Medicinal Mushrooms

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Medicinal Mushrooms

Healthylife Pharmacy5 June 2018|3 min read

Supercharge your health and reach your full potential by adding medicinal mushrooms to your diet. While technically a fungus, medicinal or functional mushrooms contain specific components which benefit our immune system, energy levels and protect us from chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer. Here are the top 5 mushrooms to include in your diet or supplement regime to unlock your full potential.

Turkey tails

Otherwise known as coriolus, trametes versicolor (turkey tail) is a medicinal mushroom which has been used in traditional medicinal practices of both China and Japan. Turkey tail earns its name due to its unique fan shape which resembles the tail end of a turkey.

Like many other medicinal mushrooms turkey tail is rich in two key components polysaccharide-K (PSK) and polysaccharopeptides (PSP). Both these compounds have been tested extensively in clinical trials and shown to posses potent immunomodulatory properties. 

Turkey tails are good for:

  • Protect against cold, flu and infection
  • Liver health
  • Assist in HIV/AIDS
  • Aid digestion

Reishi mushroom

The reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum), is hailed ‘the king of mushrooms’ because of its wide range of health benefits. 

It possesses strong adaptagenic properties which help the body adapt to physical and psychological stress such as anxiety, inflammation and chronic disease. Studies have repeatedly shown that reishi mushroom contains potent antioxidant properties which strengthen the bodies ability to disease and infection. 

One of these properties are triterpenes, which can reduce allergies and histamine reactions with asthma. It also provides strong anti-bacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal activities which protect the body from infection and cell mutations. Reishi is traditionally used for not only acute infections but chronic unresolved infections that lead to debility and fatigue.

Rishi mushrooms are good for:

  • Improve liver function and detoxification
  • Balance hormones
  • Fight diabetes
  • Protect against high blood pressure
  • Prevent cardiovascular disease
  • Boost immunity
  • Reduce allergies

Shiitake mushroom

Shiitakes are a unique mushroom that are contains in all 8 essential amino acids, an essential fatty acid called linoleic acid and an anti-cancer compound called lentinan. Lentinan helps to protect our DNA from oxidative damage  Shiitake mushrooms also have sterol compounds that interfere with the production of cholesterol in the liver and prevent plaquing of arteries.

Shitake is rich in essential nutrients such as selenium, B vitamins, vitamin D, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. These nutrients are essential for healthy immunity, skin, bones and stress response.

Shiitake mushrooms are good for:

  • Fight obesity
  • Support immune function
  • Reduce infection
  • Heart health
  • Reduce cholesterol
  • Boost nutrition


Cordyceps are a type of fungus, which is slightly different to other mushrooms. They are technically classified as a powerful form of Ascomycetes fungus which are harvested in high mountain regions of the world such as the Himalayas and China.

Cordyceps is valued for its unique ability to increase energy and endurance. This energizing effect is due to its beta-glucans and their amazing ability to boost adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels in the body. ATP is the bodies way of being able to store and transport chemical energy within cells. In addition to this, cordyceps has remarkable antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune enhancing properties.

This incredible mushroom has a long history of traditional use to reduce symptoms of respiratory disorders, colds, liver damage and to protect the body against the effects of age and stress.

Cordyceps can be helpful to:

  • Decrease the effects of ageing
  • Increase energy and athletic performance
  • Improve libido and fertility
  • Naturally treat diabetes
  • Improve liver function
  • Alleviate asthma and bronchitis


A large fruiting body with overlapping caps are characteristics of the edible fungus called maitake (Grifolia frondosa). This super medicinal and culinary mushroom has become increasingly recognized as a potent source of polysaccharide compounds with dramatic health-promoting potential. The most recent development is the MD-fraction which is often used with the whole maitake powder as an adjunct to cancer and HIV therapy. 

Maitake mushrooms may also provide some benefit in the treatment of hyperlipidaemia (high fats in the blood), hypertension (high blood pressure) and hepatitis.

Use Maitake to:

  • Support the liver
  • Heart health
  • Reduce blood glucose levels
  • Immune function

How to use medicinal mushrooms

Some medicinal mushrooms such as shiitake and maitake can be found fresh or dried in the supermarket. They are such a versatile food that can be added to omelettes, sauces, stir-fries, soups and casseroles. Other varieties such as turkey tail, cordyceps and reishi are difficult to find fresh and are usually found in supplements as a dried powder. When selecting medicinal mushrooms only purchase a product from a reputable company who can provide you with sufficient information about the ingredients.


People with cancer choosing to use medicinal mushrooms or its polysaccharides should seek professional guidance when doing so, to ensure safety and to monitor response. If you have diabetes, you should consult your doctor before use as this may affect how your medication works.

Although uncommon, mushrooms can cause allergic reactions in some people. If you experience trouble breathing, irritation in the mouth, a rash or an upset stomach, discontinue use immediately and seek medical advice.


Wasser SP. Medicinal mushroom science: Current perspectives, advances, evidences, and challenges. Biomed J. 2014 Nov-Dec;37(6):345-56

Batra P, et al. Probing Lingzhi or Reishi medicinal mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (higher Basidiomycetes): a bitter mushroom with amazing health benefits. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2013;15(2):127-43

Olatunji OJ, et al. The genus Cordyceps: An extensive review of its traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology. Fitoterapia. 2018 May 15

Mayell M. Maitake extracts and their therapeutic potential. Altern Med Rev. 2001 Feb;6(1):48-60.