5 medicinal mushrooms for cooking

There are mushrooms that have been used for centuries all around the world for their therapeutic properties. We have chosen five of them.

The most correct term to describe the action of medicinal mushrooms on the immunity response is “immunomodulation”. Depending on the dose, times of administration and the active ingredient contained, these foods can accelerate or slow down the immune defense. That’s why they are suitable in case of autoimmune diseases, hyperactivity of natural defenses or allergy. In the winter, the suggested dose consists of a few pieces of mushroom per day added to everyday meals for a couple of months. High quality medicinal mushrooms are available at the chemist’s or herbalist’s shop, and it is preferable to buy certified organic ones.



Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most renowned therapeutic mushrooms. They give energy and vitality. They increase immune defenses, they can treat infections, lower cholesterol levels and prevent atherosclerosis; they protect the liver; they fight some fungal infections and they trigger the development of “good” bacterial flora, they prevent tooth decay and they are natural complementary treatments to cancer therapies. The shiitake is rich in essential amino acids such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc, and group B vitamins. Its taste is similar to that of meat and it can be a side dish of many preparations.





Defined as the mushroom of immortality, it is known because it triggers the immune response and for its anti-cancer properties. It is an anti-inflammatory food item, it reduces stress and physical fatigue, it protects the liver, it regulates cholesterol levels, it lowers sugar levels in the blood, it helps prevent allergies, it has antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal properties, it is an effective treatment for the herpes and the flu virus. Its flavor is not so good, so it is recommendable to consume it dried, infused in hot water or in capsules as a supplement. The Compendium of Materia Medica Ben Cao Gang Mu, on Chinese traditional medicine, reads that “continued use of Ling zhi (Reishi) will lighten weight and increase longevity”.





These are the most immunostimulant of all mushrooms and, according to a recent study, they are particularly efficient to treat tumours. Their use, unlike the other medicinal mushrooms, dates back to the 60’s decade, when in the mountainous town of Piedade, 200 kilometres southeast of São Paulo, Brazil, a very low incidence of degenerative diseases was registered in the local population, which was due, according to experts, exactly to the consumption of ABM mushrooms. These mushrooms can regulate the immunity response and protect the body from viruses and bacteria. They bring the liver’s functions back to normal, they reduce the odds of cancer preventing neoplasias related to the environmental toxicology. ABMs are useful when suffering from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes. It is helpful to prevent and treat allergies. It functions as an antioxidant. It is a great source of protein, carbohydrates, group B vitamins, minerals such as sodium, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium as well as enzymes and fatty acids. It also contains vitamin D. In cooking, it is highly recommendable to soak dried ABMs overnight before preparing them. Once rehydrated, they can be cooked in the same way as any other variety of fresh mashrooms to prepare risotto, frittata or side dishes.





Maitake mushrooms are less renowned but as beneficial as the previously mentioned ones: they lower glycemic and cholesterol levels, they stimulate the immunity response and they prevent cancer. In addition, they are useful to prevent diabetes, lower arterial pressure, stay in shape because they reduce fat formation. Maitake mushrooms contain ergosterol, precursor of vitamin D, group B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, calcium and polyunsaturated fatty acids. It’s a delicate and pleasant type of mushrooms that can be cooked with or without previous soaking and it is particularly good when sautéed with garlic and oil.




Hericium erinaceus

This mushroom can be employed to treat gastrointestinal diseases that include ulcer, gastritis, reflux and, as any other medicinal mushroom, to stimulate the immune system. Recent studies revealed that these mushrooms are beneficial to tackle anxiety, stress, insomnia, depression and other degenerative diseases such as Parkinson and Alzheimer. It looks like a fall from which white spores emerge. In cooking it can be sautéed, grilled, roasted and used in traditional recipes based on mushrooms. It is good when served with fish and vegetables. If it is kept for a long time it turns yellow and slightly sour.




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