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10 Varieties of Medicinal Mushrooms vs. Amanita Muscaria: Exploring Their Unique Benefits

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Humans have used mushrooms as food and medicine for millennia. They are nutritional powerhouses, and many have unique therapeutic properties too. Others are used for religious or spiritual purposes, such as the enigmatic Amanita muscaria.

This article explores how this mysterious mushroom stacks up to some of its most popular counterparts. But first, let’s look at the applications of medicinal mushrooms and some of their best-known health benefits.

The Applications of Medicinal Mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms have long been part of traditional healing systems, such as Chinese, Russian, and Native American folk medicine. Some are known for their nutritional value and are included in healthy meals, while others are prized for their unique therapeutic compounds.

Not all medicinal mushrooms are edible in the traditional sense because they are often hard, woody, and bitter. Therefore, they are often simmered in water to extract their active constituents, and the resulting liquid is consumed like tea.

Nowadays, it is also easy to find mushroom supplements, like capsules, powders, tinctures, and even gummies. These products take the hassle out of preparing medicinal mushrooms and make them easier to incorporate into a daily wellness routine.

The precise applications of medicinal mushrooms vary depending on the species and their primary health benefits. Let’s look at the best-known uses of these fabulous fungi and some of the most popular options.

The Health Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms contain a range of different active compounds, and these can vary depending on the species. However, what most mushrooms have in common is that they are rich in complex molecules called beta-glucan polysaccharides.

Scientists have thoroughly studied beta-glucan polysaccharides, and they are best known for regulating the immune system. They may also promote digestive health, aid metabolism, and reduce blood pressure.


Furthermore, mushrooms are a good vitamin D source, particularly if grown outdoors in the sunlight. Therefore, they are a valuable addition to plant-based diets since this essential vitamin is primarily found in animal sources.

Medicinal mushrooms have many other benefits, which vary according to the species and its unique chemical makeup. Below we explore 10 of the most popular varieties and their uses. We will also explain how they compare to Amanita muscaria, a mushroom that has recently entered the supplements market with a bang.

Top 10 Medicinal Mushrooms

Numerous mushrooms have medicinal uses, and it would be impossible to discuss them all in detail here. Therefore, we have chosen ten of the most popular and well-researched varieties. The most beneficial mushrooms for supplementation include:

Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a culinary mushroom with extraordinary medicinal properties. It is named for its fuzzy appearance, and some say its many spines are reminiscent of the branches of the nervous system which it acts upon. It contains two unique compounds, erinacines and hericenones, which are responsible for many of its benefits.

Primary Medicinal Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom

  • Promotes the release of nerve growth factor
  • Maintains brain health and promotes neuron generation
  • Supports learning and memory
  • Alleviates the symptoms of anxiety and depression

Historical Uses of Lion’s Mane Medicinal Mushrooms

Lion’s mane has been used in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine for centuries. In these ancient healing systems, lion’s mane is used to strengthen the spleen and aid digestion. It is also said to benefit the internal organs to treat insomnia and general weakness.

Best Methods to Incorporate Lion’s Mane Mushrooms into Your Daily Routine

Lion’s mane is a tasty mushroom; some compare its flavor to seafood. However, finding fresh lion’s mane mushrooms can be challenging, so most people prefer supplements like capsules or powders.

Reishi Mushroom

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is one of the most popular medicinal mushrooms in East Asian medicine. It is used as a general tonic and is sometimes known as the “mushroom of immortality.”

In Chinese, it is called ling zhi, meaning “spirit mushroom,” and is often portrayed as having supernatural effects. While reishi may not give you magic powers, it is rich in beta-glucan polysaccharides and triterpenoids, providing potent benefits for the body and mind.

Primary Medicinal Benefits of Reishi Mushroom

  • Supports the immune system
  • Promotes sleep
  • Reduces the effects of stress and anxiety

Historical Uses of Reishi Medicinal Mushrooms

As mentioned above, reishi is one of the most widely used mushrooms in East Asian medicine. It is said to promote longevity and nourish the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. It is used to strengthen the constitution, tranquilize the mind, and improve respiratory disorders.

Best Ways to Incorporate Reishi Mushrooms into Your Daily Life

Reishi is a hard and woody mushroom that cannot be eaten and must be simmered in water to extract its active compounds. However, the process is time-consuming, and many people do not enjoy this mushroom’s bitter taste. Therefore, products like reishi capsules and powders that can be mixed into food and drink are far more popular.

