Types of Mushroom and Their Benefits

We have prepared a definite guide about the different types of healthy mushrooms and their benefits.

Let's dig in...

What are Mushrooms?

A mushroom is the fleshy, fruiting, spore-bearing body of a fungus, that usually grows above ground, on soil, or on its own food source.

Mushrooms typically have the form of a dome-like cap on a stem or stalk, with gills under the cap. The gills produce tiny spores that help the fungus proliferation.

Mushroom can also be used to describe the fruiting fleshy bodies of some Ascomycota (a phylum of fungi),  a variety of different gilled fungi, without or with stems/stalks. 

Not all mushrooms are safe to eat. In fact, quite a number of species are poisonous. These mushrooms are what we commonly refer to as "toadstools". Poisonous mushrooms are almost indistinguishable from the edible varieties so it is considered extremely risky to gather them in the wild. 

The word "mushroom" may be derived from the Old French word mousseron meaning moss.

Mushrooms as a Food Source

Mushroom on pizza used a food.

Mushrooms have been eaten as food since our earliest written history; the ancient Greeks believed that eating mushrooms granted more strength for their soldiers, and the Romans called mushroom "Food of the Gods". For many centuries now, Asian cultures have used mushrooms as a health food, and have called them the "elixir of life".

Today, mushrooms are very popular throughout the world and are considered a superfood because they provide important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, niacin, vitamin D, zinc, copper, potassium, phosphorus, protein, and fiber while being low in calories, carbohydrates, fat (cholesterol-free), and sodium.

They are also a great meat alternative; 1 cup of raw brown mushrooms is only 19 calories and contains 3.7 grams of carbohydrates,  2.2 grams protein, and only 0.1 grams of fat.

The Health Benefits of Mushrooms

variety of mushroom

Mushrooms have a very long history of being used in herbal medicine. In Asia, many types of mushrooms have been used to help boost the immune system to fight disease, infections, and other illnesses.

Today, preventive and alternative medicine consider mushrooms beneficial for promoting longevity, increasing resistance to disease, aiding digestion, promoting balanced blood sugar, supporting fertility, maintenance of healthy body weight, etc.

Let's look at some of the different types of mushrooms and their benefits.

Table of Mushrooms

  • Turkey Tail
  • Maitake
  • Shiitake
  • Cordyceps
  • Snow Fungus
  • Lion's Mane
  • Reishi
  • Chaga
  • Turkey Tail

     

    Turkey tail brownish mushroom.

    Turkey Tail Mushroom (Trametes Versicolor) is a multicolored fungus that grows in wooded areas on the stumps of trees and on fallen trees. Because of their fruiting body's fan-link shape and many colors - usually red, brown, blue, and green, they can look similar to a turkey's tail.

    They grow year-round in temperate forests in many parts of the world and are very commonly found in the woods of North America and Canadian woodlands.

    For centuries, people have used Turkey Tail mushrooms as an herbal health supplement. 

    Turkey Tail Mushroom Benefits

    Turkey Tail is one of the medicinal mushrooms that have a number of health benefits.

    Turkey Tail mushrooms are a great source of antioxidants, such as flavonoids and phenols.

    Here are just some of the benefits of Turkey Tail mushrooms:

    Immunity Support

    Studies done on Turkey Tail mushrooms (Trametes Versicolor), taken on various forms such as whole food, tea, powder, or capsules, have shown that it has significant immunity-boosting benefits. It seems that Turkey Tail mushrooms help to stimulate and activate immune cells to help strengthen and increase our body's immune response.

    A recent study concluded "The mycelium of the Trametes Versicolor (Turkey tail) mushroom and its fermented substrate each show potent and complementary immune-activating properties". Helps Improve Gut Health. Turkey Tail mushrooms contain prebiotics that helps improve your balance of intestinal microbiomes by increasing the "good" bacteria and suppressing the "bad" bacteria, which is very important to overall health and wellness.

