Mushrooms have long been valued for their medicinal properties, and their popularity as a health supplement has skyrocketed in recent years.
But with a wide array of mushroom types available in the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the best mushroom supplement that suits your needs.
In this new guide, we will break down the different types of mushroom strains and highlight their unique benefits and potential side effects, to help you make an informed decision if you’ve been considering a mushroom capsule or powder.
The Benefits of Taking Mushroom Supplements
Even though we sell a mushroom powder capsule, here’s the truth: mushrooms are not a magic pill that’s going to cure all your health ailments.
Research on the benefits of mushroom supplements is limited. More peer-reviewed, placebo-controlled studies are needed to better understand the safety, side effects, risks and potential benefits.
But for some people, mushroom supplements in powder and pill form may have a beneficial effect.
In this article, we’ll review some of the (admittedly small) studies that have shown promise and talk about the benefits and potential risks of taking mushroom capsules and powders in supplement form.
Types of Mushroom Supplements
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Hericium erinaceus (lion’s mane) are edible mushrooms commonly found during late summer and fall on hardwood trees like American beech and maple. Lion’s mane mushrooms contain a number of phytochemicals, including polysaccharides, such as β-glucan.
According to a 2015 research report, Lion’s mane “is one of the well-established medicinal mushrooms for neuronal health. It has been documented for its regenerative capability in peripheral nerve.”
A 2020 research review stated that lion’s mane mushroom “has been shown to have various health benefits, including antioxidative, antidiabetic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antihyperglycemic, and hypolipidemic effects,” “has been used to treat cognitive impairment, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, “ and “may be a potential alternative medicine for the treatment of depression.”
In a clinical study of 30 men and women with mild cognitive impairment, oral administration of 1 g of lion’s mane mushroom 3 times a day over 16 weeks increased cognitive function scores. There were no adverse effects according to laboratory tests.
Research is limited on the side effects of lion’s mane mushroom. In one clinical study in which lion’s mane mushroom 1 g was taken 3 times a day over 16 weeks, mild stomach discomfort and diarrhea were reported in some study participants.
As far as drug interactions go, lion’s mane mushroom might lower blood sugar levels, and taking lion’s mane along with diabetes medications might cause blood sugar to drop too low. Lion’s mane mushroom might also slow blood clotting. Taking lion’s mane along with medications that also slow blood clotting might increase the risk of bruising and bleeding.
Turkey Tail Mushroom
Turkey tail mushrooms, or Coriolus versicolor, are a type of fungi that grow on tree trunks and fallen trees. It has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries in Asia and also is commonly found throughout the world, including in wooded areas in North America. It contains two compounds, in particular–polysaccharide peptide (PSP) and polysaccharide krestin (PSK)–which have been found in smaller studies to have some beneficial effects.
In Japan, PSK is an approved anticancer drug currently used as a cancer treatment along with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. It is used as an adjunctive treatment for esophageal, lung, stomach, breast, and colon cancer. A meta-analysis of three trials involving 1094 subjects with colorectal cancer confirmed that those who took PSK showed a significant improvement in overall survival and disease-free survival.
In a 2020 study called Assessment of Bioactive Compounds and Antioxidant Activity of Turkey Tail Medicinal Mushroom Trametes versicolor (Agaricomycetes) found that turkey tail mushroom extract was a “promising source” of antioxidants.
In a 2018 research review, study authors noted “Trametes versicolor are much more advanced in terms of medical applications due to their uncovered strong and complex immunomodulatory potential provided by rich polysaccharide and proteoglycan diversity. There are numerous clinical trials confirming applicability of these mushrooms and their extracts as components of modern anticancer chemotherapy. But the complex modes of action and molecular targets as well as exact structures of the active molecules from these mushrooms still have to be studied in more detail.”
In terms of side effects, turkey tail mushroom is likely safe for most people. For most healthy adults, it is well-tolerated. Some people who are receiving chemotherapy and PSK have reported nausea, vomiting, low white blood cell counts, and liver problems. But it is unclear if these side effects were due to the chemotherapy or PSK.
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. PSP might change how quickly the liver breaks down these medications. This could change the effects and side effects of these medications.
Cyclophosphamide may interact with turkey tail mushroom. PSP might change how quickly cyclophosphamide is removed from the body.
Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2C9 (CYP2C9) substrates) interacts with turkey tail mushroom.
Reishi is a dark mushroom whose botanical name is Ganoderma lucidum. Reishi is considered an adaptogen, a compound that may help the body cope with stress and boost the immune system.
Reishi mushroom is important in traditional medicine systems of several countries in Asia, including China, Japan, and Korea.
As far as benefits go, reishi mushrooms are believed to have immunomodulatory properties, meaning they can help regulate and enhance the immune system. They have been shown to stimulate the activity of certain immune cells, such as natural killer cells and lymphocytes, which play a crucial role in fighting infections and preventing the growth of cancer cells.
Reishi mushrooms contain bioactive compounds, including triterpenes and polysaccharides, which have demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects in studies. These compounds may help reduce inflammation in the body and potentially lower the risk of chronic diseases.
