If the thought of medicinal mushrooms is a bit frightening, keep reading. There is amazing healing power in this adaptogen backed by some impressive research. But first, to clarify, no, functional mushrooms are not magic mushrooms — they are not psilocybin mushrooms. Functional mushrooms are not hallucinogenic.
In general, functional foods and/or adaptogens are ingredients that offer health benefits that extend beyond their nutritional value. Nutrient-rich ingredients like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and mushrooms are considered functional foods.
In addition to nutrient-rich foods like fruits and veggies, the category also includes foods fortified with vitamins, minerals, probiotics and fiber. Adaptogens are a category of non-toxic plants that help the body resist all kinds of stressors, whether physical, chemical or biological. These herbs and roots have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions and they’re having a revival today as scientific evidence points to their efficacy.
Adaptogens literally ‘adapt’ to the body’s requirements by providing maintenance support when external stressors take aim. In doing so, they help to modify and regulate hormonal production and flow.
This is an intrinsic feature of adaptogens. It sets them apart from artificial stimulants and other quick fixes – think caffeine or processed sugars.
Filling your diet with a variety of functional foods and/or adaptogenic herbs from either conventional or fortified foods helps your body get the nutritive support it needs to function effectively.
In biology, all species on Earth are categorized into kingdoms. Humans are part of the Animal Kingdom. Then there is the Plant Kingdom which includes all the fruit, veggies, nuts and seeds, grains, grasses and trees you can think of, then add many, many, more. Then there is the Fungi Kingdom and it’s six times the size of the entire Plant Kingdom.
The fungi kingdom, encompasses a wide variety of living organisms. Scientists estimate there anywhere from 2.2 to 3.8 million species on Earth, including some incredibly powerful mushrooms that have been used as medicines for thousands of years because when ingested, they work in the most interesting ways.
There are more than 100 trillion cells in the human body and their inner workings are extremely complex as demonstrated by the image taken by Harvard University.
Functional mushrooms are considered intelligent compounds that work on a cellular level.
It’s important to note they are not a cure-all. Rather they increase the cells’ ability to respond to different stressors – anything from high level physical activities – think athletes, to inflammation, chronic disease and even some cancers. And that assists the body’s self healing mechanisms to kick in when necessary.
But before we dive into how functional mushrooms work, it’s important to understand homeostasis which is critical to the survival of every species on Earth.
When talking survival, maintaining homeostasis is one of the most important evolutionary advantages we possess because we all live in conditions that are in constant flux.
Basically homeostasis means balance and every species on Earth constantly battles to maintain this balance in their body.
For example, homeostasis is how we maintain our internal body temperature. As warm-blooded creatures, humans need to increase or decrease temperature internally depending on what activities we are experiencing in our external environment.
Think taking a walk on a hot summer’s day or an icy-cold winter’s day for that matter. If our internal systems fail to adapt to these different environments our body would not be able to function.
In the case of functional mushrooms specifically, the health benefits are lengthy and varied. And, because some adaptogens possess dual properties, the benefits overlap. It’s their ‘adaptive’ nature that enable them to assist the body in multiple ways like promoting both energy and sleep which help maintain homeostasis.
Little confusing? Think thermostat. Once a thermostat reaches the optimal temperature, it turns off. Should the temperature lower, the thermostat activates. Adaptogens are similar. They give the body what is needed, when it’s needed, to bring it back into balance thereby avoiding the inevitable ‘crash’ that can follow particularly when ingesting quick fixes.
As for the immune system, functional mushrooms not only support immunity, they act as immuno-regulators, meaning they help calm an overactive immune system when stressed or increase its activity when sluggish. That’s because they have beta glucans.
Found in the cells of functional mushrooms, beta glucans help the immune system work at peak performance by boosting and regulating it. Different beta glucans are specific to individual functional mushrooms, each enhancing the immune system in a slightly different way. Some have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory benefits, others anti-viral or anti-cancer properties and others cardio-protective properties.
Functional Mushrooms at a Glance
While some functional mushrooms can be eaten, others cannot because they are too ‘woody’ or the flavour is just plain nasty. To take out the guess work on dosage and flavour, functional mushrooms are sold as powdered extract, acting much like a food supplement so that our bodies can benefit from their amazing properties without worry. All mushroom extracts used in ProActive products are processed in Canada. Organically grown, no starch, mycelium or grains are used in processing and are scientifically verified by independent labs.
Researchers have also investigated Chaga in combating cancer for a long time .
