom into small pieces and add to a pot of water.
Bring the water to a boil, then simmer for an hour. Strain the mixture through a colander.
Add half a teaspoon of Wild Turmeric, some honey, and stir.
If you want more variety to the tea, you can add almond or coconut milk, cinnamon, or ginger.
Option #2: Wild Shroom #3 Turkey Tail Mushroom Extract - Add to smoothies, Shakes, Coffee, Cocoa.
The Lion’s Mane gets its name from it’s mane-like appearance. Unlike your typical-looking mushroom, lion’s mane has no cap or stem, rather it has the appearance of long spines that hang out like a mane of hair.
Lion’s mane is a seasonal mushroom; they can only be found in late summer to fall on dead or dying hardwood trees, especially oak and beech. They grow in North America, China, Japan, and Europe.
Even if you know where and when to go look for them, it’s not really a guarantee you will find them; this is a rare species of mushroom that is hard to find. Here’s a helpful tip if you decide to ever hunt for them: They prefer to be as high as possible, so lookup when eyeing decaying or dead trees to increase your chances of spotting them.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has long prescribed this mushroom for stomach problems and to boost the immune system.
Modern research suggests that this mushroom has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and may support the immune system against attack. (Study)
Other research suggests that the mushroom may have some effect on nerve growth and may even be used to treat dementia, Alzheimer's disease, muscular dystrophy, senility, Parkinson's Disease, and other neurological conditions. (Study)
Lion’s mane has been making a hit in the nootropics space due to its potent effects on the brain. Lion’s mane is said to increase the amount of NGF in the brain, a crucial protein for nerve cell function. (Study)
The good thing about this mushroom is that it can be prepared many ways. The mushroom is considered by some a gourmet edible mushroom with a slightly chewy texture and a taste slightly reminiscent of cooked lobster or shrimp.
Tough and watery by nature, the trick in preparing this mushroom is to cook it slowly and over a long period of time. It’s not recommended to add spices until the very end of the process because the mushroom is expected to give off a lot of water while cooking.
If you are looking to take Lion’s Mane for the health benefits, we recommend Wild Shroom #4 - Lion’s Mane Extract.
Reishi mushroom is common in central Maine and elsewhere in the northeast of the US. It grows on dead or dying eastern hemlock, a very common tree in that region. It is also found in China, where it has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine and is thought to confer longevity.
Its bright red colors makes it easy to spot, but this color will start to varnish as the mushroom matures. The color of the pores are white to light tan on the outside and often brown on the inside. Some reishi don’t have stems while some have stems that grow up to several inches long. The spores are brown and tend to cover the cap as the mushroom matures.
The mushroom contains protein-bound polysaccharides known to have medicinal properties.
Formal studies of the mushroom conducted in the 1970’s in China and Japan showed the mushroom strengthened immunity by activating immune cells. (Similar research: 1)
What made this mushroom unique from other medicinal mushrooms was the presence of secondary metabolites called triterpenoids, which are a phytochemical known to provide a host of health benefits.
Reishi is recommended as an analgesic, anti-allergy remedy, anti-inflammatory agent, antibacterial agent, and antioxidant. Reishi has also been linked with a lowering of blood pressure, enhancement of bone marrow function, and with promoting calm and muscle relaxation. (Source)
The best way to consume the reishi is as a tea. The tea is pleasant but bitter, so feel free to use flavors like honey, xylitol or other preferred sweetener to make it more enjoyable.
Wild Shroom #1 - Reishi Powder Extract is a hardwood cultivated Reishi powder.
Often called “Hen of the Wood” because their formation sometimes resembles a hen, the maitake mushroom has also been called ram’s head or sheep’s head mushroom.
The fungus is native to China, northeastern Japan, and North America (most prolifically in the northeastern regions, although it can also be found as far west as Idaho), where it is also called the signorina mushroom. The maitake is often easy to find because it is a perennial fungus that often grows in the same place for a number of years in succession.
It is widely eaten in Japan, and is becoming more popular in western cuisine. However, care should also be taken as it has been reported to cause allergic reactions in rare cases.
In Japan, maitake mushrooms can grow to more than 100 pounds, which is why it is also called the "King of Mushrooms.”
There’s a warning when it comes to gathering maitake; they look exactly like some other poisonous species of mushroom. So make sure you do proper research should you decide to take one of these chicken-like fungi home.
The Chinese and Japanese have long used maitake mushroom as medicine for various ailments like hay fever and chronic fatigue.
For modern illness, maitake is often used to treat inflammation and is thought to relieve side effects of chemotherapy. It is also used for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol treatments. (Research: 1)
Maitake mushroom were also found to help with weight loss or control, they also contain chemicals that may help fight tumors. (Research)
Studies have shown that maitake can lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, lower blood sugar levels, and reduce weight in rats; however, a definitive study has yet to be performed on humans. (Research)
This is another mushroom that’s great for eating. You can pull these apart and sauté them until some color on each side. They can also be grilled.
Add them to an omelette or brew them as a tea.
Shiitake mushrooms have been used medicinally by the Chinese for more than 6,000 years.
