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The Therapeutic Efficacy of Medicinal Mushrooms: An In-Depth Exploration of the Top Five Varieties

The Therapeutic Efficacy of Medicinal Mushrooms: An In-Depth Exploration of the Top Five Varieties


In recent years, the scientific community has displayed increasing interest in the medicinal properties of fungi, particularly mushrooms. Though these organisms have been utilized in traditional medicines for centuries, contemporary research is substantiating their therapeutic potential in multiple dimensions of human health. This article aims to provide an in-depth analysis of the top five medicinal mushrooms that have demonstrated noteworthy health benefits, supported by empirical evidence.


Mushrooms, belonging to the kingdom Fungi, are a diverse group of organisms with a long history of medicinal use across various cultures. Though their culinary applications are globally acknowledged, their therapeutic utility has often been restricted to ethnobotanical practices. However, in the wake of increasing antibiotic resistance and the rising demand for holistic approaches to healthcare, medicinal mushrooms have become the subject of scientific scrutiny. This article elucidates the therapeutic benefits of five select varieties: Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor), Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus), and Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis).

Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi)

Immunomodulatory Effects

The Reishi mushroom, known as the “mushroom of immortality,” has shown considerable promise in modulating the immune system. β-glucans, found in the cell walls, serve as biological response modifiers that trigger a cascade of immune reactions, augmenting the activity of macrophages and natural killer cells [1]. Moreover, triterpenoids found in Reishi possess anti-inflammatory properties [2].

Anticancer Activity

Ganoderic acids, a family of triterpenoids, exhibit anti-cancer properties by promoting apoptosis and inhibiting angiogenesis [3]. Multiple in vitro and animal studies have revealed the potential utility of Reishi extracts against lung, prostate, and breast cancers [4].

Trametes versicolor (Turkey Tail)

Antioxidant Properties

Turkey Tail extracts are rich in polysaccharopeptides, which contribute to antioxidative activities. They neutralize reactive oxygen species, thereby reducing oxidative stress which is a precursor to chronic conditions like cancer and cardiovascular diseases [5].

Immunotherapeutic Efficacy in Cancer

Polysaccharide-K (PSK) and Polysaccharide-P (PSP), isolated from Turkey Tail, are clinically approved immunotherapeutic agents in certain countries. These compounds enhance the efficacy of chemotherapy and ameliorate side effects like immunosuppression [6].

Inonotus obliquus (Chaga)

Anti-inflammatory and Antiviral

Betulin and betulinic acid, found in Chaga mushrooms, demonstrate anti-inflammatory and antiviral activities. These compounds can down-regulate the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, effectively managing conditions like asthma and bronchitis [7].

Antidiabetic Effects

Studies on animal models have shown that Chaga extracts can reduce blood sugar levels by enhancing insulin sensitivity, thereby providing potential therapeutic utility in managing diabetes [8].

Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane)

Neuroprotective and Nootropic Effects

Lion’s Mane has gained attention for its cognitive-enhancing capabilities. The mushroom contains hericenones and erinacines that stimulate the synthesis of nerve growth factor (NGF), thereby promoting neuronal health [9].

Antidepressant Properties

Lion’s Mane extracts have shown the ability to elevate mood by modulating neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, offering potential benefits in treating conditions like depression and anxiety [10].

Cordyceps sinensis (Cordyceps)

Adaptogenic Benefits

Cordyceps is revered for its adaptogenic properties. By modulating physiological responses to stress, Cordyceps can improve mental clarity and energy levels, thereby contributing to general well-being [11].

Cardiovascular Health

Cordycepin, an active compound in Cordyceps, has shown vasodilatory effects and the ability to improve myocardial function, which could contribute to managing cardiovascular diseases [12].


The potential health benefits of medicinal mushrooms are manifold and supported by a growing body of scientific evidence. From immunomodulation and anti-cancer properties to cognitive enhancement and metabolic regulation, these fungi are emerging as potent therapeutic agents in contemporary healthcare.


