Medicinal Mushrooms: A Guide to our Fungi Friends

In addition to hemp products, Happy Trails is also happy to sell products with other types of alternative medicines in them. This post will be dedicated to discussing the benefits of a few of the mushrooms that are useful for health purposes. These mushrooms can be found in our Odyssey Elixir drinks and we have just added more products from Medicinal Mushroom Co. Look out for these mushroom-y products in store!

Cordyceps

Cordyceps are fungi that have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for Centuries. The first recorded use of cordyceps comes from 620 AD during the time of the Tang Dynasty. 

Cordyceps refers to a genus of fungi with over 680 species, many of which are actually parasitic. These parasitic cordyceps grow out of the bodies of insect larvae. The latin translation for the words “cord” and “ceps” translates to “club” and “head”; these mushrooms are referred to as “club fungi” because of their shape. Wild grown cordyceps are notoriously expensive, but thanks to artificial cultivation, they have been made more available.

As for the specific medicinal applications for cordyceps, a 2008 article published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms is quoted as describing it as, 

“In [Traditional Chinese Medicine], Cordyceps has been used to treat conditions including respiration and pulmonary diseases; renal, liver, and cardiovascular diseases; hyposexuality; and hyperlipidemia.

It is also used in the treatment of immune disorders and as an adjunct to modern cancer therapies (chemotherapy, radiation treatment and surgery). Cordyceps is believed by many, particularly in and around Tibet (its place of origin), to be a remedy for weakness and fatigue, and it is often used as an overall rejuvenator for increased energy while recovering from a serious illness. Many also believe it to be a treatment for impotence, acting as an aphrodisiac in both men and women.”

Areas where cordyceps may help are,

  • Heart Health
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Inflammation
  • Cancer
  • Anti-Aging
  • Exercise Performance
  • Cholesterol Levels
  • Respiratory Ailments
  • Liver Ailments
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Libido 

Cordyceps seems to be generally well-tolerated and safe to use, especially given its lengthy history. With that being said, little research has been done on humans. Areas of concern are for interactions with anti-diabetic medications and antiretroviral drugs like those used to treat HIV.

Lion’s Mane

Hericium erinaceus, known as lion’s mane and bearded tooth fungus, is a species of mushroom with a long history of medicinal use. Lion’s mane is commonly found in North America and Japan. It can also be found in Europe, although more rarely so. In the wild, lion’s mane will grow on the logs of hardwood trees. Lion’s mane can also be cultivated indoors using sterile jars or bags and industrial or agricultural waste as its growing medium. For example, lion’s mane can be cultivated on a mixture of sawdust and wheat bran.

Lion’s mane is nutritious and said to have a “sea-food like” flavor but has the ability to take on the flavor of other ingredients, making it great for cooking with.

Lion’s mane contains compounds that can stimulate the growth of brain cells. It also has anti-inflammatory effects. For these reasons lion’s mane may help with issues such as dementia, mild depression and anxiety, and nervous system injuries. Lion’s mane is also helpful for digestive tract ulcers, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and immune function. All of these benefits are thanks to specific bioactive compounds found in the fungus. 

Figure 1 below is a recreation of the table provided on page 10 of Biology, cultivation, and medicinal functions of the mushroom Hericium erinaceum (Sokół et al 2016); it contains a list of the important bioactive compounds and their purpose.

Figure 1

Bioactive compounds

Activity

Treatment

Polysaccharides

Immunomodulatory

Cancers

Anticancer

Gastrointestinal cancers (liver,gastric, colorectal, leukemia)

Anti-bacterial

Helicobacter pylori infection

Gastroprotective

Ulcers, chronic gastritis

Cholesterol and triglyceride lowering

Hyperlipidemia

Hepatoprotective

Hepatic tissue damage

Blood glucose lowering

Diabetes

Hericenones A-B

Cytotoxic

Cancers

Anti-platelet aggregation

Vascular diseases, stroke, thrombosis

Hericenones C-H, erinacines A-I

Neuroprotective, neuroregenerative

Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s diseases, dementia, depression

Hericirine

Reduction of pro-inflammatory mediators and cytokines

Inflammatory diseases

Polyphenols

Antioxidative

Anti-skin aging


Turkey Tail

Trametes versicolor, also known as Coriolus versicolor, is a fungus commonly found in the North American woods as well as all over the world. The common name of this mushroom is turkey tail for which it gets its name from its rings of color that resemble the shades found on wild turkeys. Turkey tail can be cultivated indoors. Turkey tail mushroom has an earthy, slightly bitter taste. It can be combined with a variety of recipes including coffee and tea.