Reishi mushrooms are considered adaptogens, substances that can help the body adapt to stress and promote overall well-being. They have been traditionally used to reduce anxiety, improve sleep quality, and enhance mood. Some studies suggest that reishi mushrooms may regulate the body’s stress response by reducing cortisol levels and promoting relaxation.
Reishi mushrooms are rich in antioxidants, which help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. By reducing oxidative stress, reishi mushrooms may contribute to overall cellular health and potentially protect against chronic diseases associated with oxidative damage.
Side effects of reishi may include:
- Nausea (feeling like you’re going to throw up)
- Insomnia (trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early)
- Liver injury
Other side effects of reishi mushrooms include dry mouth, rashes, upset stomach, diarrhea, headache, nosebleed, and dizziness.
The safety of reishi mushroom in pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding has not been thoroughly studied.
Reishi might lower blood pressure, so taking both reishi and drugs to reduce blood pressure (such as captopril, enalapril, lisinopril, amlodipine, hydrochlorothiazide) might make blood pressure too low.
- Reishi might slow blood clotting, so combining reishi with drugs that slow clotting (for example, clopidogrel, ibuprofen, naproxen, heparin, and warfarin) might increase the chance of bleeding and bruises.
- Reishi could make some chemotherapy drugs less effective (although conversely it may make some chemotherapy drugs more effective).
- Reishi may interfere with a lab test for a serum tumor marker (CA72-4) that indicates the presence of certain types of cancers.
Porcini (Boletus edulis) is a highly prized edible mushroom known for its distinct flavor and nutritional value. While scientific research on Porcini mushroom supplements is limited, the mushroom itself has several potential health benefits.
Porcini mushrooms contain various bioactive compounds, including phenolic compounds and polysaccharides, which have shown antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities in preclinical studies. These properties may contribute to their potential health benefits.
Porcini mushrooms are a good source of essential nutrients such as vitamins B, D, and minerals like copper, potassium, and selenium. These nutrients play important roles in supporting overall health and immune function.
As for side effects, Porcini mushrooms are generally considered safe for consumption and are widely consumed as a food source. However, some individuals may be allergic or sensitive to mushrooms in general. If you have known allergies or sensitivities to mushrooms, it is advisable to avoid Porcini mushroom supplements. Additionally, always ensure that you obtain Porcini mushrooms from trusted sources and properly cook them to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.
Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) mushrooms are widely consumed in Asian cuisines and are renowned for their potential health benefits.
Shiitake mushrooms contain a unique polysaccharide called lentinan, which has demonstrated immunomodulatory effects in preclinical studies. Lentinan may help enhance immune function and support overall immune health.
Some studies suggest that compounds found in Shiitake mushrooms, such as eritadenine and beta-glucans, may contribute to cholesterol management and overall cardiovascular health. However, more research is needed to establish the extent of these effects in humans.
Shiitake mushrooms are generally safe to consume as a food source. However, some individuals may develop an allergic reaction or experience digestive issues such as stomach discomfort or diarrhea. It is advisable to start with small doses when incorporating Shiitake mushroom supplements into your routine and monitor your body’s response.
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a fungus that primarily grows on birch trees in cold regions. It has been used in traditional medicine for centuries and is gaining popularity as a functional mushroom.
Chaga mushrooms are rich in antioxidants, particularly a group of compounds called triterpenes. These antioxidants may help protect against oxidative stress and support overall well-being.
Some studies suggest that Chaga mushrooms may have immunomodulatory effects, enhancing immune function and potentially supporting the body’s defense against infections and diseases. However, more human research is needed to validate these effects.
Chaga mushroom supplements may interact with certain medications, such as anticoagulants and immunosuppressants. If you are taking any medications or have underlying health conditions, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating Chaga mushroom supplements into your routine.
It’s important to note that while these mushrooms show possible health benefits, further research is needed to understand their mechanisms of action, optimal dosages, and potential side effects. As with any dietary supplement, it is recommended to choose reputable sources and consult with a healthcare professional before starting a new supplement regimen.
Risks and Side Effects of Mushroom Capsules and Powders
Mushroom capsules and powders have gained popularity as dietary supplements, but as we’ve covered, some come with risks and side effects. Allergic reactions can occur, although they are rare.
Contamination is also a concern, as mushrooms can absorb pollutants during cultivation, harvesting, or processing.
Interactions with medications are possible, as mushrooms can interfere with drug metabolism.
Excessive consumption may lead to digestive issues like bloating and diarrhea. Some mushrooms have anticoagulant properties, which can be beneficial or increase bleeding risk for certain individuals.
To minimize risks, consult a healthcare professional if you have allergies, are on medications, or have pre-existing conditions. Choose reputable brands that conduct quality control and testing.
Conclusion: What to Look for in Mushroom Pills and Powders
Mushroom supplements, such as lion’s mane, turkey tail, chaga, and reishi, have gained popularity for their potential health benefits. These mushrooms are believed to have immune-boosting, antioxidant, and adaptogenic properties.
While preliminary research is promising, it’s important to note that more studies, especially on humans, are needed to fully understand the effects and determine optimal dosages. If you’re considering taking mushroom supplements, it’s advisable to consult with your healthcare provider to ensure they are safe and suitable for you, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications.