What Are Adaptogenic Mushrooms?

Mushrooms aren’t just for nutrition, and they aren’t only for tripping out, either. Some edible fungi—called adaptogenic mushrooms—have incredible healing properties that help your body and mind eliminate stress in every form it takes. In this guide, learn what adaptogenic mushrooms are, acquaint yourself with the top five adaptogenic mushrooms, and discover the benefits of these fascinating fungi.

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are substances that help your body and mind adapt to your circumstances. Whether it’s physical or mental stimuli, we all have at least some trouble dealing with the various stressors life throws at us every day, and adaptogens reduce or eliminate this stress to make it easier for you to live your best life.

A wide variety of natural substances have been identified as adaptogens due to their unique ability to help your body deal with stress. Adaptogens don’t just help you deal with psychological stressors—they also assist your immune system in its efforts to withstand the stress of defending your body from biological attacks.

Which mushrooms are considered adaptogens?

While adaptogens often come in the form of plants, over 10 different fungi have also been identified as having adaptogenic properties. Some of the mushrooms on this list might surprise you—who knew that shiitake mushrooms help your body deal with stress while also tasting delicious? Other adaptogenic mushrooms, however, might have names you’ve never heard of before.

Top 5 best adaptogenic mushrooms

What are the most popular adaptogenic mushrooms people are using right now? Learn about the top five fungi with adaptogenic properties below:

1. Shiitake

Though primarily prepared for culinary purposes, evidence dating back decades indicates that shiitake mushrooms also have impressive medicinal properties. Used for thousands of years in both Japanese and Chinese traditional medicine, shiitake mushrooms have been researched for their potential immune-boosting and stress-reducing properties. In addition, shiitake mushrooms are excellent sources of rare essential nutrients like vitamin D2, B vitamins, and zinc.

2. Chaga

Used for millennia in Indian Ayurvedic medicine, the benefits of the adaptogenic chaga mushroom are now making themselves known in the West. Researched primarily for its potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, chaga has also been investigated for its purported ability to help stabilize blood sugar and reduce blood pressure.

3. Cordyceps

Like other adaptogenic mushrooms, cordyceps is widely believed to reduce inflammation and help your immune system prevent biological stress. In particular, cordyceps mushrooms have been observed to help your body produce more adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is used in muscle growth. Cordyceps are unique among adaptogenic mushrooms due to the peculiar way they grow—these fungi parasitically use caterpillars and other insects as their hosts, gradually taking over the insect’s entire body until it dies.

4. Lion’s mane

Named for their distinct, hair-like appearance, lion’s mane mushrooms are believed to have more potent neuroprotective effects than other adaptogens. Nonetheless, lion’s mane mushrooms have also been researched for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting properties, meaning they are more similar to other adaptogenic fungi than they are different.

5. Reishi

Like many other fungi that have been identified as adaptogens, reishi mushrooms contain polysaccharides, peptidoglycans, and additional compounds that are believed to have immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory properties. Out of all the different adaptogenic fungi, reishi mushrooms have perhaps been the most-investigated for their potential immune benefits.

What are the benefits of adaptogenic mushrooms?

Anecdotal evidence and scientific research indicate that adaptogenic mushrooms may offer benefits in a few distinct categories. Let’s take a look at each potential benefit in more detail below:

— Stress reduction

Some amount of stress is necessary to marshall your body’s resources to respond to threats. Left out of control, however, chronic stress can be incredibly damaging to both your body and mind. Adaptogens are defined by their ability to help with stress, and one of the primary reasons people use adaptogenic mushrooms is to reduce their stress levels.

On the biological side, excessive stress prevents your immune system from protecting you from threats. On the psychological side, stress leaves you more prone to depression and anxiety and can lead to mental disorders. As a result, carefully monitoring and balancing your stress levels is essential to your health, and adaptogenic mushrooms might be able to help.

— Anxiety relief

Stress and anxiety are closely related, and left untreated, anxiety can do everything from harm your interpersonal relationships to diminish your ability to remember events and important information. Adaptogenic mushrooms don’t usually help you deal with immediate anxiety attacks, but over time, their stress-reducing properties might assist in bringing your daily anxiety down to manageable levels.

