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Ultimate Mushroom Guide

Ultimate Mushroom Guide

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Ultimate Mushroom Guide

Table of contents

Mushrooms are ancient life forms that belong to the kingdom of Fungi. Unlike plants, they do not get their energy from the sun. Instead, they have microscopic threads called mycelium that grows around their food source and absorb its nutrients. 

Humans have consumed mushrooms since the dawn of time due to their unique flavor and cultural beliefs. Today, researchers are discovering the unique health benefits of various mushrooms and their practical application to improve the quality of human lives.

We’ve compiled scientific studies to create this mushroom guide to give you facts about the health benefits of mushrooms and how they can use them to optimize your health.

Medicinal mushrooms

Mushrooms have been used as a gourmet ingredient across the globe due to their unique flavor and ability to enhance culinary dishes. 

Many of the mushrooms used for cooking also have medicinal properties and can potentially treat chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and some cancers.

Although many people experienced excellent results from mushrooms, it is essential to note that most research is done on animal models and still needs to be tested in large clinical trials to know their full effects on humans.


Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)

Lion's mane are large white mushrooms that resemble a shaggy lion's mane. Because of its seafood-like taste, it is used as a culinary ingredient in different parts of Asia. 

Health Benefits:

  • Improves symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Protects brain tissues
  • Improves memory and learning
  • Speeds up recovery from brain injury
  • Promotes gut health
  • Lowers blood sugar levels

Studies in both humans and animals have shown that this mushroom has neurotropic compounds that can stimulate the growth of brain cells and prevent neural damage. [1,2]

Supplementation of Lion's Mane increases spontaneous activities in the areas of the hippocampus, the brain region responsible for emotional response, learning, and memory processing. [3,4]

Current research suggests that Lion's Mane supplementation may prevent the progression of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer's and other cognitive dysfunction. [2,5]

Furthermore, lion's mane extract has been shown to speed up recovery from brain injuries and immediately reduce the size of stroke in rat models by up to 44%. [6,7]

Lion's mane consumption also plays a role in gut health. Research shows that they can inhibit the growth of H. Pylori, a type of bacteria that can damage the protective lining of the gut and small intestine, which can cause ulcers and inflammation. [8,9]

Lion's mane extract can also stimulate an immune response and may help the body fight off infection. One study found that Lion's mane can significantly extend the life span of rats infected with lethal doses of Salmonella. [10]

In rat models, 4 to 6 weeks of daily consumption of Lion's Mane extract resulted in lowered blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity, which are markers of improvement in diabetic condition. [11]

Safety and Side Effects:

Researchers have not noted any adverse effects of Lion's Mane consumption in human and animal studies. 


Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)

The Chaga mushroom grows in parts of Siberia and Asia. Its outside appearance resembles a clump of dirt and has a bright orange interior. Although it has an unpleasant look, the Chaga has profound health benefits that are hard to overlook.

Health benefits:

  • Lowers cholesterol levels
  • Remedy for cancer
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Helps fight infection
  • Reduces blood sugar levels

Research shows that Chaga has properties that limit the formation of new blood vessels in tumors, resulting in a 40-60% decrease in tumor size in rats. [12] 

Due to the high amount of antioxidants in Chaga, It can reduce bad cholesterol in the body and promote good cholesterol levels. [13,14]

Some studies demonstrate the effect of Chaga in regulating cytokine production. Cytokines are chemical messengers that tell your immune cells to do their job. It controls the growth of other immune cells and plays a crucial role in immune and inflammation response. [15]

Safety and Side Effects:

The Chaga mushroom contains a compound that may prevent blood clotting. Too much consumption of Chaga may promote bleeding if you are taking blood-thinning medications. 

Chaga may also lower blood sugar levels beyond normal ranges if you are taking insulin and other blood-sugar-lowering medications.

Reduces mental fatigue

Cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps Sinensis)

Cordyceps are rare parasitic fungi that grow on the larvae of insects. It is typically found in the mountain regions of China and is known for its health-promoting properties. 

Due to its rarity, a kilogram of Cordyceps can go as high as $20,000, and it is uncommon to acquire them in their natural form. Instead, most Cordyceps are synthesized in the labs and manufactured as medicine and supplements. 

Health benefits:

  • Improves endurance
  • Improves physical performance
  • Anti-aging
  • Helps fight cancer 
  • Lowers blood sugar levels

Cordyceps can increase the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the body. ATP provides a vital energy source in various cells, which is crucial in providing energy to the muscles to support the physical demands of exercise.  