    One study showed that the polysaccharopeptide contained in Turkey Tail mushrooms "acts as a prebiotic to modulate human intestinal microbiome composition".

    Helps Fight Obesity

    There is even some research that the (PBG) protein-bound beta-glucan contained in Turkey Tail mushrooms can help prevent obesity.

    Studies found that PBG seems to help balance intestinal bacteria, which can help fight obesity. Also, a study on mice concluded that PBG may help prevent weight gain in subjects that consumed a diet high in fat.

    Maitake 

    Maitake mushroom

    Maitake (Grifola frondosa), also called hen-of-the-woods, sheep's head, and ram's head, are polypore mushrooms (meaning instead of gills underneath they instead release their spores through their many small pores).

    Maitake mushrooms are usually tan or brown and are found in Japan, China, Europe, and North America and grow in groups on the bottom of trees such as Elm, Maple, and  Oak.

    In Japanese "Maitake' means dancing mushroom. 

    The Maitake mushroom has been used for many generations as a health stimulator in Asian countries such as Japan, China, and Korea. They have been so valuable at times that they were said to be worth their weight in silver. The lucky person to find them growing wild in the mountains would have danced for joy, hence the name.

    Maitake Mushroom Benefits

    The Maitake mushroom is a type of adaptogen. Adaptogens assist the body in fighting against any type of mental or physical stress. They also work to regulate systems of the body that have become unbalanced. While this mushroom can be used in recipes for taste alone, it's considered to be a medicinal mushroom.

    Although Maitake mushroom has been used in Japan and China for thousands of years, it has only gained popularity in the United States over the last twenty years. People are praising this mushroom for its promises of health, vitality, and longevity. 

    The benefits of Maitake extract are very exciting.

    Promotes Reduced Blood Pressure

    Maitake may help lower blood pressure, according to some animal-based studies. For example, a study from 2010  concluded that Maitake can help combat high blood pressure, as helping curb inflammation and enhanced insulin sensitivity.

    Promotes Balanced Blood Sugar

    Some animal research suggests that Maitake may help to reduce blood sugar levels. In a 2015 study, Maitake was found to have a positive effect on type 2 diabetes through improved insulin sensitivity.

    Supports Lower Cholesterol Levels

    A study done in 2013 showed that Maitake extract helped lower cholesterol levels in mice. As well as helping to increase fatty acids that help provide the body energy. The researchers theorized that because of this Maitake may be able to support the health of arteries.

    Shiitake


    Shiitake mushrooms with white background.

    The Shiitake (Lentinus edodes), also known as "oakwood mushroom", "golden oak mushroom", "black mushroom", "black forest mushroom" and "sawtooth oak mushroom", a meaty, large, dark brown to a black mushroom that grows on decaying wood of trees in moist and warm climates.  They were originally discovered in the mountain regions of Asia.

    Shiitakes are edible mushrooms frequently used in Japanese and Chinese cuisine. They are also considered medicinal mushrooms in Chinese herbalism even by traditional medicine parishioners in Japan, Korea, and Eastern Russia.

    Shiitake is derived from the Japanese words "take" (meaning mushroom) and "shii" (meaning tree).

    Shiitake Mushroom Benefits

    Shiitake mushrooms have powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal effects as well as other health benefits. Below are some of the benefits of the Shiitake mushroom.

    Help Support the Immune System

    The nutrients and enzymes provided by Shiitake mushrooms seem to have the ability to help strengthen your immune system. 

    A four-week study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, tested if Shiitake mushrooms could help improve human function on healthy men and women. The results suggested that Shiitake can help improve cell immune function and strengthen gut immunity.

    Supports Cardiovascular Health

    Shiitake mushrooms contain Eritadenine, Sterol, and Beta-glucan compounds that can help lower cholesterol production in the liver. They also contain phytonutrients that can help keep plaque from sticking to the walls of blood vessels, this improves circulation and maintains a healthy level of blood pressure.

