Dr. Kara Fitzgerald
Mushrooms are a powerful, and often underutilized, tool for health and longevity. They provide important nutrients, including those used in methylation cycles- folate, choline, and zinc for example. Their bioactive compounds also act as DNA methylation adaptogens, with the ability to influence gene expression and even potentially biological age. It’s why mushrooms feature as one of the Younger You Dynamic Dozen foods.
But how well do you know one mushroom from another? Their specific therapeutic uses and dosing? What form to look for on ingredient labels?
This blog will introduce you to the different types of medicinal (or “functional”) mushrooms that you’ll want to be aware of, and illustrate how they can be used in practice alongside other interventions with a case study using a protocol for recurrent cold sores. I also encourage you to download our full guide, generously provided by guest author, Dr. Mason Bresett, Naturopathic Doctor (ND), who has a focus in mushrooms, to learn about additional therapeutic considerations, how much to take/prescribe of each, research, and more.
The following is excerpted from the full guide: A Guide to the Practical Application of Functional Mushrooms (see below how to download for FREE)
There is a growing interest in the health benefits of culinary, medicinal and psychedelic mushrooms. This guide will discuss practical mycology applications for health and wellness, specifically focusing on functional mushrooms. Functional mushrooms are unique because of their nutrients, medicinal compounds and immunological activity.
Mushroom benefits are supported by traditional knowledge, modern scientific studies and clinical success. In fact, multiple drugs and medical innovations are derived from fungi or endophytic fungi. Some of these include: Lovastatin, Cyclosporin A, Taxol and Ergotamine and multiple antibiotics (Penicillin, Amoxicillin, Cephalosporin).
All mushrooms contain primary and secondary medicinal active compounds. The most studied primary active compounds are key polysaccharides called beta-d-glucans (beta-glucans). These beta-glucans activate key receptors on immune cells activating the innate and adaptive immune system (the two main branches of our immune response). These compounds may also impact the memory of innate immune cells, creating metabolic changes priming future immune activity also known as trained innate immunity.
The secondary medicinal compounds are specific to each mushroom since all mushrooms have baseline immune modulation activity plus their own unique medicinal qualities. For example, Lion’s Mane mushrooms contain beta-glucans helpful for the immune system but also isoindolinones and hericenones which have an affinity to the nervous system (references 2-3 in the guide). Lion’s Mane also is used traditionally for digestive and energy concerns.
A Guide to the Practical Application of Functional Mushrooms – FREE to download
Here is a summary of the most commonly-used functional mushrooms. More detail can be found in the full guide.
- Reishi mushrooms are used traditionally for kidney support, lung support, increasing longevity, supporting cognition and qi (energy). Reishi mushrooms contain beta-glucans plus triterpenes which are highly functional.
- Turkey Tail mushrooms are used traditionally for cough, asthma, lung support, infections, tissue healing and digestion. Turkey tail mushrooms contain beta-glucans plus protein bound beta-glucans.
- Lion’s Mane mushrooms are used traditionally for digestive, stress and brain support. Lion’s Mane is also used for dizziness, insomnia, and fatigue. Lion’s Mane mushrooms contain beta-glucans plus hericenones, isoindolinones and Hericene compounds.
- Cordyceps mushrooms are used traditionally for aphrodisiac, energy and fertility properties. Cordyceps also supports lung health, kidney tonification and is used to treat chronic illness. Cordyceps mushrooms contain beta glucans and cordycepin, a nucleoside (higher in the subspecies Cordyceps militaris)
- Maitake mushrooms are a traditional food in many cultures that support general health, digestion, diuresis and metabolism. Maitake mushrooms contain beta-glucans and key proteins.
- Shiitake mushrooms are used traditionally as a tonic food to improve energy, digestion circulation, pain control, metabolism and immune support. Shiitake mushrooms have beta-glucans plus eritadenine, a unique compound that accelerates cholesterol metabolism. Undercooked shiitake can cause topical dermatitis in sensitive and susceptible individuals.
