Chinese Medicinal Mushrooms


Of all the herbs used in Chinese Medicine (and there are over 300 in common use), medicinal mushrooms take a special place…

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), herbs are commonly administered for their medicinal powers. However, some of the most revered medicinals are not actually plants, but fungi.

In China, mushrooms have been used as a medicinal food and as a tea for thousands of years, probably even during pre-historic times.

In the Chinese culture mushrooms are often referred to as an “Elixir of Life” and the Romans perceived them as the “Food of the Gods” [1

However, it was only relatively recently that the science has confirmed what the TCM practitioners have been claiming all along – medicinal mushrooms are miracle plants…

They are used both as nutritional supplements and as medicines, that have a physiological effect when ingested (i.e. a drug).

According to written records, cultivation of mushrooms for medicinal purposes goes a long way back. The Shiitake mushroom is known to have medicinal properties, with the earliest record of cultivation from the 12th century AD.

Medicinal Mushroom Benefits

Recent scientific and medical research confirms that the active compounds found in medicinal mushrooms have medicinal functions that can include the following effects: [2]

As a result of these findings, medicinal mushrooms have become the latest superfood trend because they can, amongst other things:

  • Be rich in antioxidants
  • Stabilize the immune system
  • Boost brain power
  • Help to balance hormones
  • Relieve digestive problems

Many of these mushrooms are consumed as a medicinal mushroom powder, that can be added to soups or teas.

medicinal mushroom teasBio-hackers are also shouting out aloud about their medicinal mushroom coffees at the moment.  

Other Chinese medicinal mushrooms such as Cordyceps and Turkey Tail, are best used in capsule form containing powdered extracts.

Most of the mushrooms can be used as a food or as a health supplement. As supplements, they come in capsule, tincture, tablet or powder form.

As for dosage, follow the instructions provided by your health care practitioner, or as indicated on the package.

So lets take a look at my Top 5 Chinese Medicinal Mushrooms

The 5 Best Medicinal Mushrooms

1. Reishi (Ling Zhi)

Locally known as the “Mushroom of Immortality” Reishi’s reputation as a powerful medicine dates back to about 200 AD. [3]

Unlike other medicinal mushrooms, it can be taken for long periods of time without any toxic side effects.

This mushroom supports the liver and is a powerful detox and cleansing medicine.

Reishi has been used to address a number of heart and lung conditions such as chest pain, cough, asthma, dizziness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, as well as chronic bronchitis.[3]

Taken as a liquid extract Reishi can also lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.[4]

The legendary mushroom is also a powerful immunomodulator. It can help stabilize the immune system either by activating it in case of a bacterial infection, or by calming it down in case of over-activity during an autoimmune disease or allergic response.[5]

As a result, it is regularly used for a number of immune-related conditions, such as chronic fatigue, allergies and fibromyalgia, as well as in cancer therapies.[5]

2. Cordyceps ( Dong Chong Xia Cao)chinese medicinal mushroom cordyceps

Cordyceps is also known as caterpillar fungus.

The Chinese have used this fungus for almost 2000 years, however since the natural range of this mushroom is a small area in Tibet and Nepal, this explains why it is so expensive at around $5,000 per kilogram.

The fungus is now considered an endangered species and is difficult to find in the wild, but Chinese farmers have for a long time been cultivating it on silkworm and purple corn.  

This medicinal mushroom contains a powerful bio-metabolite called as Cordycepin which has a very potent anti-cancer, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.[6]

In Chinese Medicine, Cordyceps are often used when the liver and kidney meridians need to be activated….

It is commonly recommended for immune disorders, heart disease, asthma, chronic fatigue or diminished kidney function.[7]

It is also used more generally to boost energy levels, enhance athletic performance, boost fertility and improve lung capacity etc….

3. Turkey Tail ( Yun Zhi)

Turkey Tail is one of the most extensively researched of all medicinal mushrooms.

It’s often recommended to those undergoing chemo- and radiotherapy.

In fact PSK, the anti-cancer drug widely used in Asia, is derived from this fungus.[8]

There is a well-known story of an elderly woman who was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer at the age of 84. Two years later, she was cancer free. She took 8 capsules of Turkey Tail daily during her struggle with cancer.turkey tail mushroom medicinal properties

In Chinese Medicine, Turkey Tail is traditionally used to treat dampness- and phlegm-related conditions…

In the US it is sometimes used alongside conventional therapies for breast and prostate cancers mainly because it strengthens the immune system.[8

Turkey Tail is usually taken as a tincture or a capsule. As a tincture, it can be taken any time of day, with or without food.

4. Lion’s Mane (Hóu Tóu Gū)

Lion’s Mane is a highly researched Chinese medicinal mushroom, best known for its ability to support memory and learning, repair of the myelin sheath and prevent neurological disorders.[9]

Certain compounds in this mushroom help the maintenance, growth, and survival of neurons. They also repair and strengthen the myelin sheath, which is an insulating layer around the nerves.[10]

If insulation is good, electrical impulses within nerve cells are quick and efficient. If insulation is damaged, the transmission of electrical impulses is slower and less efficient, and this condition is associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as with some other neurological disorders.

So regular use of Lion’s Mane may greatly improve the quality of life for those who are suffering from and have a family history of Alzheimer’s.

Lion’s Mane is also used as a natural treatment for anxiety and for some mood disorders.[9]

5. Chaga (Hua Jie Kong Jun)

Chaga is a unique fungus which grows as a conk and is able to survive in extremely low temperatures. It can grow in 40 degrees below zero on the Celsius scale!

In a way, this ability to survive in extreme conditions demonstrates its strength and it’s believed to be most potent if taken as a tincture.

High levels of melanin give Chaga a dark color and results in it having  strong antioxidant and genoprotective effects…[11]

This also makes it a powerful skin protector for those who consume it.

Chaga is best used as tea or tincture. Using Chaga powder, you can make a super healthy, antioxidant-rich tea.

In fact, hot-water extracted chaga has nearly three times the amount of antioxidants as açai berries and is considered to be the highest source of antioxidants of all the plants known today.

The Wrap

So where is your medicinal mushroom journey going to begin?

Reishi, Cordyceps, Turkey Tail, Lion’s Mane and Chaga are my top five Chinese Medicinal Mushrooms that I personally use on a regular, if not daily basis….

The power of Medicinal Mushrooms is finally coming to the forefront of popular culture and I can’t wait for you to experience the many health benefits that they can provide.

From boosting your immune system and brain power, to helping you balance your hormones and relieve digestive problems, I know that everyone can benefit from Chinese Medicinal Mushrooms – the “Elixir of Life”.

If you enjoyed this post, I would love it if you could share this with your friends and family, so that they too can being healing their body using the power of medicinal mushrooms..

Sonia Perez

best acupuncture melbourne


To schedule a consultation with me on-line or in-person, you can contact me HERE:


Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Sonia Perez Chinese Medicine or its staff.

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