Medicinal Mushrooms

Some of the medicinal mushrooms used in Chinese and Japanese medicine include Reishi, Herecium, Coriolus, and Maitake (which we carry in a formulation for pets). Several formulations include medicinal mushrooms as an ingredient, including Immpower AHCC and Lion's Mane.

Caution: Not all mushrooms are edible and many are toxic, so do not pick wild mushrooms, unless you know what exactly what you are doing.

Reishi mushroom

Ganoderma lucidum (Ling Zhi) is a white-rot fungus viewed as a traditional Chinese tonic for promoting health and longevity. Although the use of Ganoderma lucidum as an elixir has been around for thousands of years, studies offer validation. The main active constituents, including polysaccharides, triterpenes, and peptidoglycans, are found in the fruit body, mycelium, and spores.1

Reishi mushrooms are strong antioxidants2 that inhibit reactive oxygen species and their lipid oxidation. An ethanol extract augments cellular antioxidant defense through activation of the transcription factor, Nrf2/HO-1.3 Transcription factors are proteins that convert DNA into RNA. Reishi also inhibits neurodegeneration,4, 5 promotes nerve cell differentiation,6, 7 and performs other neuro-supportive effects that could slow down the progress of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.

Reishi mushrooms may also support retinal health. One study found that Reishi mushroom spores inhibited cell death in the retina by inhibiting Bax, Bcl-xl and Caspase-3 expression. These are molecules which act as proteins and play a role in apoptosis (cell death).8.

Lion's Mane

Hericium erinaceus (yamabushitake) is a culinary and medicinal mushroom well established as a food source for brain and nerve health, and is often used in vegetarian diets to replace meat in cooking. It triggers neurite outgrowth and regeneration of damaged nerves. It has been shown to help protect against the onset of dementia and may reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disease-induced cell death.9 The polysaccharides in a water extract could induce neuronal differentiation and promote neuronal survival.10, 11

50- to 80-year-old Japanese men and women diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment given oral dosages of yamabushitake dry powder experienced improvements in cognitive function during the duration of the trial with no adverse effects.12 In other research extracts promoted nerve growth factor gene expression in the hippocampus,13, 14 and nerve cell support.15 Of several medicinal mushrooms tested, only H. erinaceus extract promoted nerve growth factor mRNA expression (depending on concentration) and enhanced nerve growth factor protein.16 The confirmed pharmacological actions in the CNS demonstrate that improvements are possible in ischemic stroke, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and depression.17

In mice a diet enhanced with lion's mane mushroom supported locomotor activity, (did not change spatial memory), but did yield improvements in recognition memory, a function of the hippocampus.18

Enriched with erinacine A, lion's mane mycelia safely shows promise in treating neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.19

Lion's mane has been found to help repair nerve damage, reduce anxiety and depression, protect against ulcers, manage diabetes, and exhibit antimicrobial action.20 It stimulates nerve growth in brain cells, spinal cord cells, and in the retina.21

Antrodia camphorate

Antrodia is found in Taiwan, is used to protect against a wide range of health conditions. It normalizes high blood pressure, supports liver and kidney health, is neuroprotective, and inhibits cell death in neurons (by suppression of JNK and p38 activities).22 Fermented (with deep ocean water) may inhibit the toxicity of amyloid beta peptide.23 A derivative, antroquinonol, improved learning and memory, reduce amyloid beta in the hippocampus, and reduced abnormal increase in astrocytes (caused by cell death of nearby neurons) in a mouse model of AD.24 These effects were most pronounced in the fruiting body rather than the mycelium.25

In a mouse model of Parkinson's Antrodia polysaccharides and triterpenoids significantly improved the striatum's dopamine levels, and could reduce neuroinflammation.26

Maitake Mushroom

Grifola frondosa (hen of the woods) is an edible (and tasty) mushroom that grows in large clusters like the fluffed tail feathers of a hen27 with potential for managing neurodegenerative diseases.28, 29 A combination of maitake and shiitake mushrooms was the most effective for immune system support, followed by maitake and then shiitake alone.30 It inhibits plaque formation in arteries31 and increases insulin production by protecting pancreatic beta-cells. 32

Shiitake Mushroom

Lentinula edodes is an edible mushroom with powerful immune-system stimulation capacity, which is even more potent when combined with maitake mushroom glucan extract.33 Shiitake mushroom reduces high cholesterol, is strongly antioxidant, antitumor and antibacterial.34

Tiger Milk Mushroom

Lignosus rhinocerotis is an edible mushroom from Malaysia and Southeast Asia, is valued for vitality, alertness, and overall wellness.35 It is used to reduce fever, inflammation, and treat respiratory disorders.36 In mice, it caused 38.1% increased neurite-bearing cells,37, 38 and in a similar study it produced an induced maximum neurite outgrowth of 20.8 and 24.7% in brain and spinal cord.39 It is even more effective combined with gingko biloba.40 Combined with curcumin resulted in 27.2% enhanced neurite outgrowth compared to curcumin alone.41 Researchers note that tiger milk mushrooms can be considered as an alternative in non-communicable diseases but that validation studies with human trials are needed.42

Mushroom News

Want to learn more? See our blog for news on medicinal mushrooms.