    A study done on mice who were fed a diet high in fat showed the group that was given Shiitake, had less fat in their livers, less plaque on artery walls, and cholesterol levels lower overall when compared to the group that wasn't given the mushrooms. 

    Cordyceps

     

    Cordyceps mushrooms - orange mushroom

    Cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps Sinensis) is a medicinal mushroom that has a long, brown to orangish-brown, finger-shaped body. 

    Cordyceps generally grow in humid climates and tropical forests most commonly found in China, Japan, Nepal, Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. 

    Cordyceps is derived from Greek "kordyle" (meaning club) and from Latin "-ceps" (meaning head).

    Cordyceps Mushroom Benefits

    The benefits of Cordyceps mushrooms have long been studied in China. 

    There are many Cordyceps benefits:

    Boosting the Immune System

    Cordyceps is said to give an amazing boost for the immune system and helps the body to fight off illness and disease.

    The immune system is boosted by its use. It stimulates the T-cells which are the cells that naturally defend the body against any bacteria and viruses.

    Fights Allergies and Asthma

    Studies done regarding respiratory systems showed that the fungus improves, coughs, shortness of breath, and sleep. Those with more severe lung conditions benefited as well, with improved lung function and more energy. It also fights asthma and chronic bronchitis. The walls of the bronchial airways become relaxed as it is a natural anti-inflammatory.

    Many athletes say that Cordyceps helps to improve their sports performance. It has been observed in many trials that athletes who took Cordyceps actually preformed better than those that didn't. Though this has not been scientifically proven, many athletes think that trials are enough for them to begin ingesting the fungus. The mushroom also has antioxidant properties that help enhance the body's entire well-being and health.

    Promotes Balanced Hormone Levels

    It's also said to enhance sexual drive by helping produce more sex hormones. For women, it may help with infertility. 

    There are ongoing researches about how it may help in more ways. 

    Snow Fungus

     Snow fungus.

     

    Snow Fungus (Tremella fuciformis), also known as snow ear fungus, silver ear fungus, white wood ear,  white tremella mushroom, and white jelly mushroom, is a fungus belonging to the mushroom family, that has frond-like white,  fruiting bodies. It is commonly found growing on the dead branches and fallen branches of broad-leaf trees, especially in the tropics.

    Snow Fungus is commercially cultivated and is used in stir fry, soups, and vegetarian cuisine as well as in Chinese medicine.

    Snow Fungus Mushroom Benefits

    Snow Fungus has been used for its anti-oxidative, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, and healing health benefits.

    Some of the other benefits of Snow Fungus include:

    Promotes Skin Health

    Snow Fungus is high in polysaccharides which can help enhance skin hydration. It is found to have antioxidant and anti-aging effects that help to prevent free radical cellular damage.

    Boosts Energy and Brain Function

    Snow Fungus has been used as an age-old herbal remedy to support energy levels. 

    It is also used to enhance cognition, promoting healthy brain function. A Mycobiology study published in 2007 found that Snow Fungus may have neurotrophic and neuroprotective effects.

    Lion's Mane

     

    Lion's mane mushroom.

    Lion's Mane (Hericium Erinaceus), also known as bearded tooth mushroom,  monkey head mushroom, bearded hedgehog mushroom, satyr's beard, bearded tooth fungus, and pom-pom mushroom, is an edible and medicinal mushroom.

    Lion's Mane grows in North America, Europe, and Asia. They are white, globe-shaped with long, shaggy spines.

    Lion's Mane Mushroom Benefits

    People who eat Lion's Mane mushrooms or take Lion's Mane supplements say they offer many health benefits, including reduced inflammation and improved cardiovascular and heart health, enhanced cognitive function, and more.

    Lion's Mane may also help with some of the following:

    Aids in Digestive health

    The anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects of Lion's Mane can help support digestive health. Lion's Mane may also help boost intestinal immune function while encouraging the growth of good gut bacteria and prevent the growth of bad gut bacteria such as H. pylori.