  1. Zhang, M., et al. “Antitumor Polysaccharides from Mushrooms: A Review on their Isolation Process, Structural Characteristics, and Antitumor Activity.” Trends in Food Science & Technology, 18(1), 2007, 4–19.
  2. Wachtel-Galor, S., et al. “Ganoderma lucidum (‘Lingzhi’), A Chinese Medicinal Mushroom: Biomarker Responses in a Controlled Human Supplementation Study.” British Journal of Nutrition, 91(2), 2004, 263–269.
  3. Sliva, D., et al. “Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) in Cancer Treatment.” International Journal of Oncology, 21(4), 2002, 701–707.
  4. Wasser, S. P. “Medicinal Mushrooms as a Source of Antitumor and Immunomodulating Polysaccharides.” Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 60(3), 2002, 258–274.
  5. Jayachandran, M., et al. “A Critical Review on Health Promoting Benefits of Edible Mushrooms through Gut Microbiota.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 18(9), 2017, 1934.
  6. Standish, L. J., et al. “Trametes versicolor Mushroom Immune Therapy in Breast Cancer.” Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology, 6(3), 2008, 122–128.
  7. Cui, Y., et al. “Antioxidant Effect of Inonotus obliquus.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 96(1–2), 2005, 79–85.
  8. Xu, H. Y., et al. “Anti-Diabetic Effects of Inonotus obliquus Polysaccharides.” Chinese Medicine, 9, 2014, 1–6.
  9. Mori, K., et al. “Nerve Growth Factor-Inducing Activity of Hericium erinaceus in 1321N1 Human Astrocytoma Cells.” Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 31(9), 2008, 1727–1732.
  10. Nagano, M., et al. “Reduction of Depression and Anxiety by 4 Weeks Hericium erinaceus Intake.” Biomedical Research, 31(4), 2010, 231–237.
  11. Hirsch, K. R., et al. “Cordyceps militaris Improves Tolerance to High-Intensity Exercise After Acute and Chronic Supplementation.” Journal of Dietary Supplements, 14(1), 2017, 42–53.
  12. Ko, W. S., et al. “Antiinflammatory and Related Pharmacological Activities of the n-Butanol Subfraction of Radix Arnebiae: Its Antiinflammatory Mechanism.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 83(1–2), 2002, 117–125.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Which is Better, Chaga or Reishi Mushrooms

Which is Better, Chaga or Reishi Mushrooms

Neither Reishi nor Chaga is better, both are beneficial and are considered medicinal mushrooms. They are usually taken in combination or as an expanded group of 5-7 medicinal mushrooms that include Turkey Tale, Lions Mane, Cordyceps, Shiitake, Maitake to mention a few.

The mere mention of mushrooms will make you think of getting high, but that is not with the Chaga and Reishi mushrooms. These mushrooms are medicinal and will get you healed instead. Chaga mushrooms have a black pigmentation, grow on birch trees, and are known for; boosting immunity, good anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer properties, antioxidants, and blood glucose levels. Reishi mushrooms are red, kidney-shaped, and well known for; reducing malaise and stress. Strengthening the immune system, lowering high blood pressure, improve the respiratory system, and sleep.

Chaga Mushrooms

The fungus has a burnt charcoal appearance and orange tissue inside. They are commonly found in Asia, Canada, Northern Europe, Alaska, Russia, and Siberia. The use of Chaga mushrooms for medicinal purposes is not a new practice since they have been used for centuries as traditional medicine.

Chaga mushroom is available in the form of supplement capsules, herbal teas, or in powder form. Consumption of this mushroom will prove useful to your health but don’t stop your doctor’s prescribed medication. Before introducing the mushroom to your diet, it is wise to consult your doctor and mention it if you are already taking some if it may interfere with your prescribed medication. Daily intake depends on treatment goals so that it will vary from one person to the other.

Benefits of taking Chaga mushrooms include;

· It is rich in nutrients, minerals, and vitamins like; amino acids, vitamin D, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, among others

· Has antioxidant properties that reduce oxidative stress and slows the process of aging.

· Studies done on animals shows that Chaga mushrooms can slow multiplication of lung, cervical, and breast cancerous tissues and, in other cases, cause self-destruction of tumor cells.

