Healthiest Mushrooms
6 medicinal mushrooms you need to try

Top 6 healthiest mushrooms and their effects

Humans have been using mushrooms as medicine for thousands of years, although Western scientists only started researching and adopting the use of fungi into modern day medicine within the last century.

The recent pandemic has led to an increasing number of people seeking the best way to improve their immune health and, as natural, plant-based remedies continue to grow in popularity, medicinal mushrooms are making a big comeback for their immune boosting properties.

If you’re wondering “what are mushrooms good for?”, then keep reading as within this article we’ll be looking at the top 6 healthiest medicinal mushrooms and their potential therapeutic benefits.

Top 6 Medicinal Mushrooms List:

Healthiest medicinal mushrooms: Our top 10

Mushrooms are packed with numerous beneficial biologically active compounds, but most people are unaware of their full therapeutic potential.

In fact, many people are surprised to learn that there are already many well-known drugs used today that have a fungal origin, including penicillin (antibiotic), griseofulvin (antifungal), ergot alkaloids (used to treat migraines), and cyclosporine (an immunosuppressant).

There are also multiple psilocybin or “magic mushrooms” that have massive potential benefits for both depressions, spirituality and overall mental wellbeing. Read more about the benefits of psilocybin mushrooms on depression here.

Over 10,000 different types of fungi have been identified, but according to mycologists (mushroom experts), this may just be a fraction of the number of what’s really out there. Some mushrooms are more palatable than others, but there are many mushroom species that are revered for their therapeutic potential.

Here is our guide to the top six healthiest medicinal mushrooms:

Cordyceps Mushrooms

The cordyceps mushroom, also known as the caterpillar mushroom, is one of the best mushrooms for health and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to combat sickness, fatigue, and kidney disease. They were also widely used to increase energy and libido.

Modern research has also found compounds within the cordyceps mushroom that support the use of cordyceps for these problems.

Research is primarily focused on the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of this mushroom, which may build up the immune system and have the potential to help fight and prevent many human diseases.

A chemical analysis of the cordyceps militaris mushroom shows that they contain a potent bioactive compound called cordycepin, which is extremely similar to adenosine. Like adenosine, cordycepin is able to exert influence at adenosine receptors in the brain and body.

In human clinical studies, cordycepin was able to improve the way your body processes oxygen, which is probably why it’s especially well-known for its stimulating properties.

Cordyceps mushrooms are also widely studied for their anti-cancer properties. In the lab, the fruiting body of cordyceps militaris has also been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Further to this, in mice, cordyceps sinensis demonstrated antitumor effects on certain types of cancer (including melanoma and lymphoma).

People often take cordyceps mushroom supplements to help:

  • Increase energy and libido levels
  • Boost athletic performance
  • Lower blood sugar levels
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve lung function
  • Prevent and fight cancer

Chaga Mushrooms

The chaga mushroom, also known as the birch mushroom, is another healthy mushroom that is highly revered in the world of alternative medicine. Some of the compounds within chaga mushrooms that are thought to contribute to improving human health are polysaccharides, triterpenes, and polyphenols.

The main takeaway from these mushrooms is that they are an absolute powerhouse when it comes to antioxidants. So, if you need a boost for your immune system, any type of mushroom supplement will help, but Chaga (in particular) should be your go-to, when possible.

An increasing amount of research is focused on the chaga mushroom’s ability to prevent cancer and slow its spread. One study found that the triterpenes contained within chaga mushrooms caused tumor cells to self-destruct, while leaving healthy cells unharmed.

Another study proved that chaga could slow the growth of certain types of cancer cells (in a petri dish), as well as slow tumor growth in mice. Chaga mushrooms also possess potent anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. These properties recently inspired a research team to study the potential of using chaga mushroom extract as a treatment or preventative measure against Covid-19.

People often take chaga mushroom supplements to:

  • Boost immune system
  • Reduce long-term inflammation
  • Relieve oxidative stress
  • Prevent and fight cancer
  • Lower blood sugar levels
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower “bad” cholesterol levels

Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

Hericium erinaceus is commonly called the lion’s mane mushroom due to the way it grows in shaggy, white clumps that resemble a lion’s mane. They primarily grow on living hardwood trees but can also be found growing on fallen trees, in the summer and fall, and are harvested for both culinary and medicinal purposes.

Lion’s mane mushrooms are particularly sought after for their neuroprotective abilities and are best known for their mood and brain-boosting properties.

Animal studies have shown that lion’s mane mushroom supplements have a neurogenesis effect in the hippocampal area of the brain, which is responsible for learning, memory, and emotions. By stimulating the growth of new brain cells and forging new connections in the hippocampus, lion’s mane is able to improve brain function, which researchers believe may be partly responsible for its ability to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

There is also one small human study that appears to support this theory.

Another human study also displayed lion’s mane’s ability to improve mild cognitive impairment in adults aged between 50 and 80 years, suggesting that it may be used to protect against and improve symptoms of dementia.

Lion’s mane also receives a lot of interest from scientists that are researching Alzheimer’s disease, due to certain compounds found within it that offer potent antioxidant and neuroprotective properties.

