If last month’s article* inspired you to try new varieties or incorporate more mushrooms into your dietary pattern, then you are all set to learn about the types that may have medicinal effects.

As a food-first dietitian, you can count on me to explain how to eat your mushrooms instead of seeking expensive and not-so-trustworthy supplements. Each edible medicinal mushroom is unique and provides distinct health properties, but all mushrooms are antioxidant powerhouses. Why not give one or more of the five listed varieties a try?

ShitakeYou must cook these meaty and flavorful mushrooms because the fibers are too tough for the gastrointestinal system to digest. Because they are high in eritadenine, they help lower blood cholesterol. In addition, scientists have found mushrooms have antiviral and anticancer effects. For convenience, you can purchase and use dried shitake mushrooms and obtain the same benefits.

CordycepsThis mushroom stimulates energy, helping the body utilize oxygen more efficiently and enhancing blood flow. Dried cordyceps are available in health food stores and through online sellers. Enjoy them in soups and stews, or grind them and make mushroom tea to enjoy after a workout for quicker recovery.

EnokiEnoki mushrooms are beautiful long strings, almost like noodles. Enoki is common in Japanese cuisine, where they’re known as enokitake, and in Chinese cuisine, where they’re known as golden needle or lily mushrooms. You can purchase these fresh at Asian markets with large produce sections. Enoki is one of the few Asian mushrooms that can be eaten raw. But you can enjoy it in soups—toss them in at the last minute.

According to Dr. Andrew Weil, enoki mushrooms have significant anticancer and immune-enhancing effects.

MaitakeThis mushroom is also called “hen of the woods” because it grows in large clusters resembling a nesting hen’s fluffed tail feathers. Maitake mushrooms have feathered edges and an earthy, peppery flavor. Because they are prominent in Japanese cuisine, you may be able to find them fresh in Japanese markets or gourmet food stores.

Maitake has anticancer, antiviral, and immune-system enhancing effects and may also help control high blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Lion’s ManeNative to North America, Europe, and Asia, the lion’s mane mushroom is a white fungus with a hair-like texture resembling its namesake. Chefs recommend sautéing and using it as a sandwich filling if you find it fresh.

This mushroom variety is rich in ergothioneine, a sulfur-containing amino acid, which may have anti-inflammatory effects. Like other mushrooms, it is packed with antioxidants that support a robust immune system, and it is believed to stimulate nerve growth.

Mushroom PowderYou can grind any edible dried mushroom into a powder, or you may find porcini or shitake powders in gourmet food stores or online. They provide an umami taste as an ingredient in soups, stews, and casseroles.

Dietary SupplementsErgothioneine is sold as a supplement, but no controlled clinical studies have confirmed that taking it can treat or prevent diseases. The same goes for Lion’s Mane supplements, where the research results on its effect on memory and cognition have been modest and inconsistent.

You can get significant amounts of ergothioneine from mushrooms, including Lion’s Mane, shitake, and enoki. Consumption of mushrooms is associated with health benefits, so spend your money on trusty food instead of questionable dietary supplements.

Reishi mushrooms are strictly medicinal because they are woody, hard, and bitter. For this reason, they are only sold as dietary supplements. To have a modest impact on health, you need to take the supplement daily for at least two months to realize any of the reported benefits. More research is required to support the claims that the supplements improve the immune system, lower blood sugar, and improve cardiovascular function. Though the reishi mushroom is possibly safe for most people when used appropriately, it may interfere with anti-hypertensive and anticoagulant drugs.

*If you missed the article, Mighty Mushrooms, you might want to read it online at

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Nancy Teeter is a Registered Dietitian and a SaddleBrooke resident. Though she is mostly retired, she is passionate about sharing her nutrition knowledge with others. This article should not replace advice from your medical provider. For dietary support, go to