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Helen Rushbrook / Stocksy

Mushrooms have long been revered for their medicinal properties.

In fact, ancient Greek warriors used mushrooms to enhance their strength during battle, according to 2015 research. The researchers also note that mushrooms have been considered an “elixir of life” in Chinese culture for thousands of years.

Today mushrooms are a common ingredient in many cuisines and are often featured in dishes like pasta, pizza, stir-fries, and soups.

Although they’re sometimes classified as a vegetable, mushrooms are actually a type of fungus. There are over 2,000 edible varieties of mushrooms, including:

  • crimini
  • portobello
  • white button
  • reishi
  • shiitake
  • oyster
  • Chaga
  • maitake

In recent years, mushrooms have been studied for their many potential health benefits, including their ability to:

  • protect against infection
  • fight inflammation
  • ramp up immunity

Mushrooms are highly nutritious, packing a good amount of fiber, riboflavin, niacin, and selenium into each serving.

They’re also one of the few plant-based food sources of vitamin D, an important micronutrient that plays a key role in immune function.

What’s more, many types of mushrooms have been studied specifically for their medicinal properties.

In particular, Chaga mushrooms have been shown to have powerful antimicrobial properties and are rich in antioxidants like gallic acid and protocatechuic acid, according to a 2017 review.

Additionally, one 2021 study compared the effects of several types of medicinal mushrooms against the flu virus and found that certain compounds extracted from Chaga mushrooms exhibited the widest range of antiviral effects.

According to a 2019 review, reishi mushrooms could promote immunity by increasing the activity of immune cells in the body.

Even more impressive, one small 2015 study found that healthy young adults who ate shiitake mushrooms for 4 weeks experienced significant improvements in immune function, along with decreased markers of inflammation.

With so many different types of mushrooms out there, you have nearly endless possibilities when it comes to using this incredible ingredient. Here are a few recipe ideas to help you get started.

Whether you have a case of the sniffles or are looking for a cozy treat to keep you warm through winter, there are few things as soothing as a cup of homemade hot chocolate.

This recipe gives hot chocolate an immunity-boosting upgrade by using medicinal mushroom powder along with coconut milk, cacao powder, and honey to kick up the flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 tsp. (2 g) medicinal mushroom powder (like Chaga, Cordyceps, lion’s mane, etc.)
  • 1 cup (237 ml) boiling water
  • 1/3 cup (79 ml) coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. (4 g) cacao powder
  • Honey, to taste

Directions

  1. Brew a cup of mushroom tea by steeping medicinal mushroom powder in boiling water for 8–10 minutes.
  2. Strain. Blend tea with coconut milk, cacao powder, and honey, then serve.

Because this mushroom soup is simple, satisfying, and easy to prepare, it can be an excellent option for when you’re not feeling your best.

Try experimenting with different types of mushrooms or swapping in other greens and veggies to tailor this recipe to your taste buds.

Ingredients

  • 12 oz (340 g) sliced mushrooms (crimini, oyster, shiitake, portobello, etc.), thoroughly cleaned
  • 2 tbsp. (30 ml) olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups (550 g) chopped veggies (carrots, broccoli, zucchini, celery, etc.)
  • 8 cups (1.9 liters) vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cups (60 g) chopped greens (kale, spinach, collard greens, chard, etc.)

Directions

  1. Add mushrooms to a pot over medium heat. Add oil, garlic, and veggies. Stir occasionally.
  2. Add broth to pot and bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat to bring to a simmer.
  3. Simmer for 15–20 minutes.
  4. Mix in your favorite greens and serve.

One of the easiest ways to up your intake of mushrooms is to swap it in for meat in your favorite meals.

This meat-free shiitake bacon is crisp, savory, and delicious — a great addition to sandwiches, salads, and pasta dishes.

Start to finish:
Serves:

Ingredients

  • 6 oz (170 g) shiitake mushrooms, thoroughly washed, stems removed
  • 1–2 tbsp. (15–30 ml) vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 tsp. (2.5 g) smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp. (15 ml) soy sauce
  • Pinch of sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C).
  2. Cut mushrooms into very thin slices.
  3. In a bowl, toss mushrooms with oil, paprika, soy sauce, and salt.
  4. Arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  5. Bake for 20–30 minutes until crisp, flipping every 10–15 minutes.

Mushrooms are a type of fungus well studied for their many medicinal properties.

There are over 2,000 edible mushrooms, many of which have been shown to have antiviral, antimicrobial, and immunity-boosting benefits.

From hot beverages to soups, pastas, pizzas, and sandwiches, there are also endless ways to take advantage of the many benefits of mushrooms.

For more great tips on using super ingredients, check out: