What Are Functional Mushrooms? | Botanic Tonics

What Are Functional Mushrooms? | Botanic Tonics

Reviewed by Jamal Bouie

Demystifying Functional Mushrooms: A Comprehensive Guide

TikTok trends may come and go, but if there’s one fad that’s almost certain to stay, it’s functional mushrooms. 

From enriched memory to stronger focus, the potential virtues of functional fungi have taken them from an ancient Eastern secret to a must-have staple in contemporary wellness—so much so, that functional mushroom products now stock the shelves in the form of coffees, teas, smoothies, gummies, cookies, and “emotional support” chocolates (yes, this is a thing).[1]

But what are “functional” mushrooms, exactly—and how are they unique from those porcini ‘shrooms on your pizza? Moreover, are they as effective as their advocates suggest? 

Let’s dig in. 

What is a Functional Mushroom?: Beyond Culinary Uses

Functional mushrooms are a class of fungi that possess adaptogenic and nootropic properties that take them far beyond the kitchen:[2,3]

  • Adaptogens Adaptogens are plant-based substances that operate as “bio-regulators.” In other words, they enhance processes that naturally occur in the body.[4]

  • Known as a form of defense against emotional, physical, and environmental stressors, adaptogens influence one of humans’ primary control centers for stress—the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis—and endeavor to bring the body back into balance during and after a taxing situation.[5] They may also stimulate immune health and stave off exhaustion, which, it’s safe to say, most of us would define as resilience.

  • Nootropics – “Nootropics” refers to a group of natural (read: plant-based) remedies and pharmacological meds that may have the capacity to bolster memory, enrich learning, refine focus, generate creativity, and boost overall cognitive function.[6] Explore more mushrooms for cognitive function in our guide.

  • Deemed a promising solution for warding off neurodegenerative illnesses like dementia, they’re believed to work (in part) by triggering blood flow and oxygen to the brain.

    At the same time, functional mushrooms have superb nutritional value, with admirable amounts of vitamins, polysaccharides, and amino acids.[7]

    The Different Types of Functional Mushrooms—and Their Benefits

    The skeptic inside of you might be weary of anything that’s huge on social media, but functional mushrooms have been called upon in traditional medicine for centuries for various health and wellness reasons. 

    Let’s explore some of today’s most promising medicinal mushroom varieties and their potential health benefits.[8]


    Reishi’s nickname—the “mushroom of immortality”—ought to give you an immediate sense of its possible potency.[9] Its main potential perks include:[10]

    • Improved strength, energy, and stamina
    • Immune system support
    • Emotional regulation

    Additionally, reishi mushrooms, or Ganoderma lucidum, may zap exhaustion—one of the most common side effects of excessive stress.[11]


    If you happen to be an avid tea drinker, you may have come across Chaga, but it’s doubtful you’ll ever see it on a salad bar menu. The mushroom—which grows predominately in Siberia—has been attached to a handful of physical advantages, namely in terms of nourishing:[12]

    • Optimal blood sugar and cholesterol
    • Antioxidant activity
    • Immune function
    • Gut and brain health[13]


    As a keystone in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the cordyceps mushroom has had a long history of nurturing everything from libido, to mental health, to cardiovascular wellness.[14] Their full potential has yet to be illuminated, but they may:

    • Elevate physical performance
    • Help combat inflammation
    • Aid in moderating energy metabolism 

    Lion’s Mane 

    Lion’s mane could easily be considered the king of the jungle when it comes to functional mushrooms that promote cognitive prowess. Shaggy in appearance, the benefits of lion’s mane include:

    • Increased brain speed[15]
    • A brighter and more balanced mood[16]
    • A sharper memory[17]

    What’s more, preliminary research indicates that lion’s mane may have neuroprotective properties in that it might protect the brain (and body) from oxidative stress and the havoc it can wreak.[18] Make sure you explore lion’s mane extract vs. powder to choose the supplement best suited for your lifestyle. 


    The Shiitake mushroom is considerably more likely to appear in the produce aisle than the other mushroom varieties on this list, but they aren’t just a splendid addition to stir fries. High in amino acids, the superstar in vegetarian and vegan circles might also:[19]

    • Encourage heart and bone health
    • Strengthen immune function
    • Combat free radical damage


    Also referred to as Hen-of-the-Woods, the Maitake mushroom is a flavorful fungi with an appearance reminiscent of feathers or leaves. Aside from its unique, earthy taste, Maitake contains bioactive compounds that may:

    • Combat cancer cells
    • Regulate blood sugar
    • Manage blood pressure[20]

    Turkey Tail

    Aptly named for its striking resemblance, turkey tail is a type of mushroom with an appearance reminiscent of turkey feathers. It has long been recognized for its medicinal properties. Incorporating turkey tail mushroom powder or capsules into your dietary supplement regimen could help your body in:

    • Boosting the immune system
    • Reducing inflammation
    • Improving gut health
    • Enhancing athletic performance[21]

    Scientific Perspectives on the Health Claims of Functional Mushrooms

    Does all of this sound too good to be true? Is it too good to be true?

