Meet the mushrooms! The Mushroom Profiles is a series of posts where we talk about the different mushroom varieties that we grow in our farm. In prior posts, we talked about the Lion's Mane (hericium erinaceus), the Reishi (ganoderma multipileum), and the Chaga (inonotus obliquus), which are considered medicinal (or adaptogenic) because of their health benefits. In this post, we will focus on the Blue Oyster (pleurotus ostreatus) and the Chestnut (pholiota adiposa) mushrooms. These are considered gourmet because they're used mostly for culinary purposes. They're both delicious & nutritious, but as we will see, they also contain some special compounds that could yield significant health benefits.
The oyster mushroom is the common name for Pleurotus Ostreatus. an edible mushroom which is quite popular for foraging or cultivating. There are several other notable fungi in the genus Pleurotus, such as the pink oyster (pleurotus djamor) and the golden oyster (pleurotus citrinopileatus), but we will cover those in a later edition of the blog. Today, it's all about the blue oysters, and we will discuss some of their most fascinating features, as well as some recommendations for cooking them.
The blue oyster mushroom has a wide distribution and can be found in various climates around the world. It is a saprotroph, meaning that it feeds on decaying organic matter (especially trees), and this benefits the forest by returning vital elements and minerals back into the soil in a form that is useful to other plants and organisms. Oyster mushrooms are also carnivores, preying on nematodes by using a toxin that paralyzes them for ingestion. It gets its name from the resemblance of the mushroom caps to the shell of an oyster. Although they do look distinctly blue when they are very small (during their pinning phase), fully mature specimens are usually white or grey in color. This mushroom has several toxic lookalikes, so always be very careful when foraging in the wild.
Blue Oysters are super resilient and the mycelium is quite aggressive. Mycelium from oyster mushrooms has been known to consume some trash and even cigarette butts! The colonization period (the time it takes for the mycelium to fully spread throughout the substrate) for this mushroom variety is one of the quickest, and they don't require much care during cultivation, which has surely contributed to their growing popularity. The mycelium has also been used in some surprisingly innovative ways; it can be molded into furniture or even construction materials, making it a more sustainable alternative for many existing materials.
Blue Oysters have high levels of antioxidants, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and other important nutrients. When cooking them, it's pretty hard to mess it up. Here at One Up, we're of the opinion that of all the gourmet mushroom varieties we grow, the oysters are the easiest to work with. The shape and size of the caps is usually quite convenient for cooking many different dishes, so we recommend sauteeing them in a pan with oil or butter and seasoning them to taste. From there, you can make a pasta, a stir fry, or a nice side dish to elevate any meal. If you want to make the mushrooms the star of your dish, you can also find many recipes and creative cooking ideas online.
Pholiota Adiposa, or as they're commonly known, Chestnuts, are cute yellow-brown mushrooms that can be found in North America, Europe, and Asia. The caps are scaly and grow on cylindrical stems in bunches. They can grow parasitically on live trees or as a saprotroph on dead wood, particularly from hardwood trees such as oaks. The name adiposa comes from the slimy appearance of the caps. In addition to being foraged in the wild, chestnut mushrooms are also cultivated commercially. They can be grown on a substrate of wood chips, straw, or a combination of both.
Like most gourmet mushrooms, they are a good source of essential nutrients, including vitamins (such as B vitamins) and minerals (like potassium and selenium). They also contain polysaccharides, which are complex sugars that are known to have antioxidant effects. Various specific polysaccharides isolated from pholiota adiposa have been shown to have anti-tumor effects in mice. It is believed that these anti-tumor abilities are linked with the antioxidant effects. Yet another compound produced by this mushroom is methyl gallate, which is also of interest for its medicinal properties. Methyl gallate is a phenolic compound with strong antioxidant properties and in some studies it has been shown to inhibit HIV. Although it is also found in certain plants, the chestnut mushroom is the first fungus from which methyl gallate has been extracted.
Now, on to the tasty part of the story! As their common name suggests, Chestnuts have a nutty earthy flavor which intensifies when cooked. The long stems are also edible and are a great source of fiber. When cooked properly they deliver a nice crisp bite. Chestnuts can be sauteed, grilled, roasted, or used in various dishes such as stir fries, soups, and pasta. They pair well with a variety of herbs and spices. One of our favorite things to do with chestnut mushrooms is put them on a pizza or in a pasta sauce. Another great option is using them for a breakfast omelette (with all the works, of course).
As you can see, chestnut mushrooms can be used in a variety of cuisines and dishes, adding depth of flavor and texture. They are valued for their ability to absorb and complement the flavors of the other ingredients, rather than taking up all the spotlight.
