A basket of mushrooms

What are Functional Mushrooms? Types, Benefits & More

No one knows who first discovered the beneficial effect of mushrooms on our overall wellness, but one thing is for sure — they've certainly exploded in popularity in recent years. No matter the effect or health benefit you're after, there's probably a mushroom variety that can potentially help you get it.

In this article, we'll cover six of the most popular varieties of mushrooms and their purported benefits, see what the evidence says about how effective mushrooms really are, and answer some frequently asked questions about things like side effects, safety, dosage and more.

So without further ado, let's dive right in.

What Are Functional Mushrooms and What Do They Do?

Functional mushrooms are mushrooms that are celebrated and consumed for their benefits beyond basic nutrition. That means we're not talking about your basic button mushroom that you might find on a pizza.

We're talking instead about varieties like Reishi, Chaga, Lion's Mane, Cordyceps, Turkey Tail and Maitake (all of which are covered in more detail below).

Medicinal mushrooms have been used throughout history, particularly in Chinese and Japanese cultures, to enhance overall well-being and to address specific health concerns.

6 Popular Types of Functional Mushrooms and their Health Benefits


Dried reishi mushroom


Reishi (scientific name Ganoderma lucidum), are known in traditional Chinese medicine as the "mushroom of immortality," thanks to their overall ability to promote general health and well-being.

Specifically, though, Reishi mushrooms are thought to offer powerful support to your immune system. Several studies have also suggested they could help reduce inflammation and promote relaxation by helping your body deal with stress, which puts them into the category of an adaptogen. There's also some evidence that they may help improve sleep and provide some antioxidant effects.

Finally, Reishi mushrooms have recently received a lot of attention for their potential in helping boost the immune system of cancer patients, and their ability to inhibit tumor growth (Studies on fungal polysaccharides. XXVII. Structural examination of a water-soluble, antitumor polysaccharide of Ganoderma lucidum).

Side Effects:

There aren't really any side effects specific to Reishi mushrooms in particular. They might cause an upset stomach if you're sensitive to them, or cause you develop skin rashes if you're one of the rare people that may be allergic to them.


Chaga mushroom


Chaga mushrooms (scientific name Inonotus obliquus) are prized for their powerful antioxidant qualities and possible ability to lower blood pressure. They have a long history of medicinal use in Northern European cultures. One of the odder looking mushrooms, they might be mistaken for a clump of dirt if you didn't know what you were looking for.

Chaga's antioxidant power comes mainly from its high concentration of polyphenols — micronutrients also found in foods like blueberries, black currants, hazelnuts, coffee and tea.

These micronutrients work by minimizing oxidative stress, which in turn can help reduce or prevent inflammation, which has been shown to be a major contributing factor in a host of diseases, including some cancers.

Side Effects:

As with Reishi, there are no specific side effects associated with Chaga unless you happen to be allergic to it.

Turkey Tail

Turkey tail mushroom


Turkey Tail mushrooms (scientific name Trametes versicolor) are a great source of two compounds that have been shown to have immune-boosting effects — PSK (polysaccharide-K) and PSP (polysaccharide-P).

Several studies have suggested that both PSK and PSP help to naturally enhance your body's immune system. Like many other functional mushrooms, Turkey Tail is also thought to be a powerful antioxidant and free-radical scavenger, which in turn can help reduce inflammation. In fact, Turkey Tail's benefits are so compelling that it has often been proposed as part of an immune-boosting regimen for cancer patients (see Trametes versicolor (Turkey Tail Mushrooms) and the Treatment of Breast Cancer).

Side Effects:

There are no specific side effects associated with Turkey Tail mushrooms unless you're allergic to them.

Lion's Mane

Lion's mane mushroom


The main benefit of Lion's Mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) appears to be their effect on brain health, mood and mental cognition. At the extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to brain health, Lion's Mane has been shown to have a significant effect on the cognitive test scores of people suffering with mild Alzheimer's disease.

It has also shown promise for its beneficial effect on the body's ability to produce nerve growth factor (NGF), which plays an important role in your brain's ability to produce and maintain healthy neurons. This may explain its reported beneficial effects on memory and the ability to focus. Lion's Mane is also used to help treat mild cases of anxiety, thanks to its possible ability to help regulate mood.

Finally, as should by now be obvious in our discussion on what makes beneficial mushrooms special, Lion's Mane is also considered a fairly powerful antioxidant that may help prevent a host of diseases related to excessive and chronic inflammation.

Side Effects:

As with the other mushrooms on our list, side effects associated with Lion's Mane are rare, and may include occasional and mild stomach upset.


Cordyceps mushroom


Like Reishi, Cordyceps is best known as an adaptogen, which means it helps your body adapt to stress. What that means specifically is that it can help boost your energy and stamina (studies suggest it may do this by enhancing your body's ability to utilize oxygen), and improve your body's immune system, two things that invariably suffer when you're experiencing stressful periods.

The "performance enhancing" power of Cordyceps makes it popular among athletes, particularly endurance athletes like runners and cyclists. There's also some evidence that it may boost sex drive and sexual function, and that it has anti-aging properties.

Side Effects:

No side effects are associated with cordyceps besides the general cautions we've mentioned with the other varieties of mushrooms on our list.


Maitake mushroom


Of all the mushrooms on our list, Maitake (along with Lion's Mane) are perhaps the two best known for their culinary uses. But Maitake also packs a significant antioxidant punch.

