It's that time of the year.
Written by Stella Speigel
Woah, did anyone else feel that? The little chill in the air today that can only mean one thing: Fall. Is. Coming. Now, I love fall for so many reasons. Warming foods, apple picking, pumpkin everything, crisp air, pretty leaves. You get the picture. However, as fall in all its glory approaches, 2 not-so-great things start to happen: People start to get sick, and stress (+ all its effects) start to amount in our bodies. I’m here to let you in on some majorly effective super foods to help boost your immune system and keep your mood lifted this fall.
Introducing, Medicinal Mushrooms.
Medicinal mushrooms have been used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years but have had a boom in popularity recently (hello, trendy lattes and smoothie superfood blends). These mushrooms are best consumed in powders (as opposed to raw or whole) and they have a very mild flavour. This means you can basically add them to anything you are consuming in that moment: smoothies, coffees, teas, lattes, soups, veggie stir fries…you name it, mushroom powders will add benefits to it.
Generally speaking, medicinal mushrooms help to protect our bodies against: Inflammation, Stress and Cancer. Here are some specific details (and types) so you can find the most targeted ones for YOUR body.
REISHI: Nature’s Xanax
Reishi has been shown to help with sleep, anxiety, depression and focus. It helps keep your immune system in check, aid weight loss and may even fight cancer cells.
This mushroom gets its calming effects from a compound called triterpene. This mood-boosting compound helps to alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. It helps better your sleep quality and thanks to triterpene’s extensive benefits, it helps your mind stay calm and focused.
LION’S MANE: The Ultimate Brain Boost
Lion’s mane gets its awesome name because this mushroom looks, well, exactly like a lion’s mane. Also kind of like a pom pom, but I think we can all agree that lion’s mane was a cooler name. Especially considering that it helps boost cognitive function, improves memory and concentration. This is the ultimate protective mushroom against brain fog because it helps boost the production of bioprotein nerve growth factor (NFG). NFG is absolutely crucial to brain health and can protect against neurological disesases such as Alzheimer’s and MS.
Lion’s Mane also helps boost circulation so your brain gets more blood/nutrients/oxygen. Almost immediately after consuming it, you will feel an increase in energy and mental clarity.
CHAGA: The Anti-Aging/Anti-Cancer Superfood
The chaga mushroom is one of the better known medicinal mushrooms because it is an antioxidant powerhouse. Due to these high levels of antioxidants, chaga mushrooms are anti-inflammatory which can help decrease the effects of aging and oxidative stress. It also supports proper cellular regeneration and protects against genetic mutation. It contains the powerful antioxidant Superoxide Dismutase (SOD), which is important for liver cleansing.
It improves immune function through strong antibacterial and antiviral properties and contains melanin which protects against radiation and tumors. Finally, chaga also modulates the body’s response to stress and helps the body adapt to stressors with more agility and resilience.
CORDYCEPS: Pre-Workout Energy
This mushroom benefits your body by boosting energy, athletic performance, muscle recovery and libido. It does so by helping the body utilize oxygen more effectively and enhancing blood flow. Not only does it boost your athletic performance but also helps with your recovery making it a full-spectrum aid for active peeps.
Cordyceps are also classified as an adaptogen. This means they help your body adapt to and cope with stress (similar to chaga). Not only do they offer you short term energy for your workouts, they supply you with sustained energy and help fight against chronic fatigue.
TURKEY TAIL: Ultimate Cancer Combat
While many mushrooms have anti-cancer benefits, turkey tail takes the cake in this regard. Turkey tail contains a compound called polysaccharide-K (PSK) that stimulates the immune system. It is so potent that in Japan, PSK is taken as an anti-cancer prescription drug. It has been shown to improve the survival rate of people with certain cancers and improve the immune system of those undergoing chemotherapy.
SHIITAKE: Your Heart’s Bestie
Not only are shiitake mushrooms delicious, they help boost heart health and promote good circulation. Shiitake mushrooms lower LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol and they contain phytonutrients which prevent plaque buildup in your arteries. This ensures proper circulation and healthy blood pressure.
They also boost your immune system through their extensive antimicrobial properties and boost energy due to the boost in B vitamins.
As you can see, adding 1-2 Tbsp of mushroom powders into your daily life can be an excellent addition to your healthy lifestyle. As with all natural things, these are not a cure-all which can counteract the effects of an otherwise unhealthy lifestyle. Rather, they work in combination with the healthy foods you already eat to protect against disease, stress and inflammation. Medicinal Mushrooms are an excellent example of what eating for longevity looks like.
* If you are pregnant or using certain medications, consult a naturopathic doctor before adding these into your diet.