    Enhanced Brain Function and Improved Mood

    Lion's Mane may also enhance brain function, boost memory and concentration as well as improve mood.

    A clinical study done on Lion's Mane showed enhanced cognitive function, including improved recall.

    Another four-week study using Lion's Mane versus placebo found that the Lion's Mane group had better mood and significantly less irritability, anxiousness, and depression than the placebo group.

    Reishi

    Reishi mushroom.

    Reishi (lingzhi mushroom) is a polypore fungus that has a peripherally inserted stem with a fan-like, kidney-shaped cap that has a red-varnish color. 

    Reishi grows on the base and stumps of hardwood such as oak or maple, in the warmer regions of Asia, the South Pacific, southern Europe, and the south eastern United States. It can also be cultivated on logs, wood chips, or sawdust.

    Reishi Mushroom Benefits

    In Asia Reishi Mushrooms have been used for over 2,000 years and is referred to as "the mushroom of immortality" and is said to have great health-boosting properties. 

    Some of the benefits of Reishi Mushrooms are:

    Boosting the Immune System

    One of the most important benefits of the Reishi is that it can help boost immune function by enhancing the activity of white blood cells, which fight against infection.

    Heart Health Support

    One of the main goals modern medicine has in preventing heart disease is to lower the levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. 

    A 12-week long study found that Reishi may help to increase HDL "good" cholesterol and also decrease the level of triglycerides.

    Chaga

     

    Chaga mushroom.

    Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a fungus that is parasitic on birch trees as well as other trees in the Northern Hemisphere. It forms a whitish irregularly-shaped mass that turns brown over time.

    For centuries, Chaga Mushroom has been considered to be medicinal.

    Chaga comes from the Russian word Czaga meaning mushroom which derives from the word for fungus.

    Chaga Mushrooms Benefits

    Chaga mushrooms are a folk remedy used by the native peoples of Siberia and North America to treat stomach upset, headaches, and skin irritations. The fungus is said to alleviate pain and have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.

    Chaga fungus contains a range of nutrients including the polysaccharide Beta-D-glutan, betulin and betulinic acid, lanosterol, ergosterol, phenolic compounds, melanins, and lanostane-type triterpenoids. The polysaccharides are known to have an anti-inflammatory property and melanins promote hair and nail health. 

    It is believed that consuming the mushroom boosts the immune system and several of the nutrients are known to have antioxidant activity. 

    Laboratory and animal studies indicate there may be a number of Chaga mushroom benefits.

    Reduced Oxidative Stress

    A laboratory study from the Department of Medical Nutrition at Kyunghee University showed that human cells treated with Chaga extract had a 40% reduction in DNA fragmentation over untreated cells when exposed to oxidative stress for five minutes. Since DNA fragmentation is believed to be responsible for some types of autoimmune diseases, this study has promising implications for the treatment and prevention of disease.

    Anti-Diabetic Effects

    The hypoglycemic effect of the plant is documented and it could enhance the effect of insulin.

    A study done on type 2 diabetic mice showed that Chaga "could significantly restore the body and fat mass weight, reduce fasting blood glucose levels, improve glucose tolerance ability, increase hepatic glycogen level and ameliorate insulin resistance".

    Summary

    Mushrooms are an excellent source of nutrients and health benefits. There are thousands of species of mushrooms with the most common (safe for consumption) being Shiitake, Maitake, Lion's Mane, Turkey Tail, Cordyceps, Reishi, and Snow Fungus, portobello, oyster and morel.  Keep in mind that not all mushrooms are safe to eat so wild harvesting is not recommended unless you are an expert in which mushrooms are safe.

    Adding mushrooms regularly into your diet can be achieved through sauces, stews, soups, and side dishes. Consider taking a mushrooms supplement to easily consume mushrooms and gain the benefits. You will get a concentrated amount of the mushrooms with less consumption in a supplement form. 

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    References:

    ✓ All links to the study references have been verified.

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