Are There Benefits for Mushroom Extracts?
Today, I’m answering your top nutrition questions on whether using mushroom extracts offers any science-based health benefits.
Question: What are the health benefits that come with eating mushrooms, as well as using extracts of mushrooms and mushroom drinks? And do types of mushrooms, like Chaga, Lion’s Mane, and Cordyceps, have significant health benefits? –Ashley
Sharon: We do know that mushrooms are intriguing foods in a category that is neither animal nor plant—they are fungi—the complex fruiting body of a fungal organism. There are thousands of mushrooms species around the world that have been used as medicine by various cultures and peoples for centuries. In some parts of the world, they are well recognized as functional medicine, and they are becoming more recognized today as beneficial in Western cultures. Learn more about the health benefits of mushrooms here.
Some of the mushroom powders or extracts may have health benefits, though we need more research to confirm some of them. I do think there are particular advantages for consuming mushrooms, in general. Mushrooms contain special nutrients, as well as bacteria, yeasts and molds that appear to have health potential. Many studies show that mushrooms are linked to anti-cancer activity, antioxidant action, and immune-enhancing benefits. They have also been shown to have benefits for blood lipids and glucose. I believe people should include mushrooms in their diets regularly. Some particular mushrooms have been studied for benefits, such as maitake. Others do not have as much research.
Some companies say their lion’s mane and chaga coffee helps support productivity, focus, and creativity, and I don’t think there is enough evidence to prove those claims. As for mushrooms elixirs and drinks, I would want to make sure the drinks contain whole mushroom powders. It’s important to keep in mind that supplements are poorly regulated overall, and it’s up to the dietary supplement maker to do the right thing and list ingredients and benefits appropriately. And there have been reported incidents of contamination of mushroom supplements. That said, it doesn’t seem that there is any downside to drinking mushroom beverages, as edible mushrooms are generally safe, as long as you are purchasing form a trusted supplier who uses third party verification.
When it comes to these specific mushrooms, we know that lion’s mane has had some preliminary research linking it to potential neuroprotective effects, however this is very limited research and we need to learn more about its impacts on humans. Chaga has been found to have anti-cancer activities, but again, we need to understand how it works in humans before we can know for sure whether these impacts are truly beneficial, as the research is preliminary. There is little reliable evidence on cordyceps regarding health benefits, even though there have been some preliminary findings related to sports performance, cancer risk, and low blood pressure. Mushrooms have antioxidant and ant-inflammatory action, which is linked with better cognition overall, but it’s a stretch to say that the mushrooms will result in improved brain function within our current context of the body of research available.
Bottom line: While we need much more research to determine specific benefits related to specific types of mushrooms, you can be assured that mushrooms are beneficial foods we should be consuming regularly.
Check out other nutrition questions I’m answering at The Plant-Powered Dietitian:
Try some of my favorite recipes featuring mushrooms here:
About Ask Sharon:
As part of my program “Ask Sharon”, I am answering the top question of the month submitted through my blog, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to answer here. You can even win a prize! Don’t forget to submit your burning nutrition question via my blog, or other social media.