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Mushrooms like reishi, lion’s mane, chaga and cordyceps are quickly taking the wellness space by storm as research emerges about their wide-reaching medicinal properties. Most medicinal mushrooms that we use today (not the psychedelic kind) have been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine to boost immunity, balance hormones, improve sleep and more. Medicinal mushrooms are classed as ‘adaptogens’, which means that they provide the body with tools to better cope with stress.
This also means that they are very safe to consume, as their role is to strengthen and support the body’s natural processes. Their action is very balanced: they provide a natural energy boost while soothing the nervous system to reduce anxiety and promote focus.
According to Clarissa Berry, Nutritionist for DIRTEA, each variety of medicinal mushroom has unique properties, so you choose the right one to suit your particular needs.
When it comes to menopause she recommends reishi, lion’s mane and cordyceps.
She explained: “There are several ways in which medicinal mushrooms can support women going through menopause. During menopause, oestrogen levels decline, and women often experience symptoms such as hot flashes, low energy, mood changes and sleep issues.
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“Reishi is an incredible mushroom with many beneficial effects on the body, including hormone regulation. It can regulate oestrogen and progesterone production, helping to reduce menopausal symptoms including hot flashes. It also calms the nervous system, which helps with sleep and anxiety.
“Lion’s mane is a powerful nervous system regulator and in menopausal women it has been shown to balance mood, decrease irritability and anxiety, reduce palpitations, and improve sleep quality.
“Cordyceps is another mushroom that can help to regulate hormones, possibly helping to prevent osteoporosis associated with menopause. Cordyceps is traditionally used to enhance sexual vitality so it may also be useful to improve sex drive, often reduced in menopausal women.
“For support with menopause, I would recommend starting with 1 tsp per day of DIRTEA’s Reishi extract powder (£29.99 from www.dirteaworld.com) for hormone regulation, mixed into a hot drink or smoothie.”
Clarissa also explained the other health benefits of medicinal mushrooms.
“Of all the active components in medicinal mushrooms, beta-glucans are one of the most prominent,” she said. They come from the cell walls of fungi and convey incredible healing properties to the body. They can modulate the immune system, stimulating or calming it where needed.
“They also feed the good bacteria in our microbiome, which supports gut and cardiovascular health as well as immunity. Both reishi and chaga mushrooms are especially rich in beta-glucans, which makes them powerful allies to promote healthy immunity, boost the body’s defenses and calm inflammation. As the world’s most antioxidant rich food (with more antioxidants in one teaspoon than 600 blueberries), chaga can further reduce inflammation while supporting full-body health and longevity.”
While it may sound surprising that mushrooms can influence mental health, studies indicate they can offer significant support.
Clarissa said: “Medicinal mushrooms give the body tools to better withstand stress, and more energy to deal with daily problems. Reishi stimulates the brain to produce soothing and calming neurotransmitters, and studies show that it can alleviate symptoms of anxiety. Lion’s mane has also been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and mild depression. It regulates the nervous system and neurotransmitters and decreases inflammation which is often associated with anxiety. It may also improve blood flow to the brain, which can elevate the mood. DIRTEA’s Lion’s Mane extract powder (£29.99 from www.dirteaworld.com) tastes delicious in hot water and is fantastically supportive of the nervous system.”
Energy and focus
For energy levels and focus throughout the day, Clarissa recommended cordyceps and lion’s mane.
“Lion’s mane improves memory, focus and cognition by supporting brain function. Taken in the morning or afternoon, it’s a brilliant way to support brain power throughout the day. Cordyceps helps more on a physical level, providing a smooth and sustained, caffeine-free energy boost by improving the body’s ability to use oxygen and supporting cellular energy systems. Many use it pre-workout to enhance their energy, endurance, and recovery.”
Chaga may just be the missing element in your skincare routine.
Clarissa explained: “Its abundance of antioxidants neutralise free-radicals, preventing cell damage and slowing skin ageing. It is one of the richest food sources of the skin pigment melanin, which offers UV protection from the inside-out. It’s like an internal, anti-ageing sunscreen. It’s also powerfully anti-inflammatory, calming skin irritations and helping to prevent and manage inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, and eczema.”
If you have any trouble sleeping, reishi taken in the evening could help your body to prepare for sleep.
Clarissa said: “Reishi helps improve sleep quality by relaxing the nervous system, releasing serotonin and GABA which have calming effects on the brain. It also regulates cortisol levels, the stress hormone, which helps to promote healthier sleep patterns. DIRTEA’s Mushroom Cacao Super Blend (£39.99 from www.dirteaworld.com), which contains Reishi and the adaptogenic herb ashwagandha, is one of my favourite ways to wind down in the evening and promote healthy sleep.”