An Overview of Functional Mushrooms

I listened to a podcast early this morning on the topic of mushrooms, & found it so interesting: I had to write about it.  On Jillian Michael’s June 5th “Keeping it Real” podcast, she interviews Tony Shields, co-founder of FreshCap Mushrooms.  And what I found so interesting about this interview was: so many conversations about mushrooms these days revolve around psilocybin (magic mushrooms), & how it’s being studied as a potential therapy for a number of disorders.  While this is ground-breaking & fascinating ~ it’s also important to learn about mushrooms you can take daily, that are not psychadelic.  Enter: “An Overview of Functional Mushrooms.”

An Overview of Functional Mushrooms, Girl Who Travels the World

Mushrooms are a HUGE topic of conversation these days. Here, we’ll take a look at the benefits of functional mushrooms.

Let’s make the distinction right up front: the mushrooms we’re discussing today are NOT psychadelic, “magic” mushrooms. For further clarification, mushrooms can largely be broken down into three categories: 1) Food Mushrooms – Ones we eat; 2) Functional Mushrooms – Ones we take for performance, mental clarity, etc. ~ such as Lion’s Mane or Reishi; & 3) Psilocybin/Magic Mushrooms – Ones that, in a large enough dose, will have a psychadelic effect.

An Overview of Functional Mushrooms

We’ll discuss six of the most popular functional mushrooms below.  And while each is known for having a particular “Super Power,” it should be noted that all serve many functions ~ not just one.  I’m simply listing the benefits they’re most often associated with & known for.

An Overview of Functional Mushrooms, Girl Who Travels the World

Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane, & chaga are a few of the mushrooms we’ll be discussing…

The Most Popular Functional Mushrooms

  • LION’S MANE = Brain Health & Cognitive Function: Lion’s Mane contains two very special compounds ~ hericenones and erinacines, which stimulate the growth of brain cells. Perhaps because of this, animal studies have shown that it can be used to protect against Alzheimer’s Disease & dementia, among many other benefits.
  • REISHI = Sleep Support, Immune Support, & Stress Relief: Reishi mushrooms contain more than 400 different nutrients!! Among these are beta-glucans, which lower blood sugar & blood pressure, & they may also increase the number of white blood cells in the body, which are responsible for fighting off viruses & infection. Reishi’s potent antioxidant effect helps fight free radical damage, which can in turn reduce stress & improve sleep quality. 
  • TURKEY TAIL = Immune Support: Filled with antioxidants such as phenols & flavonoids (of which Quercetin is one), Turkey Tail helps to fortify your immune system ~ mainly by helping maintain healthy gut bacteria. And that’s because it also contains prebiotics: which is the food that feeds your healthy gut bacteria. 
  • CORDYCEPS = Energy, Performance, & Endurance: Cordyceps is like the testosterone of the mushroom world, & is associated with improved athletic performance, along with increased energy levels. It’s said to increase energy levels via an increased production of your body’s ATP ~ whose primary duty is delivering energy to muscles. Cordyceps may also improve the way your body uses oxygen, particularly during exercise. 
  • CHAGA= Digestive & Immune Support: One of chaga’s primary functions is to fight inflammation, particularly in the digestive tract. A recent study on mice published by the National Library of Medicine confirms this, as it proved to reduce inflammation & fight off harmful bacteria specifically within the gastro-intestinal system. 
  • MAITAKE = Improve Gut & Cardiovascular Health: Maitake mushrooms contain a hefty dose of prebiotic fiber, along with polysaccharides that promote microbial diversity in the gut ~ both of which promote healthy gut flora. And the beta-glucan in maitake mushrooms helps reduce cholosterol & improve arterial function, leading to better cardiovascular health.

Mushroom Coffee

Multi-Mushroom Capsules

Powder Supplement

Ways to Try Functional Mushrooms…

Not all mushrooms are created equal.  If you’re going to try functional mushrooms, you want to make sure & look for a blend or capsule that contains “Fruiting Bodies.”  You also want to look for a formulation that does not contain rice or grain: this would signal that it’s a very watered-down, less potent version. 

For reference, Four Sigmatic & FreshCaps are two well-known, trusted brands in the functional mushroom space.

A Quick Overview of Functional Mushrooms, Girl Who Travels the World

FreshCaps is one of the most trusted brands in the functional mushroom space. Photo by AndNowUKnow.

  • Try them as a coffee alternative ~ Four Sigmatic’s blend is delicious;
  • Add a small, powder mushroom supplement to your morning coffee (some have no flavor ~ others have a mild taste);
  • Take them as a capsule: FreshCap’s Ultimate Mushroom Complex contains all six of the mushrooms listed above;
  • If you’re interested in treating a specific condition, try one of the concentrated capsules ~ such as Lion’s Mane to improve brain health, or Cordyceps for increased energy, etc.


xoxo Noelia 

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What are the Best Functional Mushrooms? Girl Who Travels the World