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Let’s start of by saying the myco-industry is booming worldwide! And that makes us so excited! Here in Canada (and even the US), we’re substantially behind places like China who have a long history of use, knowledge, and acceptance. So, What are Functional Mushrooms?

What are Functional Mushrooms? Mushrooms on a stand with brown background

The industry involves everything from sustainable mushroom leathers, food products, cleaners, and even fully compostable packaging or ‘plastics’. But another key component of this industry is in the wellness sector. I’m talking about functional mushrooms and the increase of people wanting to take a more active role in their own wellbeing.

These are mushrooms that we refer to that can have a health benefit beyond just providing nutrition. While these are also often nutrient dense, the other benefits often associated with functional mushrooms are their ability to support your immune system, increase your energy, help with homeostasis and enhance your mood.

There is over a thousand mushroom species acknowledged for their edible or medicinal benefits. That sounds daunting, but don’t worry we’re going dive into a couple of the most recognizable functional mushrooms, things we’ve learned about them, how they taste and even ways to use them.

Reishi – Pronounced // ray·shee

This mushroom has a long historical use in China. The Reishi mushroom has a glossy, kidney shaped fruiting body that is naturally found on hardwoods in places with warmer temperatures.

Here's a look at what reishi mushroom looks like.

Reishi Mushroom

Reishi is mostly known as an adaptogen, its ability to aid you in managing the stress that everyday life throws at us. It can make it easier to relax and unwind. This is a big benefit, but not all it’s being studied for. Reishi is full of antioxidants, polysaccharides and beta-glucans all having a supportive role in your heath and immune system.

How can you use Reishi mushroom powder?

  • Add it to herbal tea 
  • Add it to smoothie
  • Add it to your coffee 

What does Reishi mushroom powder taste like? 

Two words, earthy & bitter. This is due to the triterpenes found in the mushroom. There seems to be a connection that bitterness can be a good indication of quality. 

Cordyceps – Pronounced // kor·dee·seps

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These are considered are parasitic fungi that naturally is found attacking insect hosts. But don’t let that freak you too much. These may look spooky and don’t seem to resemble mushrooms you’re most familiar with, but they’ve got some really cool and healthful things about them too. Most of the supplements found on the market are lab grown or cultivated without the use of bugs. The two main species used and studied are cordyceps sinensis or cordyceps militaris. Cordyceps are rich in vitamin E, K, B1, and even B12, which is said that large percentage of the population is deficient in. 

Cordyceps are most recognized for their natural energy boosting potential. Often used for people trying to get a little more out of their workouts while limiting the tiredness. They are also often touted for their anti-aging benefits as well, the benefits of this might be linked to the large number of antioxidants. These mushrooms are even recognized by some for supporting a healthy libido. 

How can you use cordyceps mushroom powder?

  • Add it to simmering broth 
  • Add to soups
  • Add it to herbal tea or brew a tea with the powder 
  • Add to protein shake 
  • Add it to smoothie
  • Add it to your coffee 

What does Cordyceps Mushroom powder taste like? 

These have a mild mushroom flavor that’s earthy and nutty. Also, with a little hint of sweetness. 

Lions Mane (Hericium erinaceus) 

These whimsical looking mushrooms get their name because they grow out shaggy spines that almost look like hair. The Lions Mane mushroom can be found throughout North America, including Canada. Naturally, they are seen growing on dead logs from hard wood trees during late summer and into fall. 

They can also be easily cultivated, 

which is how most supplements are made.

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This mushroom is widely known for brain benefiting superpowers. Recognized as a nootropic, its benefits include supporting cognitive and memory function. Many use Lions Mane mushroom to help combat brain fog, especially those avoiding caffeine late in the day. They’ve even become a natural option for people needing help to focus in on their work. These mushrooms are rich in b-glucan polysaccharides, b12, antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory compounds.

How can you use lions mane mushroom powder?

  • Sprinkle it on your oatmeal
  • Add it to herbal tea or brew a tea with the powder 
  • Add to protein shake 
  • Add it to smoothie
  • Add it to your coffee 

What does Lion’s Mane Mushroom powder taste like?

This is a great thing about Lions mane mushroom powder, unlike other functional mushrooms it is very mild in flavour. Some people even think that the mushroom itself has a mild seafood taste like lobster when used for cooking. 

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The list goes on for functional mushrooms, but here’s an introduction to a few of the popular ones. These can be a great way to increase the nutrients you’re getting in your daily diet, but they can also help our bodies function optimally. It may seem whether you’re looking for improving cognitive function, supporting your immune system or naturally increase your energy, there is a mushroom for you. 

Before using any mushrooms, it’s important to note, while most of these are generally regarded as safe, you need to speak with your health care provider before use. Especially important for those on medications or have high/low blood pressure. If you’re pregnant, they should also be avoided.

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