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Ergogenic Potential of Medicinal Mushrooms

Medicinal Fungi complement the human system on a complexity of different levels.

The awareness of mushrooms for medicinal use is most present in conversations around the immune system, yet there are further dialogues – in more recent research and in deeper exploration of ethno-mycological studies – that mushrooms support just about every system in the human body, not solely the immune system. This post is going to focus on mushrooms and movement. Specifically, how medicinal mushrooms support the human system through different anti-fatigue mechanisms allowing us to move better longer and with reduced risk of injury.

There are several theories of peripheral fatigue, and not surprisingly, many medicinal mushrooms support the bulk of them. Theories range from metabolic depletion; ATP and creatine-phosphate specifically, lactic acid accumulation, oxidative stress with depletion of endogenous anti-oxidant capabilities, muscle and liver glycogen depletion, tissue damage, and central/psychological factors.

Lactic Acid Accumulation

Let’s first focus on lactic acid accumulation. The accumulation of lactic acid during exercise will inhibit energy metabolism and reduce muscular endurance, resulting in fatigue. (The accumulation of lactate can interfere with nerve impulse and therefore muscle contraction) The theory goes, that if lactic acid accumulation can be controlled, then fatigue wont set in as quickly. Medicinal mushrooms such as Lion’s Mane, Hericium erinaceus, Reishi, Ganoderma spp. and Cordyceps spp. all enhance the rate of lactic acid clearance during exercise or in the case of Cordyceps, can even inhibit production of lactic acid.1,5,7 The polysaccharides in H. erinaceus had a positive effect on the swimming time of mice, significantly increasing their exercise tolerance in a forced swimming model. Ganoderma spp., Tremella spp. and Cordyceps spp. have been shown to stimulate the enzyme lactic acid dehydrogenase (LDH). The increase in LDH activity helps to increase ATP for exercise under anaerobic conditions as well as accelerate removal of lactic acid. From this information, we can postulate that when we have these mushroom extracts in our systems during exercise, we may benefit from a decrease in lactic acid accumulation, and therefore improve our endurance.

It is no surprise that Cordyceps has been found to improve exercise tolerance. This is of course, how this organism has been used for centuries. The Nepalese people observed live-stock consuming Cordyceps and saw how it increased their sexual vitality and general stamina. They began to consume them as the other animals were, and found that it increased their own vitality as well – increasing stamina, endurance, and treating impotence.15

Oxidative Stress

Intense use of skeletal muscle during exercise leads to oxidative stress. Of course the human system has its own antioxidant system built in, but this system can be weakened through excessive exercise leading to more oxidative stress. Medicinal mushrooms such as Ganoderma lucidum, Tremella spp., Cordyceps spp. and Fomitopsis pinicola all help to mitigate fatigue by supporting the free radical scavenging ability within the human antioxidant system.4,6,11 These mushrooms support superoxide dismutase, glutathione reductase, and catalase; all endogenous enzymes involved in innate antioxidant functions. In a human double-blind placebo trial that assessed the oxidative stress biomarkers in athletes supplementing with Cordyceps and Ganoderma, the researchers found that after 3 months of supplementation with 1335mg Cordyceps extract per day and 1170mg Ganoderma extract per day, the athletes had significantly more free radical scavenging activity after a race than the placebo group.17

One study that explored Ganoderma tsugae, a mushroom very closely related to our local Ganoderma oregonense, found significant liver protection against exhaustive exercise-induced liver injury in rats.10 “The results concluded that G. tsugae could increase the running time to exhaustion in animals, decrease lipid peroxidation and protect against hepatic apoptosis after exhaustive exercise.” Basically, G. tsugae has protective effects on the liver that can improve exercise performance.

Blood Flow

Ganoderma spp. and Cordyceps spp. contain the nucleoside adenosine.17 Adenosine is a regulator of skeletal muscle blood flow. The role of adenosine in exercise is vascular smooth muscle relaxation, contributing to the local vasodilation which accompanies muscle contractions. Adenosine contributes around 14-29% to vasodilation in humans especially during higher frequency contractions, like during exercise. Increased 40% in exercise lasting longer than 5 minutes.2

Ganoderma applanatum also increases endothelial nitric oxide synthase. This also has a dialating effect on the endothelial smooth muscle in our blood vessels, increasing blood flow to skeletal muscle.14


Beet Juice Matcha Latte

Why Beets and Matcha?

