Why we should all be eating more fungi!
Mushrooms have long been appreciated for their culinary and nutritional value, but they are now gaining more notoriety for their valuable medicinal qualities. An extensive body of scientific research validates their health benefits. “One thing that I love about medicinal mushrooms is that their benefits are not only supported by modern scientific studies and successful clinical trials but also are steeped in traditional knowledge that spans many cultures from Native Americans to traditional Chinese medicine,” says Chiara Visconti di Modrone, integrative nutritionist and founder of Intuitas Integrative Wellness, who works with clients in Buckhead and around Atlanta. “We now have a lot of solid research on mushrooms’ properties and benefits for immune health, stress, neurological health and different conditions, maybe even for cancer prevention.”
’Shroom vs. ’Shroom
Different varieties of mushrooms bring unique properties to the wellness table, but they can all be considered medicinal. That’s right: Even the plain old button mushroom found at the grocery store stands up to its fancy and less available reishi cousin that’s native to East Asia. “Lion’s mane is particularly good for brain function and focus, for example,” Visconti di Modrone says. “But generally speaking, the main and common benefit of all varieties of mushrooms, including turkey tail found in Georgia forests, is their ability to boost immunity.” Some mushrooms, such as reishi and cordyceps, are also considered adaptogens that help the body moderate its stress response and protect it internally from stress-related damage.
Mushrooms come in all forms— tinctures, supplements, fresh, powders, dried and wild. You can even buy a DIY grow kit or inoculate a tree in your backyard with mushroom spores. “For medicinal purposes, you get a bigger bang for your buck when using a powder, tincture or supplement that’s more concentrated. But if you want to eat your medicine, cooking them is a fun and delicious way to consume them,” Visconti di Modrone says. She recommends a simple recipe of sauteing them with some garlic, olive oil, fresh herbs such as rosemary or thyme, and salt and pepper.
If quality products and environmentally friendly sources are important to you, it’s best to do your own research and look into the practices of the companies you’re buying from. “When choosing a supplement, don’t just buy one randomly on Amazon,” cautions Visconti di Modrone. “Make sure it is third-party tested and uses a dual-extraction method to ensure you get the full spectrum of beneficial compounds.” If mushrooms are wild-crafted or wildharvested, check out the brand’s ethical and sustainability practices so as not to deplete Mother Earth of her natural bounty.
A Long Game
Consistency is the key to reaping the benefits. “It takes time for the body to start recognizing and using plant medicine, so long-term dosing is important,” Visconti di Modrone says. “From what we know, mushrooms are just a nice foundation for our health and, whether through food or supplement, we should have them in all of our diets. It’s not some woo-woo wellness thing; they’re a well-researched food as medicine.” Of course, always check in with your health professional regarding dosages for your personal constitution.
Managing Editor and Wellness Columnist at Simply Buckhead. Blogger at Badass + Healthy.