The Complete Guide to Mushroom Supplements


Mushroom supplements are having a moment.

This is mainly because countless online health and fitness gurus and one highly influential comedian-cum-podcaster claim they offer a wide range of health benefits, capable of boosting cardiovascular, metabolic, and brain health, fighting disease and dysfunction, and improving athletic performance. 

Not everyone is fervent about fungi, though.

Skeptics claim that the benefits of mushroom supplements are oversold and based on folk wisdom rather than scientific evidence.

Who’s right?

Get evidence-based answers in the article.

(Or if you’d prefer to skip the scientific breakdown and just want to know what supplements you should take to support your health, performance, and body composition, no problem! Just take the Legion Supplement Finder Quiz, and in less than a minute, you’ll know exactly what supplements are right for you. Click here to check it out.)

What Are Mushroom Supplements?

Mushroom supplements are dietary supplements made from mushrooms’ fruiting body (toadstool) or mycelium (root-like structure). 

They’re popular because of mushrooms’ association with traditional Chinese medicine, where they’ve been used to maintain optimal health and treat a host of diseases for millennia. On the back of this, many Westerners believe taking them in supplement form offers similar benefits.

To make mushroom supplements, manufacturers process a mushroom’s fruiting body or mycelium (or a mix of both) to make it more bioavailable (easily absorbed and used by the body), dehydrate it, then grind it into powder and pack it into capsules or pills.

Supplement companies use various mushrooms to make mushroom supplements because each variety allegedly has unique benefits.

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Mushroom Supplements: Benefits

Let’s take a look at what science says about the benefits of mushroom supplements, so you know which of these claims to hearken and which to hold cheap. 

Reishi Mushroom Supplements

Reishi and Lingzhi (in Japan and China, respectively) are common names for Ganoderma lucidum, a large, dark mushroom with a glossy exterior and a woody texture.

The reishi mushroom’s primary benefit is that it “modulates” your immune system, which means it reduces major fluctuations in immune function, keeping things in a more stable, healthy range.

Human and in vitro (test-tube) studies show that it also stimulates or enhances the function of immune cells, helping you maintain your general health and fight conditions such as cancer, rheumatism, renal disease, and so forth.

People often claim that reishi mushroom also helps fight fatigue. While some studies show that reishi may help cancer patients deal with fatigue associated with chemotherapy, there’s little evidence it helps people combat fatigue caused by the rigors of daily life. 

One study that people often cite as evidence to the contrary found that supplementing with reishi for 8 weeks may reduce fatigue and improve well-being in people with neurasthenia (an ill-defined medical condition characterized by fatigue, headaches, and emotional instability). 

However, a health food retailer partly funded this study, which undermines its credibility, and it hasn’t yet been replicated by other scientists.

Another oft-touted benefit of reishi is that it “detoxes” your liver. While detox probably isn’t the correct word (reishi doesn’t remove toxins from your body), some research suggests it contains potent antioxidants that prevent oxidative damage to the liver.

Other common benefits associated with reishi mushroom, such as its positive impact on anxiety and depression, blood sugar control, cardiovascular health, sleep, kidney health, and cholesterol levels, are either only supported by animal and in vitro studies, or weakly supported by human research. 

As such, it’s sensible to count these as potential rather than proven benefits. 

Overall, there’s robust evidence showing reishi has therapeutic uses, making reishi mushroom supplements a good addition to your supplement “stack.”

That’s why we included 3 grams of reishi mushrooms in every serving of our 100% natural greens supplement, Genesis.

Turkey Tail Mushroom Supplements

Turkey tail mushroom (Coriolus versicolor) is primarily known as an anticancer treatment.

For example, several studies have identified it as an effective adjunct therapy (an additional treatment used alongside primary cancer care) for people with various types of cancer, including breast, blood, lung, and gastrointestinal cancers.

That said, evidence of its efficacy isn’t strong enough to say it’s a cancer treatment in and of itself, so don’t replace treatment given by an oncologist with turkey tail mushroom supplements

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Shiitake Mushroom Supplements

Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) is the second most commonly cultivated mushroom behind button mushrooms. One of the main reasons for its prevalence is its association with health and longevity.

While there’s evidence that some compounds present in shiitake protect against cancer, prevent weight gain, and improve cardiovascular and metabolic health, most research is conducted on animals or in a test tube. Until human trials replicate these benefits, it’s uncertain whether shiitake mushroom supplements are worth adding to your supplement regimen.

Chaga Mushroom Supplements

The chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) is a black parasitic fungus that grows on the trunks of the mature birch. 

In Russia, Poland, and most of the Baltic countries it’s traditionally used to treat gastrointestinal cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, while in Western Siberia, it’s commonly employed to alleviate worms, tuberculosis, liver or heart disease, stomach ailments, and as a laxative.

Research shows that chaga is rich in antioxidants that protect against oxidative, genetic, and radiation-induced cell damage and inhibit tumor cell growth. Studies also suggest it may lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, have antiviral, analgesic (pain-killing), anti-diabetic, and anti-allergic effects, reduce cognitive impairment, slow cancer growth, support immune function, and boost physical endurance.

