Natural supplements are a wide range of products, some of which have been used for thousands of years, long before the birth of the synthetic pharmaceutical industry. Our society has now become normalised with taking a small white pill to solve our issues and ailments, both physical and mental. We have largely forgotten the traditional therapies that civilisations previously relied on to improve their health. Often deemed as ‘alternative medicines’, the true potential of either adding natural supplements to your daily routine for preventative and general health measures, or using natural supplements to actually treat an ongoing health issue is now once again in the limelight. There are a whole host of medical benefits that people report from taking natural supplements, the most prominent of which we will be discussing throughout this article.
Cognitive Benefits – Memory, Focus, Nerve Regrowth and Protection (neurogenesis)
One of the most exciting and heavily studied actions of natural supplements looks to the brain and cognitive functions that can be improved when incorporating supplements such as medicinal mushrooms into a daily routine. General daily focus and issues with memory are two of the most common problems that people look to improve through taking natural supplements. Mushrooms such as lion’s mane, cordyceps, chaga and reishi can all help with increasing cognitive function, however the bulk of excitement is currently surrounding lion’s mane mushrooms and it’s potential to treat degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease. Lion’s mane has been found to contain high levels of two chemicals, which have been linked to the growth and stimulation of new neurons. The chemicals are called hericenones and erinacines, the effects of which may be able to replace neurons that have been damaged or even killed. Some studies have even shown that the use of lion’s mane as a preventative medicine can even protect the brain from the initial plaque damage caused by Alzheimer’s Disease.
Gut Health Benefits/Immune System Benefits
The gut microbiome is the central hub for much of the body’s bacteria, helping you break down food into nutrients for your body to use. High levels of certain types of bad bacteria within the gut microbiome have been known to cause diseases such as; IBS, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Diseases. Studies have shown that turkey tails contain a host of prebiotics, which increase the levels of beneficial bacteria whilst reducing the growth of potentially harmful bacterias.
The gut and its bacteria is responsible for much more than just what goes on within the gut and can be an important factor in many common issues throughout the body. Research suggests that the gut microbiome can have a major effect on; the brain (causing anxiety and depression), the heart (causing high levels of cholesterol), the kidneys (causing chronic kidney disease) and even your pituitary gland (causing obesity).
Turkey Tail mushrooms contain beneficial carbohydrates, known as Polysaccharides. Two of these known carbohydrates are Polysaccharide Peptide (PSP) and Krestin (PSK), which both possess powerful immune boosting properties. In studies, PSK has been shown to activate specialised white blood cells, protecting your body against certain harmful bacterias. Test tube studies have shown that PSP increases levels of a type of white blood cells, called monocytes, which boost immunity and help fight infection. It has also been shown to regulate immune responses and promote an immunity to toxins through the stimulation of particular immune cells, known as dendritic cells. High levels of antioxidants occur in a whole range of mushrooms and are extremely beneficial for gut health. They are a great natural way to create an important equilibrium in your gut microbiome.
Cancer Therapy Potential
There has been a lot of recent interest in the cancer fighting potential of medicinal mushrooms. All mushrooms contain an extremely high level of antioxidants, which help fight free radicals, too much of which is a known cause of cancer. Certain mushrooms in particular, such as Turkey Tails are extremely interesting when it comes to this subject.
Turkey Tails beneficial effects on immune and gut system responses, have led to the development of research surrounding Turkey Tails as a treatment, which can be used during and after chemotherapy to both improve the body’s response to the therapy and also reduce the likelihood of infections after it. During and after chemotherapy, white blood cells are greatly reduced, meaning that immune system responses are heavily lowered and the chances of infections and illnesses causing major issues are increased. As discussed earlier PSK, one of the main active ingredients in Turkey Tails, activate specialised white blood cells, increasing your immune function and so protecting you against the harmful infections that can be deadly after chemotherapy. As such, according to the National Cancer Institute, researchers have isolated the PSK compound, which is used in Japan, as an approved adjuvant cancer treatment.
Whilst research is largely laboratory based, the current research suggests that the earlier discussed Polysaccharide, PSP, can actually inhibit colon cancer cell growth. The same team also found that PSP may stop the cancer cells from migrating and invading healthy cells, therefore helping stop the spread of cancer to other areas of the body. Whilst research into the subject is still fairly novel there is definitely evidence to suggest that regular consumption Turkey Tails, along with a whole host of other mushrooms (even including white button mushrooms) could definitely be beneficial both during and after cancer treatments.
Energy Boosting Abilities
Living the busy lifestyles we often find ourselves in today, it is not uncommon to find yourself lacking the energy you need to stay focused. People need help during the work day, leading to a dependence on sugar and caffeine just to get through the week. Some people need some extra help to complete their workout sessions and often rely on formulations containing caffeine, creatine and taurine. It is no secret that regularly high consumption of sugar and caffeine is not good for your health, however the same can be said for an overuse of creatine and taurine, which can have damaging long term effects on your liver. It is then no surprise that people are starting to look towards natural supplements for an energy boost and to help them stay on top of their game.
Cordyceps are the most commonly used natural energy boosters, as they have a clearly documented pathway of action, which shows us exactly how cordyceps deliver this boost to your body. Cordyceps can be used to increase stamina and provide a natural and fast energy boost that can be felt for several hours. The action for this energy boost is reported to come from the fungi’s ability to increase maximum aerobic uptake within the body. Cordyceps increase the maximal oxygen uptake in our body causing an increase in ATP availability. Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is essential for energy delivery throughout our body, with improved levels of ATP causing a decrease in lactic acid build up, therefore offering a boost in stamina. Studies have shown that there is an increase in VO2 max after cordycep containing supplements have been taken. V02 max is the maximum rate of oxygen consumption within our bodies, with highly trained athletes showing nearly double the levels of V02 max over a typical participant. The higher your V02 max levels are, the higher your endurance and recovery rates will be.
Due to these effects of Cordyceps, we recommend starting with a low dose, only increasing if you feel the need. You should also consider the time at which you take your cordyceps, as due to their energy boosting effects, some users can struggle to sleep if taking cordyceps late in the day.
General Health – (antioxidants etc plus cutting drugs and chemicals such as caffeine/sugar out of your daily diet)
It is no secret that mushrooms are great for overall health and wellness. Many of the medicinal mushrooms that we stock at Greenhaus were originally used as part of a general health regime and a way to fight against general infections, such as cold and flus. They have been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The true potential of certain medicinal mushrooms are only now being discovered, however all mushrooms contain extremely high levels of antioxidants, being the highest known source of a unique and potent antioxidant, called ergothioneine. Whether you are looking to combat a specific condition or you just want to keep your mind and body in top shape, there is a mushroom product for you.