Mushrooms have been touted for their healing powers for centuries, and thanks to a recent surge of interest in natural health solutions—and research—mushroom supplements are more popular than ever before.
Whether you’re looking for a brain boost, immune support, or energy jolt, there’s a mushroom supplement for you. From chaga to shiitake, use this guide to find your perfect mushroom match.
1. For Sleep And Calm: Reishi
“Reishi is an adaptogen, which means it helps the body cope with emotional, mental, and physical stressors,” says nutritional and medical herbalist Sonya Elnaschie BSc (Hons), M.C.P.P., M.C.S.P., H.C.P.C., founder of Hawthorn Integrated Health & Wellness.
How? Let’s break it down: When the body interprets something as stressful, it increases production of cortisol, which then affects the entire endocrine (hormone) system, Elnaschie explains. By modulating this stress response, reishi helps the endocrine system return to homeostasis. The result: You feel more balanced and at-ease.
“For people who experience sleep disturbances as a result of high stress, reishi can be very helpful,” she says.
Elnaschie recommends three to 12 grams of reishi mushroom powder for the average person. (It’s easy to in teas or blend into smoothies.) If you’re dealing with chronic stress or trouble sleeping, work with a naturopathic doctor, she says.
2. For Immunity And Healthy Aging: Chaga
Chaga mushrooms’ claim to fame: high antioxidant content. In fact, they have one of the highest oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) scores—which measures antioxidant properties—of any food, says Elnaschie “For comparison, goji berries—often celebrated for their antioxidants—have a score only half as high of chaga,” she points out.
Antioxidants help protect our body from free radicals (harmful compounds from alcohol, smoking, and pollution) that, in excess, can speed up aging. In fact, research published in Clinical Interventions in Aging links increased antioxidant intake (which chaga can help with) with reduced signs of aging and hair, skin, and nail health.
Plus, since antioxidants help boost immune function, chaga can also support everyday health.
Elnaschie recommends two teaspoons of chaga powder a day. You can make a chaga ‘tea’ with just hot water, or add it to hot cocoa mix or protein balls.
3. For Energy And Recovery: Cordyceps
Cordyceps mushrooms, sometimes called caterpillar fungus, have been used for hundreds of years “to help the body accommodate various physical and emotional stressors,” says Kerry Boyle M.S., LAc, licensed acupuncturist with Acupuncture in Vermont. It’s long been a natural solution for everything from fatigue to brain fog.
Perhaps best known for supporting athletic performance, cordyceps can boost production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), Boyle says. (This is the compound our body uses for energy on a cellular level.)
Research suggests cordyceps are totally legit: In one small study published in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, researchers split participants into two groups. One group received three grams of cordyceps per day, while the other received a placebo. After 60 days, those who took cordyceps increased their VO2 max—a common fitness measure—by seven percent. Those who took the placebo saw no change.
Boyle recommends one to three grams of powdered cordyceps per day. (You can also find it in tablet, capsule, or tincture form.)
4. For Focus: Lion’s Mane
Also called ‘hedgehog mushroom,’ lion’s mane is thought to support brain health and enhance focus. “Some people find that taking lion’s mane has a similar effect on focus as a cup of coffee,” says Elnaschie.
One small study published in Phytotherapy Research even found that adults with mild cognitive impairment who consumed three grams of lion’s mane daily for four months experienced improved cognitive function. (Interestingly, these benefits disappeared after they stopped supplementing.)
If you want to fight that mid-afternoon brain fog or support your general brain health, Elnaschie recommends three to 12 grams of powdered lion’s mane per day. However, if you have more serious cognitive concerns, seek the help of your physician.
5. For Skin Health: Shiitake
Like chaga, shiitake mushrooms are also a powerful source of antioxidants, which is why they’re often credited for supporting healthy aging, says licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbal expert Jonathan Fleming with Acupuncture in Vermont. Because of that, shiitake has become a go-to for natural beauty.
“Eating shiitake mushrooms is a good way to get more B vitamins, vitamin D, selenium, copper, and prebiotics into your diet,” says Elnaschie. In addition to promoting general well-being, these nutrients also work together to support bone, hair, and nail health.
The best part about shiitake: You can find them in the produce aisle. Of course, if you don’t want to eat mushrooms day after day, you can also find shiitake in supplement form. Elnaschie recommends starting with about 1,000 milligrams per day.
Best Practices For Supplementing With Mushrooms
Before adding any mushroom supplements to your routine, talk to your healthcare provider to ensure they don’t interact with any medications you take, Boyle says.
References & Further Reading
- Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects: “Ganoderma Lucidem (Lingzhi or Reishi)”
- Clinical Interventions in Aging: “Effects of antioxidant supplementation on the aging process.”
- Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine: “Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial and assessment of fermentation product of Cordyceps sinensis (Cs-4) in enhancing aerobic capacity and respiratory function of the healthy elderly volunteers”
- Phytotherapy Research: “Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.”