However, scientists have only observed these benefits in animal and test-tube studies. Therefore, we don’t know for sure whether chaga mushroom supplements have similar benefits in living humans.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom Supplements

Lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is a large mushroom with characteristic white spines that clump together and dangle, resembling a lion’s mane. 

Like most medicinal mushrooms, lion’s mane mushroom contains compounds that may help fight several types of cancer, reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, and likely boost immune function and cardiovascular and metabolic health.

One of the most interesting effects of lion’s mane mushroom is its ability to alter brain function.

For instance, studies show that lion’s mane mushrooms may stimulate brain cell growth, diminish memory loss, protect against Alzheimer’s disease, improve cognitive impairment, and lessen symptoms of anxiety and depression.

While very few of these studies involve human participants, those that do are promising. Thus, lion’s mane mushroom supplements are one to watch, but it’s probably still too early to say they’re a “must-have” supplement.

Cordyceps Mushroom Supplements

Cordyceps is a genus of fungus that arises from the carcasses of insect larvae.

Preliminary animal and human research shows that cordyceps mushroom supplements may improve athletic performance to a modest degree. 

For example, in one study conducted by scientists at the University of California, researchers found that older adults who supplemented with cordyceps for 12 weeks increased metabolic threshold (the maximum amount of energy you can produce) by 10.5% and ventilatory threshold (the maximum amount of air you can inhale) by 8.5%, both of which are markers of improved endurance.

Multiple other studies on animals and human cells (not living humans) show that cordyceps may also have anti-aging effects, improve sexual function, prevent free-radical damage, protect against cancer and slow cancer growth, boost cardiovascular and metabolic health, and decrease inflammation.

Researchers are yet to replicate these findings in humans, so we can’t extrapolate the results to people just yet. 

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Mushroom Supplements: Side Effects

The safety profile of each mushroom we’ve looked at is slightly different. Here’s a quick rundown of the most common mushroom supplement side effects:

  • Reishi: Most research shows that reishi is safe and well-tolerated. However, one study reported that people who supplemented with reishi for extended periods might suffer mild nausea and insomnia, while two others found that reishi supplements caused liver problems.

In both cases, the participants who suffered liver problems had previously eaten reishi mushrooms without issue, which suggests it may have been the specific supplements they took during the studies that were the problem, not reishi mushrooms as a whole. 

  • Turkey Tail: Most research shows that turkey tail mushrooms are safe, well-tolerated, and without major side effects.
  • Shiitake: Shiitake are generally considered safe. In rare cases, people may develop a rash when they eat or touch shiitake, but this isn’t cause for concern and usually resolves quickly.
  • Chaga: Because of the lack of research on humans, we don’t know the side effects of supplementing with chaga mushrooms.
  • Lion’s Mane: There’s limited human research on the safety of lion’s mane mushrooms, making it difficult to know if supplementing with lion’s mane supplements causes any side effects. That said, preliminary research suggests that some people are allergic to lion’s mane and may develop a rash or have trouble breathing if they consume it.
  • Cordyceps: No human studies have reported information about the side effects of cordyceps, making it impossible to know its side effects.

Conclusion

The argument in favor of mushroom supplements goes like this: People in Asia have used mushrooms as a cure-all for thousands of years, and modern science shows that they have a variety of therapeutic uses. 

Thus, why wouldn’t we add them to our supplement regimen and reap their health-boosting benefits?

While this seems compelling, it isn’t as crystalline as it sounds.

First, you can’t always count on traditional Eastern medicine to be effective (traditional Chinese medicine also posits that you can cure genital ulcers, tooth decay, and swollen eyes with python bile).

Second, research showing the benefits of mushrooms isn’t as unequivocal as many make out. Most is conducted on animals and in test tubes. As promising as these studies sometimes are, we can’t assume the results apply to humans until scientists replicate them in people.

Therefore, it’s probably sensible to wait for more reliable evidence before you stock up on ‘shroom supplements.

The only exception is reishi mushroom supplements since current research shows they have immunological benefits in living, breathing humans.

And if you’re looking for a 100% natural greens supplement with a clinically effective dose of reishi mushrooms and four other ingredients that boost energy levels, mood, and libido and enhance heart and circulatory health and immunity, try Genesis.

(Or if you aren’t sure if Genesis is right for you or if another supplement might be a better fit for your budget, circumstances, and goals, then take the Legion Supplement Finder Quiz! In less than a minute, it’ll tell you exactly what supplements are right for you. Click here to check it out.)

FAQ #1: What are the best mushroom supplements for brain function?

There’s evidence from animal research and some preliminary human studies showing that lion’s mane mushrooms benefit brain function.

Thus, based on the limited evidence we currently have, the best mushroom supplement for brain health is lion’s mane.

FAQ #2: What are the best mushroom supplements for weight loss?

There’s little evidence that any mushroom supplement supports weight loss. That said, the results from one study show that shiitake mushroom supplements may prevent fat gain in mice.

FAQ #3: What are the best mushroom supplements for anxiety and depression?

There’s a small amount of evidence that reishi or lion’s mane mushroom supplements can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

However, we need more research before we can say that reishi or lion’s mane mushroom supplements are effective in this regard.

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