Fungi get a bad rap. Many people are off-put by the idea of yeasts and mold, but most plants in existence require some sort of fungal symbiosis to flourish. Fungi are also hugely important in creating the oxygen that we breathe, as well as their part in breaking up organic debris and recycling them back into soil. Needless to say, they are much more important than they are given credit for.
More recent uses include taking advantage of fungi's medicinal properties, though certain Asian cultures have been incorporating specific strains into their daily lives for centuries now. Specifically, reishi, lion's mane, and chaga have become more and more popular over the years.
Reishi has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Literally translating to "spirit plant," this adaptogen helps the body become more resilient to external or internal changes and challenging conditions. It has shown to increase one's energy, alleviate stress, and improve sleep.
Chaga can be difficult to harvest since they make birch trees, on which they grow, look burnt. But this unassuming fungus can grow to the size of a human head and has shown to strengthen one's immune system, help with gastrointestinal problems, and more. Due to its energy-enhancing properties, chaga is now commonly used as a caffeine replacement. It's not surprising that it's become so popular either—chaga tastes delicious!
Named after its similar look to a lion's mane, these mushrooms are also referred to as sheep's head or bear's head. Lion's mane have been studied for their neurogenerative effects, reportedly helping to improve memory and more through its molecules that help stimulate the differentiation and re-myelination of neurons. Studies have implied that taking lion's mane may even potentially help with symptoms of Alzheimers and improve mood as well, benefitting those with depressive disorders.
While foraging for fungi has become an increasingly popular activity, one should always thoroughly study these plants and keep a guide with them to ensure that these are safe to consume. Reishi, lion's mane, and chaga can now be found at health food stores, which means incorporating these into your diet is easier than ever.
Medicinal mushrooms are just one way to ensure that you are taking good care of your body. Growing your own food can also provide you with fresh, healthy, and nutritious food that your body craves.
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Have you tried chaga, reishi, or lion's mane? Which do you like best and why? Let us know in our comments section.