What are Functional Mushrooms and Why You Should Use Them

by Chris Husong

What are Functional Mushrooms and Why You Should Use Them

New health trends are constantly emerging before they take over the market. One of the latest trends happening right now is with functional mushrooms. However, if you understand the history of these amazing fungi, they shouldn’t be considered a true fad. 

Although the western world has just started to notice them, functional mushrooms have been around since at least 450 BC! Functional mushrooms draw attention for their therapeutic properties, and they have been used for that purpose for millennia in the east. 

Keep reading to learn more about functional mushrooms and why you should use them.

What are Functional Mushrooms?

Now, when we talk about functional mushrooms, we are not referring to the standard white button mushrooms you can find at the grocery store. We are referring to mushrooms that are much rarer that grow on fallen logs deep in forests, or even on the head of a caterpillar in the Himalayas. 

These kinds of mushrooms are loaded with antioxidants and nutritive value, with many health claims for each. As noted, these mushrooms have been used for medicinal purposes and superfood benefits for thousands of years. Their recent rise in popularity is due to extensive research over the years with natural solutions to healthcare in high demand.

What are the Benefits of Functional Mushrooms?

Research shows that consuming some functional mushrooms can help your body ward off illness by strengthening the immune system. Some can be used as a high-protein, low-calorie dietary supplement with additional benefits of numerous vitamins and minerals. 

Which Mushrooms are Considered Functional Mushrooms?

With the vast range of functional mushrooms available today, it can be a challenge to find the one that is right for you. See our list below that includes ten of the most popular and beneficial functional mushrooms on the market:


Rich in antioxidants, Chaga is said to have anti-inflammatory benefits. A healthy intake of antioxidants helps strengthen the immune system. Chaga was even used as a coffee ration in World War II because of its color and robust flavor. This functional mushroom actually takes 15 to 20 years to reach full maturity for maximum benefits!


Another popular functional mushroom is Cordyceps which has been used for its medicinal properties around the world. Cordyceps is a parasitic mushroom that grows on a live host; specifically, it grows on the head of a caterpillar high in Tibet! Used in China for millenia by royalty, Cordyceps has been used to support the immune system as well as for energy and endurance. Cordyceps can be found in many pre-workout formulations because of its claim to boost energy. Daily use of this functional mushroom can also help with endurance. 


Enokitake is a delicate little white mushroom found in Japan, Korea, and China. These functional mushrooms are a great addition to any meal. Not only are they incredibly delicious, but they are also an important source of nutrition as well as antioxidants. Enokitake is known to contain a form of vitamin B3 called niacin that is essential to maintain healthy cells and for proper function of fats and sugars in the body. 

Lion’s Mane

Named for its lion’s mane appearance, this functional mushroom was used by Buddhist monks to help them focus during meditation. Using supplements with Lion’s Mane is said to boost concentration and memory. 


Maitake means dancing mushrooms in Japanese. This is because of the belief that you will dance for joy if you find this mushroom in the wild. This functional mushroom can be taken between meals to aid digestion. Maitake has been used in teas and cooking to reduce digestive upset or can be taken in a natural supplement. 

Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms are a good source of beta-glucans which are polysaccharides that boost the immune system and help maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Oyster mushroom supplements are also beneficial for reducing stress.  


Known for longevity and spirituality, Reishi (also called lingzhi in China) is an important part of Chinese medicine and has been for thousands of years. Reishi is an adaptogen which, in herbal medicine, is a substance that claims to help the body adapt to stress and helps regulate bodily processes. Typically, Reishi is used to reduce stress, boost the immune system, and support restful sleep. 


One of the most common functional mushrooms on this list is the Shiitake. Shiitakes have long been used in Chinese medicine. In the United States, Shiitake is a popular superfood and has been incorporated into many products, especially healthcare and beauty products. This functional mushroom contains multiple vitamins and minerals, including 9 essential amino acids. 


Tremella is a commonly used supplement for patients undergoing chemotherapy. This functional mushroom supplement is said to help fill gaps in nutrition and reduce the stress of treatment. Tremella contains the highest level of vitamin D of any available food source. In addition, it is high in fiber and antioxidants. 

Turkey Tail

Turkey tail is a polypore which means that the portion of it that you would consume grows on its underside. It can be found growing on fallen logs in deep forests. Turkey tail is typically used in food and beverages. It contains antioxidants and prebiotics that aid in digestion.

Where are Functional Mushrooms Found?

Perhaps some of the functional mushrooms listed above are new to you; however, thanks to new research, they have found their way into mainstream America. If you’re interested in purchasing functional mushroom supplements, check out a specialty store or farmers market locally, or online right here at Headshop

How to Incorporate Functional Mushrooms into Your Diet

Incorporating functional mushrooms into your diet is easier than you might think. The simplest way to add them into your diet is to find a high-quality supplement that contains the mushroom of your choice. Because many of these mushrooms are not typically sold in grocery stores, a supplement or powder form is often the best option. Powders can be added to your tea, protein shake, smoothie, or cooking. If cooking with functional mushrooms doesn’t appeal to you, then go for a supplement. There are many functional mushroom supplements available today consisting of a single mushroom or a blend of several. 

In Conclusion

So, now you know what functional mushrooms are and their benefits, particularly to enhance your overall health and wellness, and much more. You also know the most popular functional mushrooms available today and their different therapeutic properties. With this information, we hope you find it easier to decide what functional mushrooms in which formulation will work best for you and your lifestyle. 

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