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Functional mushrooms, also known as medicinal mushrooms, have been used for centuries in traditional medicine practices.

These remarkable fungi offer a wide range of health benefits and have gained popularity in recent years due to their potential therapeutic properties.

In this article, we will delve into the world of functional mushrooms, exploring their varieties, the benefits they offer, and how to best incorporate them into your daily routine.

Types of Functional Mushrooms

Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)

A close up photo of a reishi mushroom on a white backdrop.

Reishi mushrooms are one of the most popular and widely studied functional mushrooms. They contain bioactive compounds, including polysaccharides and triterpenes, which may support immune function, reduce stress, promote sleep, and enhance overall well-being.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus)

A lion's mane mushroom clinging to the bark of a tree trunk in nature.

Lion’s Mane mushrooms are recognized for their unique appearance, resembling a lion’s mane. They contain compounds called hericenones and erinacines, which have been linked to improved cognitive function, memory, and nerve regeneration. Lion’s Mane is often used to support brain health and may aid in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Chaga Mushroom (Inonotus obliquus)

A close up photo of a chaga mushroom in nature.

Chaga mushrooms have a woody appearance and grow on birch trees. They are rich in antioxidants and contain polysaccharides that may help boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, and support overall well-being. Chaga mushrooms are often consumed as tea or used in extracts and powders.

Cordyceps Mushroom (Cordyceps sinensis)

Cordyceps Mushroom - an alien-looking orange functional mushroom species - close up shot.

Cordyceps mushrooms are unique in that they grow on the larvae of insects. They are known for their potential to enhance athletic performance, increase energy levels, and improve oxygen utilization. Cordyceps are often used by athletes and individuals seeking an energy boost.

Benefits of Using Functional Mushrooms

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Courtesy of Mycology Men

Immune Support and Modulation

Functional mushrooms, such as Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), have been extensively studied for their immune-modulating properties. Research published in the journal “Phytotherapy Research” (2016) highlights the potential of Reishi mushrooms to enhance immune response by increasing the activity of natural killer cells and other immune cells.

Another study published in the “Journal of Medicinal Food” (2014)* investigated the immunomodulatory effects of Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis) and found that it exhibited significant immunostimulatory activity, potentially enhancing the body’s defense mechanisms against infections and diseases.

Cognitive Function and Brain Health

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) mushrooms have shown promise in supporting cognitive function and brain health.

A study published in “Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin” (2009)* demonstrated that Lion’s Mane extract could stimulate the production of nerve growth factors, which play a vital role in nerve cell regeneration and synaptic plasticity, thereby potentially improving memory and cognitive abilities.

A review published in “Critical Reviews in Biotechnology” (2014) explored the neuroprotective properties of Lion’s Mane and highlighted its potential therapeutic application in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant Effects

Functional mushrooms possess potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. A study published in “Molecules” (2013)* examined the antioxidant activity of various mushroom species, including Chaga (Inonotus obliquus).

The research demonstrated that Chaga mushroom exhibited significant antioxidant activity, scavenging free radicals and reducing oxidative stress.

Reishi mushrooms have also been studied for their anti-inflammatory effects. A review published in “Nutrients” (2017)* highlighted the potential of Reishi in reducing inflammation and modulating immune responses, making it a valuable functional mushroom for individuals with chronic inflammatory conditions.

Energy and Exercise Performance

Cordyceps mushrooms have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine for their potential to improve energy levels and exercise performance.

A study published in “Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise” (2016)* examined the effects of Cordyceps supplementation on exercise performance in healthy older adults. The results demonstrated improved exercise capacity and enhanced muscle endurance.

Stress Reduction and Mood Enhancement

Some functional mushrooms, including reishi, have adaptogenic properties, meaning they may help the body adapt to stress and promote a sense of calm.

Reishi mushrooms have been traditionally used to reduce anxiety, promote relaxation, and improve sleep quality.

Best Ways to Use Functional Mushrooms

Tea and Hot Beverages

Hot team made from brewing functional mushrooms.

One of the simplest ways to enjoy functional mushrooms is by brewing them into a tea. This involves simmering dried mushroom slices or mushroom powder in hot water for 15-20 minutes.

Reishi, chaga, and Lion’s Mane mushrooms are commonly used for this purpose. Simply add the mushrooms to a cup of boiling water, let them steep, and then enjoy the flavorful and nutritious beverage.

Capsules and Extracts

A clear capsule packed with light tan functional mushroom powder.

For those who prefer a more convenient option, functional mushrooms are available in the form of mushroom capsules and liquid extracts.

These products provide a concentrated dose of mushroom compounds and can be easily incorporated into your daily routine. Follow the instructions on the packaging for the recommended dosage.

Culinary Delights

A skillet of vegetable stirfry, topped off with a handfull of sliced functional mushrooms.

Functional mushrooms can also be incorporated into various culinary creations.

For example, you can add sliced shiitake mushrooms to stir-fries, soups, or sauces to enhance both the flavor and nutritional profile of your dishes. Mushrooms like Lion’s Mane and oyster mushrooms can be sautéed or grilled as a delicious and healthy side dish.

Powdered Supplements

A wooden bowl with light tan colored powder derived from functional mushrooms.

Mushroom powders are another popular option for incorporating functional mushrooms into your diet. These powders can be mixed into smoothies, juices, or even sprinkled over cereals or yogurt.

They offer a convenient and versatile way to enjoy the benefits of mushrooms in a concentrated form.

Mushroom Broths and Soups

Mushroom broth and soup made from funcitonal mushrooms - mushrooms floating in a bowl of brown soup.

Making mushroom broth or soup is an excellent way to extract the goodness from functional mushrooms.

You can simmer a combination of mushrooms, such as reishi, shiitake, and maitake, along with other vegetables and herbs, to create a flavorful and nutrient-rich broth or soup.


Functional mushrooms have captivated the attention of health enthusiasts and researchers alike due to their potential health benefits.

From immune support to cognitive enhancement, these remarkable fungi offer a wide array of advantages. With varieties like reishi, Lion’s Mane, chaga, and cordyceps, each mushroom brings its unique properties and potential.

Whether you choose to enjoy them in tea, capsules, extracts, or culinary creations, incorporating functional mushrooms into your daily routine can be a delicious and beneficial way to support your overall well-being.

Embrace the power of nature’s pharmacy and unlock the potential of functional mushrooms in your life.

Note: This insightful article on functional mushrooms is a guest post by our friends at Their expertise in mycology brings you valuable information and a deeper understanding of the topic. Explore their website for more fascinating insights into the world of mushrooms and their incredible benefits.

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