— Immune support

Stress doesn’t just make you feel depressed and anxious. It can also have a distinctly detrimental effect on the functioning of your immune system, leaving you more at risk of contracting transmissible illnesses. Chronic inflammation is also directly tied to immune functioning, so the potential immune-regulating properties of adaptogenic mushrooms may do much more than just prevent you from getting sick.

— Inflammation management

Inflammation is a natural protective response of the immune system to bodily injuries and foreign contaminants. If your immune system isn’t functioning properly, however, inflammation can get out of control, leading to a wide variety of different diseases. A few different adaptogenic mushrooms are being keenly researched for their potential to either directly or indirectly reduce inflammation.

What are some common adaptogenic mushroom side effects?

Research indicates that adaptogenic mushrooms are generally safe and well-tolerated. Reishi mushrooms, however, have been documented as causing dizziness, and they also aren’t appropriate for people with bleeding disorders. Allergies to lion’s mane mushrooms are relatively common, and certain individuals may also have adverse reactions to cordyceps, chaga, or even shiitake mushrooms.

While adaptogenic mushrooms are often alike in their benefits, they’re each unique in terms of chemical composition. As a result, each adaptogen poses its own risks to certain populations, making it important to evaluate the benefits and risks of adaptogenic mushrooms individually.

The bottom line: Should I take adaptogenic mushrooms?

Unless you suffer from fungi-specific dietary sensitivities or your doctor has specifically warned against it, there’s no reason you shouldn’t give adaptogenic mushrooms a shot. Countless people have tried and benefited from the effects of adaptogens, and it’s easy to incorporate adaptogenic mushrooms into your diet by adding them to food or ingesting them in supplement form.

Especially in these days when our minds and bodies are increasingly under attack by both pathogens and misinformation, we could all use a little help from adaptogens to make it through the day. Try adaptogenic mushrooms today to discover the difference they can make in your life.

Adaptogenic mushrooms FAQ

What else would you like to learn about the benefits and effects of adaptogenic mushrooms?

Are adaptogenic mushrooms good for middle-aged people?

Yes, people who are middle-aged are in one of the age groups that can benefit the most from the effects of adaptogenic mushrooms. The choices you make during this stage of life will have a massive impact on your health and happiness as you continue to age, and reducing stress now can help you enjoy your later years even more fully.

Should elderly people use adaptogenic mushrooms?

Elderly people can often experience incredible improvements in quality of life from using adaptogenic mushrooms. As you get older, however, it becomes increasingly important to be very careful regarding which substances you allow into your system. As an elderly individual, make sure you consult with your doctor before trying adaptogenic mushrooms.

Can you consume adaptogenic mushrooms in coffee?

Yes, it’s possible to infuse coffee with adaptogenic mushrooms, and in fact, this is one of the most popular ways to consume these beneficial fungi. Adaptogenic mushroom coffee offers all the effects of normal coffee but with the added benefit of being able to skip your daily mushroom supplement.

Do mushroom supplements really work?

Based on the anecdotal testimony of thousands of people who have tried adaptogenic mushroom supplements, consuming these beneficial fungi on a daily basis certainly seems to offer some concrete advantages. In addition, plenty of scientific studies have now been published that further support the benefits of taking adaptogens, all but eliminating the possibility that adaptogenic mushrooms are mere placebos.

How long does it take for mushroom supplements to work?

Most people start noticing the benefits of adaptogenic mushroom supplements within 14 days, and in many cases, the effects of these beneficial fungi kick in much faster. If you still don’t experience the benefits of adaptogenic mushrooms within 30-60 days, try switching to a different product.

Which mushroom helps with cortisol?

A variety of mushrooms—including reishi, cordyceps, and lion’s mane—have been identified as potential cortisol regulators, meaning they might help balance cortisol levels in your body. As the primary hormone controlling both biological and psychological stress, keeping cortisol in balance is absolutely necessary to both immune and mental health.

Which mushroom is best for inflammation?

Out of all the fungi that have been investigated for their potential benefits, chaga mushrooms are perhaps the most useful for reducing inflammation and controlling oxidative stress. Close runners-up include reishi and lion’s mane mushrooms.

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