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Lion’s Mane and Reishi: Healthy mushrooms?

Mushrooms are the fleshy, fruiting bodies of some species of fungi, typically isolated from decaying matter in soil or wood or decomposing animals.

A polypore fungus ("bracket fungus") native to East Asia belonging to the genus Ganoderma. By frankenstoen, CC BY 2.0
A polypore fungus ("bracket fungus") native to East Asia belonging to the genus Ganoderma. By frankenstoen, CC BY 2.0

Mushrooms seem to be gaining huge traction in the wellness sector. Unlike many other celebrated delicacies, most edible fungi can be easily obtained.

Damien Bové, Scientific advisor and founder of Adact Medical a leading authority in analysis, testing, and compliance in health-related fields, and nutritionist Dr Pamela Mason, have explained to Digital Journal some of the benefits of fungi as a superfood

Mushrooms have been used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years. Many Chinese herbal medicines incorporate mushrooms for their therapeutic properties, such as beta glucans, (natural polysaccharides) that have been linked in some studies to improving cholesterol levels.

Mushrooms are the fleshy, fruiting bodies of some species of fungi, typically isolated from decaying matter in soil or wood or decomposing animals. These types of fungi reproduce through the release of spores (mush as a plant produces pollen or seeds) into the airstream.  

Bové and Mason call out two mushrooms of interest: Lion’s Mane and Reishi.

Lion’s Mane mushrooms

Lion’s Mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) are white, globe-shaped fungi that have long, shaggy spines. People in Asia use these mushrooms for both culinary and medicinal purposes. People either eat them or take them in the form of supplements.

Some research suggests that Lion’s Mane mushrooms may offer health benefits, such as with cognitive health as a result of erinacines and hericenones found within the mushroom and which may support cognitive and neurological health.

In one study, the daily consumption of mushroom extract for 16 weeks in 50–80-lear-old adults with mild cognitive impairment led to higher scores on cognitive function scales compared with a placebo group.

Furthermore, in a randomised, controlled, parallel design study in 41 healthy adults aged 18-45 years revealed that following a single dose of Hericium erinaceus, participants performed quicker on the Stroop task (p = 0.005) at 60 min post dose. A trend towards reduced subjective stress was observed following 28-day supplementation (p = 0.051).

Furthermore, the high antioxidant activity of these mushrooms may explain their potential anti-inflammatory activity.

Reishi mushrooms

Reishi mushrooms, named Lingzhi in China (Ganoderma lucidum) are rare mushrooms that grow at the base of deciduous trees. They are popular in Eastern medicine and have been part of traditional medicine for more than 2000 years.

Reishi mushrooms contain polysaccharides, peptides, and triterpenoids, which may be responsible for some of their reported health benefits. They also contain dietary fibre and various minerals, vitamins and amino acids. They are available as food supplements.

There has been some interest in whether Reishi mushrooms can boost the immune system. Secondary outcomes from a 2016 Cochrane review were that Reishi mushrooms could improve immune function. Research is ongoing into the mechanisms of action in the immune system.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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