People often take lion’s mane mushroom supplements to:

  • Relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Boost brain function
  • Reduce risk of heart disease
  • Protect against ulcers
  • Reduce inflammation and oxidative stress
  • Boost immune system
  • Help manage diabetes
  • Speed up recovery after injury

Turkey Tail Mushrooms

Turkey tail mushrooms, or trametes versicolor, grow in overlapping rows of fans that somewhat resemble the colorful fan of a turkey tail. They are quite tough and chewy and are therefore not considered to be one of the best mushrooms to eat, so most people take dried turkey tail mushrooms in capsules or steeped in tea.

They have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for millennia to increase vitality, improve lung function, and are also widely known for their powerful immune-boosting properties.

To date, turkey tail is the most widely studied out of all the medicinal mushrooms and two compounds of particular interest are polysaccharopeptide (PSP) and polysaccharide-K (PSK). PSP and PSK have been shown to possess strong immunological values, exerting a positive influence on our immune systems.

Turkey tail mushrooms also contain prebiotics which could help to rebalance the levels of good and bad bacteria in your gut, increasing the levels of good bacteria and decreasing the levels of potentially harmful bacteria.

People often take turkey tail mushroom supplements to:

  • Boosted immune system
  • Support digestion and overall gut health
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Fight and protect against cancer
  • Increase vitality and improve athletic performance
  • May improve insulin resistance

Shiitake Mushrooms

One of the most nutritious mushrooms you’re likely to come across on a restaurant menu is the shiitake mushroom. They’re medium to dark brown in color and have caps that grow between two and four inches wide.

They are typically found growing on decaying hardwood trees in east Asia and have been used in traditional medicine in Japan, Korea, eastern Russia, and China, to boost health and longevity, as well as improve circulation.

It’s possible to find them fresh or dried to be used in cooking and they’re also available in various supplements so that more people may benefit from the polysaccharides, terpenoids, sterols, and lipids they contain. Modern research suggests that some of these compounds could help to boost the immune system, improve heart health, lower cholesterol, and fight cancer, although there haven’t been many human studies to confirm this.

There was one study on 52 healthy volunteers, published in 2015, that revealed shiitake was able to effectively improve immune markers and decrease inflammation after just one month.

One of the polysaccharides found in shiitake, called lentinan, has also been shown to help fight tumors by activating the immune system, as well as inhibit the growth of leukemia cells.

Interestingly, an injectable form of lentinan is already used in China and Japan for gastric cancer, alongside traditional cancer treatments, to help bolster the immune system and improve quality of life.

Several compounds found in shiitake have also displayed promising antibacterial and antiviral effects.

People often take shiitake mushroom supplements to:

  • Boost immune system
  • Improve heart health
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Prevent and fight cancer

Reishi Mushrooms

The reishi mushroom, also known as ganoderma lucidum, is another popular medicinal and edible mushroom that has been used in Asian medicine for millennia. It is a fan-shaped mushroom that has a distinctive red-orange color and it typically grows in hot, humid areas of Asia.

It’s thought that many of the reishi mushroom’s beneficial effects stem from several compounds found within the reishi mushroom in abundance, including polysaccharides, triterpenoids, and peptidoglycans.

Like most medicinal mushrooms, the reishi mushroom possesses powerful immune-boosting properties and human studies show that some compounds found within reishi can increase the activity of white blood cells that are responsible for fighting infection and cancer.

The potential health benefits of reishi don’t stop there either, as other human studies have shown its ability to alleviate fatigue, anxiety, and depression in breast cancer survivors, improving their overall quality of life.

People often take reishi mushroom supplements to:

  • Boost immune system
  • Ease symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Aid weight loss
  • Prevent and fight cancer
  • Improve heart health
  • Decrease blood sugar levels
  • Speed up recovery and healing
  • Aid sleep

How healthy are mushrooms?

Scientists have been studying the healing properties of medicinal mushrooms for decades and interest is unlikely to wane, especially considering the fact that new biologically active compounds are being discovered all the time.

Here are just some of the compounds that can be found in both edible and medicinal mushrooms:


Beta-glucan is a form of soluble dietary fiber that has been shown to improve cholesterol levels and heart health. They can also help to boost immunity and inhibit tumor growth.

Further to this, there is mounting evidence that suggests beta-glucans may play a beneficial role in insulin resistance, obesity, and hypertension.


Triterpenoids have been shown to possess multiple pharmacological activities, including anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-diabetic, and anti-cancer.

Triterpenoids have also been found to help protect the liver by suppressing inflammatory response and may also inhibit histamine release.


Mushrooms also contain ergosterol which, in addition to being a precursor to vitamin D2, appears to be the primary compound responsible for the anticancer effects of medicinal mushrooms.

Preclinical evidence also suggests that ergosterol possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.


The mycelium of mushrooms, particularly the mycelium of cordyceps sinensis, is also a valuable source of lovastatin, which belongs to a group of compounds called statins. Statins are commonly used as cholesterol-lowering drugs as they block a substance that your liver needs to produce cholesterol.

Lovastatin can also be found (in slightly lower amounts) in the fruiting body of mushrooms, particularly oyster and button mushrooms, making them some of the best mushrooms to eat if you’re worried about your bad cholesterol levels.


Mushrooms are also the leading dietary source of ergothioneine (ERGO) amino acids, which have been shown to possess potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Based on a mounting body of evidence, some researchers have even proposed that ERGO should be classified as a longevity vitamin due to its effectiveness in preventing and mitigating the risk of chronic diseases of aging.


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