1. Boh B, Berovic M, Zhang J, Zhi-Bin L. (2007). Ganoderma lucidum and its pharmaceutically active components. Biotechnol Annu Rev. 2007;13():265-301.
2. Lee YH, Kim JH, Song CH, Jang KJ, Kim CH, et al. (2016). Ethanol Extract of Ganoderma lucidum Augments Cellular Anti-oxidant Defence through Activation of Nrf2/HO-1. J Pharmacopuncture. Mar;19(1):59-69.
3. Rani P, Lal MR, Maheshwari U, Krishnan S. (2015). Antioxidant Potential of Lingzhi or Reishi Medicinal Mushroom, Ganoderma lucidum (Higher Basidiomycetes) Cultivated on Artocarpus heterophyllus Sawdust Substrate in India. Int J Med Mushrooms, 17: 1171-7.
4. Wang J, Cao B, Zhao H, Feng J. (2017). Emerging Roles of Ganoderma Lucidum in Anti-Aging. Aging Dis. Dec 1; 8(6): 691–707.
5. Lai CS, Yu MS, Yuen WH, So KF, Zee SY, et al. (2008). Antagonizing beta-amyloid peptide neurotoxicity of the anti-aging fungus Ganoderma lucidum. Brain Res. Jan 23;1190: 215-24 6. Phan CW, David P, Naidu M, Wong KH, Sabaratnam V. (2015). Therapeutic potential of culinary-medicinal mushrooms for the management of neurodegenerative diseases: diversity, metabolite, and mechanism. Crit Rev Biotechnol, 35: 355-68.
7. Ibid. Seow. (2013).
8. Gao Y, Deng XG, Sun QN, Zhong ZQ. (2010). Ganoderma spore lipid inhibits N-methyl-N-nitrosourea-induced retinal photoreceptor apoptosis in vivo. Exp Eye Res. Mar;90(3):397-404.
9. Nagai K, Chiba A, Nishino T, Kubota T, Kawagishi HJ. (2006). Dilinoleoyl-phosphatidylethanolamine from Hericium erinaceum protects against ER stress-dependent Neuro2a cell death via protein kinase C pathway. Nutr Biochem. 2006 Aug; 17(8):525-30.
10. Park YS, Lee HS, Won MH, Lee JH, Lee SY, et al. (2002). Effect of an exo-polysaccharide from the culture broth of Hericium erinaceus on enhancement of growth and differentiation of rat adrenal nerve cells. Cytotechnology. 2002 Sep; 39(3):155-62.
11. Ibid. Nagai. (2006).
12. Mori K, Inatomi S, Ouchi K, Azumi Y, Tuchida T. (2009). Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2009 Mar; 23(3):367-72.
13. Mori K, Obara Y, Hirota M, Azumi Y, Kinugasa S, et al. (2008). Nerve growth factor-inducing activity of Hericium erinaceus in 1321N1 human astrocytoma cells. Biol Pharm Bull. 2008 Sep; 31(9):1727-32.
14. Mori K, Obara Y, Hirota M, Azumi Y, Kinugasa S, et al. (2008). Lion’s Mane stimulates nerve growth factors. Biol Pharm Bull. Sep; 31(9):1727-32.
15. Wong K-H, Vikineswary S, Abdullah N, Naidu M, Keynes R. Activity of aqueous extracts of lion’s mane mushroom Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae) on the neural cell line NG108-15. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. 2007;9(1):57–65.
16. Ibid. Mori. (2008).
17. Li IC, Lee LY, Tzeng TT, Chen WP, Chen YP, et al. (2018). Neurohealth Properties of Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Enriched with Erinacines. Behav Neurol. May21;2018:5802634.
18. Rossi P, Cesaroni V, Brandalise F, Occhinegro A, Ratto D, et al. (2018). Dietary Supplementation of Lion's Mane Medicinal Mushroom Hericium erinaceus (Agaricomycetes), and Spatial Memory in Wild-Type Mice. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2018;20(5):485-494.
19. Lee LY, Li IC, Chen WP, Tsai TY, Chen CC, et al. (2019). Thirteen-Week Oral Toxicity Evaluation of Erinacine A Enriched Lion's Mane Medicinal Muchroom, Hericium erinaceus (Agaricomycetes), Mycelia in Spraque-Dawley Rats. In J Med Mushrooms. 2019;21(4):401-411.
20. Hearst R, Nelson D, McCollum G, Millar BC, Maeda Y, et al. (2009). An examination of antibacterial and antifungal properties of Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus) mushrooms. Complement Ther Clin Pract. Feb; 15(1):5-7.
21. Samberkar S, Gandhi S, Naidu M, Wong KH, Raman J, et al. (2015). Lion's Mane, Hericum erinaceus and Tiger Milk Lignosus rhinocerotis (Higher Basidiomycetes) Medicinal Mushrooms Stimulate Neurite Outgrowth in Dissociated Cells of Brain, Spinal Cord, and Retina: An In Vitro Study. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2015;17(11):1047-54.