Another powerful adaptogen, Maitake (scientific name Grifola frondosa) are sometimes referred to as "Hen of the Woods" and contain high levels of beta-glucans, which evidence suggests may lower your risk of heart disease. Maitake are also being studied for their positive effects on regulating blood sugar and for their anti-inflammatory properties.

Side Effects:

There are no known side effects specific to maitake. Like the other mushrooms on this list, don't consume maitake if you're allergic to it.

Do Functional Mushrooms Really Work?

Bunch of wild mushrooms

There have been hundreds of studies conducted on the effects of various mushrooms (including all of the mushrooms on our list), and almost all have concluded that they do indeed have some effect. How pronounced those effects are is still being determined.

But in general, most of the mushrooms on our list can be considered helpful for boosting or maintaining a healthy immune system, fighting inflammation that can cause disease and, in some cases, delivering psychological or cognitive benefits.

What's the Best Way to Consume Functional Mushrooms?

There's no single "best way." In fact, because many mushrooms are delicious, there are probably more ways to take advantage of the benefits of mushrooms than with many other supplements. Here are some ideas for introducing functional mushrooms into your regimen.


Not all mushrooms are suited for tea, but varieties like Reishi, Chaga and Lion's Mane are all popular ingredients for teas. You can find recipes for teas online, or buy pre-portioned blends as either "loose leaf" teas or in standard tea bags.


You can find powdered mushrooms that can be tossed into smoothies or sprinkled on oatmeal, or that have been packed into pre-dosed capsules. This can be a good way to know exactly how much of the active compound of the mushroom you're actually consuming, since most supplements will be standardized to contain a certain amount.


You can do a lot of things with mushrooms, and there are thousands of mushroom recipes online for things like cream of mushroom soup, mushroom risotto, and even a faux crab cake made with Lion's Mane. A quick search will likely yield dozens of dishes you could easily prepare.


Like supplements, but in liquid form, extracts are a good method for precision dosing. They will generally be standardized to contain a certain amount of the active ingredients in the mushroom in question. You can add extracts to smoothies or other drinks, or take them "straight." Refer to the directions provided on any extract you choose.


Goomz mushroom gummies

Gummies are a convenient (and often tasty) way to introduce functional mushrooms into your diet and reap their wide ranging health benefits. They generally share the same benefits as the supplements and extracts mentioned above.

We cover this in more depth below, and you can also check out our articles dedicated to mushroom gummies — Mushroom Gummies for Focus, Best Mushroom Gummies, Mushroom Gummies for Anxiety, Functional Mushroom Gummies and Adaptogenic Mushroom Gummies.

What are Different Functional Mushroom Products and Supplements on the Market?

We already mentioned a few supplement options above — capsules or tablets, extracts and gummies — but there are more. The popularity of functional mushrooms has led to an explosion in the number of products you can buy that contain one or more of the mushrooms on our list.

Powders are one of more popular delivery methods for medicinal mushrooms. These are generally tasteless and can be added to anything and everything you're eating or drinking.

Coffee is another popular option. You can buy "mushroom coffee," which is really a combination of powdered mushrooms and instant coffee. This might be a good choice if you want to wean yourself off of coffee beans and on to a different option. Some companies are even finding ways of adding functional mushrooms to chocolate.

Finally, we mentioned gummies above, but they deserve an additional mention here for a few reasons. First, they're incredibly convenient. You can carry our Goomz gummies with you virtually anywhere, which means they're always on hand when you need them.

Goomz is made with a proprietary nootropic extract, which contains many of the mushroom varieties that are on our list. Plus, Goomz gummies taste great. They're available in four popular flavors — Berry Blast, Strawberry, Watermelon and Raspberry.

Bottom line is, whenever something becomes as popular as functional mushrooms are today, manufacturers will find ways to pack them into more and more products.

How Long Does it Take for Functional Mushrooms to Work

Hands holding a bunch of mushrooms

First, you need to understand that functional mushrooms aren't like aspirin. You don't swallow a pill and experience near-immediate effects. Functional mushrooms are intended to be with you for the long haul.

While the time it will take to see effects from any particular mushroom will vary (which is why it's so important to read labels and follow dosage directions), in general you should expect to need at least a couple of weeks to see effects.

Are Functional Mushrooms Safe?

There haven't been any studies that have shown harmful effects generally from functional mushrooms. However, if you have certain medical conditions, or you're pregnant or breastfeeding, some of the compounds in mushrooms might not be advisable. Always check with your healthcare provider before you start taking any new supplements, functional mushrooms included.

What are the Side Effects of Functional Mushrooms?

With all of the mushroom varieties covered above, there aren't specific side effects that would be applicable to most people. However, here's a general note of caution regarding side effects from mushrooms …

Overall, the mushrooms on our list have few negative side effects. However, certain medicinal mushrooms may activate your immune system, lower blood pressure, have effects on blood sugar, or cause other changes in your body that could potentially be dangerous if you have certain medical conditions. That's why it's best to always check with a medical professional before you start taking any supplement. For more, check out our article on Functional Mushroom Side Effects.

Welcome to the Wonderful World of Fungi!

Three female friends sitting in field with roses

We hope this article has given you some insight into the different types of medicinal mushrooms that you might want to try, along with their health benefits. Whether you're cooking with them, taking them as a supplement, adding them to your morning smoothie, or enjoying some of our delicious Goomz gummies, you might be surprised at the benefits you'll get from functional mushrooms.

For more on this, check out our articles on Functional Mushroom Benefits and Best Functional Mushroom Supplements.

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