Several studies show that cordyceps supplementation can increase the cells' ability to utilize oxygen in the body during intense physical activities. This translate to improvement in cardiovascular fitness and endurance. [16]

Cordyceps may also enhance longevity and promote healthy cells due to its antioxidants. One study found that Cordyceps extends the lifespan of fruit flies by up to 32%, suggesting its role as an anti-aging ingredient. [17]

Several studies on cancer suggest that Cordyceps can decrease tumor size associated with lung cancers and lymphoma. Furthermore, it may prevent the drop in white blood cells associated with cancer treatments. [18]

Safety and Side Effects:

No studies confirm the safety of Cordyceps for long-term human consumption. However, preliminary investigations and centuries of eastern medicine suggest that Cordyceps is non-toxic to humans.

Enhances memory

Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) 

Turkey tail is a multicolored mushroom that grows in tree trunks or fallen dead hardwoods. Japanese culture calls it the "cloud mushroom" due to its swirling disc appearance.

Health benefits:

  • Improves gut health
  • Helps fight cancers
  • Prevents obesity
  • Improves immune function

Turkey tail contains polysaccharide peptide (PSP) and polysaccharide krestin (PSK), which boosts the immune system and helps treat certain types of cancer such as breast cancer, lung cancer, and leukemia. Both PSP and PSK are common anti-cancer agents in cancer treatment drugs.

At least 35 polyphenols are found in turkey tail which reduces and prevents cellular damage caused by free radicals in the body. 

Furthermore, including Turkey tail mushrooms in your diet may help prevent obesity. One study found that turkey tail stopped weight gain in mice fed a high-fat diet. This is due to the abundance of protein-bound β-glucan (PBG) in Turkey tail, which help modulate metabolism.

Interestingly, Turkey tail can also improve the balance of the gut microbiome. Study shows that PSP abundant in Turkey tail mushroom acts as a prebiotic for good bacterias in the intestines. [19,20]

Safety and Side Effects:

Turkey tail is safe for consumption. However, some people experience various side effects when taking turkey tail supplements.

Some research participants reported experiencing bloating and dark stools when taking turkey tail mushrooms. In addition, when combined with chemotherapy, the turkey tail may induce nausea and vomiting in cancer patients.

Reduces the effects of sleep deprivation

Shiitake (Lentinus edodes)

Shiitake mushroom is known for its rich umami flavor and meat-like texture. It is native to East Asian forests and grows on rotting wood logs. It is one of the most common mushrooms used for cooking due to its savory meat-like taste.

Health Benefits:

  • May lower blood pressure
  • Promotes cardiovascular health
  • May boost the immune system
  • May help fight cancers
  • Improves bone strength

Shiitake is abundant with nutritious and medical compounds such as polysaccharides, terpenoids, sterols, and lipids, which are critical for regulating the immune system. [21]

One study found that daily consumption of shiitake mushrooms can improve the markers of a healthy immune system within 30 days. [22]

Shiitake may also improve cholesterol profile and improve cardiovascular health. It is rich in beta-glucans and sterols; compounds used to treat high cholesterol levels. [23,24]

Safety and Side effects:

Eating raw shiitake may cause stomach discomfort and skin swelling. In addition, consuming a large amount of medicine with shiitake extracts may result in blood abnormalities.

Reduces the effects of sleep deprivation

Maitake (Grifola frondosa)

Maitake mushrooms grow in the bottom of oak and maple trees and are known for their earthly flavor and crunchy texture. It is commonly found in the wild forests in Japan, China, and North America. 

Health Benefits:

  • Supports immune system
  • Fights cancer cells
  • Lowers blood sugar levels
  • Reduce cholesterol levels

Maitake mushroom has dramatic health-promoting benefits due to their abundant polysaccharide compounds. Polysaccharides Studies show that maitake mushrooms can help treat certain types of cancers and immune diseases such as HIV. [25,26]

It is also high in beta-glucans which helps lower cholesterol levels and protect the blood vessel walls from damage.

Compared to other mushroom species, Maitake contains significantly higher amounts of vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. A Maitake mushroom can provide twice your recommended daily vitamin D intake.

Safety and Side Effects:

Generally, Maitake mushroom is safe for human consumption. However, if you have metabolic conditions or diabetes, it is best to consult first with your doctor.

