Medicinal mushrooms have been used by healers for thousands of years.

Reishi mushrooms in a basketThese are Reishi mushrooms. They are one of the most revered mushrooms in Chinese traditional medicine.

Perhaps the earliest record of a human carrying and using mushrooms can be found in the story of Oetzi, or the “Iceman”. He was found by hikers in 1991, frozen high in the Italian Alps.

Oetzi died over 5,300 years ago.

Among other things, he was carrying two different types of mushroom. One was a tinder fungus, used for starting fires. The other was the birch polypore mushroom, which he would almost certainly have carried for its medicinal properties.

On the other side of the Atlantic, mushroom stone sculptures tell us that fungi also played a role in Meso-American culture over 2,000 years ago.

And we know the Chinese have revered mushrooms in their culture and practice of medicine for just as long. In the Chinese city of Nantong there is an entire museum devoted to the history and use of Reishi mushrooms. A museum of its own for just one mushroom species!

Today we also see a deep respect for the medicinal properties of fungi in other parts of Asia, and in Russia and Europe.

In both France and Switzerland, pharmacists are required to learn mushroom identification as part of their jobs.

Strangely, it’s primarily in North America that mushrooms have been relegated to adorning the tops of pizzas.

Which is odd when you look at how much western medicine relies on fungi.

Some of the West’s most important medicines are derived from fungi.

Medicines like the antibiotic, penicillin.

Or the cephalosporin group of antibiotics.

Other drugs that come from fungi include cyclosporine, an immunosuppressant drug, statins for lowering cholesterol, and the drug Taxol, originally extracted from the fungi that live on yew trees.

In other words, mainstream pharmaceutical companies have been tapping into the medicinal power of fungi for decades.

But as a culture, Western Europeans and North Americans are strangely mycophobic.

And yes, that’s a “thing”. Mycophobia is the fear of mushrooms.

Fortunately, little by little, people are coming to better understand the medicinal qualities of mushrooms.

This gradual acceptance of mushrooms has piggy-backed on the growing demand for alternative health products overall.

And then there are Magic Mushrooms. 

If you doubt that mushrooms can pack a pharmaceutical punch, there are over 200 species of fungus that contain the hallucinogenic compound, psilocybin.

The story of magic mushrooms is a fascinating one. It’s only now that their potential to treat anxiety and severe depression is being fully recognized and accepted in the West.

We have a whole page about magic mushrooms.

Active compounds in mushrooms deliver a range of powerful health benefits.

Whether you’re eating them as part of your diet, or taking mushroom supplements in the form of powders or tinctures, many mushrooms contain compounds that support your health.

Beta-glucans support immunity, and are considered to be antibiotic and antiviral.

Triterpenoids are considered to be liver protective, lipid lowering, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and inhibit histamine release.

Ergosterol has antitumor and antioxidant properties, and is a precursor to Vitamin D2.

Statins, which, in high doses, have the ability to lower cholesterol.

And antioxidants, which protect our bodies from the ravages of free radicals.

Here are some of the most popular medicinal mushrooms you’ll want to know about.

Reishi Mushrooms

Reishi Mushrooms are known to many mycologists as the king of mushrooms. Reishi were so highly valued in China that only emperors and other royalty had access to them. It was known as “the mushroom of immortality”. More on Reishi mushrooms…

Chaga mushrooms

Chaga is a fungal canker that grows on birch trees. It has a history of use going back for hundreds of years. It was used in seventeenth-century Russia as a folk cure for anything from cancer to stomach upsets. Chaga is particularly rich in beta-glucans and antioxidants. More on Chaga mushrooms…

Lion’s Mane mushrooms

Lion’s Mane is known for its unique appearance… like a mane or a waterfall of strands. Lion’s Mane supports the immune system, and appears to have strong neuroprotective properties. In other words, good for brain health. More on Lion’s Mane…

Cordyceps mushrooms

Cordyceps are extraordinary in that they grow from the bodies of insects, including ants and caterpillars. It is best known for its ability to boost energy levels and reduce fatigue. It has been revered in China since the time of the Tang Dynasty in AD 620. More on Cordyceps…

Turkey Tail mushrooms

Turkey Tail gets its name from being fan-shaped with different bands of color. It is best known for its use in China and Japan as supporting treatment for cancer. In Japan alone there have been over 400 clinical studies show how Turkey Tails supports the immune stsyem in cancer patients. More on Turkey Tail…

Shiitake Mushroom

Shiitake Mushrooms are one of the world’s most widely cultivated culinary mushrooms, second only in popularity to the common “button” mushroom. But it also boasts powerful medicinal qualities. In traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine, Shiitake mushrooms have been used to alleviate arthritis and treat diabetes, high blood cholesterol and immune deficiency. More on Shiitake…

Maitake Mushrooms

Maitake Mushrooms are sometime referred to as Hen of the Woods or the Dancing Mushroom. These are edible mushrooms and, in common with many other medicinal mushrooms, have strong immunomodulating and supporting activities. More on Maitake…


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