For every step we progress in science and medicine, the more we realize the truth held in ancient traditions and practices. Adaptogenic mushrooms are a prime example of this, as we’ve only just begun to unlock the power of these naturally occurring fungi for various health and therapeutic benefits.
Adaptogenic mushrooms aren’t just another buzzword you hear about online. While newly minted research might sound fresh and inventive, we quickly learn that systems like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine have long been two steps ahead.
Today, we’re exploring the true nature of adaptogenic mushrooms to catch you up to speed and help you get the most from these amazing superfoods. If you’re looking to incorporate these mushrooms into your daily routine and don’t know where to start, you’re in the right place.
We’ll also touch on the best mushrooms to add to your regimen and offer tips on how to take them safely and sustainably.
What are adaptogens?
The concept of adaptogens is broad and goes beyond the realm of mushrooms. The term refers to plants, herbs, and fungi that support the function of the human body and mind in various ways. More accurately, these substances help the body resist stress and maintain balance against a range of environmental and biological factors.
The key distinction here is that adaptogenic compounds offer non-specific support during stress and other phenomenon. Unlike a standard vitamin or mineral supplement, adaptogenic compounds help support balance in bodily functions. The result is a state of homeostasis, meaning the adaptogens help the body maintain the optimal balance of functionality and wellness.
While there’s still much more to discover about the nature of adaptogens and how they work, our first impression is strong.
What are adaptogenic mushrooms?
The advantages of adaptogenic plants like functional mushrooms are apparent, and it’s no wonder why more people are eager to find out more. While a wide range of plant-based compounds can be categorized as adaptogens, fungi have arguably the most diverse and impressive array of compounds that can readily be consumed and utilized.
In fact, the mushroom kingdom has the concentrations of adaptogenic varietals of all plant species, revealing some magic beneath the surface in this unique biological subset. Even your standard dietary mushrooms like maitake and white button are loaded with nutrition and can safely be considered “superfoods” on your typical grocery list.
Therefore, we encourage you not to shy away from all mushrooms as you embark on your adaptogenic journey. There are benefits to be found in mushrooms of all kinds, even if they don’t technically have the adaptogenic label as defined by modern science.
Additionally, expand your range beyond just mushrooms to see what other adaptogens can benefit your health and lifestyle. Ashwagandha, rhodiola, and ginseng are some other classic adaptogen compounds that have earned their place in the best-of list, so keep them in mind as you optimize your daily stack.
What are some benefits of adaptogenic mushrooms?
Because adaptogenic mushrooms are so biologically diverse, there’s no easy way to summarize the full range of benefits in one go. However, the benefits of adaptogenic mushrooms usually fall into a few key categories, including energy support, immune support, tension relief, and others.
Tension reduction is a catch-all term that applies to dozens of different biological systems, typically in connection to the body’s hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This is the command center for our nervous system’s “fight or flight” response, dictating the production of chemicals like adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine.
When our stress response kicks in due to environmental or emotional inputs, adaptogenic mushrooms can give us an edge. For instance, we may remain calm and act accordingly rather than being stuck in a state of fear or nervous energy.
Immune function is another huge aspect of adaptogenic support we get from select mushrooms. A balanced and strong immune system is the first line of defense we have against bad bacteria, viruses, and other micro-invaders that can make us sick or cause chronic issues. The right adaptogenic mushrooms help support these defenses.
Mushrooms also have benefits for energy, stamina, and cognitive health — some mushrooms have been shown to support brain health, both for short-term output and creative tasks, as well as support long-term protection and neuro-regeneration. Meanwhile, certain mushrooms are utilized by athletes to maintain physical stamina and take their training and competitive edge to the next level.
These benefits of adaptogenic mushrooms have only scratched the surface of what’s possible, and science has much more to uncover about these dynamic compounds. The more we learn, the clearer we see a vision of health with adaptogenic support across the board.
What are some of the best adaptogenic mushrooms?
With so many great adaptogenic plants to try, you might not know where to start. We’ve made a shortlist of the four best adaptogenic mushrooms to add to your list, along with some key info to get you started.
There are many more mushrooms to explore, but these powerhouse fungi will put you on the right path to better health, vitality, and well-being.
Lion’s Mane mushroom
Lions Mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is known for its “shaggy” spines that make the name fitting once you see it. This mushroom is native to the temperate forests of North America, Europe, and Asia, typically growing at the base of hardwood trees like elms, birch, and ash.
With Lion’s Mane, antioxidants take center stage, with an impressive profile of compounds that support the body during exposure to free radicals. These antioxidants provide support to the cells, which can offer physically soothing sensations and long-term defensive support.
