A Guide to Adaptogenic Mushrooms
Mushrooms are no longer just found in your English breakfast or as part of a psychedelic experience, they can be a key part of your health journey. Functional mushrooms, or adaptogenic mushrooms, are now becoming more accessible in various forms, however they’ve been used in traditional Eastern medicine for centuries. Unlike your local supermarket's button mushroom, there are a collection of other fungi available in capsules, teas, tinctures and even coffee blends, that can provide us with powerful health benefits.
What are they?
An adaptogen refers to a substance which promotes adaptation by the body to all kinds of stressors, whether they be emotional, physical, or environmental. They include edible plant extracts which help our bodies manage stress and maintain homeostasis (balance). Essentially they help us respond to physical, chemical, or biological stress, and as a result are known to improve performance, focus, energy and stabilise mood. Some of these mushrooms are edible, for example shiitake mushrooms, however generally their high levels of compounds, including Beta D glucans and triterpenes, make them bitter and difficult to digest.
Why would we use adaptogenic mushrooms
Exposure to stress is one of the guarantees we have in our lives, whether it’s from a heavy workload, relationship difficulties or simply just the day to day stresses we experience. As it’s one of those non-negotiables, the best thing we can do is support our resilience to stress to prevent it taking too much of a toll on our mental and physical health. This is where adaptogens can be hugely beneficial, as regular use can help to mediate our stress response and the associated disruption to sleep and mood. As well as reductions in stress and anxiety, adapatogens have also been found to improve energy, reduce fatigue, support immune function, increase sex drive and protect brain tissue.
Types of functional mushrooms:
Chaga mushrooms are antioxidant-rich, meaning they combat the impact of oxidative stress from environmental toxins and other sources. Use it for: reducing inflammation, immune support, managing blood sugar, maintaining healthy blood pressure and joint health.
Cordycep mushrooms contain amino acids, and a variety of B vitamins (B1, B2, B12), which help the flow of oxygen throughout the body and maintain energy levels, particularly during exercise. Use it for: improved energy, stamina, immune function and pre-workout fuel.
Lion’s Mane contains compounds such as hericenones and erinacines, which may stimulate brain cell growth. Use it for: immune function, anxiety and depressive symptoms, mental clarity, memory function, cognition and stress management.
Maitake means dancing mushroom in Japanese, supposedly because finding the health benefits of this medicinal mushroom made people dance with joy. These mushrooms are packed with antioxidants, beta-glucans, B vitamins, copper, potassium and amino acids. Use it for: immune support and anti-inflammatory actions.
Reishi mushrooms, containing triterpenes and beta-glucan, may be one of the most popular medicinal mushrooms particularly for their stress-relieving benefits and supporting a more restorative sleep. Use it for: immune function, stress management, anxiety support and improved sleep.
Shiitake mushrooms contain B vitamins, vitamin D, zinc, eritadenine, sterols, and beta-glucans, which combined add to their immune supporting properties. Use it for: immune support, anti-aging and heart health.
Turkey tail is packed with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antimicrobial properties. This adaptogenic mushroom is also considered a prebiotic, meaning it feeds the beneficial bacteria in the gut and supports overall digestive health. Use it for: digestive health, immune function, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions.
Mushrooms are not the only plants in the world of adaptogens, there are also adaptogenic herbs that provide great benefits for energy management, anxiety, immune health, hormonal balancing and sleep. Common herbs used are Ashwagandha, Brahmi, Maca, Rhodiola, Siberian Ginseng and Tulsi.
How to use them
There are several adaptogenic mushroom products available at the moment, but, as always, not all products are created equal. Some things you should consider when introducing adaptogenic mushrooms into your regime:
- Opt for organic to avoid adding high quantities of pesticides into your diet.
- Start low and slow by beginning with 250mg and increase this up to 2000mg if needed.
- Choose powders and tinctures over capsules, these may be easier to digest and absorb.
Some of our favourite Adaptogens brands:
3. KÄÄPÄ HEALTH