22. Lu MK, Cheng JJ, Lai WL, Lin YJ, Huang NK (2008). Fermented Antrodia cinnamomea extract protects rat PC12 cells from serum deprivation-induced apoptosis: the role of the MAPK family. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Feb 13; 56(3):865-74.
23. Shi Y, Yang S, Lee DY, Lee C. (2016). Increasing anti-AB-induced neurotoxicity ability of Antrodia camphorate-fermented produce with deep ocean water supplementary. J Sci Food Agric. Nov;96(14):4690-4701.
24. Chang WH, Chen MC, Cheng IH. (2015). Antroquinonol Lowers Brain Amyloid-B Levels and Improves Spatial Learning and Memory in a Transgenic Mouse Model of Alzheimer's Disease. Sci Rep. Oct 15;5:15067.
25. Wang LC, Wang SE, Wang JJ, Tsai TY, Lin CH, et al. (2012). In vitro and in vivo comparisons of the effects of the fruiting body and mycelium of Antrodia camphorate against amyloid B-protein-induced neurotoxicity and memory impairment. App Microbiol Biotechnol. Jun;94(6):1505-19.
26. Han C, Guo L, Yang Y, Li W, Sheng Y, et al. (2019). Study on antrodia camphorate polysaccharide in alleviating the neuroethology of PD mice by decreasing the expression of NLRP3 inflammasome. Phytother Res. Sep;33(9):2288-2297.
27. Sabaratnam V, Kah-Hui W, Naidu M, David PR. (2013). Neuronal Health – Can Culinary and Medicinal Mushrooms Help? J Tradit Complement Med. Jan-Mar; 3(1): 62–68.
28. Phan CW, David P, Naidu M, Wong KH, Sabaratnam V. (2015). Therapeutic potential of culinary-medicinal mushrooms for the management of neurodegenerative diseases: diversity, metabolite, and mechanism. Crit Rev Biotechnol. 2015;35(3):355-68.
29. Seow SLS, Naidu M, David P, Wong KH, Sabaratnam V. (2013). Potentiation of neuritogenic activity of medinal mushrooms in rat pheochromocytoma cells. BCM Complement Altern Med. Jul 4;13:157.
30. Vetvica V, Vetvickova J. (2014). Immune-enhancing effects of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) extracts. Ann Transl Med. Feb;2(2):14.
31. Harada E, D'Alessandro-Gabazza CN, Toda M, Morizono T, Chelakkot-Govindalayathil AL, et al. (2015). Amelioration of Atherosclerosis by the New Medicinal Mushroom Grifola gargal Singer. J Med Food. Aug;18(8):872-81.
32. Lei H, Zhang M, Wang Q, Guo S, Han J, et al. (2013). MT-a-glucan from the fruit body of the maitake medicinal mushroom Grifola frondosa (higher Basidiomyetes) shows protective effects for hypoglycemic pancreatic B-cells. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2013; 15(4):373-81,
33. Ibid. Vetvicka. (2014). 34. Nisar J, Mustafa I, Anwar H, Sohail MU, Hussain G, et al. (2017). Shiitake Culinary-Medicinal Mushroom, Lentinus edodes (Agaricomycetes): A Species with Antioxidants, Immunomodulatory, and Hepatoprotective Activities in Hypercholesterolemic Rats. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2017;19(11):981-990. 35. Tan CS, Ng ST, Vikineswary S, Lo FP, Tee CS. Genetic markers for identification of a Malaysian medicinal mushroom, Lignosus rhinoceros (Cendawan Susu Rimau) Acta Hortic. 2010;859:161–8. 36. John PA, Wong KH, David RP, Naidu M, Sabaratnam V. (2012). Combination effects on Lignosus rhinoceros (Cooke) Ryvarden mycelium and Gingko biloba aqueous extracts on PC-12 cells neurite outgrowth stimulation activity, in National Postgraduate Seminar (Kuala Lumpur: ). 37. Eur J Med Chem. 2014 Jun 10; 80():175-83. 38. Siddique YH, Naz F, Jyoti S Biomed Res Int. 2014; 2014():606928. 39. Samberkar S, Gandhi S, Naidu M, Wong KH, Raman J, et al. (2015). Lion's Mane, Hericium erinaceus and Tiger Milk, Lignosus rhinocerotis (Higher Basiciomycetes) Medicinal Mushrooms Stimulate Neurite Outgrowth in Dissociated Cells of Brain, Spinal Cord, and Retina: An In Vitro Study. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2015; 17(11):1047-54. 40. Ibid. John. (2012). 41. Ibid. John. (2013). 42. Nallathamby N, Phan CW, Seow SLS, Baskaran A, Lakshamanan H, et al. (2018). A Status Review of the Bioactive Activities of Tiger Milk Mushroom Lignosus rhinocerotis (Cooke) Ryvarden. Front Pharmacol. Jan 15;8:998.