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Medicinal Mushrooms: Types and Histories

January 20, 2023
Reishi Mushroom

We have the kingdom of mushrooms to thank for the creation of many important pharmaceuticals, the most famous of which is the creation of penicillin. From extracting specific chemicals to using the entirety of a mushroom’s mycelium and fruiting body, we humans have been using mushrooms medicinally for thousands of years.

In this guide, we’ll discuss five of the most widely studied and used medicinal mushrooms. We’ll cover human’s historical use of these mushrooms and what current research demonstrates regarding medicinal use.

The five medicinal mushrooms we’ll be covering are:

1. Reishi

2. Turkey tail

3. Chaga

4. Lion’s mane

5. Magic mushrooms

So, Without further ado, let’s dive in!

1. Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)

Reishi mushroom, also known commonly as lingzhi in China, is a widely cultivated and wild-growing bracket fungus that people across East Asia have used medicinally for possibly 2,000 years or more. The scientific name of this famous medicinal mushroom is Ganoderma lucidum.

This mushroom, while often associated with East Asia, also grows wild in temperate and subtropical regions across Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. This bracket fungus is kidney-shaped, shiny, and burnt orange-red.

The medicinal history of reishi in East Asia is rooted in both spiritual and physical health. Culturally, this mushroom can symbolize longevity, divine power, well-being, and success.

Many historians believe the first reference to reishi is found in a book of medicine, the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, one of the earliest known Chinese materia medica. However, it’s important to note that the description of the mushroom in the text may not actually have been referring to reishi.

Historically, people have prepared reishi in a variety of ways for various health effects including immunomodulation, protection of the liver, antimicrobial effects, and blood glucose level modulation.

Currently, modern research supports the use of reishi mushrooms in certain preparations for some of its traditional uses. Modern researchers have confirmed that reishi contains over 400 bioactive compounds, some of which display active anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects. Additionally, studies have shown preparations of reishi have liver-protecting, hypoglycemic, and immune, respiratory, and nervous system-modulating effects.

Reishi is widely available in tincture, tea, powder, and capsule form. Read more:

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