Turkey tail is useful as an immune boost. It is high in antioxidants which fight harmful free radicals in the body, reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. Turkey tail contains Polysaccharopeptides which strengthens the immune system. Because of its immune-boosting and inflammation-lowering properties turkey tail may help with certain cancers and increase the effectiveness of some cancer treatments. Turkey tail is also good for gut health, which in turn can help your immune system. It helps the gut by sustaining good bacteria while inhibiting bad ones.

Chaga

Hailing from areas with cold climates, chaga can be commonly found in areas such as northern Europe, Siberia, Russia, Korea, Northern Canada and Alaska. The chaga has a dark charcoal-like appearance that is woody in texture, but when cut open is soft and orange on the inside. Chaga grow on trees and often prefer birch.

This fungus is high in fiber and antioxidants. It has been used in traditional medicine in Russia and Eastern Europe. Teas are often brewed from grated portions of the mushroom and in modern times are now available in powders and capsules. 

Chaga is anti-inflammatory and helps the immune system. Although in some cases it may cause the immune system to become overactive. In rodent studies, chaga has helped with lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Chaga also has anti-cancer properties on human tumor cells.

In summary, mushrooms can be very healthy addition to your regimen. Remember it's important to find a reputable source, not all companies test their products for things like residual solvents and pesticides that can be detrimental to our health. As always, please don't ever hesitate to reach out to us with any questions! We put our pants on the same way you do. 

 
Amber
 
My name is Amber. I am a cannabinoid consultant and columnist for Happy Trails. I have a Bachelor of Science in Biology. I enjoy learning about things I have passion for, and my family lovingly calls me a “human encyclopedia”.  Read more about Amber here.  

 

References

Brown, M. J. (2018, October 25). Chaga Mushroom: Uses, Benefits and Side Effects. Healthline. Retrieved April 26, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/chaga-mushroom#side-effects

Holliday, J., & Cleaver, M. (2008). Medicinal Value of the Caterpillar Fungi Species of the Genus Cordyceps (Fr.) Link (Ascomycetes). A Review. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 10(3), 219-234. https://web.archive.org/web/20120222065508/http://www.alohamedicinals.com/cordycepsIJM1003.pdf

Julson, E. (2018, May 19). 9 Health Benefits of Lion's Mane Mushroom (Plus Side Effects). Healthline. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lions-mane-mushroom#TOC_TITLE_HDR_11

Kubala, J. (2018, November 6). 5 Immune-Boosting Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushroom. Healthline. Retrieved March 19, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/turkey-tail-mushroom#Food-Fix:-Immune-System-Boost

Roberts, Shelly. “Turkey Tail Mushroom Taste and How to Add to Daily Meals.” Om Mushroom Superfood, 18 May 2021, https://ommushrooms.com/blogs/blog/turkey-tail-mushroomtaste-m2. Accessed 30 March 2022.

Shields, T. (n.d.). Growing Lion's Mane Mushroom - FreshCap Mushrooms. Growing. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://learn.freshcap.com/growing/candidates-for-cultivation-the-lions-mane-mushroom/

Sokół, S., Golak-Siwulska, I., Sobieralski, K., Siwulski, M., & Górka, K. (2016, January 29). Biology, cultivation, and medicinal functions of the mushroom Hericium erinaceum. Acta Mycologica, 50(2). https://pbsociety.org.pl/journals/index.php/am/article/view/am.1069/5775

Turkey Tail Identification: Pictures, Habitat, Season & Spore Print | Trametes versicolor. (n.d.). Edible Wild Food. Retrieved March 19, 2022, from https://www.ediblewildfood.com/turkey-tail.aspx

Van De Walle, G. (2018, May 9). 6 Benefits of Cordyceps, All Backed by Science. Healthline. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cordyceps-benefits#TOC_TITLE_HDR_8

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