Fungi are important for nutrient cycling in nature. They break down organic matter, making them the number one decomposers in ecological systems.

While some fungi are beneficial to us, like penicillin and yeast, others can be toxic. Normally fungi are so small, you can’t see them, but mushrooms, the fruiting body of fungus, is the form we are most familiar with.

Mushrooms come in a variety of shapes and uses. Some are culinary, like the truffle, others have many beneficial benefits to us. Let’s talk about those supportive shrooms and their healthy effects.

Lingzhi Mushroom

Lingzhi, reishi in Japanese, is used as medicine for thousands of years in China. It can be found in six colors, and the red one is the most potent.

The many health properties of lingzhi are reason to use it in treatment for ailments. Some examples are respiratory diseases like bronchitis, depression and anxiety, lowering blood pressure, boost and strengthen the immune system, and anti-cancer properties. Usually the lingzhi is boiled in water, and the slightly bitter extract is drunk.

Maitake Mushroom

Also called ‘hen of the woods’ and can grow up to 30 pounds in the wild. Boosting the immune system, anti-cancer, lowering blood sugar levels and improving insulin are some of the health benefits of this mushroom. Young maitake can be eaten raw, put in a stew or soup, or brewed like tea.

Lion’s Mane

This mushroom, guess what, looks like the mane of a lion. Its benefits are helping immune system, anti-inflammatory, treating depression and anxiety, good heart health, anti-cancer properties, controlling blood sugar, aiding memory and recovery. You need to cook them a bit longer because they are a bit chewy. Other methods to ingest the nutrients are water- and alcohol extraction. First, chop the mushrooms into small pieces and simmer the mushrooms in hot water for 3 hours, strain the concentrate and let cool down. Use a dark bottle to store it in the fridge. Next, put the boiled mushrooms in a jar, and fill with 500ml alcohol, or whatever amount the jar can hold. Let it sit for 2 weeks in a warm dark place. After 2 weeks mix the 2 extracts together, keep in mind that if the alcohol concentration is too high, it will destroy the nutrients derived from the water extraction. Ingest a spoonful before dinner everyday for 3 months and then take a 2 weeks break.

Cordyceps

With usage dating back to the Tang Dynasty, this fungus is famed for its energizing effects. Rich in vitamins and minerals, beneficial to the liver, kidneys, and lungs, many athletes use it on a regular basis. Consumed by elderly people will have a positive effect. With its anti-inflammatory properties, it helps blood flow, heart health and lowering cholesterol. In Asia herbal soups are a common way to consume this fungus.

Chaga

This fungus prefers a cold climate and can be found in the northern hemisphere, growing mostly on birch trees. Some of the health benefits of chaga include stimulating and regulating the immune system, fight cancer, reducing inflammation, protect the liver, and anti-aging and skin benefits. Mostly it is drunk like tea, depending on the size of the chaga, chunks or powdered, brewing time can differ from few minutes to up to an hour. Don’t pour hot boiling water over it, as it will destroy its antioxidants. A temperature of 60°C - 70°C is preferred. Reuse the bits few more times to extract most of the nutrients.

Turkey Tail Mushroom

Best known for its stimulation of the immune system and inflammation reduction, this mushroom has been used for centuries by the Chinese, promoting general health, strength, and longevity. It is rather chewy, so normally it is served as a tea or capsuled in powder form.

Tremella

This white translucent fungus, also known as silver ear fungus or snow ear, contains a large amount of dietery fibers and vitamin D. In ancient China this fungus was prized for as a skin tonic and respiratory ailment relief. Other health benefits include nourishing the lungs, kidneys, heart, brain, stomach, and a booster for the immune system. Well known in the Chinese kitchen, and used in desserts,