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5 Functional Mushroom Benefits for Women

Article at a Glance:

  • Functional mushrooms may have unique benefits for women’s health.
  • Bioactive compounds and nutrients in mushrooms may be beneficial for women's well-being.
  • These health benefits may include supporting healthy skin, fitness, longevity, hormones, and brain health.

Functional mushrooms are thought to support wellness in several ways beyond their nutritional profile.[1] Mushrooms have a long history of use in many cultures and traditional Chinese medicine. Western countries have had a piqued interest because of their promising health-promoting properties.[1] In particular, functional mushrooms may offer several benefits for women.

What are Functional Mushrooms?

Functional mushrooms grow on various environmental surfaces, have been identified to be safe, and offer an array of health benefits. Unlike psychedelic mushrooms, when consuming functional mushrooms, you will not experience mind-altering "highs." Instead, you'll enjoy all their benefits as part of your regular health routine.

Among the most widely used functional mushrooms include:

  • Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
  • Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris)
  • Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)

Several common mushroom varieties can be found at your everyday grocery store, but some may require a trip to more specialized health food stores. They can be found in their whole plant form to use in your kitchen and in supplements, extracts, and food products like beverages and bars. 

Functional mushrooms contain polysaccharides, insoluble and soluble fibers, minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, antioxidants, and other bioactive compounds responsible for their many health-promoting effects.[1][2][3][4][5][6] You can't go wrong with which types you choose.

5 Benefits of Functional Mushrooms for Women

1. May Help Support Skin Health

Bioactive compounds in mushrooms have been shown to support the normal inflammatory response. Additionally, beta-glucan polysaccharides in fungi are thought to support skin health.[7] This is one reason mushroom extracts are added to some cosmetic products, to hydrate and prevent color fading.

One 2016 study examined how mushroom extract in cosmetic formulas retained their original bioactive properties, including antioxidant activity.[8]

This matters because we’re constantly exposed to free radicals within our environment, which can alter skin health and appearance. Of course, you can also support your skin health from the inside out by adding functional mushrooms to your diet.

2. May Help Support Exercise Tolerance

While exercise is important for everyone, women are more prone to weakened bone density and a higher risk of fractures, largely due to the hormonal changes that occur throughout the life cycle, including menopause. Weight-bearing exercise is key for supporting bone density, but many women struggle with exercise tolerance as they age.

Many women take Cordyceps as a pre-workout because it may help support exercise performance and endurance.[9] Additionally, Cordyceps and Reishi may support increased energy production, reduced lactic acid buildup, reduced feelings of fatigue, and improved oxygen uptake and circulation.[10][11]

In a 2015 randomized controlled trial, 64 women with widespread musculoskeletal pain experienced improvements in aerobic endurance and lower body flexibility after using 6 grams of Ganoderma lucidum daily for six weeks.[12] 

Another 2017 study conducted among 28 individuals found that supplementing with Cordyceps militaris for one week was helpful in improving tolerance of high-intensity exercise and likely would have been more beneficial with consistent intake.[13]

3. May Help Support Longevity

Adding functional mushrooms as a regular part of your daily routine may even support a long life. Among the main reasons for this is likely their antioxidant activity. Antioxidants help protect our cells from free radical damage and oxidative stress over time, which can be a more constant threat as we get older.[14]

One 2021 prospective study evaluated mushroom intake among over 30,000 adults — primarily women — between 2003 and 2014. The authors found frequent mushroom consumers had a lower risk of all-cause mortality than non-mushroom consumers.[15] 

While this study could not identify specific types of mushrooms, it is still a strong piece of evidence supporting the many health-promoting properties mushrooms have to offer. 

4. May Help Support Brain Health

Women appear to be at a higher risk for experiencing various types of cognitive decline with age.[16] Functional mushrooms may help support brain function and mood throughout the lifespan.[17][18]

Lion's Mane mushrooms contain potent bioactive compounds like erinacines and hericenones that support brain health.[19][20] They may also help support mood and focus.[21]

Research suggests the ability of functional mushrooms to stimulate the production of nerve growth factors (NGFs). When NGFs are lacking, this has been associated with impaired memory and reduced ability to produce new neurons.[17][22]

5. May Help Support Hormone Health

Functional mushrooms are adaptogens, which means they work to help your body respond to stress better. Some animal studies suggest that mushrooms may help support healthy estrogen levels in women.[23][24] Additionally, Reishi and other mushrooms may support reproductive health.[25][26]

The Takeaway

Functional mushrooms have plenty to offer, especially for women. Adding functional mushrooms to your regular health routines — such as Cordyceps, Lion's Mane, or Reishi — may help support skin health, exercise tolerance, longevity, and brain and hormone health.

For a fun and delicious way to get your daily dose of mushrooms, try our mushroom gummies.

References

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