While chemical-based pharmaceuticals continue to dominate modern medicine, alternative medicinal treatments have seen a surge in popularity in recent decades. That’s largely due to ongoing research that has confirmed the value of many traditional, natural medicinal approaches.
Medicinal mushrooms are a clear example of that trend and have become increasingly popular as the public learns more about their many benefits. In this article, we will examine some of the best medicinal mushrooms for improving immunity, enhancing memory, and protecting the body from cancer.
Why Medicinal Mushrooms?
Cultures around the world have used many types of mushrooms for various medical treatments for much of human history, where these fungi have played a role in traditional medicine for at least 5,000 years — and perhaps even longer.
Today, many proponents believe that mushrooms can provide beneficial effects when treating everything from inflammation and cardiovascular ailments to diabetes and cancer. As you read this, scientists are currently studying dozens of different mushroom species to learn even more about their amazing health benefits.
Medicinal Mushrooms That Can Improve Your Immunity
There are a number of mushrooms that have demonstrated the ability to improve the immune system by bolstering the protective white blood cells that help your body fight off infection, illness, and disease.
One study found that extract of the chaga mushroom seems to have a positive impact on the immune system during chemotherapy.(1) Another mushroom, reishi, has been shown to possess immune-modulating and anti-tumor properties.(2)
The even more well-known shiitake mushroom is also a powerful immune-booster. It has been described as being in a unique class when it comes to mushrooms that can improve a person’s quality of life.(3)
In one study from 2014,(4) researchers found that a test group of young adults who consumed shiitake each day for a month showed heightened production of T immune cells, reduced instances of inflammation, and increased bodily immunity.
Medicinal Mushrooms That Enhance Memory
Brain health is one of the most complex challenges confronting modern science. Fortunately, mushrooms are playing an increasingly important role in helping patients improve memory and other brain functions.
Among the most promising memory-enhancing options are mushrooms like reishi, cordyceps, and maitake — each of which was found to increase production of a molecule that helps to regulate and maintain important memory-related brain nerve cells.
Lion’s mane mushroom has received the bulk of memory-related attention, and for a good reason. Lion’s mane has been used for thousands of years in China as part of traditional Chinese medicine.
More recently, several studies discovered that lion’s mane mushroom appeared to help elderly test subjects improve cognitive function scores,(5) and could prevent “impairments of spatial short-term and visual recognition memory.”(6)
Medicinal Mushrooms That Offer Cancer Protection
Researchers have also examined many mushrooms’ potential benefits in the treatment of cancer, and the results have been promising. Many of the examined mushrooms have the powerful antioxidant properties needed to combat free radicals that destroy cellular health.
The previously mentioned chaga and reishi are examples of those antioxidant-rich mushrooms. Researchers have found potential anti-cancer clinical applications for many different mushrooms.(7) For example:
- Cordyceps showed promise for treating lung cancer and lymphoma.
- Reishi could be useful for treating cancers of the lung, breast, colon, and prostate, and may help in treating carcinoma, sarcoma, and leukemia.
- Turkey tail mushrooms show promise for gastric cancer, as well as breast and colon cancer.
- Agaricus mushrooms may help patients with leukemia and hepatocellular carcinoma.
- Maitake’s results indicate that the mushroom could be helpful for patients with breast and colon cancer.
While research will continue for many years to come, one thing seems certain: the available evidence clearly suggests that the ancients were on to something. That’s why many researchers and doctors have concluded that mushrooms deserve to be considered as “adjunct therapy” and incorporated alongside other forms of modern medicine when treating many common human ailments.
If you haven’t made medicinal mushrooms a part of your healthy lifestyle, it’s never too late to start.