At this point you might be wondering: if these mushrooms are so healthy, why don't you use them to make a concentrated extract? And that is a great point. As we've seen, blue oyster and chestnut mushrooms are great sources of fiber and antioxidants, and they are quite nutritious even for superfood standards. But other mushrooms, such as the lion's mane, reishi, and chaga; have long been considered medicinal because they also contain special compounds and properties that carry additional health benefits. Oyster mushrooms are super high in beta-glucans and the chestnuts are particularly interesting because they contain megaglutenoids, but they are not as high as the others. For this reason, they are mostly consumed as food and not as dietary supplements.
We hope you've enjoyed learning about these marvelous mushrooms, and that you're feeling encouraged and inspired to grab some fresh mushrooms and try out some cooking ideas. If and when you do, send us a picture!
Come meet the mushrooms! With the release of our new Chaga Elixir, we've been getting lots of questions about the health benefits of Chaga. In this post we will cover some of the basic facts about this species as well as an overview of its reported medical properties.
So, without further ado...
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a unique type of fungus with an interesting growth pattern. It's primarily a parasite of birch trees, although it can occasionally infect other hardwood trees like alder. It can be found across the northen hemisphere in areas that experience cold weather. Chaga can take many years to grow, and domestic cultivation is still quite difficult, so a lot of it is foraged from the wild, and sustainable harvesting practices are important to ensure the continued existence of chaga in the wild.
Here's an overview of its basic anatomy and how it grows: Chaga primarily consists of a dense, black, and hard mass called the sclerotium. This is the most recognizable part of the chaga fungus. The sclerotium is rich in melanin, which gives it its distinctive black color. The mycelium is the vegetative part of the fungus, and it is present inside the tree on which chaga grows. The mycelium is responsible for the spread and colonization of the host tree. The chaga's outer surface, where spores are produced, forms a porous layer with small, irregular pores. This is usually the part of chaga that is exposed and visible on the outside of the tree.
It's important to note that chaga's growth process can be quite slow, and it often takes many years for a chaga conk to reach a size suitable for harvesting. Due to its potential medicinal and nutritional properties, chaga has been used traditionally in various cultures, and it has gained popularity in modern herbalism and alternative medicine.
Chaga is believed to offer several health benefits, including:
It's important to note that while these potential benefits are promising, more clinical research is needed to establish the full extent of chaga's health advantages. If you're considering using chaga as a dietary supplement or for its potential medicinal properties, it's wise to consult with a healthcare professional, as it may interact with certain medications or have contraindications for specific health conditions. And always source chaga from reliable suppliers to ensure its quality and purity.
Hope you've enjoyed reading about this marvelous mushroom. Although not a true mushroom (technically it's a fungus in the Hymenochaetaceae Family), it was a well-deserved reputation as a fantastic fungus and there is considerable scientific interest in Chaga. Its unique growth patterns and potential health benefits make it a captivating subject for anyone interested in mycology and natural health.
We get a lot of questions about how lion's mane and reishi stack up to one another as medicinal mushrooms. In this blog post we explain: How are their health benefits similar, and in what ways are they different?
How They're Alike
One very important way these mushrooms are similar is that they both contain pretty high levels of antioxidants, which help to lower inflammation. Here we should make a quick distinction between the two types of inflammation: acute vs. chronic inflammation. Acute inflammation is the body's response to a specific and sudden damage, such as a cut or a bruise. As the name suggests, it's a more localized response, where the immune system sends out inflammatory cells to a particular area, such as your finger or your ankle, to heal a specific injury.
This is a natural and essential part of the healing process, but chronic inflammation, on the other hand, happens when the body is still sending out inflammatory cells even though there is no longer any injury or outside danger. Chronic inflammation is more persistent and more difficult to detect, which also makes it more hazardous. Some of the most common factors which may cause chronic inflammation are constant stress, unhealthy habits like smoking or not exercising enough, or exposure to harmful toxins such as pollutants or industrial chemicals. When ongoing chronic inflammation is left untreated, it is associated with diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's, and asthma.
So chronic inflammation is not the deadly disease, but it is the underlying cause that does put us at risk of developing serious health problems. Our best bet is to go to the source and fix our lifestyle habits & choices that are contributing to chronic inflammation in the first place. But also, foods that are high in antioxidants, as these two mushrooms are, can help reduce inflammation because they protect cells and tissue by neutralizing the effect of free radicals.
