Mushrooms are one of the most fascinating and bizarre living organisms in the natural world, and their role in our planet’s ecosystem is vital. They decompose dead matter and recycle nutrients back into the soil. Without them, plants would not thrive, and the entire food chain would collapse.
But mushrooms do much more than sustain life on earth. They have a symbiotic relationship with humans that is not found elsewhere. While most people think of mushrooms as a vegetable, the truth is these living organisms can’t even be classified as plants and are, in fact, genetically closer to human beings than any other species.
In this series, we will take a closer look at some of the more commonly known mushrooms, including edible, medicinal, and psychoactive varieties. We will be focusing primarily on the benefits of certain species, highlighting some of the best tinctures, powders, and capsules to maintain and support health and healing.
What Are Mushrooms?
If you have a keen interest in mycology, you already know the answer to this question. Surprisingly, many people do not. All mushrooms are fungi. Well, to be more exact, they are the reproductive part produced by certain fungi with their “seeds” consisting of millions of microscopic spores. When you see a mushroom in nature, you are actually looking at the fruiting body of a much larger underground organism called mycelium.
Nobody really knows how many types of mushrooms exist on the planet. 10,000 is the number most commonly quoted, but some mycologists believe there are thousands more.
Mushrooms have held a place in culinary history for thousands of years. The Romans spoke of them as “food of the Gods,” and the Chinese called them the “elixir of life.” Given that some poisonous species look identical to their harmless counterparts, it is likely a lot of trial and error took place before mushrooms took their position as a kitchen staple, but once they did, they never went out of fashion.
At first, mushrooms were reserved as a delicacy for the elite, but they were eventually introduced to other classes and cultures. Today, over 900 million pounds are grown for consumption every year in the US, and this does not include hand-picked wild mushrooms foraged for use by gourmet sellers and specialty businesses.
Most people are familiar with the small white button mushrooms found in the supermarket, yet there are dozens of other edible varieties to choose from. Their flavors range from nutty and sweet to that of chicken and even lobster!
A Nutritional Powerhouse
As some of the most nourishing foods in the world, these little wonders pack a nutritional punch that’s hard to beat. They are the only non-fortified food in the produce aisle containing vitamin D, and they are a potent source of protein and amino acids.
Other nutrients in mushrooms include B vitamins like niacin (B3), pantothenic acid, and riboflavin (B2). They contain potent antioxidants such as selenium, ergothioneine, choline, and vitamin C, as well as vital minerals like potassium and copper. Additionally, they are a great source of fiber and complex carbohydrates and may contain beta-glucans—a chemical shown to improve immunity and heart health.
For individuals with dietary restrictions, mushrooms are an ideal choice as they are low in calories and sodium and are gluten, fat, and cholesterol-free.
Mushrooms as Medicine
In the western world, food and medicine are primarily kept as separate entities, and we even visit different shops to obtain each one. However, in other cultures, there is less of a distinction between the two. Food is used as medicine and vice-versa, so while mushrooms have their culinary applications, they are also used for their beneficial medicinal properties.
Sometimes, this is as simple as consuming a dish containing mushrooms, while other situations call for teas, tinctures, or powders. These concentrated forms are what we are primarily focusing on in our reviews.
Ironically, most mushroom supplements carry the same nutritional benefits as their edible counterparts, but we are restricted as to how we can discuss their use. This is common in the US among most supplements created from foods. Take cranberries, for example. The Cranberry Institute outlines in detail their medical benefits when taken as food. However, cranberry supplements carry an FDA disclaimer in small print on the label and at the bottom of each description page, stating that “the Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated these statements. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease”.
The same is true for mushrooms, and while food and medicine overlap with frequency in other places (specific mushroom tinctures are approved for use at hospitals in China and Japan, for instance), in the US, there is a clear distinction between the two. We urge you to keep this in mind as you peruse our mushroom articles and let common sense be your guide.
Why Choose Mushroom Supplements?
As previously stated, many medicinal mushrooms are also edible species and are often used in a variety of dishes for their delicious flavors and nutritional benefits. However, some mushrooms, although edible, are not very tasty. It is thought that some of the more common species, such as Chaga and Reishi, have potent medicinal benefits too, but their flavor and texture don’t make them good candidates for a tasty meal.
Fortunately, many edible mushrooms are also available as tinctures, capsules, or powders. There are several benefits to consuming mushrooms in this way.
At the time of this writing, you can get a pound of organic shiitake mushrooms at Whole Foods for $14.99. While this might last a few days as an ingredient in some of your favorite recipes, four tablespoons of shiitake mushroom powder is the nutritional equivalent, and at just $18.99 per pound, it will last much longer in your pantry.
Mushroom tinctures contain lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other beneficial ingredients just as their fresh counterparts do. However, tinctures that are taken sublingually (under the tongue) provide a faster rate of absorption by bypassing the gastrointestinal system. Moreover, tinctures are more concentrated, so you can target them to your specific needs.
It may be hard to believe, but not everyone likes the taste or texture of mushrooms. Some people find them downright disgusting. Supplements offer a way to obtain the nutritional and medicinal properties of various species of mushrooms without the taste. Tinctures are probably going to be more difficult for those who are flavor-sensitive, while capsules or powders mixed into other foods are an ideal choice.
What Are the Health Benefits of Mushroom Supplements?
Supplementing with mushrooms offers the same health benefits as consuming them raw or cooked. Research is abundant into their effects, and many researchers believe they exhibit potential qualities like:
Fungi and Mental Health—Shrooms
Hallucinogenic varieties of mushrooms—commonly known as shrooms or “magic mushrooms”—have been used in mystical and religious ceremonies for centuries. The 1960’s counterculture popularized their recreational use, but they are still primarily a mystery to most of the western world. They contain psilocin and psilocybin, two psychoactive compounds that cause hallucinations and euphoria.
For many years, these mushrooms have been shrouded in mystery, legend, and folklore. Many cultures have utilized them for emotional and spiritual healing since antiquity and continue to this day. Yet, in the US, they are considered a schedule 1 controlled substance with no medicinal value.
Underground groups of healthcare practitioners and therapists disagree. In recent years, they have been utilizing magic mushrooms for hard-to-treat conditions like PTSD, addiction, and depression with remarkable results. In 2018, Oregon approved a ballot initiative to make them legal among licensed therapists. In 2019, voters in Denver passed Initiative 301, which decriminalized hallucinogenic mushrooms.
In June of 2019, Oakland became the second US city to decriminalize psilocybin shrooms, and soon after, Santa Cruz followed suit. While magic mushrooms remain illegal at the federal level, many doctors believe the near-miraculous ability these compounds have to assist in healing complex mental health issues is vital to the future of mental health care. We will likely see many more cities and states across the US take a clue from Denver’s playbook.
Although it is illegal to buy and sell psychedelic mushrooms, there are no restrictions on growing them, which is why we will also be bringing you reviews of some of the best grow kits and accessories on the market.
When it comes to mushrooms, there is a lot more than meets the eye. One can study them for a lifetime and still barely scratch the surface. In our series of articles, we hope to bring you some clarity as well as present products that will help you take advantage of all the wonders that mushrooms genuinely espouse.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
All content at Best Choice Reviews concerning mushrooms or other health-related matters are for informational purposes only and are not to be considered as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If a reader has further questions about the use of these products, we encourage them to consult with a licensed physician or other qualified healthcare provider. The information included here is for informational purposes only, and Best Choice Reviews is not responsible for inappropriate use of these products.
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