5 Medicinal Mushrooms

Five common medicinal mushrooms can help to heal the human body and the ecosystem. These are Reishi, Chaga, Turkey Tails, Shittake, and Cordycepts Sinensis mushrooms. They are able to boost the immune system, fight cancers, and improve functioning of important organs. They can also help to rehabilitate damaged and polluted environments. The Permaculture Research Institute has shared some useful information about these five mushrooms.


reishi.photo credit vik nanda

Reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum) is one of the most sought after medicinal mushrooms, also known as as the Mushroom of Immortality.

Reishi is a shelf fungus that shoots out from the sides of trees. The vibrant red mushroom is not edible, but can be dried and used in teas and tinctures.

Reishi contains polysaccharides and triterpenes. The polysaccharides in the form of beta glucans boost the immune system. The triterpenes inhibit allergic responses and inflammation. The combination of these two chemicals, reishi has a strong immunomodulatory effect.

When ingested, the mushroom increases immune function where it is needed and inhibits overactive immune response. As a result, Reishi is extremely helpful with autoimmune disorders and reducing inflammation. It can also increase immune function, when there is a cold or virus.

Reishi has been shown to have antidepressant and anxiolytic effect. The triterpenes lower blood pressure and cholesterol. The triterpenes have also shown activity against cancers, such as breast, leukemia, prostate, liver and lung cancers.

Damage to the DNA at a cellular level is thought to be one of the leading causes of aging. Reishi promotes longevity by protecting cellular and mitochondrial DNA from damage. Doses of Reishi given to lab rats increased their lifespan from 9 to 20%. Reishi is beneficial for preventing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s with it’s neuroprotective functions. Reishi limits the growth of fat cells in obese persons. In addition, Reishi improves the functioning of the liver and kidneys.

It can be found in the wilderness and it can be cultivated at home on sawdust, wood chips, or logs.

There is research confirming Reishi’s mycorestoration properties. Soils with mycelium, fungal networks, filter out or digest particles. Mycofiltration helps get rid of pollution from runoff water and other sources. Mycelium networks can be integrated into swales to filter out unwanted pathogens and chemicals.

Reishi is known to digest or block the following pathogens: Aspergillus niger, Bacillus subtilis, Candida albicans, and Escherichia coli. The ganoderma species are also known to eliminate chemical dyes.



Chaga (Inonotus Obliquus) is found growing on birch trees, and looks like a large charcoal like extrusion that extends from the tree. It can be grown on birch, beech, and oak logs by inoculating them with spawn plugs.

Chaga is not actually a mushroom(fruiting body), but it is an external mycelium network. It extracts nutrients from the host tree. Chaga is one of the most antioxidant rich foods known, with more antioxidants than blueberries and acai. Antioxidants stabilize free radicals in the body, reducing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is thought to be an underlying factor of many diseases. The mushroom is also anti diabetic, antiinflammatory, and antimicrobial.

The black crusty outer layer contains terpenes. The terpenes have a strong antitumor effect. These chemicals can only be extracted via an alcohol based tincture. The Inner orange layer contains beta glucans. These have an immunomodulatory effect similar to Reishi. These chemicals can be extracted via hot water. Double extraction is necessary to reap all the medicinal properties of the mushroom.

Turkey Tail

turkey tails. photo credit ron exeter.png

Turkey Tail (Trametes Versicolor) resembles the colorful patterned back feathers of a turkey. It’s found growing on dead wood, often in great numbers.

Turkey Tails can be eaten or prepared in a tea. They have been shown to be effective against cancerous cells. They are antiviral and found to be potent against HPV and Hepatitis C. It is effective against E Coli and Staph infection.

It has been thoroughly researched that when used in mycofiltration, turkey tail is active against the following pathogens; Aspergillus niger, Candida albicans, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus Aureus, and Streptococcus pneumoniae.

It is able to decompose the following chemicals; Anthracenes(pesticides), Chromated Copper Arsenate(wood preservatives), Dimethyl phosphonate, dioxin (product of industrial waste), Persistent Organophosphates, Penta Chlorophenols (Pentas), Trinitrotoluene (TNT). Turkey Tail is known to bioaccumulate mercury and remove it from the soil.


shiitake.photo credit frankenstoen

Shittake(Lentinula Edodes) is a delicious edible and medicinal mushroom when eaten or as tea. The chemical lentian slows tumor growth. The chemical eritadenine lowers cholesterol levels. can have a very high concentration of vitamin D. has antiviral and antibacterial properties. Studies show it is effective against herpes, Candida, Strep and Staph infections.

When used in mycofiltration, Shiitake filters out the following pathogens: Candida albicans, Listeria monocytogenes, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Streptococcus pyogenes. Shiitake is active against the following toxins; Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrogens(PAHs), Polychlorinated Biphenyls(PCBs), and Pentachlorophenols(PENTAs).

Cordycepts Sinensis

cordycepts sinensis. photo credit andreas kunze

Cordyceps Sinensis is commonly used by athletes for it’s ability to improve performance.

Adenosine and cordycepic acid are the primarily active compounds. Cordyceps is beneficial for fatigue and weakness, it increases cellular ATP which results in more energy. Unlike caffeine and amphetamines, which overstimulate central nervous system, cordyceps doesn’t result with an energy deficiency.

Cordyceps also increases oxygen availability which helps with high altitude sickness and fatigue. Cordycep use leads to increased endurance. Cordyceps strengthens the lungs, kidneys, and liver. Cordyceps stabilizes blood sugar and increases insulin sensitivity.

It is an immunosuppressant. It is effective defensive against colon and breast cancer. Effective fighter against strep throat.

Cordyceps is an effective mycopesticide. The mushroom can feed on insects and destroy entire populations of termites and ants. The mushroom infects an ant and hijacks it’s nervous system. It forces the ant to go the highest point in the area, then the mushroom extrudes from the ant and spreads its spores far and wide. Later, the spores infect other insects and the process continues. Cordyceps could be alternative solution to insect problems in the fields or on the homestead.



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