When it comes to mushrooms, what you see isn’t what you get. What we know as “mushrooms” are just the fruiting bodies of a very complex organism. Beneath the earth exists a complex network that connects the fruiting bodies, called mycelium. This network plays a huge role in the forest ecosystem and one organism can often cover an entire forest. In fact, the largest organism on earth is a fungi! A honey mushroom fungus runs 3.8 km across the Blue Mountains in Oregon.
Mushrooms: more animal than plant
Genetically mushrooms are more closely related to humans than they are to plants. When you look closely, you begin to see the similarities. Mushrooms have a digestive system, an immune system and a neural network that communicates just like the neurons in the human brain.
Mushrooms developed an immune system and digestive system that works externally. Instead of taking in food to digest, the mycelium sends digestive enzymes out into the soil where it digests near by foods. To eat, the mycelium absorbs the pre-digested nutrients from it’s surroundings. The same goes for the immune system. When a harmful bacteria is present, the mycelium creates a targeted antibody and secretes it externally into the soil.
Incredibly, the fungi neural network mimics the human neural networking in many ways. A signal can be sent across a massive area in a matter of seconds. For example, after one part of the mycelium network has encountered a bacteria and created an antibody, that antibody will be present in the rest of the mycelium within seconds. Remember, these fungi can be kilometers in size!
The fungi neural network also helps the forest ecosystem. The mycelium is smart and it will use it’s networks to redistribute water from flooded areas to areas experiencing a drought.
Because of our genetic similarities, mushrooms convey many health benefits to us humans. All mushroom varieties contain beneficial compounds called Beta-Glucans. These compounds enhance immune functioning by activating complement system, enhancing macrophages and natural killer cell function.
Beyond the general immune enhancing abilities, different mushroom species have different health benefits, so let’s break it down a bit. The four most popular medicinal mushrooms are chaga, reishi, lion’s mane and cordyceps.
Chaga – Immunity & Endurance
Chaga mushroom’s powerful health punch comes from it’s high concentration of antioxidants. Of the many ways antioxidants are used in our bodies, one is to battle cancerous cells. On top of this, chaga is able to stimulate the immune system and has antiviral activity.
Reishi – Stress Reduction & Relaxation
This mushroom is an “adaptogen”: it helps to even out bodily systems and bring them back into balance. This makes reishi great for stress management as it helps to even out the hormonal systems in the body.
Lion’s Mane – Mental Acuity & Concentration
Lion’s Mane is a super star when it comes to cognition. Unlike caffeine which gives you a temporary boost in energy, Lion’s Mane has lasting effects on mental acuity and productivity. Molecules contained in this mushroom support the production of Nerve Growth Factors (NGF) in the body which play an important role in neural health.
Cordyceps – Enhanced Energy & Performance
This energy-boosting mushroom contains adenosine which is required in the production of ATP, aka our body’s source of usable energy. Cordyceps, like reishi, is an adaptogen. So unlike coffee, cordyceps provides an increase in energy by naturally stabilizing the body’s systems; thus, avoiding a crash.
Incorporating Medicinal Mushrooms into your Life
A great way to incorporate medicinal mushrooms into your life is by using Four Sigmatic’s medicinal mushroom packets. They’re a quick and convenient (and delicious) way to up your intake up of the beneficial molecules provided by these mushrooms. You can add the powders to shakes, smoothies or make a mushroom latte by mixing them with steamed (plant-based) milk.
Four Sigmatic also makes two mushroom coffees (lion’s mane or cordyceps mixed with instant coffee) and two mushroom hot cocoa mixes! It has never been easier to add these medicinal mushies into your life, so why not give them a try.
Last modified: December 14, 2017