- Tremella mushrooms are used traditionally as a food to support yin, skin health, lung health, reduce dryness and promote beauty. Tremella mushrooms have unique heteroglycan polysaccharides and mannans with a triple helix structure that allow for moisture retention.
- Oyster mushrooms are used traditionally as a tonic food. Oyster mushrooms have beta-glucans, notably pleuran which most of the respiratory research evidence is based on. Oyster mushrooms contain lovastatin (a natural statin) and more ergothioneine (an amino acid that has potent redox regulatingactivities) than most cultivated mushrooms. Ergothioneine is protective against oxidative stress in pre-clinical trials in diseases of aging and levels of this amino acid decline with age.
- Poria is one of the most common fungi (sclerotium) used traditionally in Chinese Medicine herbal formulas for mood, indigestion and low energy. It also supports immune health and supports fluid metabolism. Paired with reishi, this sclerotium can support longevity. Poria contains beta-glucans plus unique triterpenes.
- Chaga, a canker (not a mushroom) is used traditionally for dermatologic and stomach concerns like psoriasis, gastrointestinal cancers, ulcers and gastritis. In other cultural medicine systems Chaga is used for metabolic support, pain relief and as a general health tonic. Chaga contains beta-glucans plus melanin complexes, lanostanic triterpenoids such as betulinic acid and inotodiol.
- White button mushrooms (WBM) are one of the most common culinary mushrooms. Traditionally WBMs are used for supporting general health and longevity. WBMs contain beta-glucans, proteoglucans and ergosterol. Ergosterol is found in most mushrooms but is higher in WBMs. Ergosterol is a Vitamin D2 precursor which is converted to Vitamin D2 upon exposure to UV light under specific conditions. This is a useful form of D2 for vegans and impacts serum parathyroid hormone, Vitamin D and calcium levels. It works differently than Vitamin D3.
Mushrooms and Cold Sores: A Case Study
A 34 year old male suffered chronic upper and lower lip herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) infections every 4 weeks. Patient history revealed mild dysbiosis secondary to previous antibiotic use for unrelated infections. Infections increased in times of increased stress, travel and allostatic load.
Practical and synergistic application of mushrooms included:
- Daily dose of 1000 mg turkey tail and 500 mg reishi mushroom capsules (1500 mg total with 425 mg of active beta-glucans) taken by mouth for 16 weeks, 5 days of the week.
- 1 ml of Topical lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) applied topically 3 times daily on sores for antiviral effect and pain modulation.
- 400 mg lysine 5x per day every 2.5 hours by mouth for 3-5 days during acute flares.
- Low arginine diet recommended during flares.
- Stress management with 20 minutes of conscious diaphragm breathing per day.
Client was able to reduce HSV1 infections from 12 per year down to 1-2 times per year with the above protocol. This transition took 4 months. Mushroom extract dose was adjusted to 500 mg of reishi and 1000 mg of turkey tail 3x per week for a maintenance adaptogenic and immune support dose.
A Guide to the Practical Application of Functional Mushrooms – FREE to download
What’s inside the Guide to the Practical Application of Functional Mushrooms:
- Functional Mushrooms – Applications, Research, and Dosing
- Reishi (Ganoderma lingzhi)
- Turkey Tail (Trametes veriscolor)
- Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
- Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris/sinensis)
- Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
- Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
- Tremella (Tremella fuciformis)
- Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus)
- Poria (Poria cocos)
- Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
- White Button (Agaricus sp)
- Additional Active Compounds
- Most Common Forms of Functional Mushrooms
- Life Cycle & Fungal Parts Used
- Mushrooms Case Study
- Medicinal Mushrooms, Are You Prescribing What Works?
- Younger You book pages 152, 219-220, 224-225
Disclaimer: The information or products mentioned in this communication are provided as information resources only, and are not to be used or relied on to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information does not create any patient-doctor relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. The information is intended for health care professionals only. The statements made in this video have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.