If you have your ear to the ground about what’s new in health and wellness these days Mushrooms are coming up in conversation more and more often.
So what can mushrooms do for pets and people?
The better question is what can’t they do! There is a good reason that mushrooms are getting a lot of attention.
Studies on what mushrooms can do are extensive, numerous and routinely show amazing health benefits. They can support liver and kidney function, improve skin and coat, help prevent viral infections, contain antioxidants, aid in the fight against cancer and improve overall health. That’s a pretty powerful list!
So you’ve got my attention. Where do I start with mushrooms?
Great question, let’s take a peek at the types of mushrooms that are out there.
There are four types of mushrooms
- Toxic (#RIP)
- Hallucinogenic (think Alice in Wonderland)
- Culinary (#NomNom)
- Medicinal (yes please!)
Mushrooms are unique in that within the one family there are items that can be deadly, trippy and produce amazing medicinal health benefits. This is why it is important to know which are safe to use. Generally speaking, unless you are a mushroom expert, do not eat mushrooms you find in your yard or out and about. Toxic mushroom can be deadly and hallucinogenic is not really our area of expertise. For the purpose of this blog we are going to focus on mushrooms you can find in the medicinal and culinary categories.
The great news is that any mushroom that is safe for people is safe for dogs and cats. Yay! These medicinal mushrooms can be given to kittens, puppies, seniors and neonates. They are safe for use in nearly all situations and extremely hard to overdose. There are no known negative physiological effects in pets.
So let’s meet some medicinal fungi
Turkey tail tends to have a velvety woody texture to it and is not a pleasant mushroom to eat.
Best taken as:
- steep and drink as a tea
- as a powder
- a tincture
Turkey tail has an abundance of beta-glucans. They are responsible for the immune modulating effects found in mushrooms. They enhance immune function and reduce susceptibility to infection and cancer. Another property found in turkey tail is quercetin, which is another up and comer that is gaining in popularity in both the human and pet world right now.
A few of the traditional uses for turkey tail include:
- removing toxins
- increasing energy
- removing excessive fluid
- strengthening the organs responsible for the immune system
- supporting liver, lung and spleen function
- some conditions that benefit from turkey tail use include coughs, breathing difficulties, hemorrhoids and joint pain
In conventional medicine, turkey tail has been used to support the immune systems of people with weakened immunity. Research suggests strong antioxidant properties and may protect DNA from free radical damage.
Turkey tail enhances both the innate and adaptive immune responses, which are the body’s first and second lines of defense.
We are born with the innate response. This type consists of chemical, physical, and cellular defenses.
Adaptive immunity is acquired and specific. This type of defense allows for the expansion of certain types of white blood cells, the T and B lymphocytes.
Turkey tail supplementation is a safe way to heighten the immune response in people with weakened immunity, such as those people who are being treated with chemotherapy. This mushroom boosts the production of the cells that our bodies rely on to kill invading microbes or abnormal cells, such as those that form tumours. It also stimulates the production of certain cytokines, which are important messenger signals for the immune system. Turkey tail helps support a healthy immune system and promotes longevity.
Turkey tail supports gut health, protects DNA from damage, supports a healthy inflammation response, supports liver health, improves athletic performance, and there are more studies still underway today that shows promising results for other properties, including blood sugar regulation.
Not keen on the taste of mushrooms? No worries, try adding the powder to your family's recipes. Lots of people really like the taste of the powder added to their morning coffee. Most pets readily accept the powder in their food. If the powder isn’t going down easy, then using a tincture would be the simple next option.
Lion’s mane is a fun looking mushroom, typically it is off white in colour, roughly ball shaped, similar in size to a softball or larger, with tendrils that remind me of something that would grow in a coral reef. It is soft and spongy feeling and you can eat them cooked or as a tea. They fall in the dual category of culinary and medicinal. It is easy to add it chopped up into meals. Many vegetarians already know the great texture of mushrooms like Lion’s Mane when substituting it in meat & fish recipes. Try enjoying it baked like a crab cake or chopped and seasoned in a taco. Depending on where you live they can be hard to come by fresh. When that is the case the best way to get them is in powder or tincture form.
Lion’s Mane has anti-tumor properties. It contains antioxidants and neuroprotective chemical compounds that aid in supporting healthy brain and nervous system function.
The specific compounds in Lion’s Mane promote the growth of neurons and it’s taken by people to resist cognitive decline. You can give Lion’s Mane mushroom extract to your pet to help them stay sharp, alert, and youthful, and to help prevent tumours. There is a huge list of researched properties for lion’s mane including: antibiotic, anti-carcinogenic, anti-diabetic, anti-fatigue, anti-hypertensive, anti-hyperlipidemic, it is cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, neuroprotective and helps anxiety, cognitive function, and depression. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and immunostimulating properties.
