mushrooms, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine

5 Ways to Maximize Mushrooms in Your Life for Health & Vitality

I talk about mushrooms all the time in my Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture practices in Collingwood and Meaford for one simple reason – the more I learn about and use them, the more I appreciate their profound health benefits. 

For example, mushrooms have cancer fighting benefits and can be used to both treat and prevent malignancies. All mushrooms stimulate and regulate the immune system and can be used to both treat and prevent fungal, viral and bacterial infections. Depending on the species, they offer protection and support for every system of the body. I use them regularly to treat cardiovascular issues, mental health challenges and to support the lungs, nervous system and brain, liver, heart, kidney, stomach and intestines. You can use them to regulate blood sugar, lower cholesterol, add fiber to your diet, reduce inflammation and so much more. They are health powerhouses. 

Mushrooms need to be cooked in order to unlock their health benefits. The best way to achieve general health and your nutritional goals is to consume many varieties in as many ways as possible, as each mushroom is different and offers different benefits. Use powders, capsules and tinctures. Mix them into your cooking – add oyster mushrooms or maitake to stirfries, enoki and shiitake to soups. One of my favorite soups is miso with tofu, seaweed and whatever mushrooms I have in the kitchen. Super easy and delicious. 

Here are a few tips for getting the most from mushroom medicine – 

  • As mentioned above, add mushrooms to your cooking. Cook with as many varieties as possible. Each mushroom species stimulates the immune system in different ways due to the differing shapes of the beta glucans in their cell walls, so the more the merrier. Each species also contains differing secondary compounds. 

  • Learn to make or buy a variety of mushroom products. Look for products either made by a trusted source (I produce mushroom extracts in small batches) or look for products made from fruiting bodies. Don’t bother with products that list mycelium or mycelium on grain as their source of mushrooms – they don’t contain nearly the same amounts of medicinally active constituents as the actual fruiting bodies. More on this in an upcoming blog post. 

Here are 5 easy ways to get the mushrooms you need on a daily basis

Powders – an easy way to get all the benefits of mushrooms, both nutritive and immunological, is to make them into powders. The process is simple – cook the mushrooms, preferably in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, which will break down the beta-glucans, chitin and other constituents, making them easier to digest and absorb. Blend the cooked mushrooms and the liquid, then dehydrate the mix in a dehydrator or oven set on its lowest setting. After its dried, powder it in a blender, which you can store for several months. Add the powder to soups, stews, smoothies or make a tea. I like making chaga into a concentrated powder, which I mix into hot water to make an easy to make, delicious tea.

Capsules – these are simply powders that have been encapsulated. Easy to take in consistent dosages. 

Tinctures – look for a tincture that has been double extracted. What this means is that the mushrooms have first been boiled (or better yet, pressure cooked) to release their water soluble compounds, then tinctured in alcohol to extract their alcohol soluble compounds. You can use single extraction tinctures (these aren’t boiled first) if you want to emphasize certain compounds with specific qualities. Generally, though, double extractions offer a wider range of health benefits. 

Stirfry – Shiitake, lion’s mane, maitake, enoki, button and oyster mushrooms are some of the mushrooms that are great to stir-fry. Add ¼ cup of water to a tablespoon of oil in a fry pain, which will fry and steam the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms before adding vegetables or other proteins as they need higher heat and longer cooking. Make these as a side dish or omelets or toppings for other proteins. The possibilities are endless.

Grill – grilling or barbecuing is a great choice for firm mushrooms such as portobello or oyster mushrooms. Oil the caps or marinade them in a little tamari, olive oil or sesame oil along with your choice of seasonings such as crushed garlic, ginger or curry powder. 

Pressure cook – Using a pressure cooker reduces the cooking time as well as increases the bioavailability of certain medicinal compounds that aren’t very digestible otherwise. Pressure cook tough fruiting bodies for up to 60 mins, while more tender varieties only need 30 mins or so. You can then go on to dehydrate and powder the mix as described above or add the puree directly to soups or stews. 

So there you have it. There are many easy, efficient and delicious ways to incorporate mushrooms into our lives, and our bodies and minds will thank us for it. 

As always, don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments below or in a private message. You are also welcome to book a consult at either my Collingwood or Meaford clinics to discuss which mushrooms would most help you achieve your health goals. I am also available for online consults. 

In peace and health. 

Chris Savidge, R.Ac, R.TCMP

Chris Savidge, R.Ac, R.TCMP

Chris is a Chinese medical herbalist & acupuncturist who's passionate about helping people overcome health challenges.