Our Six Favorite Mushrooms Explained

Our Six Favorite Mushrooms Explained

Mushrooms are incredible, and the six mushrooms that comprise our Magnificent Mushroom blend are the most researched and potent in the world. Who are they individually? Let’s delve deeper into the unique personalities and primary functions of our most celebrated fungi.

The Immune Booster: Turkey Tail

Scientific name: Trametes versicolor
Superpower: Balanced Immunity

It’s common to see this shelf mushroom on hikes in the Colorado mountains. In fact, no matter where you hike around the world, keep an eye out— you’ll usually spot them on dead logs. Both the common name and the botanical name give us visual cues. Trametes means “one who is thin”, while versicolor translates to “various colors”. And the way the fruiting body fans out resembles the tail of a turkey.

Turkey tail’s superpower is all about immunity. It consistently contains some of the highest levels of beta-glucans found in the fungal kingdom. Beta-glucans are the immunomodulating polysaccharides that support optimal immune function and can even stimulate the production of immune cells like natural killer cells and macrophages. In Japan, a turkey tail derived protein-bound beta-glucan called polysaccharide Kureha (PSK) has been clinically used in modern medicine for decades. Because of this interest from biomedicine, turkey tail is perhaps the most extensively studied of the functional mushrooms.

Preparation: Our turkey tail 8:1 extract is wildcrafted in the high mountains of China and then hot-water extracted to contain a minimum of 30% beta-glucans.

The Spirit Tonic: Reishi

Scientific name: Ganoderma lucidum
Superpower: Calming the Spirit (+ an adaptogen!)

The most famous of all functional mushrooms, whole books have been written about this “mushroom of immortality.” It’s hard to put reishi in a box because it excels at so many things—immunity, longevity, sleep, respiratory support, adaptogenic action, liver protection, antioxidant activity, and more. Perhaps we’re making it too complicated and the words of Shennong, the mythological Divine Farmer thought to have ruled in China over 2000 years ago, ring true and simple: “If eaten customarily, it makes your body light and young, lengthens your life and turns you into one like the immortal, who never dies.*”

Reishi’s Chinese name, Lingzhi, means “herb of spiritual potency,” and this may be the most profound of the mushroom’s benefits. Drinking reishi is like getting one big hug for your nervous system, heart, and mind. As one of China’s premier shen tonics, or spirit plants, reishi profoundly balances and boosts our ability for mindfulness, meditation, and creative thinking.

Lucidum, part of reishi’s scientific name, means shiny, referencing the red varnish on the cap of the mushroom. The shiny top is full of adaptogenic triterpenoids that are only soluble in alcohol, while the rest of the mushroom, including the smooth and porous brown underside, is high in water-soluble beta-glucans. This is why dual extraction is so important! If we just make a hot tea we enjoy the immune benefits of the beta-glucans. If we take an alcohol tincture we get adaptogenic strength. By combining both extraction methods we get access to everything this ancient sage has to offer.

Preparation: Our red reishi fruiting body 16:1 extract is organically cultivated on beech wood logs, dual extracted with hot water and alcohol, and standardized to 15% beta-glucans.

*We cannot guarantee immortality. Our lawyers reminded us to remind you of this.

The Athlete: Cordyceps

Scientific name: Cordyceps militaris
Superpower: Strength & Stamina (+ an adaptogen!)

Cordyceps is by far one of the coolest and creepiest fungi out there. Several different species exist around the world. The one traditionally used for medicine is gathered from the foothills of the Himalayas in Tibet and Bhutan. The fungus parasitically takes over the central nervous system of caterpillars and the fruiting body sprouts from the caterpillar’s dying body. Another species of cordyceps takes over ants! Fortunately, most cordyceps today are cultivated on rice or other grains and cultivation does not involve animal cruelty. Testing shows that the fruiting bodies of wild and cultivated cordyceps are very similar in their chemical profiles and can be used interchangeably.

Cordyceps is a powerful adaptogenic mushroom often used to boost energy, athletic performance, sexual function, and immunity. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, cordyceps is considered a lung and kidney tonic and thought to reinforce Qi, our vitality. Its action on the lungs may play a role in helping athletes increase endurance and speed. In fact, several studies have demonstrated increased lung capacity during exercise after cordyceps supplementation.

Preparation: Our cordyceps fruiting body 8:1 extract is organically cultivated on a rice substrate, dual extracted with hot water and alcohol, and standardized to 20% beta-glucans. In addition, our latest lot contains 0.65% cordycepin.

The Brainy One: Lion’s Mane

Scientific name: Hericium erinaceus
Superpower: Boosted Brain Function

Lion’s mane, monkey head, hedgehog, and bearded tooth have all been used to describe this fantastical fungus. But perhaps the name Mountain Priest is the most accurate in describing not just its appearance, but its effects. Buddhist monks reported consuming powdered lion’s mane tea to support their focus on meditation.

Today, the mushroom is getting attention as a neuroprotective and neuroregenerative nootropic that can potentially stimulate the production of nerve growth factor (NGF). Increasing NGF has cascading effects on cognition, mood, immunity, and even cardiovascular health. Promising early research on lion’s mane points to improvements in cognitive function and memory.

Preparation: Our lion’s mane fruiting body 8:1 extract is organically cultivated on a sawdust substrate, dual extracted with hot water and alcohol, and standardized to 15% beta-glucans.

The Beauty: Tremella

Scientific name: Tremella fuciformis
Superpower: Deep Hydration

Tremella, also called snow mushroom or white jelly mushroom for its gelatinous texture, has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years as a nourishing and hydrating yin tonic to bring vitality back to the body. Celebrated for its moisturizing & skin-beautifying properties, this mushroom has a water holding capacity of almost 500 times its weight! One of China’s four great beauties, the concubine Yang Guifei of the Tang dynasty, credited Tremella for her ever-youthful glow.

Preparation: Our Tremella fruiting body 1:1 extract is organically cultivated and hot water extracted, with a minimum of 10% beta-glucans.

The Mind Soother: Poria

Scientific name: Wolfiporia extensa
Superpower: Calming & Restorative (+ an adaptogen!)

Poria is a bit different than the five fruiting bodies above in that it’s not technically a fruiting body at all. It’s instead a hardened mass called a sclerotium. It also grows underground, often on the roots of pine trees, and resembles a coconut. These masses can weigh up to 30 pounds!

Poria is one of the most commonly used herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine, often in formulas in small amounts to reinforce and balance the overall actions and effects of the other herbs. This is how we use it in our mushroom extract blend, Magnificent Mushrooms. Perhaps because of its adaptogenic actions, Poria supports relaxation and the release of tension, which can help boost healthy moods and mental clarity. Poria also dries dampness and acts as a gentle diuretic.

Preparation: Our Poria 1:1 extract is organically cultivated on a hardwood log substrate, hot water extracted, and standardized to 55% beta-glucans.

Digging Deeper

When you ask an herbalist a question like “What is reishi good for?” it’s not uncommon to get a question in return such as “What is your grandma good for?”

This retort is a reaction to the reduction of complex phenomena like plants and mushrooms down to a single trait or benefit, instead of seeing the whole. Unfortunately, this is how we think about medicine in our society— you take pharmaceutical X for Y benefit, that’s it, end of the story. With mushrooms, there is so much more. The stories stretch across thousands of years and hundreds of chemical compounds. So if particular mushrooms on this list call out to you, dig deeper! Look up more extensive monographs, read research papers, try the mushrooms on their own and in combinations like ours, and weave them into your life like you would a new friend.