Beetroot juice increases blood flow and increases efficiency of mitochondrial respiration and oxidative phosphorylation9

In a study evaluating the anti-fatigue effects of Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a polyphenolic compound in green tea, the researchers concluded that EGCG significantly prolonged exhaustive swimming time of mice.8 In another study done on male sprinters, green tea extract supplementation prevented oxidative stress.12 The polyphenolic compounds in green tea were also found to significantly protect rats from fatigue, inflammation and tissue damage induced by acute exhaustive exercise.13

Matcha Mushroom latte with Collagen


  • 2tsp Matcha powder

  • 2tsp Beet juice or beet powder

  • ½ tsp Ganoderma spp. extract powder*

  • ½ tsp Hericium spp. extract powder*

  • ½ tsp Cordyceps spp.*

  • 1Tbs Hydrolyzed collagen powder (supports connective tissue)

  • 1 cup of milk of choice – I love hemp ‘milk’ straight from the teet of the hemp

  • ½ C hot water


  • Heat up milk and water

  • blend with all other ingredients (I use an immersion blender – you can poor into any blender, or if you have a frothing device, I imagine that would work too)

  • Add sweetener if necessary

  • Move your body!

Drink 30 min to 1 hour before working out

*If you don’t have access to powdered extracts, make a strong decoction of these mushrooms and use this as the water portion of the drink.

Work Cited

  1. Geng P, Siu KC, Wang Z, Wu JY. Antifatigue Functions and Mechanisms of Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms. Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017. doi:10.1155/2017/9648496.

  2. Ballard HJ. Invited Review ATP and adenosine in the regulation of skeletal muscle blood flow during exercise. Sheng Li Xue Bao. 2014;66(1):67-78. doi:10.13294/j.aps.2014.0009.

  3. Mateo DC, Pazzi F, Muñoz FJD, et al. Ganoderma lucidum improves physical fitness in women with fibromyalgia . Nutr Hosp. 2015;32(5):2126-2135. doi:10.3305/nh.2015.32.5.9601.

  4. Zhonghui Z, Xiaowei Z, Fang F. Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides supplementation attenuates exercise-induced oxidative stress in skeletal muscle of mice. Saudi J Biol Sci. 2014;21(2):119-123. doi:10.1016/j.sjbs.2013.04.004.

  5. Song J, Wang Y, Teng M, et al. Studies on the antifatigue activities of Cordyceps militaris fruit body extract in mouse model. Evidence-based Complement Altern Med. 2015;2015. doi:10.1155/2015/174616.

  6. Hao L, Sheng Z, Lu J, Tao R, Jia S. Characterization and antioxidant activities of extracellular and intracellular polysaccharides from Fomitopsis pinicola. Carbohydr Polym. 2016;141:54-59. doi:10.1016/j.carbpol.2015.11.048.

  7. Liu J, Du C, Wang Y, Yu Z. Anti-fatigue activities of polysaccharides extracted from Hericium erinaceus. Exp Ther Med. 2015;9(2):483-487. doi:10.3892/etm.2014.2139.

  8. Teng Y, Wu D. Anti-fatigue effect of green tea polyphenols (-)-Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate (EGCG). Pharmacogn Mag. 2017;13(50):326. doi:10.4103/0973-1296.204546.

  9. Domínguez R, Cuenca E, Maté-Muñoz JL, et al. Effects of beetroot juice supplementation on cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes. A systematic review. Nutrients. 2017;9(1):1-18. doi:10.3390/nu9010043.

  10. Huang CC, Huang WC, Yang SC, Chan CC, Lin WT. Ganoderma tsugae hepatoprotection against exhaustive exercise-induced liver injury in rats. Molecules. 2013;18(2):1741-1754. doi:10.3390/molecules18021741.

  11. Reis FS, Pereira E, Barros L, Sousa MJ, Martins A, Ferreira ICFR. Biomolecule profiles in inedible wild mushrooms with antioxidant value. Molecules. 2011;16(6):4328-4338. doi:10.3390/molecules16064328.

  12. Jówko E, Długołęcka B, Makaruk B, Cieśliński I. The effect of green tea extract supplementation on exercise-induced oxidative stress parameters in male sprinters. Eur J Nutr. 2015;54(5):783-791. doi:10.1007/s00394-014-0757-1.

  13. Liu L, Wu X, Zhang B, et al. Protective effects of tea polyphenols on exhaustive exercise-induced fatigue, inflammation and tissue damage. Food Nutr Res. 2017;61(1):1333390. doi:10.1080/16546628.2017.1333390.

  14. Acharya K, Yonzone P, Rai M, Acharya R. Antioxidant and nitric oxide synthase activation properties of Ganoderma applanatum. Indian J Exp Biol. 2005;43(10):926-929.

  15. Panda A, Swain K. Traditional uses and medicinal potential of Cordyceps sinensis of Sikkim. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2011;2(1):9. doi:10.4103/0975-9476.78183.

  16. Singh M, Tulsawani R, Koganti P, Chauhan A, Manickam M, Misra K. Cordyceps sinensis increases hypoxia tolerance by inducing heme oxygenase-1 and metallothionein via Nrf2 activation in human lung epithelial cells. Biomed Res Int. 2013;2013:1-13. doi:10.1155/2013/569206.

  17. Rossi P, Buonocore D, Altobelli E, et al. Improving training condition assessment in endurance cyclists: Effects of ganoderma lucidum and ophiocordyceps sinensis dietary supplementation. Evidence-based Complement Altern Med. 2014;2014. doi:10.1155/2014/979613.

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