All About Adaptogens: Healing Herbs for Health
Adaptogenic mushrooms are also known as functional mushrooms or medicinal mushrooms. They are, however, not to be confused with the psychedelic mushrooms that were popular in the 1960s. Adaptogenic mushrooms have been used for hundreds of years in various Eastern cultures, including ancient Chinese, Japanese, and Indian medicine to promote mental and physical performance.
So what exactly does the term “adaptogenic” refers to? Simply put, an adaptogenic substance, or an adaptogen, is a non-toxic material found in nature. It is often a plant extract used in herbal medicine to help the body adapt better to stress and restore normal functioning.
Even though the world of conventional Western medicine has not officially acknowledged adaptogens yet, proponents are of the view that they impart positive effects on the human body. Today, adaptogens can be consumed in different ways including as a capsule, powder, drink, or as whole food.
There is increasing scientific evidence that suggests adaptogenic mushrooms could provide a variety of health benefits ranging from the regulation of hormones to improving brain function. They are also believed to boost the immune system, mental sharpness, energy levels, and regulate mood.
Outlined below are some of the most well-researched adaptogenic mushrooms along with their potential health benefits.
Can Help Boost the Immune System
Historically, this adaptogenic mushroom has been used as an immune system enhancer. The complex carbohydrates known as beta-glucans found in this mushroom are believed to boost the immune system to provide better protection to the body from various infections.
Can Help Alleviate Fatigue
Reishi mushrooms are natural adaptogens, i.e. plants that help our body combat stress and restore normal functioning. A study was conducted on 132 patients suffering from neurasthenia; a condition characterized by extreme mental and physical exhaustion. It was observed that the consumption of a compound found in reishi mushrooms significantly improved feelings of irritability.
Rich in Antioxidants
Even though the reishi mushrooms are also known as “the mushroom of immortality,” they won’t make you live forever. However, they are certainly rich in antioxidants, to support whole body health and prevent premature aging.
Can Promote Brain Health
Research done on animal models suggests that reishi mushrooms can prove therapeutic for some neurodegenerative diseases and encourage mental clarity and focus.
Can Help Improve Liver Function
The spores of reishi mushrooms are believed to promote the regeneration of liver cells, thus increasing the liver’s ability to eliminate toxins from the body. Healthy liver function is also critical to supporting some other health benefits such as regulating blood sugar levels and managing allergies.
Could Help Regulate Blood Pressure
Cordyceps are known to have strong antioxidant properties and are believed to be effective in supporting a healthy inflammation response throughout the body, both of which can play a role in managing blood pressure. Most of these benefits have been attributed to a substance known as cordycepin, which has a chemical and structural similarity with adenosine. Like adenosine, cordycepin is believed to exhibit vasodilatory properties (relaxes the walls of blood vessels). This can help improve blood circulation, thereby regulating blood pressure.
According to a study conducted in 2017 in China, the same vasodilatory benefits can also be extended to the respiratory tract. Upon daily consumption, cordyceps extract could help relax airway constriction and drastically improve the quality of life of people suffering from moderate to severe asthma.
Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
Might Boost Immune Function
Lion’s mane mushrooms might strengthen the immune system, by preventing oxidation and fighting inflammation. Research conducted on mice suggested that lion’s mane mushrooms can promote the healthy functioning of the intestinal immune system.
Can Help Alleviate Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety
Extracts from lion’s mane mushrooms might help alleviate the symptoms of various psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety. Researchers suggest that such an effect is due to the extract’s ability to combat inflammation.
Can Promote Digestive health
Lion’s mane mushrooms are believed to have immune system-boosting properties and might promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. In vitro studies reveal that lion’s mane mushrooms might also be effective against various bacteria making them more useful in promoting digestive health.
Can Aid in Nervous System Recovery
Damage to the nervous system can have drastic effects on overall health. Research has revealed that extracts from lion’s mane mushrooms might prove helpful in the repair and growth of nerve cells.
Turkey Tail Mushrooms
Might Strengthen Immune Function
The potential health benefits of turkey tail mushrooms are primarily due to the presence of the compound beta-glucans. Made up of chains of complex carbohydrates called polysaccharides, these indigestible fibers are responsible for the structural integrity of the mushroom’s cell wall. A variety of beta-glucans can be found in nature. However, the unique structure of the ones found in turkey tail (known as PSP and PSK), is believed to help strengthen the immune system by increasing or decreasing the activity of certain immune system components, suppressing inflammation, and improving our immunity against pathogens and various toxic substances.
Might Promote Healthy Digestion
Turkey tail mushrooms are a rich source of probiotics and have been shown in research to prove beneficial when it comes to maintaining healthy gut flora. A study hypothesized that the consumption of turkey tail extracts could reduce the populations of potentially harmful bacteria and increased the populations of beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome.
Rich in Antioxidants
Turkey tail mushrooms are a rich source of antioxidants such as flavonoids and phenols. Antioxidants serve as free radical scavengers; they neutralize the reactive oxygen species which can impact overall health.