22 Nov 2023
Before we talk about how to take mushrooms, let’s quickly recap what functional fungi are. Medicinal mushrooms are specific varieties of mushroom that offer impressive health benefits to those who consume them. To be clear, none of the fungi we’re talking about here have hallucinatory effects. This isn’t an article about how to take magic mushrooms!
Practitioners of traditional medicine systems have been harnessing the power of functional mushrooms for generations. And today, scientific research is finding persuasive evidence to back up their wellness-boosting reputation.
The best part is that it’s easy to incorporate functional fungi into your diet, as this article will show you. But first, it might be useful to discuss how they could benefit your wellbeing in more detail. After all, it’s important to know why you’re using them before you get into how to take mushrooms!
The simple answer to this question is that functional fungi can be a natural and effective way to support your health. And they do so in several ways.
First, medicinal mushrooms function as adaptogens. This means they enable the mind and body to cope with stress more effectively. That includes long-term and short-term stress, whether it’s physical or emotional. The idea is that they help you get back to a healthy equilibrium.
In addition, functional fungi are rich in a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucans. These potent polysaccharides are bursting with potential health benefits. As prebiotics, they nourish the good bacteria in your gut and work to keep the bad bacteria in check.(1) This is more important than you might think, because the condition of your gut affects everything from immunity to brain health.
Speaking of immunity, this is another area in which medicinal mushrooms shine. The beta-glucans they contain are able to activate certain types of immune cells, such as macrophages and natural killer cells.(2) This could help you ward off diseases and infections more effectively.
As if that wasn’t enough, medicinal mushrooms also possess powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This is a key reason to know how to take mushrooms, because both chronic inflammation and oxidative stress can cause damage. Experts have linked them to numerous harmful health conditions, including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
And that’s not the only way that functional fungi may support the health of your heart. Studies suggest beta-glucans also work to improve cholesterol levels, thereby lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.(3)
That covers the why, so let’s now turn to the question of how to take mushrooms.
The first thing to consider when thinking about how to take mushrooms is which type you want to use. While they all share the benefits discussed above, each variety also has its own unique advantages. This is thanks to individual secondary metabolites they contain, like cordycepin in cordyceps and erinacine A in lion’s mane.
We have separate articles dedicated to the benefits of each medicinal mushroom we offer, so we recommend checking those out. However, here’s a brief overview of their strengths:
Remember that you don’t have to stick to just one type of functional fungi. The only caveat is that you shouldn’t exceed the daily recommended dosage overall. So, for example, we recommend taking half a teaspoon of mushroom powder at a time, up to twice a day. It’s up to you if that’s two half-teaspoons of the same powder or different ones.
Ultimately, only you can decide which is the right medicinal fungus for you. Have a think about which potential benefits you’re most interested in, then pick the mushroom that best suits your needs.
Once you’ve chosen your fungi, it’s time to address the key issue of this article: how to take mushrooms. While it's possible to source and consume fresh mushrooms, this can be tricky. Some species are difficult to get hold of, while others have a tough texture and bitter flavor.
If you do use fresh fungi, ensure you check the specifics of how long to cook them for. Some, like shiitake, are easy to work with. Others, like reishi, need to be cooked for longer to extract the nutrients.
Another option for how to take mushrooms is capsules. While these are convenient, it’s not always clear exactly what’s in them. If they don’t disclose the amount of active ingredients they contain, you can’t be sure of their potency. In addition, the capsules themselves often include gelatine or other animal-derived ingredients you may want to avoid. It’s therefore important to scrutinise the information about the capsules you’re considering. That way, you can be confident about what you’re putting into your body.
Personally, we think the best choice of how to take mushrooms is as a powder. Companies make these by drying the fungi and then finely grinding them. Powder is therefore both a more natural and versatile option than capsules, and an easier method than fresh fungi.
You can also go for a dual extract mushroom powder. These are made by using water and ethanol to draw out certain beneficial compounds, creating a more concentrated product. Both whole powders and extracts have their advantages, and you use them in the same way.
So, let’s look at how to take mushrooms in powder form. You’ve got plenty of options to choose from!
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