Road to goal

Others Medicinal Mushrooms:

  • Portobello
  • Reishii
  • Oyster
  • Agaricus
  • Tremella


There are tons of nutritional and medical benefits in adding certain types of mushrooms to your diet or using their extracts. Most edible mushrooms are high in antioxidants and vitamins that help the body fight chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. 

Although there are tons of promising benefits that mushrooms can offer, there is still a need for large-scale clinical trials for each of them to know their long-term effects on humans.


  1. Lai, P. L., Naidu, M., Sabaratnam, V., Wong, K. H., David, R. P., Kuppusamy, U. R., Abdullah, N., & Malek, S. N. (2013). Neurotrophic properties of the Lion's mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia. International journal of medicinal mushrooms, 15(6), 539–554. https://doi.org/10.1615/intjmedmushr.v15.i6.30 
  2. Zhang, J., An, S., Hu, W., Teng, M., Wang, X., Qu, Y., Liu, Y., Yuan, Y., & Wang, D. (2016). The Neuroprotective Properties of Hericium erinaceus in Glutamate-Damaged Differentiated PC12 Cells and an Alzheimer's Disease Mouse Model. International journal of molecular sciences, 17(11), 1810. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17111810 
  3. Ryu, S., Kim, H. G., Kim, J. Y., Kim, S. Y., & Cho, K. O. (2018). Hericium erinaceus Extract Reduces Anxiety and Depressive Behaviors by Promoting Hippocampal Neurogenesis in the Adult Mouse Brain. Journal of medicinal food, 21(2), 174–180. https://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2017.4006 
  4. Brandalise, F., Cesaroni, V., Gregori, A., Repetti, M., Romano, C., Orrù, G., Botta, L., Girometta, C., Guglielminetti, M. L., Savino, E., & Rossi, P. (2017). Dietary Supplementation of Hericium erinaceus Increases Mossy Fiber-CA3 Hippocampal Neurotransmission and Recognition Memory in Wild-Type Mice. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2017, 3864340. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/3864340 
  5. Mori, K., Obara, Y., Moriya, T., Inatomi, S., & Nakahata, N. (2011). Effects of Hericium erinaceus on amyloid β(25-35) peptide-induced learning and memory deficits in mice. Biomedical research (Tokyo, Japan), 32(1), 67–72. https://doi.org/10.2220/biomedres.32.67 
  6. Lee, K. F., Chen, J. H., Teng, C. C., Shen, C. H., Hsieh, M. C., Lu, C. C., Lee, K. C., Lee, L. Y., Chen, W. P., Chen, C. C., Huang, W. S., & Kuo, H. C. (2014). Protective effects of Hericium erinaceus mycelium and its isolated erinacine A against ischemia-injury-induced neuronal cell death via the inhibition of iNOS/p38 MAPK and nitrotyrosine. International journal of molecular sciences, 15(9), 15073–15089. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms150915073 
  7. Li, I. C., Lee, L. Y., Tzeng, T. T., Chen, W. P., Chen, Y. P., Shiao, Y. J., & Chen, C. C. (2018). Neurohealth Properties of Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Enriched with Erinacines. Behavioural neurology, 2018, 5802634. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/5802634 
  8. Liu, J. H., Li, L., Shang, X. D., Zhang, J. L., & Tan, Q. (2016). Anti-Helicobacter pylori activity of bioactive components isolated from Hericium erinaceus. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 183, 54–58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2015.09.004 
  9. Wang, M., Konishi, T., Gao, Y., Xu, D., & Gao, Q. (2015). Anti-Gastric Ulcer Activity of Polysaccharide Fraction Isolated from Mycelium Culture of Lion's Mane Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes). International journal of medicinal mushrooms, 17(11), 1055–1060. https://doi.org/10.1615/intjmedmushrooms.v17.i11.50 
  10. Kim, S. P., Moon, E., Nam, S. H., & Friedman, M. (2012). Hericium erinaceus mushroom extracts protect infected mice against Salmonella Typhimurium-Induced liver damage and mortality by stimulation of innate immune cells. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 60(22), 5590–5596. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf300897w
  11. Liang, B., Guo, Z., Xie, F., & Zhao, A. (2013). Antihyperglycemic and antihyperlipidemic activities of aqueous extract of Hericium erinaceus in experimental diabetic rats. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 13, 253. https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-13-253 