It helps prevent or treat human chronic, cognitive, and neurological diseases. Lion's mane has a protective effect on your myelin sheath and supports myelin sheath formation. The myelin sheath enables your neurons to communicate up to 20 times faster than neurons without that sheath intact. This addresses nerve damage, which can be seen in people with chronic pain, general aging, and especially in the brain as we age – we need strong neural pathways that communicate well and lion’s mane specifically helps with that.
Lion's mane is being researched in serious disorders such as MS, Parkinson’s Alzheimer, stroke and depression. It’s a powerhouse that can be routinely included in your and your pet’s diet. Try to ensure your pet and family get mushrooms including lion’s mane at least once a week but daily would be better!
For centuries this mushroom has been referred to as the elixir of life or the mushroom of immortality. In Traditional Chinese Medicine Reishi is known as a three treasure herb that harmonizes life force, energy and spirit.
Reishi mushrooms both potentiate and modulate the immune system - so it acts to support and balance.
What is Reishi best at?
- It is an adaptogenic
- helps with blood pressure management
- calms allergies
- supports mood
- balance endocrine function and hormones
Reishi activates immune cells such as macrophages and helper T cells, increases immunoglobulin levels to defend against pathogens and microbes. It is antioxidant and helps support the body against oxidative stress which ages us faster and causes cell damage. Reishi is highly regarded for its support of the endocrine system – which means it can help balance stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.
Studies show taking reishi regularly can reduce anxiety, have more stable, long lasting focus and restore balance in a natural way. It supports blood pressure and cholesterol management.
Because reishi is so powerful, it can possibly interact with some western medicines such as blood pressure, antiplatelet and diabetic medications. It is an immune enhancer, so those on drugs to suppress the immune system will want to speak with their vet or naturopathic doctor. Speak with your naturopath before taking mushrooms or any supplement, if you have a health condition or take western medications.
I keep hearing about Mycelium & Fruiting Body debates. What’s up with that?
There is a big debate in the mushroom supplement world about what is better: mycelium or fruiting bodies. If you watch the Netflix documentary Fantastic Fungi it can really give you a nice introduction to the world of mycelium. Mycelium is the highway network beneath the ground (or in the substrate if you are growing inside), kind of like roots for a tree or plant, that brings nutrients to the fruit body. The fruit body is the mushroom you see growing above ground. While the debate rages on about which part is better, we like to focus on herbalism to see that there are benefits to using aerial parts (the parts above ground, exposed to the air so to speak) and non-aerial, typically the roots or tubers that are growing under the ground.
It’s safe to say that most people would look at a carrot and feel that they are getting a useful benefit from the non-aerial part – the root of the plant, which is the orange snack we associate with eating carrots. If we looked at just the carrot tops as useful we would be missing out on the goodness below the ground. Dandelion and burdock are other examples of root systems that we use a LOT and are well documented medicinal items. We see the leaves and flowers and know we can use them but it is clear that what is going on beneath the ground, the root system that is bringing nutrients to the plant body above the ground, is still a powerful choice. We also know from herbs that the fruit body and the roots can have different properties – which could be one reason why the debate rages on in the mushroom world. Mycelium substrate is another challenge. So, like all things, it is buyer beware. Do a bit of checking to confirm you have a reputable company making your mushrooms products.
Is it ok to mix mushroom types up?
There is some evidence that mushrooms, much like essential oils, work synergistically. That is to say they work better together than apart. We highly recommend you try a mix and add in some of the individual mushrooms that you want in higher quantities.
At Pet Grocer™ it is our opinion that Including mushrooms in your diet and in your pet’s diet, is the easiest way to have a the best immediate and long term health benefit from any whole food supplement. It really is a must have and a simple addition.
Where do I find Mushrooms?
You can often find them at your local health food store and regularly at Pet Grocer
You can find our Pet Grocer™ branded organic human grade mushrooms - these are great for the whole family including your pets.
We also carry
- Tincture made by Adored Beast – they have a turkey tail and a chaga.
- Four Leaf Rover Lion’s Mane, Turkey Tail, and Immunity Mushroom Blend
- A variety of Host Defense brand mushrooms – Also great for the whole family (this is Paul Stamets’ company, the man who is heavily featured in the Fantastic Fungi documentary. His story is fascinating and this documentary is totally worth the watch.)
Want to dive even deeper into Mushrooms? Check out our recent podcast - The Medicinal Magic of Mushrooms
**When it comes to dosing, we must remind everyone that you should always seeks the guidance of an experienced holistic veterinarian or for human use, consult your healthcare practitioner prior to starting any supplements.**
Mushrooms are anti-inflammatory https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29146352/
Lion’s mane: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26244378/
Mushroom research references list: https://mushroomreferences.com/