Down the Rabbit Hole: The Benefits of Functional Mushrooms Explained | Live Conscious

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Down the Rabbit Hole: The Benefits of Functional Mushrooms Explained

09/30/2022

The fascination with the mushroom world is reaching people everywhere. In fact, we’ve gone simply mad for them! Sure, some mushrooms are quite odd, but in our world, oddness can be absolutely delightful! These are the subjects of legends and lore, which have been prized and hunted throughout the world and may just send you into a whirlwind of creativity, optimism, and a transcendent way of life!

From uplifting your mind to calming your spirit, mushrooms are a solution to many of our modern-day woes. They are invigorating and inspiring, mysterious and magical. They are the keepers of the forest and the subterranean network of communication for the trees. Won’t you come along with us on our ‘shrooming journey?

What Are Functional Mushrooms?

Although peculiar, you too might become bewitched by these beautiful oddities! Functional mushrooms are here to lift you up and strengthen your entire being. These marvelous mushrooms are your number-one go-to for endless possibilities, including blistering your immunity and promoting gut and whole body health. With mushrooms along for the ride, nothing in this crazy trip we call life seems impossible or impassable!

All edible mushrooms have health benefits (yes, even the ever-common button mushroom), but functional mushrooms have even more to offer our long-term health. They are thought to help you “function” at top-notch and are especially high in compounds that promote health in unique ways. 

Many of these mushrooms are considered to have adaptogenic qualities, which means they help you and your body better adapt to everyday stress. Adaptogens support health in a non-specific, long-term, all-embracing kind of way. Some will be better for retaining energy and some more for promoting relaxation. You can mix and match them to your needs, and various products out there provide functional mushrooms in different combinations. They come in capsules, tinctures, powders, drink mixes, tea blends, coffee replacements, and more. 

Although many of the healthful compounds in these mushrooms can be accessed by simmering them in water, some important ones are not water soluble, meaning you have to have a different kind of extract to be able to access the full potential of the mushroom’s health benefits. Luckily, there are so many options out there to choose from! 

lion's mane mushroom

The Different Types of Functional Mushrooms

Lion’s Mane Mushroom Hericium erinaceus

Curiouser and curiouser. These eye-catching mushrooms have taken the world by storm! Lion’s mane is a unique-looking mushroom with unique health benefits. It’s a shaggy white or cream-colored mushroom with some varieties that look a little hairy, like a beard or the mane of a lion. Lion’s mane mushrooms are considered a premier nootropic and are popular with biohackers and people looking to support their cognitive performance. It has interesting compounds that promote the maintenance and release of neuropeptides that are important for brain and neurological health. Lion’s mane has benefits for the digestive, immune, and cardiovascular systems and may even be good for maintaining an uplifted and stable mood

Lion’s mane has a mild flavor and so is easily incorporated into recipes. They can sometimes be found at the supermarket or from local growers. You can also buy powders that can be incorporated into smoothies or even added to baked goods. There are also coffee-replacement drinks that have harnessed the powers of this mushroom

Reishi Mushroom Ganoderma lucidum

Bring out your inner mystic — this one will help you cultivate a serene and harmonious state of mind. Reishi was once reserved only for royalty and is known as the “divine mushroom of immortality.” They are a very dense mushroom that grows off trees or logs in a rounded shelf-like form. They are shiny, and their gleam comes from beneficial compounds called triterpenoids. These compounds are unbelievable for benefitting the immune system and cellular health. Other benefits of reishi include helping people better handle occasional stress and everyday fatigue. They support cardiovascular and liver health, promote healthy cellular activity, assist with blood sugar balance, and offer seasonal lung support.

Reishi is quite bitter, so it’s best paired with other flavors if possible. The bitterness is from the triterpenoids, which are a big part of the unique health benefits that come from this mushroom.

Beyond Brew jar next to reishi mushrooms

Because reishi mushrooms are tough once they are dried, they aren’t typically eaten as culinary mushrooms. They are often simmered or put in a crockpot for several hours and can be added in small amounts to broth. To get the full spectrum of compounds in reishi, it’s most beneficial as an extract or dual tincture (where it’s extracted in water and alcohol to get all of the properties). The easiest way to bring reishi into your life would be a powder, capsules, or a drink blend prepared as an extract, so you don’t have to be concerned about whether you have prepared it correctly. 

Chaga Inonotus obliquus

Strange but delicious, chaga is much different from other mushrooms. In fact, it’s technically not a mushroom at all, but a mycelial mass. It grows mainly on the sides of birch trees and creates a dark black, bumpy, charcoal-looking mass that, although it doesn’t look very appetizing, actually tastes quite good. The inner parts are a golden yellowish-orange, and when ground up, it kind of resembles lightly roasted coffee grounds. High in betulin and betulinic acid, it has been used in herbal folk traditions in cold climates around the world for ages. Extremely high in antioxidants (possibly the highest of all functional mushrooms), it has a long history of use for supporting the immune system and promoting cellular health. It also helps to keep blood sugar levels steady and is great for promoting heart and cardiovascular health.

Traditionally, chaga is simmered for several hours in water at a low temperature to pull out its broad range of compounds. Although the triterpenes found in chaga are more soluble in alcohol, with enough time and heat, some triterpenes can be accessed in water extraction. If you are after the full range of benefits, try a dual extraction or look for an extract powder that can be used in various beverages.

cordyceps mushroom in scientist hand in a mushroom farm

Cordyceps Mushroom Cordyceps militaris & Cordyceps sinensis (Ophiocordyceps sinensis)

Slightly eerie but unbelievably potent, cordyceps are a mushroom like no other! Cordyceps is a variety of fungus that has a very interesting origin that might seem straight out of a science-fiction movie. In the wild, it grows out of the body of certain caterpillars, which is a very strange and unique adaptation. If you don’t want to support the exploitation of the poor little caterpillars, don’t fret. Almost all commercially available cordyceps are now farm-grown and not on the bodies of caterpillars. There are exceptions though, and usually, the high price, which can be on par with the price of gold, is a giveaway that they were meticulously harvested by hand in the wild. 

Cordyceps is well known to athletes for its ability to support athletic performance. It helps to promote energy and endurance, while giving benefits specifically to the lungs and promoting enhanced oxygenation. It also benefits the kidneys and is touted for helping to maintain sexual health and, ahem, sexual endurance. This fungus is invigorating, so it’s often recommended for those feeling worn out and even as a tonic for the elderly. Like other functional mushrooms, it’s also high in antioxidants, can help maintain blood sugar levels, and helps to support the immune system. 

You can find cordyceps in powders and drink mixes, tinctures, and capsules. We love it when mixed with other functional mushrooms in a comprehensive blend designed for everyday support.

Turkey Tail Mushroom Trametes versicolor

Hypnotic and lovely! These are a very common mushroom that has been used by humans for possibly thousands of years. It’s a beautiful, thin, variegated mushroom that has colorful rings that radiate out from the center to the frilly edges. They often look like a little bouquet, with a lot of layers and different sizes. They have pores instead of gills and are found on different trees, even coniferous, which is rare for a lot of edible mushrooms. 

turkey tail mushroom next to a cup with Beyond Brew

Turkey tail has incredibly high amounts of polysaccharides, particularly polysaccharide krestin and polysaccharide peptide, which are protein complexes. These are sugars that are bound to protein and have unique health benefits. Like cordyceps, they promote optimal oxygenation and strength and are helpful for people to retain energy and endurance. They are chewy and somewhat woody, so they are not generally eaten as a gourmet mushroom, but the flavor is pleasant and does make a nice tea, decoction, or broth. 

Tremella Tremella fuciformis

Otherworldly and enticing! This is a bizarre-looking jelly-type fungus, also known as “snow fungus,” and has a frond-like, flowery shape (kind of like a white carnation). This functional mushroom is considered a beauty mushroom for the benefits it brings to the skin, and its high antioxidant levels are believed to help promote youthfulness and long-lasting vitality. 

Whether or not it will bring you eternal beauty is yet to be seen, but it does have properties that can keep you healthy — inside and out. Some of the unique benefits for skin health thought to promote beauty come from a compound called glucuronoxylomannan. These potent polysaccharides are said to be similar to the way hyaluronic acid helps the skin retain moisture and helps your youthful glow persist.

Tremella isn’t technically a mushroom, but it has many of the benefits that other functional mushrooms provide, such as being great for the immune system and promoting cardiovascular health. Like the similar-looking lion’s mane, snow fungus supports neurological health and may help maintain short-term memory

Tremella was once known as “sky fall” and thought to come from fallen stars as it was once difficult to figure out exactly what it was or how it originated. This is a bland-tasting mushroom, maybe a bit chewy, but it is often used in soups and stir-fries and is a common ingredient in many recipes around the world. You can find it dried in many Asian supermarkets, and they are generally soaked overnight before using in various recipes. Tremella is also featured in a lot of different skincare products, but you will get a lot of benefits from eating it as well as using it in your skincare routine.

Waking up to Wellness

Now that you have taken a trip down the functional mushroom rabbit hole with us, you have probably become enchanted by the ever-so-curious but captivating realm of mushrooms. It’s time to wake & brew with the magnificent mixture of Beyond Brew, our magical mushroom blend for everyday enlightenment. Discover a new daily ritual that will have you achieving impossible things (all before breakfast, even)! It’s a mad brew party around here every morning, and we live our lives like a wonderful, curious dream that may sometimes defy explanation. So gather at the tea table — we’ve always got something brewing. Let's wake 'n. brew together!