Mushrooms are widely known for their great taste and amazing health benefits. Packed with a ton of essential vitamins and minerals, they make for an excellent addition to your diet, adding flavour to many different recipes. In our last blog we featured Shiitake and Reishi mushrooms. Here we examine the possible benefits of three more mushrooms
Chaga mushroom is a type of fungus that grows mainly on the bark of birch trees in cold climates, such as Northern Europe, Siberia, Russia, Korea, Northern Canada and Alaska. Chaga produces a woody growth, or conk, which looks similar to a clump of burnt charcoal. However, the inside reveals a soft core with an orange colour. Chaga is also known by other names, such as black mass, clinker polypore, birch canker polypore, cinder conk and the sterile conk trunk rot (of birch). For centuries, it has been used as a traditional remedy, mainly to boost immunity and overall health. They are high in fibre and rich in antioxidants.
Chaga mushrooms also:
Help to fight inflammation Inflammation is a natural response of your immune system. However, long-term inflammation is linked to conditions like heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Studies suggest that Chaga extract can positively impact immunity by reducing long-term inflammation and fighting harmful bacteria and viruses. By promoting the formation of beneficial cytokines, specialised proteins that regulate the immune system. Chaga stimulates white blood cells, which are essential for fighting off harmful bacteria or viruses. What’s more, other studies demonstrate that Chaga can prevent the production of harmful cytokines, which trigger inflammation and are associated with disease (including gut damage)
Help to lower blood sugar levels (two studies have shown that Chaga extract can reduce blood sugar levels and insulin resistance during obesity and diabetes).
Help to lower cholesterol (Chaga extract may also benefit cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease. In one study, Chaga extract reduced “bad” LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing antioxidant levels. Similar studies gave the same results and observed that,in addition to reducing “bad” LDL cholesterol,chaga increased “good” HDL cholesterol. Researchers believe that the antioxidants present in chaga are responsible for its effects on cholesterol.
“Maitake” means dancing mushroom in Japanese. The mushroom is said to have gotten its name after people danced with happiness upon finding it in the wild, such are its incredible healing properties. It grows wild in parts of Japan, China, and North America, at the bottom of Oak, Elm, and Maple trees.
Maitake is a type of adaptogen. Adaptogens assist the body in fighting against any type of mental or physical difficulty. They also work to regulate systems of the body that have become unbalanced. Although maitake mushrooms have been used in Japan and China for thousands of years, it has only gained popularity in the United Kingdom and United States over the last twenty years, as it has received more wide-spread recognition for its benefits for health, vitality, and longevity.
Help to boost immunity (they are rich in: antioxidants, beta-glucans, vitamins B and C, copper, potassium, fibre, minerals and amino acids. They are also: fat-free, low-sodium, low-calorie and cholesterol-free)
Help to lower cholesterol (researchers in a 2013 study found that Maitake powdered extract lowered cholesterol levels. It was also shown to increase fatty acids that provide energy. Because of this, researchers theorised that eating Maitake mushroom may help keep arteries healthy)
Help to normalise blood sugar levels (the results of a 2015 study showed that Maitake mushroom can have a positive effect on type 2 diabetes. During the study, maitake mushroom consumption had a positive effect on glucose levels).
LION’S MANE MUSHROOM
Lion’s Mane mushrooms are large, white, shaggy mushrooms that resemble a lion’s mane as they grow.
They have both culinary and medical uses in Asian countries like China, India, Japan and Korea.
