Healing power of the humble mushrooms
Thrown into your stir fry or taken as a supplement, these lesser-known fungi varieties have some pretty potent health benefits, says Liz Connor
Cultures around the world have been harnessing the healing powers of the mushroom for thousands of years.
Nobody knows how many types of fleshy fungi exist in nature - there are about 10,000 described species, but mycologists suspect that this is only a fraction of what's out there.
These fungal organisms are a pretty common part of our diet, but there are plenty of medicinal varieties that you perhaps haven't yet heard of:
1 Lion's Mane
This mushroom grows on broad-leaf trees in temperate areas of North America, Europe, and Asia.
"Studies have shown Lion's Mane mushrooms can help to improve cognitive function and ease anxiety and depression," says Emily Hedgman, a spokesperson from Link Nutrition. She says Lion's Mane can also help to support the heart and circulatory system, improve digestive health and reduce inflammation.
The Chaga mushroom has been slowly gaining popularity in the west. It's been used for hundreds of years in Siberia and Asia. These hardy mushrooms mainly grow on the outside of birch trees in colder climates.
"Chaga mushrooms are most impressive for their high antioxidant content, whilst also being high in fibre and naturally occurring beta-glucans," says Hedgman. "According to a study, Chaga extract may also be able to prevent liver cancer cell growth."
This flat fan-shaped mushroom has been utilised for more than two thousand years in Asia.
"Reishi is strongly anti-inflammatory and has uses tied to longevity, better immune function, and mental clarity," says Hedgeman.
"Cordyceps is an anti-ageing, energy-boosting mushroom found in the Himalayas, that many claim can boost aerobic capacity and improve stamina," says Hedgman. These mushrooms are known for their ability to fight free radicals, infections, and inflammation.
"Cordyceps have been used to reduce symptoms of respiratory disorders, coughs, colds, liver damage and more," she adds.