How to Choose your ‘Shrooms

25 June 2022 
By: Katrina Armstrong

We often forget that fungi occupy an entire kingdom of their own..

But a kingdom it truly is!

Each mushroom on Earth is a mysterious and complex world unto itself – be it a poison, a psychedelic, food or medicine. Rich in complex, intricate, and powerful chemistries, mushrooms can be our truest and most compassionate friends or our darkest and most murderous enemies.

It’s when we sharpen our focus on the medicinal mushroom category that our fascination can easily shift into confusion and overwhelm. With so many available to us, each with its own complex and multifaceted benefits, how in the world do we choose which medicinal mushroom to take?

Here’s the great news: you can’t make a ‘wrong’ decision!

Every medicinal mushroom has gentle and powerful actions and benefits that can be helpful and nourishing for all of us during any phase of life. They are generally very safe, are highly unlikely to interact adversely with medications, and are perhaps the most shining example of ‘food as medicine’ we can think of. One of the best ways to incorporate medicinal mushrooms into your life is to cycle through them one at a time, observing and absorbing their fortifying and strengthening benefits as you go. There’s no ‘right’ beginning or end to the medicinal mushroom journey.

Now that you know all this, you can apply a lighter touch to your decision-making, basing it on an area of health and life you would like to focus on for a time before moving on to a new ‘shroom. To help you make a start on the delightfully winding path of medicinal mushrooms, here are 4 of the top options and how they gently and powerfully nourish and assist us:

Shiitake: The Nutritional Elixir

Known for its skin beautifying, energising and antiaging effects, the shiitake mushroom is also known as ‘the elixir of life’ in Japan, where it is prized in cuisine as well as medicine. We tend to think of Shiitake as ‘the nutritional elixir’, since it is so densely packed with micronutrients that give it an especially nourishing quality. This is reflected in the delicious, rich flavour of Shiitake, which in turn makes the extract a wonderful addition to soups, stews and even bread, batters and baked goods, boosting both their goodness and flavour.

Because it’s so rich in important nutrients, Shiitake is a welcomed and sustaining medicine during recovery from illness or intensive physical output – whether it’s convalescence from nasty flu or deep fatigue experienced after childbirth or a marathon.

For anyone who is feeling dull and depleted, Shiitake brings fortitude and radiance through deep, supportive nutrition.

Lion’s Mane: The Gut/Brain Tonic

Lion’s Mane has recently gained incredible favour with entrepreneurs, biohackers and Silicon Valley digital wizards thanks to its powerful ‘nootropic’ effects. Nootropics are brain tonics, working to support overall nervous system health while more specifically boosting neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to learn and change – and cognitive function. Lion’s Mane also has a strong traditional reputation for strengthening and fortifying the digestive system, supporting a robust gut lining and reducing gastrointestinal inflammation

We think of Lion’s Mane as medicine in full support of a healthy and integrated gut/brain axis, and we can all use some help there! This is the mushroom to reach for when your mind isn’t functioning as clearly as it could be or you’re in a phase of deep learning or creativity, especially if you notice that any aspect of your digestive function is upset or suboptimal at the same time


Turkey Tail: The Immune and Microbiome Powerhouse

Named for its visual resemblance to a fanned turkey tail, this is the most commonly found medicinal mushroom on earth. Growing in nearly every region of every continent and used in virtually every traditional medicine system, Turkey Tail has complex and multifaceted actions but works primarily on the immune system.

Turkey Tail is commonly prescribed acutely for treating infections of all types: viral, fungal, and bacterial, helping to resolve and clear them swiftly while helping to support strength and stamina. As one of the most studied traditional medicines, Turkey Tail has also shown to perform impressively well in both preventing diseases and as a supportive adjunct to orthodox medical treatments. In addition to its impressive immunological effects,

Turkey Tail has been shown to assist in the creation of a beneficially diverse gut microbiome. Over time, this powerful mushroom can help to eliminate pathogenic bacteria while encouraging and boosting populations of healthy, beneficial bacteria. Whether you’re constantly fighting off colds, flus and other nasties, dealing with a more complex immunological issue or adventuring to an exotic location with a reputation for communicable infections, Turkey Tail may help you to build robust immunity and resilience when you need it most, especially if you’re also looking to optimise your gut microbiome.

Chaga: The Cell Protector and Stress Soother

Chaga grows wild on the forest floors of Birch tree woods, feeding off the nutrients of these medicinal trees. This particular wild environment is essential for Chaga to grow, and for that reason, it can’t be successfully cultivated – it requires wildness! What Chaga offers us is deep, cellular protection. It works as a powerful antioxidant, which extends into its uses as an adaptogenic and antiaging medicine.

Chaga works on multiple layers to lift stress from the body – be that from excessive free radicals, immunological or adrenal dysfunction or too many external demands on our physical and mental capacities.

Chaga is the mushroom to reach for when your resilience feels shaky and you need some solid, nourishing ground to stand on.

We’ve only just scratched the surface of medicinal mushrooms, but we hope one thing rings loud and clear – this wonderful category of fungi is here to help us, and in simply starting where we are, we have a lifetime of nourishing options to look forward to.

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