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5 functional mushrooms wellness industry craves!

April 28, 2022

More and more Americans are turning to “functional mushrooms,” or fungi said to help treat diseases and improve cognition, as health supplements.

Functional mushrooms, also called “medicinal mushrooms,” come with claims of healing properties alongside nutritional benefits. Functional mushrooms do not, however, have psychoactive properties, which separate them from “magic” mushrooms

Allied Market Research estimates the global functional mushroom market generated $7.98 billion in 2020, and may reach $19.33 billion by 2030. Goop and GNC offer functional mushroom supplements that claim to increase energy and support the immune system. Kin Euphorics, Bella Hadid’s buzzy beverage startup, infuses reishi mushrooms in an alcohol alternative drink to help “strengthen the adrenal system and balance your body’s reactions to stress.”

Though traditional cultures in Asia, Europe, and North America have used functional mushrooms as a natural remedy for a variety of diseases, few human studies have been done testing functional mushrooms as medicine.

Wellness drinks and supplements contain many different ingredients, but five major functional mushrooms come up again and again: lion’s mane, reishi, turkey tail, cordyceps, and chaga. 

Lion’s mane (hericium erinaceus) grows on old or dead broadleaf trees and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years, according to the Journal of Restorative Medicine. The mushroom gets its name from its thin, hair-like structure.

Lion’s mane has traditionally been used to promote digestion and treat cancer. Animal studies suggest consuming the mushroom may protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, but there is little data on Lion’s mane’s effects on humans.

Some companies are experimenting with lion’s mane as an alternative to coffee or Adderall due to its potential cognitive properties. A 2009 study with 30 elderly participants — one of the only non-animal studies on lion’s mane — suggested people who consumed three grams of lion’s mane extract for 16 weeks performed slightly better on cognitive tests than a placebo group. Read more:

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