Testing is still ongoing, but of particular interest are the ethanol-soluble lanostanic triterpenoid antioxidants. These are antioxidants that mitigate the damaging effects of free radicals that harm tissue and interfere with DNA replication. That’s important because a breakdown in the antioxidant capacity of cells is suspected to underlie various health challenges, such as inflammation, premature aging, and some cancers.
Research in 2016 suggests that shiitake mushrooms help fight cancer cells and the lentinan in shiitakes help heal chromosome damage caused by anticancer treatments.
Shiitake mushrooms are a great source of B vitamins, which help support adrenal function and turn nutrients from food into useable energy. They also help balance hormones naturally and even improve cognitive performance by breaking through brain fog to maintain focus all day long.
In varying degrees, compounds from or supplementation with lion’s mane mushroom, has been found to potentially slow the progression or reverse the spread of leukemia, gastric cancer, lung cancer, cervical cancer, liver cancer, colon cancer and breast cancer.
A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry lists the benefits of lion’s mane mushroom as “antibiotic, anticarcinogenic, antidiabetic, anti-fatigue, antihypertensive, anti-hyperlipodemic, anti-senescence [anti-aging], cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, and neuroprotective, and improves anxiety, cognitive function, and depression
A 2012 study conducted in Malaysia found that consuming lion’s mane mushroom could actually regenerate damaged cells from peripheral nerve injury, an injury affecting the delicate tissue between your brain and spinal cord.
A new report on the benefits of Lions Mane and Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has just arrived on my desk from Dr Rhonda Patrick, one of my favourite go to sources when researching functional nutrition. It makes compelling reading.
When it comes to functional foods, the turkey tail mushroom, may top the list. It’s the most researched functional mushroom of the bunch, proven to promote immune function.
Turkey Tail is prized for its beta glucan polysaccharides. Polysaccharides are “essential sugars” in the body that aid in activating immunity. Clinical trials suggest that bacterial infections can be reduced using polysaccharides. The polysaccharides have strong communication with all T cells that are an essential part of white blood cells when fighting infection.
Known to stave off any infection, including those associated with the common cold or flu, it helps the immune system become more resilient against ill-causing germs. So when flu season approaches, you may want to include turkey tail in your dietary routine.
Studies are also focussing on how turkey tail mushrooms may help cancer patients who are going through chemotherapy.
As chemotherapy suppresses the immune system, the hope is that turkey tail mushroom builds the immune system up to better handle the weakness that chemo all too often causes.
Studies repeatedly show that reishi mushrooms have antioxidant abilities that allow them to strengthen the body’s defences against cancer, autoimmune conditions, heart disease, allergies, infections and more.
What makes this mushroom unique, is its calming properties — all of which are thanks to the compound triterpene, which reishi has in abundance.
The positive effects of triterpenes is thought to also help with hypertension, high blood pressure and high cholesterol; sleep disorders and insomnia; anxiety and depression and sharpen focus.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22207209/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14969592/” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15169641/ https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/np010115w https://www.cochranelibrary.com/central/doi/10.1002/central/CN-00863929/full https://www.bmccomplementalternmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6882-13-370
Recently, several promising studies have researched the potential connection between the maitake mushroom and cancer. Although research is still limited to animal models and in vitro studies, maitake mushrooms may contain powerful cancer-fighting properties .
Other research suggests maitake mushrooms may be therapeutic against PCOS (Polycystic ovarian syndrome) and could help combat common issues like infertility.
And animal studies indicates ingesting maitake mushroom for eight weeks lowers blood pressure as well as levels of triglycerides and cholesterol.
Of the more than 400 species of Cordyceps discovered, two have become the focus of health research: Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris.
While research is ongoing, the potential health benefits are promising.
Cordyceps can help the body utilize oxygen more efficiently and enhance blood flow. This can be helpful for athletes or those who regularly work out.
This mushroom has been shown to not only improve exercise and athletic performance, but also speed up post-workout muscle recovery.
Interestingly, This mushroom is also known for stimulating both energy and the libido.
The elderly have traditionally used Cordyceps to reduce fatigue and boost strength and improve sex drive.
Researchers believe their antioxidant content may explain their anti-aging potential.
ProActive Nutraceutical Immunity Booster uses a blend of functional mushroom extract specifically for immune support. ProActive Workout Tonic uses Cordyceps Functional Mushroom Extract for Endurance. And no, It does not affect the great taste. All mushroom extracts are processed in Canada. They are organically grown and no starch, mycelium or grains are used in processing. They are also scientifically verified by independent labs ensuring purity, consistency and high bio-availability.