· Prevents drug side effects, especially in chemotherapy, medication for chronic illness, and radiation therapy.

· Lowers high blood pressure hence improving cardiovascular health. This reduces the occurrence of stroke, arrhythmias, and heart attacks.

· Chaga mushrooms boost immunity by stimulating cytokine production as they play a major role in the body defense mechanism.

· With the regulation of cytokines, it controls inflammation, especially from chronic illness like rheumatoid arthritis.

· For the diabetic and obese, this mushroom plays a part in lowering blood sugar levels and body cholesterol levels.


· The mushroom can trigger allergic reactions, namely; labored breathing, loss of consciousness, and increased heart rate in some people, so it is advisable to note down any changes while taking them and consult with your doctor.

· It is not a substitute for the prescribed medication; it is taken concurrently and seeks medical advice.

· Chaga mushrooms cannot be used alongside any other herbal medication without the doctor’s approval.

reishi mushrooms

Reishi Mushrooms

This mushroom, also known as Ganoderma lucidum, or lingzhi, grows in China, Japan, and other Asian countries. The mushrooms are red, kidney-shaped, and have a shiny appearance. The traditional use of the Reishi mushroom begun centuries ago and still in use to date.

The mushrooms can be eaten, crushed into powders, liquids, and as supplements. The doses vary with different methods of ingestion, with eating whole having the highest doses. It is important to know to avoid consuming above the recommended doses. The dose is determined by certain factors such as; age, condition for the mushroom prescription, a form of the mushroom, and general health.

Oral daily dose:

a) 1.5- 9 grams of dried mushroom

b) 1-1.5 grams of Reishi powder

c) 1 milliliter of Reishi solution

Reishi mushroom has numerous advantages like;

· Enhances the immune system by lowering bacterial and viral infections. They inhibit colonization without affecting the normal cells. It’s useful to the ill and has a different effect on a healthy system.

· Reishi mushrooms contain polysaccharides, peptides, triterpenoids, dietary fiber, various minerals, vitamins, and amino acids, all of which play a key role in health improvement.

· Has anti-cancer properties but cannot be used alone as a form of treatment. Study shows the mushroom has effects on prostate, colorectal, and breast cancer. It helps decrease the size and number of tumor cells.

· Fight malaise and fatigue to improve the quality of life.

· The mushroom is used in treating memory loss due to Alzheimer’s disease.

· Reishi mushrooms have demonstrated use in reducing anxiety and depression.

· The mushroom can increase the good high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and lower triglycerides.

· Helps build strength and a stronger stamina



· Consumption can lead to; dizziness, itchiness, rash, headaches, liver toxicity, insomnia, stomach upset, nosebleed, and bloody stools

· It has an allergic reaction if consumed for a long time, which presents with dry mouth, throat, and nose.

· Should be avoided if pregnant or breastfeeding

· Not consumed if you have a known blood disorder and a low platelet count

· Avoid if you have a scheduled surgery and right after.

· Contraindicated in an individual with low blood pressure or taking medication to boost the blood pressure.

· Reishi mushrooms have a poor interaction with some medication like Aspirin, NSAIDs, Warfarin, and Heparin

The question of which is better between Chaga and Reishi mushrooms is a tricky one to give a definite answer. The reason is choosing which one to take depends on the individual. You consult your doctor first before beginning the self-treatment to ensure no further harm is done. Choose one that aligns with your intended purpose for good results.

The downside to the consumption of the Chaga or the Reishi mushrooms is that not enough research has been done on human beings, making their treatment inconclusive. Most of the research has been performed on animals, which makes it sort of unreliable. Liver toxicity as a side effect of consumption of the mushrooms is dangerous and may lead to death.

Remember taking the mushrooms doesn’t mean you do away with your daily medication as they act as booters. Some people are highly allergic to these mushrooms. Make sure you are not one of them before consuming it. It is a great idea to keep a keen eye on any side effects noticed to determine whether to continue or stop the mushrooms.

Regulate your intake of the mushrooms despite their numerous pros as too much of something can be poisonous.

External Sources

Medical News Today, WebMD, Link 2, Healthline, NCBI, Medicinal News Today,