Shiitake used to be gathered in the wild, but after its medicinal properties were shown through research, farmers began to cultivate them as demand increased. China now yields around 80 percent of worldwide production of this mushroom, a distinction that used to belong to Japan.
Their rich flavor has made them famous among many American foodies and health enthusiasts. There are also now around 200 shiitake mushroom growers in the US.
The mushroom itself doesn’t really look special; the cap color is dark or light brown and there can be white spots on the edges and towards the center.
Studies show shiitake mushrooms can fight obesity through its natural dietary fiber, support immune function, reduce inflammation, and fight bacteria. (Research)
According to research, the mycochemicals in shiitake mushrooms may have a potential role in fighting inflammation. (Research)
The mushroom also supports cardiovascular health by interfering with the production of cholesterol in the liver and keeping cells from sticking to blood vessel walls to form plaque buildup. (Research)
Shiitake also boosts energy and brain functions by being a good source of B vitamins that help support adrenal function and turn nutrients from food into usable energy.
There are many ways to add whole shiitake mushrooms to your diet, with many recipes found with a quick Google search. Here’s a rough guide to culinary shiitake prep:
Wash them thoroughly but gently and make sure to remove any tough spots on the stems. Note that some dishes may require the removal of the entire stem. If the stems are tender, you don't have to cut them away. They can actually be used along with the caps for added flavor.
After washing, dry them by blotting them with a clean paper towel.
Cut the mushrooms down to the desired size. Some dishes require them whole, but those that feature them as a side dish usually require them to be sliced into pieces.
If you want to grill them, brush them with oil and put them on the grill for about 5 to 10 minutes. You can also sauté them with butter, salt and pepper for 4 to 5 minutes in a skillet.
If you want to roast them, you can do this with the mushroom sliced or whole. Baste them with oil and put them in the oven for about 15 minutes.
Another mushroom that’s named by its look. Oyster mushrooms—pleorotus ostreatus—look like oysters. Like oysters of the sea variety, they can be eaten raw or cooked into dishes.
This mushroom is widespread in many temperate and subtropical forests throughout the world, although it is absent from the Pacific Northwest of North America. The standard oyster mushroom can grow in many places, but some species like the branched oyster mushroom, can only grow on trees.
It was the Germans that first cultivated the mushroom to offset food shortages during World War I, now it is known commercially around the world as a gourmet mushroom.
Aside from culinary applications, this mushroom is also known for several health benefits, owing to its unique characteristic of having nitrogen. This mushroom is actually one of the few known carnivorous mushrooms out there. Its mycelia can kill and digest nematodes (worms), which is believed to be how the fungi gets nitrogen.
A study showed that consumption of oyster mushroom extracts lowered cholesterol levels in some patients. This was because oyster mushrooms produced the cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin. (Study)
The mushroom has also demonstrated immunological activity; one study credited this to the presence of statins. (Study)
To clean oyster mushrooms cut off the lower part of the stems (this applies to most variety of mushrooms) as it is bitter and usually too fibrous to chew and digest. If you have wild oyster mushrooms be sure to flush the spaces in the gills to clean out any unwanted debris or insects.
Gently press the mushrooms between paper or cloth towels to remove excess liquid.
Oyster mushrooms are excellent for stir-fried dishes since the cap is thin and cooks quickly. However, if you want to add it to a dish that requires a long cooking time, add these mushrooms only at the last stage of cooking.
To preserve oyster mushrooms, store in the freezer after briefly sautéing them in butter; oyster mushrooms dehydrate rapidly.
Polyporus mushrooms are family of fungi that typically have large golden brown shrooms that have a saddle-shaped body with large pores and a white underside. This is why it’s also commonly called The Dryad’s Saddle.
Polyporus mushrooms form around the roots of dead hardwoods mostly in May or June in the US. A dead tree lying on the ground is a good place to look, however it should be mentioned that they are occasionally also found on living hardwood trees.
Typically this mushroom can be found in abundance in many parts of Western Europe as well as the Rocky mountains of the US, and China.
The wetter the area, the better your chances of finding these mushrooms. The good news is that they will be found in the same places each year until the wood is consumed, so if you find a good clump of them in one place one year, be sure to check the same spot again next year.
Polyporus fungi have traditionally been used in Chinese Medicine for thousands of years to treat and prevent many illnesses owing to its ability to boost the immune system.
It has also been used to treat diarrhea as it absorbs excessive moisture accumulating in the stomach, resulting in the hardening of the stool. (Research)
It is also used as a diuretic; polyporus is used to get rid of the toxins causing infections in the urinary tract. This way it is also good for the kidneys. (Research)
Some herbalists recommend polyporus for maintaining overall joint health. It is also known to provide relief from edema by allowing the excess water to be flushed out through the urine. (Source)
Slice them into thin strips and cook them fast, but be warned that overcooking will cause them to become tough.
Sautéing or pan frying is a good way to prepare it too.
Like other wild mushrooms, this one can give off an attractive aroma, but this smell also disappears within hours after it is picked.
Drying them can also turn them into white and crunchy chips that are edible sprinkled with a bit of Wild Salt. This process can also retain some of the smell they have as unpicked mushrooms.
They can also be made into a powder for brewing tea.