Health benefits of medicinal mushrooms
16th Mar, 2023


Medicinal mushrooms: A natural way to improve your health and well-being?

Medicinal mushrooms are a type of fungi that have been used in traditional medicines for thousands of years (1). They can provide health benefits beyond your garden variety mushrooms.

Medicinal mushrooms can boost immunity, improve cognitive function, enhance energy levels, balance blood sugar levels, and reduce inflammation in the body (2,3).

Some popular varieties include reishi, chaga, cordyceps, shiitake, lion's mane, and turkey tail. The most common forms of supplementation are as a powder or liquid extract.


Can medicinal mushrooms boost your immune system?

Medicinal mushrooms can enhance your immunity and improve resistance to infections due to the various bioactive compounds they contain, such as β-glucans, triterpenoids, and ergosterol (4).

These compounds have antibiotic, antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties that support healthy immune system function (3).


Promoting cardiovascular health with medicinal mushrooms

Certain medicinal mushrooms have unique compounds (including lovastatin, ergothioneine, ergosterol and chrysin) that can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce blood pressure, which may reduce the risk of heart disease (5).

Medicinal mushrooms and their role in cancer support

The compounds found in medicinal mushrooms enhance the activity of natural killer cells, which are a type of white blood cell that play a critical role in the immune system's ability to recognise and destroy abnormal cells, including cancer cells (3,6).


Nourishing the brain with medicinal mushrooms

The anti-inflammatory properties of medicinal mushrooms may provide benefits for conditions associated with inflammation, including depression and Alzheimer’s disease (7,8).

Medicinal mushrooms for a healthy gut

Several medicinal mushroom species act as prebiotics that can fuel the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut, promoting a healthy gut environment (9).


Can medicinal mushrooms provide allergy relief?    

Medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, cordyceps and turkey tail have antihistamine, immune-modulating and anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce allergy symptoms, including sneezing, itching and nasal congestion (10,11).


The unique health benefits of six medicinal mushrooms


Known as the “mushroom of immortality”, reishi mushroom has immune-boosting, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit the cardiovascular, immune, and respiratory systems (3).

Reishi mushroom can help improve immune function and reduce fatigue in patients undergoing chemotherapy (12,13). It has also been used to treat insomnia, anxiety, migraine, liver disease, asthma and diabetes (14,15).


Chaga mushroom has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-cancer, and immune-boosting properties (16). It may improve digestion and skin health, enhance immunity, lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and reduce fatigue (9,16).


Cordyceps mushroom has been shown to enhance exercise performance, endurance, stamina, and recovery (17). It may slow the growth of tumours and improve blood glucose and cholesterol levels (18). It may also support healthy liver and adrenal function (2).


Shiitake mushroom may aid weight loss, support heart health, improve energy levels, boost immunity and reduce inflammation (3,15). It is widely used in cancer support, particularly gastric cancer (6,19).

Lion's Mane

Lion's mane mushroom supports cognitive function, memory, and concentration (20). It helps with the development and function of nerves and reduces oxidative stress (21). It may protect against dementia and reduce mild symptoms of anxiety and depression (7). 

Turkey tail

Turkey Tail has well-documented benefits for supporting immune function, improving gut health, and reducing inflammation (9). It may also enhance the efficacy of cancer treatments by stimulating cytokine production and increasing natural killer cell activity (6).  


Medicinal mushrooms vs. magic mushrooms: what’s the difference?

Medicinal mushrooms are not hallucinogenic, whereas psilocybin mushrooms (also known as magic mushrooms) contain psilocybin, a potent psychedelic compound that can cause profound changes in perception, mood and thought.

In February 2023, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) rescheduled psilocybin, making Australia the first country in the world to recognise it as a medicine (22). With this rescheduling, psychiatrists who are given approval from the TGA will now be able to prescribe psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression (22).


The fungi takeaway

Medicinal mushrooms offer a natural way to improve your health and well-being. From boosting the immune system and fighting inflammation to reducing stress and anxiety, incorporating these natural wonders into your diet can be an effective way to reap these health benefits.



Please contact your health professional for the prescription of herbal and nutritional remedies. Application of clinical judgement is necessary. Treatment recommendations should not replace medical treatment.

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22[Therapeutic Goods Administration, Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. Re-scheduling of psilocybin and MDMA in the Poisons Standard: questions and answers [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2023 March 09].](