Mushrooms have been used for centuries in traditional medicine for their health benefits and can help with a variety of health issues. They can help with things like allergies, inflammation, infections, and more. They can also help protect your liver, brain, and kidneys, and even lower your blood pressure. There is a lot of interest in using mushrooms for health conditions, so scientists search for how they may affect exercise performance, endurance, muscle soreness, and recovery.
Mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine for centuries and can help with allergies, inflammation, infections, and more.
Exercise places physical stress on the body and can cause soreness and inflammation, therefore recovery is essential for allowing the body to repair and rebuild tissues.
Some medicinal mushrooms, such as Cordyceps, Chaga, Reishi, and Shiitake, can help with exercise recovery by reducing inflammation, promoting muscle recovery, alleviating muscle soreness, or increasing physical endurance.
Consumers should be cautious about dosing and including bioactive compounds when using medicinal mushrooms and consult with a healthcare professional before use.
The Yin-Yang: exercise and recovery
Exercise is an important aspect of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It can help you build strength, improve your cardiovascular health, and boost your overall well-being. But what exactly happens to your body when you exercise?
When you engage in physical activity, your body has to work harder to meet the demands of the activity. Your heart rate increases, your breathing becomes faster, and your muscles begin to contract. This increased demand on your body causes it to show adaptations, including increased muscle mass, improved bone density, and improved cardiovascular health, and become stronger over time.
While exercise is beneficial, it also places physical stress on your muscles, bones, and joints. This stress can cause micro-tears in your muscle fibers — which is also essential for physical improvement — leading to soreness and inflammation. Over time, this physical stress can also lead to injuries if your body doesn't have enough time to recover between workouts.
It's crucial to provide proper recovery if you regularly work out because it allows your body to repair and rebuild the tissues broken down during exercise. Recovery also allows your body to replenish the energy stores depleted during exercise. Without a good recovery, you may experience fatigue, muscle soreness, and an increased risk of injury. Lack of recovery can also negatively impact your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness.
Some dietary supplement and herbal agents have some positive effects on the exercise recovery phase, and medicinal mushrooms may be one of them.
Medicinal mushrooms for exercise recovery
Some mushrooms contain high levels of compounds that can help to reduce inflammation. As it is well known, exercise leads to some inflammation in tissues, mainly muscles, and connective tissues, which causes muscle soreness and fatigue or even injuries. Some mushrooms may promote muscle recovery and alleviate muscle soreness.
Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris) is a type of mushroom mainly found in China, making it a commonly used herbal agent in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 1,500 years.
Cordyceps are often used in scientific studies, as it is considered a valuable medicinal mushroom due to its numerous health benefits, such as anti-cancer, immune-modulating, anti-aging, antiviral and antibacterial, and anti-fatigue effects.
When it comes to exercise effects, cordyceps have shown effectiveness in several studies. Acute supplementation with a Cordyceps militaris containing mushroom blend improved tolerance to high-intensity exercise by increasing VO2 max. VO2 max is a measure of an individual's maximal oxygen uptake capacity, which reflects their cardiovascular fitness level. Individuals with higher VO2 max values tend to have better exercise recovery and experience less muscle soreness after strenuous exercise.
Chaga mushroom, which is also known in the medical literature as Inonotus obliquus, is a well-known folk remedy traditionally used in Russia, Poland, and the Baltic countries to treat gastrointestinal cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Recent scientific studies have shown that polysaccharides extracted from Chaga mushrooms possess a wide range of pharmacological and health-promoting properties in animals.
Some animal studies show Chaga mushroom has beneficial effects on exercise and recovery. A study conducted on mice found that the polysaccharides present in Chaga mushrooms increased their swimming time and boosted the glycogen content in both liver and muscle tissues.
Furthermore, it also decreased the levels of blood lactic acid and serum urea nitrogen. While glycogen stores are important to increase muscle activity, lactic acid and serum urea nitrogen are important markers to show muscle soreness and fatigue.
Still, it needs to be shown in further human studies, but we can say that Chaga mushrooms may have benefits on exercise performance and recovery.
Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) are well-known for their ability to support the immune system and reduce inflammation. They contain compounds called triterpenoids, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Reishi mushrooms showed improvements in physical activity in fibromyalgia patients, but the combination of reishi mushrooms with cordyceps didn’t show any significant effects on healthy young individuals.
The shiitake mushroom extract has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties due to its bioactive compounds such as ergothioneine.
The study investigated the effect of Shiitake mushroom extract on antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity in healthy men after being exposed to exercise-induced skeletal muscle damage. There was no significant effect on inflammation markers following prolonged exercise, but it demonstrated antioxidant activity by regulating nitric oxide concentration and thiol redox status, which may reduce inflammation and muscle injury.
Before taking medical mushrooms
Many clinical investigations about medicinal mushrooms have shown promising results, thus underlining the great potential of mushrooms in therapeutic applications. It is important for consumers to be cautious and aware of the potential risks of using supplements that are not monitored for their ingredients and active ingredient amounts.
In regard to claims and labeling of dietary supplements, manufacturers are not required by the American Food and Drug Administration to prove safety and efficacy, although the products must have a history of safety. As a result, for most supplements based on mushrooms, safety, and efficacy are generally supported by traditional use, in vitro studies, animal model studies, and some case reports. Therefore, it is important to ask your doctor or health provider before you start to use any form of medicinal mushroom.
How to consume medicinal mushrooms
Medicinal mushrooms can be consumed in various forms, including fresh or dried mushrooms, tea, tincture, powder, capsules, and extracts. The form you choose to consume them will depend on personal preference and the specific therapeutic benefit you seek.
For example, capsules and extracts may be more convenient for those who want a concentrated dose, while teas and powders may be preferred by those who enjoy a more natural and traditional approach to their health.
It is important to follow the instructions and dosage recommendations provided by a healthcare professional to ensure the safety and effective use of medicinal mushrooms. There needs to be more research to make sure they are safe and effective with their wide range of bioactive compounds.
- Journal of Dietary Supplements. Cordyceps militaris Improves Tolerance to High-Intensity Exercise After Acute and Chronic Supplementation.
- Nutricion Hospitalaria. Ganoderma luicidum improves physical fitness in women with fibromyalgia.
- International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. Effects of a Commercial Supplement of Ophiocordyceps sinensis and Ganoderma lucidum on Physiological Responses to Maximal Exercise in Healthy Young Participants.
- Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. Effect of shiitake (Lentinus edodes) extract on antioxidant and inflammatory response to prolonged eccentric exercise.
- Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Effect of Inonotus Obliquus Polysaccharides on physical fatigue in mice.
Show all references
- European Journal of Applied Physiology. Exercise-induced muscle damage: mechanism, assessment and nutritional factors to accelerate recovery.
- Muscle and Exercise Physiology. Exercise, Immunity, and Illness.
- International Journal of Molecular Sciences. Medicinal Mushrooms: Bioactive Compounds, Use, and Clinical Trials.