What are medicinal mushrooms?

What are medicinal mushrooms?

What are medicinal mushrooms?

A straightforward guide to the world of medicinal mushrooms


Mushrooms. A nutritious, delicious, and low-calorie food source that’s often categorised as a vegetable.

But really? Mushrooms are neither plant nor animal. They’re a fascinating food group in the fungal kingdom, holding the potential to heal, nourish, support and balance so many aspects of human health.

So it’s no surprise they’re becoming increasingly valued around the world for their powerful therapeutic properties and active compounds — coining the title medicinal mushrooms.

Buuuut if you’re still a little lost on what that *actually* means, then this straightforward guide to medicinal mushrooms will answer:

  • What are medicinal mushrooms?
  • What’s the history of medicinal mushrooms?
  • Are medicinal mushrooms the same as cooking mushrooms?
  • What are medicinal mushrooms good for?
  • What are the best medicinal mushrooms?
  • Are medicinal mushrooms safe?
  • How do you take medicinal mushrooms?

So put on your snorkel gear, because we’re about to dive in.


What are medicinal mushrooms?  

Medicinal mushrooms can be defined as macroscopic fungi, used in the form of extracts or powder, for medicinal and nutritional purposes. They contain a high concentration of “active compounds” which trigger immunological activity (in other words, they support a healthy immune function and response). Winning.

More specifically, medicinal mushrooms contain a particularly high concentration of active polysaccharides (a fancy word for long chain carbohydrates).

The most common polysaccharide in mushrooms is beta-glucan, which works by triggering changes in the immune system. These changes include the activation of immune cells, increased antibody production and reduced inflammation. AKA all the good stuff.

Now it’s important to add, medicinal mushrooms are an area of science that’s still evolving. The exact role that mushrooms play in relation to specific diseases needs to be explored more (with time and further study, of course).

And finally, to understand the potential role of mushrooms in human health, all you have to do is look into the most common pharmaceutical products. You’ll find that most are derived from the fungi kingdom. Even penicillium (an antibacterial drug that revolutionised medicine) originated from a species of fungi.

We’ll just give you a moment to let that sink in.



History of medicinal mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms aren’t a new thing. Far from it.

They’ve been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years for their therapeutic and nutritional value — from boosting antioxidants to reducing inflammation to balancing blood sugar.

In the west? Well, we just think they taste damn good on toast.

But in recent years they’re becoming increasingly known for their medicinal qualities all over the world.


Do medicinal mushrooms differ from cooking mushrooms?

Yes and no (don’t you hate answers like that?)

Let us explain.

Culinary mushrooms are primarily used in cooking, like portobello and shiitake, because they taste delightful.

Medicinal mushrooms, on the other hand, are primarily used as a supplement (like powders, tinctures and capsules) to achieve a range of health benefits.  

But the truth is, there’s not a clear distinction between the two. Because many medicinal mushroom varieties can also be enjoyed in cooking. And on the flip side, Paul Stamets (an American Mycologist) stated that “all gourmet mushrooms are medicinal.” [2]  

So you could say that all culinary mushrooms contain immune-boosting compounds. Yet at the same time, mushrooms vary in their ratios, benefits and effects on human health.

Ahem, side note: when we talk about medicinal mushrooms we’re not talking about psychedelic mushrooms. That’s a whole other kettle of (high-risk) fish. If you’d like to learn more, check out this article: Microdosing psychedelic mushrooms: what do we know so far?




So, what are medicinal mushrooms good for?

The list is LONG, people. 

Medicinal mushrooms have the potential to…  

  • Activate the immune system
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Support brain health and focus
  • Reduce depression and anxiety
  • Improve gut health
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Boost heart health
  • Prevent disease
  • Increase energy and stamina
  • Support the nervous system


What are the best medicinal mushrooms?

We don’t like to play favourites because all medicinal mushrooms have unique and potent benefits.

Buuuut since you asked, here are six of our most recommended medicinal mushrooms.


Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Lion’s Mane mushroom is a nootropic (AKA brain food) found on dead or decaying hardwood throughout Asia. It has the potential to…

  • Boost mood
  • Enhance memory
  • Improve cognition
  • Achieve mental clarity
  • Increase Focus
  • Boost immunity 

Turkey Tail Mushroom

Turkey Tail is found all around the world, but it’s commonly used in the east to promote wellbeing, vitality and longevity. Turkey tail can… 

  • Aid digestion and gut health
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Support immunity
  • Stop harmful bacteria
  • Improve vitality and longevity


Reishi Mushroom

In Ancient Chinese Culture, Reishi symbolises success, wellbeing and longevity. Research shows that Reishi can... 

  • Boost immunity
  • Reduce stress and fatigue
  • Improve sleep
  • Detoxify the body
  • Enhance energy and stamina

Maitake Mushroom

Also known as the “hen of the woods” for its appearance, Maitake is found in Europe and North America. It’s touted for its potential to…

  • Lower cholesterol
  • Activate immune cells
  • Lower blood sugar
  • Promote heart health


Chaga Mushroom

An antioxidant powerhouse, Chaga is found on the bark of birch trees in cold climates like Siberia, Russia and Alaska. Its potential benefit include…

  • Support immunity
  • Relieve stress
  • Healthy, glowing skin
  • Reduce inflammation

Cordyceps Mushroom

In the wild, cordyceps grow out of the brains of insects and spiders. But if you can side-step that alarming fact, then you’ll love cordyceps for its potential to…

  • Boost athletic performance
  • Increase libido
  • Support immunity
  • Assist with endurance and stamina



Are medicinal mushrooms safe?

Medicinal mushrooms, like Lion’s Mane, Turkey Tail, Reishi, Maitake, Chaga and Cordyceps, are considered safe to consume. Research to date has reported very few or minor adverse effects.

But hey, remember that not all mushrooms are created equal (and for the purpose of this article, we’re not talking about poisonous and psychedelic mushrooms).

We recommend chatting with your doctor or medical professional before starting any medicinal mushroom supplements.


How to take medicinal mushrooms

There are so many ways to get a good dose of medicinal mushrooms.

You can incorporate them into your lifestyle through…

  • Cooking — particularly for varieties like Maitake and Lion’s Mane (which taste delicious).
  • Hot water extracts — this involves heating the raw mushroom with water to dissolve medicinal compounds. These draw out the polysaccharides in the mushroom.
  • Tinctures (alcohol) extracts — when mushrooms are extracted with alcohol, it draws out another beneficial compound called terpenoids (a natural compound that’s antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial).
  • Dual extraction — this is when mushrooms are extracted using water and alcohol, which delivers high concentrations of both polysaccharides and terpenoids. Winning.

To learn more about the different ways of supplementing mushrooms, take a read through our article on mushroom powders vs extracts.

Once medicinal mushrooms have gone through an extraction process, they’re most commonly available in powders, liquid extracts or capsules.

Then, you can incorporate these supplements into your diet by adding them…

  • To your morning coffee or tea
  • To smoothies or juices
  • To soups or main meals
  • Straight into your mouth




Where to buy medicinal mushrooms 

There are a growing number of reputable mushroom suppliers across Australia (and the world).

At Natura Mushrooms, we grow, harvest and source a range of medicinal mushrooms on our 100% off-grid farm in Gippsland, Victoria. Then, we delicately extract them using a combination of hot water extraction and dual extraction methods.

Plus, we always let the latest research guide the products we bring to market, from brain-boosting lion’s mane to relaxing reishi to immunity-enhancing turkey tail.

You can discover our range here…

Still not sure? Take a look at our mushroom supplement purchasing guide to find the best solution for you.





  1. Medicinal Mushrooms: The Essential Guide by Martin Powell 
  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPqWstVnRjQ
  1. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/mushrooms/ 
  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/medicinal-mushroom
  1. https://www.dl.begellhouse.com/journals/708ae68d64b17c52,7a925fcb5505d4dc,3ba1b0ce51e92e68.html
  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/medicinal-mushroom
  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7agK0nkiZpA