At Amé, we like to shroom. Maybe not quite in the sense that the notion evokes — even though we’re not opposed to the types of mind-altering mushrooms that offer therapeutic benefits from their compound psilocybin. Right now, we’re actually talking about daily, healthy, non-psychedelic shrooming by way of adding these potent gifts of nature to our meals, elixirs, and supplement regimen. The health benefits of mushrooms are not something to sleep on.
Mushrooms have long ruled the world via an underground network known as mycelium. And medicinal mushrooms have always been here — in fact, the micellar network has probably existed long before mankind. This complex matrix, referred to by BBC as the mushroom “internet,” communicates with itself, other species of fungi, and other species of plants in general, such as trees. It spans the earth as far as we know it — and most likely more than we know, due to its hidden nature.
But besides having an interesting backstory, we now realize that there are millions (if not billions) of species of fungi, both above ground and below. Many of them are poisonous, and in fact, very dangerous and life-threatening. Meanwhile, some are very delicious, and others have incredible superpowers to transform, heal, and protect our bodies when ingested regularly. We like to think of these healthiest mushrooms as “supershrooms.”
There are a few supershrooms that are readily available on the market. Some are straight-up in the grocery aisle at your local neighborhood store. Others you can find at a health food specialty shop or online in powdered form, tincture, or capsules. Here, we break down our favorites and nail down exactly what they are great for — so that you can make your own personalized selection of wellness supershrooms.
Shiitake for immunity
These delicious, meaty, savory little treats are excellent sliced up and sauteed into a risotto or stir fry, and can be found in almost any grocery store. They are a powerful antiviral, making them a major ally for this unprecedented time in pandemic history. Studies show that not only do they exhibit antiviral effects by killing off viruses, but that eating these mushrooms improves cellular effector function and gut immunity. They are the easiest and most affordable preventative care we can find — and they just so happen to taste amazing.
This Chinese medicinal treat is big, solid, and beautiful on its own, but it can’t be eaten that way. Mostly consumed in a powder, tea, or tincture, reishi is quite possibly the queen of all mushrooms. One of the healthiest mushrooms around, it’s antiviral and has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties to boot. As an adaptogenic mushroom, it has the ability to mitigate our bodies’ stress responses, creating a calm, healing environment for restorative rest, relaxation, peace, and a cascade of health benefits that come with, um, not being as out-of-our-minds anxious as the modern world tends to dictate.
Lion’s Mane for cognitive support
This beautiful and fluffy edible mushroom is not your typical grocery market find; we usually get it in capsules, powders, or tinctures from specialty stores. Randomized controlled trials show that this mushroom not only prevents cognitive decline, but also can reverse signs of moderate cognitive decline. It’s the perfect adaptogenic mushroom for improving memory and focus.
Cordyceps for athletic recovery
This little fungi is not quite a mushroom, per se, but is typically grouped as one. The reason this fungi is not technically considered a mushroom is that it does not participate in the aforementioned mycelial network, but instead grows like a parasite on the backs of insects. Yummy, we know. It’s actually quite tasty to eat: It can be bright orange in color, and taste delicate and slightly sweet — great as a salad topper, or just tossed down the hatch! They aren’t super easy to find, so we typically rely on sourcing a powder or tincture form. Cordyceps are known for improving our tolerance to high-intensity activity, like HIIT workouts, because they help the body utilize oxygen more efficiently and enhance blood flow. This means we can work out harder for longer, and feel less tired or require less recovery time.
Maitake for anticancer
While maitake is not the first mushroom to exhibit powerful anticancer effects, it’s a great ally against tumor growth. It’s also known to help with diabetes and hypertension. It does all this by stimulating specific immune cells and preventing inflammation, and lowering blood sugar levels. It’s a gorgeous bouquet shape of tender, soft petals that fry up deliciously in butter. They are quite easy to find individually packaged at most grocery stores.
Snow Mushroom for hydration and skin plumping
Snow mushrooms, also known as tremella, are the ultimate skin savior. Their effects are compared to that of hyaluronic acid — but better. It’s been said they have all of the above health benefits of mushrooms (antibacterial, anti-viral, anticancer, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory), but its biggest known superpower is how incredibly moisturizing it is. (What can we say … We’re a vain species!) It’s not typically eaten (it’s a bit slimy and transparent), but it can be, though it must be cooked. We recommend it in powder form, or applied directly to the skin as a serum or topical product.
Chaga for super antioxidant power
You will have trouble finding this mushroom in its soft form, and will typically find it in a tincture, a dissolvable powder, or in dried granules that can be made into a decoction or tea. This supershroom has incredible antioxidant properties, and it’s even touted that it contains 6.5 times the antioxidant power of our other superfood superstar, acai berries. Studies show that it prevents serious DNA oxidative damage in human lymphocytes — a special kind of white blood cell in the lymphatic system.