Medicinal mushrooms are natural organisms, which can be used to support health & healing. These fabulous fungi, found in forests or hidden beneath the damp earth, possess therapeutic properties which have been harnessed by cultures around the world for millennia. In this blog, I am delighted to introduce you to Medicinal Mushrooms, to explore their history, benefits, and the compounds behind their healing properties.

History of Healing

Mushrooms have a history of healing. Their use for medicinal purposes traces back to ancient civilizations including the Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks, and Native Americans. These cultures revered mushrooms for their purported healing abilities. In traditional Chinese medicine, species like Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Shiitake (Lentinula edodes), and Cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) were regarded highly for their capacity to enhance vitality, boost the immune system, and promote longevity.

Similarly, Native American tribes used mushrooms like Turkey Tail (Coriolus versicolor) for their immune-boosting properties, while the Egyptians depicted mushrooms in their hieroglyphs, suggesting their significance in ancient healing practices.

The Power of Mushrooms

Modern science has begun to research the therapeutic potential of medicinal mushrooms. Studies have revealed details of the bioactive compounds which contribute to their health benefits. These fungi are rich sources of polysaccharides, beta-glucans, terpenoids, and other compounds that exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and even anti-cancer properties.

Reishi, often referred to as the “Mushroom of Immortality,” or the King (or should we say Queen!) of mushrooms, is renowned for its adaptogenic qualities. It supports the body’s ability to cope with stress and bolstering the immune system. Shiitake mushrooms contain lentinan, a polysaccharide known for its anti-tumor effects and ability to enhance immune function. Cordyceps, a parasitic fungus found in high-altitude regions, has been traditionally used to boost energy, improve athletic performance, and support respiratory health.

Turkey Tail mushrooms have gained attention for their potential in cancer treatment, with research indicating their ability to modulate the immune system and complement conventional therapies. Lions Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is celebrated for its neuroprotective effects and potential in supporting cognitive function and nerve regeneration, in addition to supporting gut health.

How can we incorporate them into our health?

Today, medicinal mushrooms are available in various forms, which include capsules, powders, tinctures, teas, and even culinary preparations, making it easier than ever to incorporate them into our routine. However, it is essential to source mushrooms and supplements from reputable suppliers to ensure quality and potency, as well as to consult with healthcare professionals, particularly in cases of pre-existing medical conditions or concurrent medication use.


As scientific research continues to shed light on the therapeutic potential of medicinal mushrooms, I am excited by the prospect of ancient wisdom converging with modern knowledge to unlock nature’s healing power. From boosting immunity and combating inflammation, to supporting mental acuity and promoting longevity, these humble fungi offer a wide range of benefits for our health. With health systems under pressure globally, it is more important than ever to seek ways in which we can actively promote our own health and healing. We can aim to reduce the risk of getting sick, and build resilience into our health, so that if we do become ill, we will have more resources to influence as speedy a recovery as possible.

In addition to this blog, I interviewed Sophie Barrett, an expert in Medicinal Mushrooms on my podcast, Alimentary! and you can click here to listen in to our conversation.

Other Resources

Medicinal Mushrooms: Bioactive Compounds, Use, and Clinical Trials

Medicinal Mushrooms (PDQ®)–Patient Version

Medicinal Mushrooms: Ancient Remedies Meet Modern Science

Lyn Sharkey Nutrition
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