Immune support is another benefit of Lion’s Mane, and Lion’s Mane has a host of cognitive benefits thanks to its brain-healthy compounds. Some say it even has a supportive effect on focus and productivity, earning it a place as a compound that may help you navigate your day’s toughest mental tasks.
As an added bonus, Lion’s Mane tastes great and can be incorporated into a range of dishes like soups, stews, stir-fries, and more. If you’re a plant-based eater who enjoys the meaty texture and rich flavor of mushrooms, you’ll be happy to welcome Lion’s Mane to the menu.
Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is a tropical mushroom found in hot and humid parts of Asia. This mushroom has long been a pillar of Eastern medicine and is called the “mushroom of immortality” thanks to its association with longevity and quality of life.
Reishi mushrooms are visually distinctive, featuring a fan-shaped cap with a glossy red-brown color. They are more commonly found in the wild, though some reishi mushrooms are cultivated in mass.
In terms of health benefits, reishi mushrooms are primarily used for immunity support, delivering adaptogenic balance to the body’s immune cells and systems. If you’re facing a tough stretch of illness or discomfort, supplementing with reishi may lend a helping hand as your body fortifies its defenses.
More broadly, reishi is known for providing overall tension relief and energy-supporting effects, which can assist on both the physical and mental sides of life. From training hard at the gym to going all-out in your professional endeavors, reishi can make a difference when taken consistently.
However, you likely won’t want to add reishi mushrooms to your recipe book, as the flavor and texture of this fungus is not exactly palatable. Instead, look for ways to supplement with reishi via powders, extracts, or a gummy that includes all the top-ranked adaptogenic mushroom compounds.
Cordyceps mushrooms encompass two distinct fungus species: Cordyceps militaris and Cordycep sinensis. Once again, these mushrooms hold a special place in the halls of traditional Eastern medicine and have a wide range of adaptogenic benefits worth exploring.
While cordyceps mushrooms are naturally found growing on insect larvae, don’t be alarmed — most of these mushrooms are now cultivated on grain substrates under safe conditions.
The superfood effects of cordyceps are also considerable, especially regarding energy, stamina, and endurance. Cordyceps mushrooms may help support the body’s production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which delivers energy to muscles and organs for peak performance.
This energy-boosting mechanism extends beyond the realm of athletics. Broader benefits of cordyceps include heart health and circulation support, as well as respiratory health thanks to increased oxygen utilization and lung capacity. Regardless of your training regimen or fitness goals, these benefits apply broadly to health and well-being for all.
Don’t overlook the antioxidant profile of cordyceps, either. These compounds further promote longevity and add a layer of protection to cells in every system of the human body.
Turkey Tail mushroom
Turkey Tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) is found all over the world and has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries. It’s easily recognizable for its colorful, fan-shaped caps that resemble the tail of a turkey.
The most unique aspect of turkey tail is the prevalence of polysaccharide compounds with immune-boosting effects. PSK and PSP have been shown to improve function in the immune system and may even help reduce the effects of chronic conditions.
Like other adaptogens, turkey tail is also loaded with antioxidants that protect cells from free radicals and the effects of oxidation. Finally, this mushroom has prebiotic fiber and can help create a thriving environment in the gut — always a good thing for digestion and overall health.
This might not be the most appetizing culinary mushroom, so look for Turkey Tail in teas, powders, extracts, and other formats.
What are some ways to add adaptogenic mushrooms to your daily routine?
There are plenty of ways to make adaptogenic mushrooms part of your daily routine. Check out these simple methods and determine which works best for your goals and lifestyle.
Cook with mushrooms
If you enjoy the taste of mushrooms, why not make them part of your daily diet? You can easily incorporate mushrooms into your favorite wraps, sandwiches, rice or pasta dishes, and other culinary creations.
Use powders or extracts for an extra boost
Not all mushrooms are ideal for the kitchen, so look for powder or extract forms that deliver their adaptogenic benefits in a more streamlined way. When testing out a new supplement, always start small and monitor your results before changing your routine or adding more.
Try an all-in-one adaptogenic mushroom supplement
Sunmed has developed a balanced, well-rounded functional mushroom supplement with all the most effective adaptogen fungi and others. No messy powder or grocery trips needed —Sunmed's All-in-One Mushoom Gummies offer a fast, easy way to get the benefits of mushrooms daily without having to cook or hand-pick mushroom supplements individually. And, they taste great.
If you’re not sure where to start with adaptogenic mushrooms, this supplement is a clear winner, and the familiar gummy format makes it more accessible than ever.
The bottom line
Adaptogenic mushrooms remain a mystery to many, but we can see their power through a mix of modern and ancient medicine, plus everyday anecdotes and reviews. If you’re ready to make mushrooms a part of your lifestyle, now is the perfect time to start.
Use Sunmed’s products to set a baseline and safely explore adaptogens, and remember that a new level of health is always possible.