Cordyceps Mushroom

Cordyceps is a strange fungus originating from the foothills of the Himalayas. It grows as a parasite on certain caterpillar species, eventually taking over their bodies. Wild cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis) is becoming scarce due to overharvesting and habitat loss. Therefore, most supplement companies use cordyceps grown in labs without caterpillars (Cordyceps militaris). Both varieties have similar properties and contain a unique compound called cordycepin, which is responsible for many of this mushroom’s benefits.

Primary Medicinal Benefits of Cordyceps Mushroom

  • Supports immune system function
  • Enhances lung capacity
  • Boosts energy production
  • Promotes metabolic health

Historical Uses of Cordyceps Medicinal Mushrooms

Cordyceps is another mushroom that is popular in East Asian medicine. In China, it is called dong chong xia cao, meaning “winter worm, summer grass,” a reference to its unusual growth habit. In Chinese medicine, it is used to strengthen the kidneys and lungs, as a general tonic, and to improve respiratory disorders.

Best Ways to Include Cordyceps Mushrooms in Your Daily Routine

Cordyceps is not edible in the conventional sense and is generally taken in supplement form. Traditionally, it would be simmered in water to make tea, but nowadays, most people prefer the convenience of capsules and powders.

Chaga Mushroom

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is not technically a mushroom but a sclerotium, a mass of fungal tissue that grows in association with birch trees in the Far North. Its chief active compounds are melanin and triterpenoids, but it also contains betulin and betulinic acid, which come from its host tree and give it unique medicinal properties.

Primary Medicinal Benefits of Chaga Mushroom

  • Supports immune system function
  • Improves digestion
  • Maintains and clears the skin

Historical Uses of Chaga

Chaga has been used in Siberian folk medicine for centuries and was also favored by Native Americans, who used this fungus as tinder. Some of its traditional therapeutic uses include aiding digestion and relieving colds and flu.

Best Ways to Incorporate Chaga into Your Daily Life

Chaga is too hard and bitter to eat and is traditionally simmered in water to make tea. It is, however, more convenient to take ready-made supplements such as chaga capsules and powder. It is also a common ingredient in mushroom coffee due to its dark color and distinctive flavor.

Turkey Tail Mushroom

Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) is one of the most common medicinal mushrooms worldwide. It grows in many climates and habitats, acting to break down rotting wood. It is named for its appearance, which features concentric circles in shades of brown and gray, like a turkey’s tail.

This mushroom is particularly rich in beta-glucan polysaccharides. Its best-studied active compounds are polysaccharopeptide (PSP) and polysaccharide krestin (PSK).

Primary Medicinal Benefit of Turkey Tail Mushroom

  • Supports immune system function
  • Promotes cardiovascular health

Historical Uses of Turkey Tail Medicinal Mushrooms

Turkey tails have been popular in traditional East Asian medicine for generations and are still widely used in China and Japan. Their traditional uses include strengthening the spleen, liver, and lungs to support immunity and aid digestion.

Best Ways to Include Turkey Tail Mushrooms in Your Daily Routine

Turkey tails are another medicinal mushroom that must be simmered in water to extract its active compounds. Most people prefer products like turkey tail capsules and powders to save time and enjoy their benefits daily.

Shiitake Mushroom

Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) is one of the most famous and delicious edible mushrooms and is particularly popular in Asian cuisine. It is also well-known for its therapeutic properties and contains several beneficial compounds, including beta-glucan polysaccharides, alpha-hexose correlated compound (AHCC), and lentinan. It is also a good source of vitamins B5 and D.

Primary Medicinal Benefit of Shiitake Mushroom

  • Supports immune system function
  • Supports cardiovascular health

Historical Uses of Shiitake Medicinal Mushrooms

Shiitake is primarily a culinary mushroom. In Chinese, its name is xiang gu, meaning “fragrant mushroom,” and it is highly praised for its strong, umami taste. It is also used in East Asian medicine to strengthen the spleen, stimulate the appetite, and combat weakness and fatigue.

Best Ways to Include Shiitake Mushrooms in Your Daily Routine

Shiitake mushrooms are widely available in stores and make a delicious addition to any meal. You can buy them fresh or dried; the dried mushrooms are easy to add to soups and stews, while fresh shiitake can be used like any other edible fungus. Buying shiitake in capsule and powder form is also possible if you wish to avoid eating them daily.

Maitake Mushroom

Maitake (Grifola frondosa) is another delicious edible mushroom, although it is less widely available than shiitake. It has a distinctive appearance with many feathery brown fronds arising from a single base, which has led to its nickname “hen of the woods.”

