Functional Mushrooms: Are They Medicine?

Various types of mushrooms have been used by Chinese and other civilizations for centuries. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the dried extracts that come from fruit bodies share a lucrative market segment when it comes to herbal medicines, not just in the East, but also in Western countries as well. Mushrooms have also been a staple in cuisines in Western and Eastern cultures. Today, you can find many health supplements and other products touting mushrooms as one of the main active ingredients. While it’s true that mushrooms are widely used for their medicinal properties, there’s still a lot more to learn about mushrooms that are part of the fungi family. This begs the question, “Can functional mushrooms be used just like traditional medication?” 

Before we can get to the answer to that question, you need to know a few things. There are more than 2,000 different species of edible mushrooms that are found worldwide. Surprisingly, humans have found a way to accommodate each of those edible mushrooms into their lifestyle—from using it to flavor cuisine, to mixing it with other herbs to get certain medicinal benefits. 

Out of all the species of mushrooms found worldwide, functional mushrooms have been getting a lot of attention as of late due to their ability to treat certain conditions. While it’s easy to call all mushrooms functional, since all of them serve some sort of “function,” the name functional mushrooms are only used to specify those species of mushrooms that have some health benefit, apart from delivering their nutritional value. Two of the most talked-about properties of functional mushrooms are, without a doubt, their anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. This means that certain functional mushrooms can be extremely beneficial when using to treat inflammation caused by certain illnesses. 

There are also some species of functional mushrooms that have been found to be useful in helping people cope with stress and anxiety issues. For instance, after developing a method to cultivate Shitake mushrooms on logs, the fungus grew immensely in popularity during the Ming Dynasty. Shitake mushrooms are widely used to treat muscle aches and pains and for the treatment of fatigue, which is part of the natural aging process.

In some Chinese medicine, functional mushrooms are also used to treat symptoms of cardiovascular disease. But, the question still remains, “can functional mushrooms be used as a medicine?”

Functional mushrooms have been found to contain a high level of nutrients and antioxidants, and are also rich sources of fiber. Certain functional mushrooms have been found to help lower cholesterol levels in individuals, while others have proven to be useful for helping people lose weight. Sadly, modern science is yet to admit that functional mushrooms do have certain medicinal properties that should be taken advantage of. That being said, there are some pharmaceutical companies that have started to experiment with drugs that contain certain functional mushrooms. Stay tuned.

–PuraPhy Staff Report