Moving Beautifully: The Recovery Edition Part III*
After lots of positive comments on my first two posts on recovery, I’ve decided to write a part III. A number of people have commented to me that I have a very DIY approach to health. In a way, I suppose that’s true. But I don’t want to give the impression that I reject Western medicine, because that’s not the case at all. I love the scientific method and think being a doctor is one of the properly noble professions.
Photo by Andy Holmes.
If I am ill – my first port of call is to my wonderful and lovely doctor. In the UK, however, as in many other countries, our system of medicine is largely set up as a sickness care system. Generally, you make an appointment for a doctor when you’re ill – not when you’re healthy.
Preserving health and assisting in recovery is what my posts in the Moving Beautifully series are about. All the things I write about are things that I've personally done as an adjunct to the advice of a medical professional - never as a replacement for it.
In this post, I’ve written about a simple change to my lifestyle that I made a few years ago – one that helped me enhance my health, and aid recovery – both from illness and exercise. My hope is that you find something of use in this post.
Wishing you an uneventful, linear and complete recovery.
Mushrooms are nature’s miracle. Closer to humans than they are to plants;** life on our planet can’t exist without fungi’s ability to break down nutrients and make them bioavailable to plants.
Image by Gabriella Clare Marino.
All culinary mushrooms are great for human health, even the humble white button mushroom. In addition to making sure culinary mushrooms are part of my daily diet, every day for the past few years, I’ve been taking a special category of mushroom, the adaptogenic mushroom.
Adaptogens enhance our body’s resistance to stress, and promote recovery and homeostasis. In the mushroom world, the four big adaptogenic hitters are reishi, cordyceps, chaga and lion’s mane
Lion's Mane Mushroom. Gail Hampshire. CC-BY-2.0
These four are the big hitters not because they are necessarily the best, but because of the amount of scientific research that’s been published about their positive effects on human health.
Chinese poet, Tao Yuanming, holding reishi mushrooms by Chen Hungshou (1599—1652)
The science shows that these four different types of mushrooms have various different positive effects on the human body, including supporting immune health, stimulating neuronal growth, improving focus and memory, easing anxiety and depression, reducing inflammation, increasing endurance and/or enhancing sleep quality – among many other positive benefits.
Cordyceps. Photo by Andreas Kunze. CC BY-SA 3.0
Each type of mushroom has its own body of research behind it, and I have given you the links to the research above so you can do a bit of further reading, if you’d like to try any of these mushrooms yourself.
Chaga mushroom growing in the wild. Photo by Björn S. CC-BY-SA-2.0
I take my mushrooms in powdered form – in a hot chocolate. It’s not the milky sweet hot chocolate that we’re used to enjoying – it’s made with hot water and is much closer to the bitter health tonic that the Aztecs used to drink. I make it by blending 1 tsp of pure cocoa, 1/2 tsp of powdered lion’s mane and 1/2 tsp of reishi into hot water with my aerolatte. It’s dark, bitter and astringent. Like a double espresso - it’s an acquired taste – and I now love the strong hit I get from my mushroom/chocolate drink.
Reishi mushroom in the wild. Image by Annie Spratt.
The effects that I notice from taking mushrooms everyday are better quality sleep, more focus, faster recovery and generally improved well-being. It’s a subtle effect. It comes on gradually – generally around 3 months after you first start taking it. It’s so slow, I generally don’t notice the beneficial effects until I miss a few days, then I start feeling mentally and physical slow and so tired!
Dried chaga mushrooms. Image by Bluebird Provisions.
Given the evidence in favour of adaptogenic mushrooms for human health, I think the reason not everyone takes them is the cost. Good quality, clean, adaptogenic mushrooms are expensive.
Dried cordyceps. Image by Noon Brew.
Most good quality, pure adaptogenic mushrooms will be approximately £20-£30 per 100g – at the time of writing – though 100g lasts me a a good long while. Those blended, hipster mushroom/coffee/chocolate mixes make the mushrooms even more expensive. Maybe less than you spend on café coffee or wine, though. If you use this link you can get €20 off your first order with Four Sigmatic, a pretty reputable adaptogenic mushroom company.***
Example of lab analysis of batch of Lion's Mane powder, from Na'vi Organics.
How can you tell if the products you’re buying are good quality? It’s not that easy. If you’re taking your mushrooms, like I do, in a powdered form, you have to find a company that makes their powders from the fruiting body of the mushroom (the actual mushroomy bit) not the mycelial strands – which are less potent. The processing method should be temperature controlled and the harvested mushrooms should be grown in a clean environment.
There is a widely help misconception in the West that all mushrooms (or indeed anything) grown in China are contaminated by pollution; but this is not the case. Image by Na'vi Organics.
Your seller should have each batch independently lab tested and then be willing to share the lab test relevant to the batch number that you’ve bought. All the reputable sellers will be willing to do this. If they don’t lab test or are unwilling to share the lab tests with you – then you should avoid the product. It’s a pain to be so careful, but powdered mushrooms can be contaminated with all sorts of things you don’t want to be consuming, so if you’re planning to add adaptogenic mushrooms into your diet, then you need to make the effort to find the right producer/seller.
Image by Andrew Ridley.
Adaptogenic mushrooms are generally safe.**** However, adaptogenic mushrooms can affect the performance of certain treatments (such as chemotherapy) and certain prescription drugs; there are also some people who should not take adaptogenic mushrooms – so please do check with your doctor before you start taking adaptogenic mushrooms.
Image by Lauren Bailly.
If you’re looking for something to boost your recovery or general well-being – you might want to investigate further whether adaptogenic mushrooms may help you too.
*I care about your safety! If you are thinking about doing any of the things I mention in this post, then please read the safety warnings below.
*This article is for entertainment and education purposes only. Before starting any new challenge or lifestyle change you should consult your doctor. You should not rely on this article as a substitute for professional advice and this article does not replace a health professional. If you want to try anything I mention in this article, you need to check with your doctor that you are physically and mentally safe to do so. I know it's obvious, but please do not use the pictures in this post as a way of identifying mushrooms in the wild, in order to eat them - that way disaster lies.
**S L Baldauf 1, J D Palmer, Animals and fungi are each other's closest relatives: congruent evidence from multiple proteins, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 90(24), January 1994, 11558-62. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8265589/.
***Using this link will provide this blog with a benefit.
****Adaptogenic mushrooms can also cause unwanted effects. Reishi mushrooms can cause dizziness and headache. There have been documented cases of liver toxicity related to the consumption of reishi powder. People with bleeding disorders, taking blood pressure-lowering medication and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take reishi. There have been some documented allergic reactions to lion’s mane. In short, it’s extremely important to check with your doctor before including adaptogenic mushrooms in your diet.