It also has powerful medicinal properties due to its high concentration of beta-glucan polysaccharides and other beneficial compounds, including proteins, phenols, and sterols.

Primary Medicinal Benefits of Maitake Mushroom

  • Supports immune system function
  • Helps regulate blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Promotes metabolic health

Historical Uses of Maitake Medicinal Mushrooms

Maitake originates from Japan and is primarily consumed as a culinary mushroom. However, its medicinal uses have been known for decades, and it has been used traditionally to promote healthy immune function, regulate blood sugar, and increase general vitality.

Best Ways to Include Maitake Mushrooms in Your Daily Routine

Maitake mushrooms are not widely commercially available in the USA. However, you may be lucky enough to find them at farmer’s markets or even growing in the wild. If you can find them, these mushrooms make a tasty treat, but supplements like capsules and powders are far more suitable for medicinal use.

Oyster Mushroom

Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus species) are easy to find and a delectable treat. They are also easy to cultivate and are the fungus of choice for many beginner’s grow kits. There are many different varieties, with gray oysters being the most common. Pink, yellow, and king oysters are also popular choices.

They have a great nutritional profile and are rich in beta-glucan polysaccharides, vitamins, and minerals. They also contain a compound called ergothioneine, which has potent antioxidant effects.

Primary Medicinal Benefits of Oyster Mushroom

  • Antioxidant
  • Supports cardiovascular health
  • Promotes metabolic health

Historical Uses of Oyster Medicinal Mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine to relax the tendons and bones, strengthen the kidneys, and remove pathogens from the body. They were first cultivated in the West in Germany during the early 20th century and used as a nutritional source in the food shortages that followed World War One.

Best Ways to Include Oyster Mushrooms in Your Daily Routine

Oyster mushrooms are widely available in stores. They have a subtle flavor and can be incorporated into various dishes. Alternatively, those who wish to utilize oyster mushrooms’ medicinal properties could try a daily supplement such as capsules or powder.

Agaricus Bisporus Mushroom

Agaricus bisporus is the most consumed mushroom in the USA. It comes in many shapes and sizes: button, cremini, and portobello mushrooms belong to this species and are the same mushroom in various stages of development.

They are not considered as medicinal as some other mushrooms but still have a rich nutritional profile, including beta-glucan polysaccharides and B vitamins. If grown under UV light, these mushrooms are also a good source of vitamin D. You can achieve the same effect by leaving the sliced mushrooms in the sun for a couple of hours before cooking them.

Primary Benefits of Agaricus Mushroom

  • Supports immune system function
  • Promotes cardiovascular health
  • Provides vitamin D to support bone health

Historical Uses of Agaricus Medicinal Mushrooms

Agaricus bisporus has a relatively short history and has only been cultivated for approximately 300 years. However, it has rapidly gained popularity as it is easy and cost-effective to grow.

Now, the Agaricus bisporus market is worth millions of dollars each year. This is primarily due to the mushroom’s flavor and versatility. However, more people are becoming aware of its potential health benefits.

Best Ways to Include Agaricus Mushrooms in Your Daily Routine

Unlike other medicinal mushrooms, finding Agaricus bisporus supplements for sale is challenging. However, fresh mushrooms are widely available and affordable, making incorporating them into your daily diet a breeze. They taste great sauteed in butter or can be added to soups and sauces, sliced onto pizza, or used as a meat substitute in vegetarian dishes.


Tremella (Tremella fuciformis) is sometimes known as snow fungus due to its white coloration. It has a long history of use in East Asian medicine and cuisine. It is a good source of beta-glucan polysaccharides and is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant compounds.

Primary Benefits of Tremella Mushroom

  • Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
  • Supports immune system function
  • Promotes healthy skin and youthful complexion

Historical Uses of Tremella Medicinal Mushrooms

Tremella is another fungus with a long history of use in East Asia. Traditional Chinese medicine has used this mushroom for centuries to promote longevity and maintain youth. It is also praised for its skincare benefits and is a common ingredient in mushroom cosmetics.

Best Ways to Include Tremella Mushrooms in Your Daily Routine

You can buy dried tremella in Asian supermarkets and add it to dishes like soup or congee. In China, tremella is a popular ingredient in a sweet soup eaten as a dessert. For extra convenience, you can also buy tremella supplements, such as capsules, powders, and cosmetic creams.

Amanita Muscaria: The Enigmatic Fly Agaric Mushroom

The final mushroom on our list is Amanita muscaria. It differs significantly from other medicinal mushrooms in its active compounds, properties, and uses. However, humans have revered it for many years for its unique effects, and it has recently garnered renewed interest for its potential benefits.

