We’re big fans of mushrooms here at Wooden Spoon Herbs, which is why we put six of them in Mushroom Magic. They're essential to many ecosystems all over the earth. They help the plants we rely on to communicate, share resources, and remediate toxins in the environment.
Scientists are just beginning to understand the powerful impact mushrooms have on our planet and beyond - astromycology anyone? But one thing humans have known for a very long time is that mushrooms are essential to our health. Humans have worked with medicinal mushrooms for thousands of years: their use is present in every system of herbalism all over the world.
It’s common to experience digestive upset while traveling. Changes in routine and bodily rhythms, dehydration, and disrupted sleep can all make the gut a little grumpy. But that’s nothing 6 medicinal mushrooms can’t handle!
How Medicinal Mushrooms Support Gut Health
A happy gut supports the healthy function of a whole lot of other systems and organs in the body. Mushrooms support digestive function and also offer good food to the friendly little organisms in your gut. The digestive system influences the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, energy levels, mood regulation, and the immune system. In fact, the gut is where the digestive system and the immune system meet. So when you’re taking care of your digestive system you’re ensuring that the rest of your body, mind, and friendly bacteria have the support they need to thrive.
What are Demulcents?
Demulcent herbs - check out our herbal glossary for more herb-words - aid in slow sugar absorption, assist in bowel movement, and provide absorbable sugars for our friendly gut bacteria. The mucilaginous substance produced by demulcent herbs, including mushrooms, is also soothing to soft tissues in the body including in the digestive system and even the lungs.
Technically mushrooms aren’t plants, they have their own separate kingdom. But in herbalism we think of them the same way we think of any other herb. There’s an entire group of herbs that herbalists refer to as “demulcents.” These plants and fungi are rich in polysaccharides: a long-chain carbohydrate or sugar that binds water, fat, sugar, and dissolved minerals. They create a “reservoir” for slower absorption and interaction within the digestive tract.
How Demulcent Herbs Work
One way to identify a demulcent herb - plant or fungi - is by its slipperiness. They tend to either be or produce an ooey gooey texture, especially when wet. There are lots of different types of polysaccharides, chitin and beta-glucans are two that form the cell walls of fungi. Cellulose, which are what plant cell walls are made of, are also polysaccharides.
The stomach has acid in it that helps break down and digest the food we eat. It also has a mucus lining to protect it from the acid that’s in there. But if the wall of your stomach is directly exposed to the acid, it can really hurt. Demulcents can help your body restore the mucus layer in the stomach when it's been damaged.
3 Medicinal Fungi in Mushroom Magic
Every mushroom - there are 6 in total - in Mushroom Magic is good for you, but these three are essential for gut health.
Maitake, commonly known as Hen of the Woods in the US, is a delicious kitchen mushroom. And it also works wonders in the body! It improves our health through modulation of the gut microbiome. In addition, it promotes cardiovascular health.
Reishi is the queen mushroom in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s a calming adaptogen and immune-modulator that normalizes, strengthens, and calms the immune system. It also helps soothe the gut when things get hot under pressure. It supports a healthy gut microbiome that helps the gastrointestinal system function well and discourages unwanted bacteria from growing.
Chaga is an adaptogenic mushroom with a deep, earthy, and smoky flavor. Chaga is traditionally used to stimulate the immune system and balance energy. Taking care of your immune system is taking care of your gastrointestinal health and vice versa. Chaga is also known for sharpening the mind and helping to reduce fatigue.
There's a lot to love about medicinal fungi. They taste delicious swirled with cinnamon and vanilla in Mushroom Magic, feel great, and do the entire body so much good.