These mushrooms contain bioactive substances that can have beneficial effects on the body, particularly the brain, heart and gut.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms can also:
Help to protect the brain (the brain’s ability to grow and form new connections typically declines with age. Studies have found that Lion’s Mane mushrooms contain two special compounds that can stimulate the growth of brain cells: hericenones and erinacines)
Help to relieve mild symptoms of depression and anxiety (up to one-third of people living in developed countries experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. While there are many causes of anxiety and depression, chronic inflammation could be a major contributing factor. Research has found that Lion’s Mane mushroom extract has anti-inflammatory effects that can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Other studies have found that it can also help regenerate brain cells and improve the functioning of the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for processing memories and emotional responses)
Support recovery from nervous system injuries (the nervous system consists of the brain, spinal cord and other nerves that travel throughout the body. These components work together to send and transmit signals that control almost every bodily function. Injuries to the brain or spinal cord can be devastating. They often cause paralysis or loss of mental functions and can take a long time to heal. However, research has found that Lion’s Mane mushroom extract may help speed recovery from these types of injuries by stimulating the growth and repair of nerve cells. In fact, lion’s mane mushroom extract has been shown to reduce recovery time by 23–41% when given to rats with nervous system injuries)
Help to protect the digestive tract (ulcers are capable of forming anywhere along the digestive tract, including the stomach, small intestine and large intestine. They are often caused by two major factors: overgrowth of a bacteria called H. pylori and damage to the mucous layer of the stomach that’s often due to long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).Lion’s Mane extract may protect against the development of stomach ulcers by inhibiting the growth of H. pylori and protecting the stomach lining from damage. Additionally, an animal study found that Lion’s Mane extract was more effective at preventing alcohol-induced stomach ulcers than traditional acid-lowering drugs — and without any negative side effects. It can also reduce inflammation and prevent tissue damage in other areas of the intestines and therefore may help treat inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease)
Support heart health (major risk factors for heart disease include obesity, high triglycerides, large amounts of oxidised cholesterol and an increased tendency to get blood clots. Research shows that Lion’s Mane extract can influence some of these factors and reduce the risk of heart disease. Studies have found that lion’s mane mushroom extract improves fat metabolism and lowers triglyceride levels. One study showed daily doses of lion’s mane extract gave 27% lower triglyceride levels and 42% less weight gain after a high-fat diet over 28 days.
Since obesity and high triglycerides are both considered risk factors for heart disease, this is one way that lion’s mane mushrooms contribute to heart health. Studies have also found that Lion’s Mane extract can help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the bloodstream. Oxidised cholesterol molecules tend to attach to the walls of arteries, causing them to harden and increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Therefore, reducing oxidation is beneficial for heart health. What’s more, Lion’s Mane mushrooms contain a compound called hericenone B, which can decrease the rate of blood clotting and lower the risk of heart attack or stroke)
Help to lower blood sugar levels (Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the body loses the ability to control blood sugar levels. As a result, levels are consistently elevated. Chronically high blood sugar levels eventually cause complications like kidney disease, nerve damage in the hands and feet and vision loss. Lion’s Mane mushroom may be beneficial for diabetes management by improving blood sugar control and reducing some of these side effects. One way that it lowers blood sugars is by blocking the activity of the enzyme alpha-glucosidase, which breaks down carbohydrates in the small intestine. When this enzyme is blocked, the body is unable to digest and absorb carbs as effectively, which results in lower blood sugar levels)
Help to lower inflammation and protect against oxidative stress (chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are believed to be at the root of many modern illnesses. Research shows that Lion’s Mane mushrooms contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that may help reduce the impact of these illnesses. In fact, one study examining the antioxidant abilities of 14 different mushroom species found that Lion’s Mane had the fourth highest antioxidant activity and recommended it be considered a good dietary source of antioxidants. Several animal studies have found that Lion’s Mane extract reduced markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in rodents and may be especially useful in the management of inflammatory bowel disease, liver damage and stroke. Lion’s Mane mushrooms may also help to reduce some of the health risks associated with obesity, as they have been shown to decrease the amount of inflammation released by fat tissue)
Help to boost immunity (a strong immune system protects the body from bacteria, viruses and other disease-causing pathogens. On the other hand, a weak immune system puts the body at a higher risk of developing infectious diseases. Research shows that Lion’s Mane mushroom can boost immunity by increasing the activity of the intestinal immune system, which protects the body from pathogens that enter the gut through the mouth or nose. These effects may partly be due to beneficial changes in gut bacteria that stimulate the immune system. One study even found that supplementing with Lion’s Mane extract daily nearly quadrupled the lifespan of mice injected with a lethal dose of salmonella bacteria).