Another area where the two mushrooms overlap is in how they support the endocrine system, which is a system of glands that produces hormones for the body. Hormones act as chemical messengers, and the body releases them at certain times for specific purposes, but the primary goal of the system is maintaining of homeostasis. When we experience hormone imbalance, we may feel tired, stressed, grumpy, or sad. These mushrooms are able to help the body stabilize hormone levels and re-balance. The word for this feature is adaptogenic, and even though it gets used a lot lately as a buzzword for medicinal mushrooms, it's actually a pretty good description of how they work, because they can modulate their effects depending on the person and a number of other factors.
A third and very important thing they have in common is that they both seem to draw their medicinal powers from the beta-glucan polysaccharides and triterpenes they contain. Of course, each mushroom species has its own unique set of compounds, and there can even be some variability within a species, depending on the substrate available and the cultivation methods used, but the operative mechanism in their healing potential seems to be similar.
In a separate post, we'll get into more detail talking about polysaccharides, beta-glucans, triterpenes, and all that good stuff, but that's a story for another day.
How They're Different
Although they are both known for strengthening the immune system, the way each mushroom does this is a little different. The Reishi mushroom takes a more direct approach, by working through the white blood cells and activating a balanced immune response. Reishi is inherently anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-cancer. The Lion's Mane, however, is more indirect in its immune boosting benefits, since it works through the digestive system. By balancing the microbiome, it promotes gut health, which it turns out, is an excellent way to have a properly functioning immune system.
Why is gut health important? Known as the enteric nervous system, this network of nerve cells is made up of over 100 million neurons lining the gastrointestinal tract, which is why many scientists refer to it as the 2nd brain. Not quite as good at reasoning and logic as the "main brain", but somehow more attuned to our intuitive instincts. So when people say, "trust your gut", there's actually some solid truth behind it! The digestive system and the immune system are known to work together, and it makes sense since the digestive tract is a possible entry point for pathogens that could make us sick. So, in other words, a healthy digestive system leads to a healthy immune system.
When it comes to nootropics and cognitive brain function, the lion's mane is pretty much in a class of its own. Several research studies have shown a positive correlation between the active compounds in the mushroom and the growth of NGF (nerve growth factor). So basically, it stimulates the growth of neurons in your central nervous system and it also repairs damaged nerves in your entire peripheral nervous system. This is why many people take it as a brain booster for focus, memory, and mental clarity.
Reishi is known for its calming, relaxing effect, and it's also advertised often as something that helps you sleep better. This is because the particular triterpenes in reishi help to regulate the hormones in our endocrine system. When our hormones are in balance, we feel more centered and we are not anxiously anticipating or reacting to any perceived threats (real or imagined), and we are more likely to go about our usual business with a sense that all is well... So while it doesn't make you sleepy, it does help you feel more relaxed, making it more likely that you will find that deep, restorative sleep that really helps charge the batteries.
What Does the Science Say?
These two mushrooms have a long history as medicinal mushrooms. Although their reported benefits have not all been corroborated fully by modern science, we tried to stick to the facts from the research that is available. For more information on the scientific literature behind these mushrooms and their benefits, please visit our resources page, where we link to a lot of clinical studies on this matter.
Although lion's mane and reishi are two of the most widely studied species of mushrooms, it remains true that more research is needed, especially with humans in clinical trials, in order to further understand and quantify the effects. It seems this is one of those things that some cultures have known for ages, while the rest of us, as well as the science, are barely catching up.
So, What Does It All Mean? Which One Should I Take for What?
As with any health decision, it's important to get informed, do your research, and if you have any questions, talk to a doctor. But here this Venn Diagram shows an outline of the health benefits in a visually convenient chart.
If you're looking for brain-boosting benefits, or anything related to the nervous system, or if you're dealing with gastrointestinal issues, try the Lion's Mane Elixir. If you're looking for strengthened immunity, or anti-aging benefits, or overall wellness, try the Reishi Elixir. With either one, you'll also be getting anti-inflammatory benefits and improved mood.
What always stands out when discussing these mushrooms, is how the health benefits seem to work in an interconnected way. Their solutions are rarely compartmentalized, and they seem to always seek better coordination between the parts, for the benefit of the whole.
Pretty often one health benefit will lead to another, which corresponds to yet another, and there's a nice synergy to the whole thing. If paired with a few other healthy habits, it feels like a positive feedback loop of delight! Just to be clear, we're NOT saying this is a perfectly reliable effect or that it will happen for every single person who tries a mushroom supplement. But when the puzzle pieces are in order, the interconnectedness of the organism is a truly remarkable thing.
So, this has been a quick introduction to learn more about these two awesome mushrooms, and hopefully it may be useful in helping you, dear reader, decide which of them (if any) is right for you. In one word, the lion's mane is better for doing, while the reishi is better for being, but in the end, it all depends. Or, you can just take both.