    Yes, and no. The use of functional mushrooms for supporting overall health and treating various conditions and ailments dates back as far as the Han Dynasty (according to some sources). But non-anecdotal, clinical research on these fantastic fungi is still in its infancy. 

    Furthermore, most of the studies on these mushrooms have been conducted on animals. The results show incredible promise, but researchers would be the first to say that more human studies are needed before anyone can definitively assert their advantages.

    However, the data we do have—coupled with the fact that most adaptogenic mushrooms are well-tolerated and safe for consumption—suggests that, with your physician’s approval, there’s no reason not to indulge in a cup of mushroom coffee, or savor the effects of a supplement enriched with functional mushroom extract.

    Merge Functional Mushroom Supplements Into Your Routine with Botanic Tonics

    Whether you paused while scrolling on social or overhead talk of turkey tails in your locker room, asking what are functional mushrooms? is the first (and perhaps most important) step in incorporating fungi mindfully into your daily regime.

    Botanic Tonics makes reaping their rewards a possibility.* Lion’s mane mushroom extract is one of the ingredients in our plant-based energy drink, which, with the addition of rhodiola and kava, encourage calm and focus in equal measure.* 

    If you’re looking for other herbal supplements for improved focus or concentration, explore our range of kava capsules.*

    Adapt to life in the ancient way with Botanic Tonics.


    1. Bloomberg. Functional fungi, with little FDA oversight, are the new CBD. ​​https://www.bloomberg.com/news/newsletters/2023-11-13/mushrooms-are-having-a-cbd-moment
    2. Healthline. What are adaptogenic mushrooms? Benefits, risks, and types. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/adaptogenic-mushrooms
    3. Frontiers in Pharmacology. Fungal mushrooms: a natural compound with therapeutic applications.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9328747/
    4. Healthline. The no bs guide to adaptogens for hormonal balance and stress. https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/smart-girls-guide-to-adaptogens
    5. UCLA. What are adaptogens and should you be taking them?  https://www.uclahealth.org/news/what-are-adaptogens-and-should-you-be-taking-them
    6. Very Well Mind. What are nootropics? https://www.verywellmind.com/what-are-nootropics-6749556
    7. Molecules. Medicinal mushrooms: their bioactive compounds, nutritional value and application in functional food production—an overview. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10384337/
    8. Real Simple. What’s the deal with functional mushrooms? Here are 6 types worth knowing about. https://www.realsimple.com/functional-mushrooms-7488480
    9. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Reishi mushroom: purported benefits, side effects & more. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/reishi-mushroom
    10. Healthline. 6 benefits of reishi mushroom (plus side effects and dosage). https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/reishi-mushroom-benefits#TOC_TITLE_HDR_5
    11. Biomed Research International. Antifatigue functions and mechanisms of edible and medicinal mushrooms.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5584359/
    12. Cleveland Clinic. Chaga mushroom health benefits. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/chaga-mushroom-benefits
    13. Phytochemistry. Anti-neuroinflammatory polyoxygenated lanostanoids from Chaga mushroom Inonotus obliquus. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031942220312620?via%3Dihub
    14. Cleveland Clinic. Cordyceps is a killer fungi with potential health benefits. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/cordyceps-benefits
    15. Nutrients. The acute and chronic effects of lion’s mane mushroom supplementation on cognitive function, stress and mood in young adults: a double-blind, parallel groups, pilot study. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38004235/
    16. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. Erinacine a-enriched hericium erinaceus mycelium produces antidepressant-like effects through modulating BDNF/PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β signaling in mice. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29364170/
    17. Journal of Neurochemistry. Hericerin derivatives activates a pan-neurotrophic pathway in central hippocampal neurons converging to ERK1/2 signaling enhancing spatial memory. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jnc.15767
    18. Antioxidants. Lion’s mane mushroom, hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) pers. suppresses H2O2-induced oxidative damage and LPS-induced inflammation in HT22 hippocampal neurons and BV2 microglia. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3921/8/8/261
    19. Healthline. Why shitake mushrooms are good for you.  https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/shiitake-mushrooms#uses
    20. Foods. Bioactive Ingredients and Medicinal Values of Grifola frondosa (Maitake). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7824844/
    21. Verywell Health. What Is Turkey Tail? https://www.verywellhealth.com/turkey-tail-mushroom-6890534

    About The Author

    Jamal Bouie Botanic Tonic

    Jamal Bouie

    Jamal Bouie is an accomplished professional with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from Lemoyne-Owen College in Memphis. Currently, he is pursuing his PhD in Biomedicine at Salus University. Jamal has worked in several industries; he began his career in pharmaceutical manufacturing and transitioned to the cannabis industry, where he specialized in analytical testing and manufacturing, playing a vital role in ensuring product safety and compliance. Now, Jamal has turned his attention to the dietary supplement field, combining his scientific acumen with his passion for health and wellness.

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