I’ve been using medicinal mushrooms in my clinical practice for over a decade so I want to share with you my favorite top 5 medicinal mushrooms and how they can benefit your health. Mushrooms have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years and there is a long tradition of using them in Asia. Medicinal mushrooms are now a popular research topic for scientists and they‘ve become very popular in the last few decades in the western world. Formerly, medicinal mushrooms were only picked wild and some of them were rare and very valuable. Now, however, medicinal mushrooms are produced in enormous quantities each year to be used as food supplements. In this article I‘ll discuss the five types of mushrooms I use the most in my clinic, but all of them have in common that they strengthen the immune system. They‘ve also been known to impair the growth of cancer cells and are being used in cancer treatments.

Turkey Tail Mushrooms

Most research has been done on the Turkey Tail mushroom ((Trametes versicolor) out of all the medicinal mushrooms. Big clinical trials have been done on the active ingredients PSK (Krestin) and PSP (Polysaccharide Peptide) which have shown very positive results in relation to many types of cancer, for example, stomach cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer. The Turkey Tail mushroom is also anti-viral and studies have shown its powers against herpes and HIV viruses.

  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Antioxidative and anti-inflammatory
  • Slows the growth of cancer cells
  • Well researched against cancer
  • Anti-bacterial and anti-viral
  • Herpes and other viral infections
  • Strengthens and protects the liver
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (ME)
  • Balances the gut flora
  • Lowers blood sugar
Turkey Tail

Reishi Mushrooms

In China, the Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) was believed to increase longevity, but it was rare so only the emperor and his court could enjoy its benefits. In Japan, the use of Reishi concurrently with other cancer treatments is approved by the Japanese Ministry of Health. The Reishi mushroom is believed to increase the effectiveness of traditional chemotherapy and decrease its side effects. Reishi is also believed to have a balancing effect on the immune system and has been used against auto-immune diseases.

  • Strengthens and balances the immune system
  • Slows the growth of cancer cells (especially in breasts and prostate cancer)
  • Antioxidative and anti-inflammatory
  • Well researched against cancer
  • Anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal
  • Cold, flu, bronchitis, cough and asthma
  • Insomnia, stress, anxiety and depression
  • Strengthens and protects the liver and cardiovascular system
  • Lowers cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Improves memory and increases longevity
  • Arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus
  • Hepatitis B and C, fibromyalgia, HIV and herpes
  • Relieves allergies

Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

The Lion’s Mane mushroom (Hericium Erinaceus) is sometimes called the natural nutrient for nerve cells because it‘s known for increasing the production of nerve cell growth or NGF (Nerve Growth Factor). NGF plays a big part in maintaining a healthy nervous system and having too little of it is related to the first signs of senility and Alzheimers.

  • Strengthens the immune system and nervous system
  • Strengthens and protects the cardiovascular system
  • Antioxidative and anti-inflammatory
  • Improves memory
  • Senility and Alzheimers
  • Hot flashes, anxiety and sleep problems during menopause
  • Multiple sclerosis, neuralgia and neurological changes
  • Lowers blood sugar
  • Slows the growth of cancer cells
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Gastritis and stomach ulcers
Lion's Mane

Shiitake Mushrooms

There‘s a long tradition of using Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula Edodes) both in cooking and as medicine, especially in Asia. An extract called Lenantin, made from Shiitake mushrooms is given as certified medicine in Japan and used against cancer, HIV and hepatitis B and C. An extract called LEM is common in tablet form in Asia and the United States.

  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal
  • Antioxidative and anti-inflammatory
  • Slows the growth of cancer cells
  • Cold sores and other viral infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Strengthens and protects the liver
  • Lowers cholesterol

Chaga Mushrooms

The Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) grows wild on birch and spruce trees in Eastern Europe, North America and Russia. In Eastern Europe, it‘s traditional to use the Chaga mushroom that grows on birch trees to treat many types of cancer.

  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Anti-viral
  • Anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory
  • Slows the growth of cancer cells
  • Lowers blood sugar
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Psoriasis


Those who are allergic to mushrooms should not use the above-mentioned mushrooms. In big doses, these mushrooms can cause indigestion and diarrhea. Stop using Reishi at least one week before surgery. Women with heavy periods should not use big doses of Reishi.

Botanical Safety Handbook. 2013. AHPA (American Herbal Products Association). 2. ed. CRC Press, Florida, USA.

Hobbs Christopher. 1995. Medicinal Mushrooms. Botanica Press, Tennessee, USA.

Powell Martin. 2014. Medicinal Mushrooms. A Clinical Guide. Mycology Press, UK.

Rogers Robert. 2011. The Fungal Pharmacy. North Atlantic Books, California, USA.

Tillotson Alan Keith. 2001. The One Earth Herbal Sourcebook. Kensington Books, New York, USA.

Winston David og Kuhn.M. 2008. Herbal Therapy and Supplements. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, PA, USA.

About the Author

Anna Rósa is a medical herbalist and author of the bestselling book Icelandic Herbs and Their Medicinal Uses. She’s the CEO and founder of Anna Rósa Skincare and a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists in UK. It’s the oldest herbalist institute in the world, founded in 1894.

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Anna Rósa CEO and Founder of Anna Rósa Skincare