Key Features and Characteristics of Amanita Muscaria

Amanita muscaria contains two primary active chemicals. Ibotenic acid is found in raw mushrooms, while muscimol is the primary constituent of prepared mushrooms.

Muscimol is thought to be the compound responsible for most of this mushroom’s benefits, while ibotenic acid is considered more likely to cause side effects. Therefore, these mushrooms must be appropriately prepared before use.

The Fascinating History and Cultural Significance of Amanita Muscaria

Amanita muscaria originates from Northern Europe and Siberia, where it is a crucial part of many shamanic traditions. It is associated with the legend of Santa Claus because, traditionally, people would wear red clothing while collecting these mushrooms in large sacks. They would then reportedly return to their yurts through the smoke hole (chimney).

Potential Medicinal Properties of Amanita Muscaria

There needs to be more research on Amanita muscaria and its medicinal properties. However, muscimol has a similar chemical structure to GABA, a neurotransmitter that aids relaxation and sleep. Therefore, it could have similar effects.

The Intriguing Effects of Amanita Muscaria

The effects of Amanita muscaria can vary greatly depending on the dosage and preparation method. Low doses of prepared Amanita muscaria can induce relaxation and aid restful sleep. Meanwhile, high doses of unprepared Amanita muscaria can cause unpleasant side effects, such as uncoordinated movement, muscle spasms, nausea, and hallucinations.

Controversies Surrounding Amanita Muscaria’s Psychedelic Properties

High doses of Amanita muscaria can be hallucinogenic, but this mushroom’s effects are unlike those of other “magic mushroom” species. It is often described as psychoactive rather than psychedelic, and its effects are said to be more spiritual than recreational. The precise effects will depend on the dose and preparation method.

Understanding the Benefits of Medicinal Mushroom Supplements and Shopping Tips

Medicinal mushroom supplements provide a convenient way to enjoy the benefits of mushrooms daily. There is no need for cooking or other lengthy preparation methods. Simply swallow a capsule or mix some powder with your food or drink.

Provided they are well-manufactured, these supplements provide all the same benefits as whole mushrooms. However, it is essential to shop around and find a reliable brand. The supplements industry is not regulated, so many products are of inferior quality. At best, they may be ineffective and, at worst, harmful.

Here at VidaCap, we ensure that our mushroom supplements are top quality by paying close attention to every stage of production. From growing the mushrooms in optimal conditions to testing our final products for purity, Vidacap has got you covered.

You can even check out the lab sheets for each of our supplements to confirm their contents so you can use them confidently.

What Is Mycelium? What Is the Fruiting Body?

Mycelium and fruiting body are two different terms you might come across when shopping for mushroom supplements. They describe different parts of the fungal organism that sometimes contain different active compounds.


The mycelium is the central part of the fungus that grows underground or inside a log or tree. Its role is to support the organism by extracting nutrients from its environment. The fruiting body is the part of the fungus you can see, commonly known as a mushroom. Its role is to produce spores, allowing the organism to reproduce.

There is debate about whether using mycelium or fruiting bodies in mushroom supplements is better. This question has no clear-cut answer, as it depends on the mushroom species and desired effects.

Health-Supporting Compounds Found in Mushrooms

As we mentioned, the main health-supporting compounds in mushrooms are beta-glucan polysaccharides. They interact with the human body to provide several benefits, such as regulating immunity, reducing inflammation, and preventing chronic disease.

Some mushroom species also contain unique compounds with other therapeutic effects, as discussed in detail above.

Takeaway: Unveiling the Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms vs. Amanita Muscaria

Medicinal mushrooms have numerous benefits and have been used for centuries to promote health and well-being. Now, mushroom supplements are all the rage, and a vast range of products are available.

Amanita muscaria is one of the latest mushrooms to gain popularity, and you can now buy amanita gummies from us here at VidaCap. Those wishing to try our Amanita muscaria gummies should be aware that their effects are not like those of other medicinal mushrooms. They have unique and potentially beneficial properties but should always be used responsibly due to their possible psychoactive effects.

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Published on: August 21, 2023

Lynn Marie Morski

Reviewed by Lynn Marie Morski, MD, JD, who is a president of the Psychedelic Medicine Association and host of the Psychedelic Medicine Podcast. She sits on the advisory boards of Psychedelics Today, Cybin, VETS, Inc (Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions), the Oxenberg Foundation, and the Ketamine Task Force.

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