  12. Arata, S., Watanabe, J., Maeda, M., Yamamoto, M., Matsuhashi, H., Mochizuki, M., Kagami, N., Honda, K., & Inagaki, M. (2016). Continuous intake of the Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) aqueous extract suppresses cancer progression and maintains body temperature in mice. Heliyon, 2(5), e00111. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2016.e00111 
  13. Sun, J. E., Ao, Z. H., Lu, Z. M., Xu, H. Y., Zhang, X. M., Dou, W. F., & Xu, Z. H. (2008). Antihyperglycemic and antilipidperoxidative effects of dry matter of culture broth of Inonotus obliquus in submerged culture on normal and alloxan-diabetes mice. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 118(1), 7–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2008.02.030 
  14.  Yang, M., et al. (2021). Lipid-Lowering Effects of Inonotus obliquus Polyaccharide In Vivo and In Vitro. Foods,  10(12):3085. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10123085 
  15. Sang, R., Sun, F., Zhou, H., Wang, M., Li, H., Li, C., Sun, X., Zhao, X., & Zhang, X. (2021). Immunomodulatory effects of Inonotus obliquus polysaccharide on splenic lymphocytes infected with Toxoplasma gondii via NF-κB and MAPKs pathways. Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology, 44(1), 129–138. https://doi.org/10.1080/08923973.2021.2017453 
  16. Yi, X., Xi-zhen, H. & Jia-shi, Z. Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial and assessment of fermentation product of Cordyceps sinensis (Cs-4) in enhancing aerobic capacity and respiratory function of the healthy elderly volunteers. Chin. J. Integr. Med. 10, 187–192 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02836405 
  17. Zou, Y., Liu, Y., Ruan, M., Feng, X., Wang, J., Chu, Z., & Zhang, Z. (2015). Cordyceps sinensis oral liquid prolongs the lifespan of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, by inhibiting oxidative stress. International journal of molecular medicine, 36(4), 939–946. https://doi.org/10.3892/ijmm.2015.2296 
  18. Liu, W. C., Chuang, W. L., Tsai, M. L., Hong, J. H., McBride, W. H., & Chiang, C. S. (2008). Cordyceps sinensis health supplement enhances recovery from taxol-induced leukopenia. Experimental biology and medicine (Maywood, N.J.), 233(4), 447–455. https://doi.org/10.3181/0708-RM-230 
  19. Jayachandran, M., Xiao, J., & Xu, B. (2017). A Critical Review on Health Promoting Benefits of Edible Mushrooms through Gut Microbiota. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 18(9), 1934. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms18091934 
  20. Pallav, K., Dowd, S. E., Villafuerte, J., Yang, X., Kabbani, T., Hansen, J., Dennis, M., Leffler, D. A., Newburg, D. S., & Kelly, C. P. (2014). Effects of polysaccharopeptide fromTrametes Versicolorand amoxicillin on the gut microbiome of healthy volunteers. Gut Microbes, 5(4), 458–467. https://doi.org/10.4161/gmic.29558 
  21. Finimundy, T. C., Dillon, A. J. P., Henriques, J. A. P., & Ely, M. R. (2014). A Review on General Nutritional Compounds and Pharmacological Properties of the <i>Lentinula edodes</i> Mushroom. Food and Nutrition Sciences, 05(12), 1095–1105. https://doi.org/10.4236/fns.2014.512119 
  22. Dai, X., Stanilka, J. M., Rowe, C. A., Esteves, E. A., Nieves, C., Jr, Spaiser, S. J., Christman, M. C., Langkamp-Henken, B., & Percival, S. S. (2015). Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 34(6), 478–487. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2014.950391 
  23. Bak, W. C., Park, J. H., Park, Y. A., & Ka, K. H. (2014). Determination of Glucan Contents in the Fruiting Bodies and Mycelia of Lentinula edodes Cultivars. Mycobiology, 42(3), 301–304. https://doi.org/10.5941/MYCO.2014.42.3.301 
  24. Phillips, K. M., Ruggio, D. M., Horst, R. L., Minor, B., Simon, R. R., Feeney, M. J., Byrdwell, W. C., & Haytowitz, D. B. (2011). Vitamin D and sterol composition of 10 types of mushrooms from retail suppliers in the United States. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 59(14), 7841–7853. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf104246z 
  25. Mayell M. (2001). Maitake extracts and their therapeutic potential. Alternative medicine review : a journal of clinical therapeutic, 6(1), 48–60. 
  26. Nanba, H., Kodama, N., Schar, D., & Turner, D. (2000). Effects of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) glucan in HIV-infected patients. Mycoscience, 41(4), 293–295. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf02463941

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