Are all Mushrooms Addictive? The Truth About Lion’s Mane, Turkey Tail, Chaga, & Other Mushroom Supplements

Published on December 18, 2023

By Kristen Boye BS, Natural Health

Kristen Boye

Kristen Boye is a natural health expert, writer, copywriter, and editor. Kristen was raised on an organic farm in British Columbia which inspired her life’s work. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Health, is a Certified Natural Foods Chef, co-owner of a medicinal herb farm, and is a natural foods and children’s health advocate. Kristen lives with her husband and two children on their medicinal herb farm in Western North Carolina.

Wild and cultivated mushrooms, such as Turkey Tail, Lion’s Mane, Reishi, and Cordyceps (which is technically a fungus), have been staples in traditional herbalism practices such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda.

However, with the growing popularity of traditional mushrooms used for wellness (like those listed previously) and psychedelic mushrooms used for various purposes, you may be wondering if all mushrooms are addictive.

The short answer is no. Mushrooms used in traditional herbalism practices are not addictive.

Read on to learn more about why mushroom supplements are not addictive, which mushrooms may be addictive, and an overview of the science-backed health benefits of Reishi, Turkey Tail, Lion’s Mane, Shiitake, and Cordyceps.

Why Traditional-Cultivated and Wild Mushrooms are Not Addictive

The addictive stigma of mushrooms typically comes from the knowledge that some wild mushrooms, such as “magic mushrooms,” have psychedelic compounds like psilocybin. 

However, psychedelic mushrooms represent a fraction of the mushroom population.

As of 2020, approximately 148,000 mushroom species have been identified and described. Of those, about 200 known species may contain psychedelic compounds, making up less than 1% (0.135%) of the known species of mushrooms.REF#3218 REF#3219

This does not include mushrooms used in traditional herbalism, such as Lion’s Mane, Shiitake, Maitake, Cordyceps, Reishi, and others. These do not contain psychedelic compounds.

Even psychedelic mushrooms are considered low-risk for being physically addictive, although people can become addicted to their psychological effects.

Bottom line: Comparing magic mushrooms to mushrooms used in traditional herbalism and mushroom supplements is like comparing apples and oranges.

They’re both fruit, but entirely different species with different nutrients and bioactive compounds.

Plus, by law, supplement companies cannot dispense controlled substances, including psychedelic mushrooms.

Now that you understand the difference and that there’s no cause for concern with mushroom supplements, let’s briefly overview some common mushrooms used in traditional herbalism and their benefits.

7 Mushrooms Used in Traditional Herbalism and Supplements

Wild and cultivated mushrooms are used in many traditional wellness systems, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western herbalism.

They are becoming increasingly popular due to growing research and anecdotal evidence about their potential health, wellness, and longevity benefits.

All of these mushrooms work in different ways. However, research has revealed most contain specific bioactive compounds, such as beta-glucans, enzymes, polysaccharides, antioxidants, prebiotic fibers, and other nutrients responsible for many potential benefits.

Here, we explore seven common mushrooms used in traditional herbalism and supplements.

1. Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

What are Lion’s Mane Mushrooms?

Lion’s Mane gets its name from its appearance, which resembles a shaggy lion’s mane.

Also known as “the smart mushroom” or “mushroom of the mind,” Lion’s Mane has a rich history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a cognitive support tonic.*

It’s also delicious if eaten fresh, with a lobster-like flavor.

What are Lion’s Mane’s Benefits and Traditional uses?

Lion’s Mane’s traditional use as a brain tonic has led to preliminary research to discover its beneficial properties and actions.*

Like all mushrooms, Lion’s Mane contains various plant compounds, such as antioxidants and beta glucans, which are believed to play a role in its mechanisms.

Research has shown Lion’s Mane may support: REF#3220 REF#3221 REF#3222 REF#3223 REF#3224

  • A positive state of mind
  • Normal cognitive function
  • Gut health
  • Normal immune regulation

Who May Benefit From Lion’s Mane?

Although more research is needed, Lion’s Mane may benefit those interested in supporting brain function, a positive attitude, gut health, and immune function. It is a popular ingredient in nootropic supplements (those formulated for cognitive support).

2. Reishi Mushrooms

What are Reishi Mushrooms?

Also known as “the mushroom of immortality” and “the king of mushrooms,” Reishi has been long revered in Traditional Chinese Medicine, where it is used for various aspects of immune support, cardiovascular function, and as an adaptogen (a type of plant that supports the body’s stress response).*

What are Reishi’s Benefits and Traditional Uses?

Reishi is one of the most-studied mushrooms, with research showing it contains various nutrients and plant compounds, such as enzymes, antioxidants, amino acids, polysaccharides, prebiotics, and triterpenes, which may support: REF#3225

  • Immune function
  • Heart and cardiovascular function
  • Inflammatory response
  • Metabolic function
  • Gut health
  • Longevity
  • Liver function

Who May Benefit From Reishi?

Many people rely on Reishi as a tonic for full-body support. 

It may also help support immunity, the heart, digestion, the liver, metabolism, and longevity.

3. Cordyceps

What is Cordyceps Fungus?

Also known as the “zombie mushroom,” Cordyceps is not a mushroom but a fungus born from consuming its caterpillar hosts.

As strange as it sounds, this bizarre fungus has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine for various purposes, none of which have to do with creating or destroying zombies!

Thankfully, a variety called Cordyceps militaris has been developed for cultivation that grows on a barley substrate, making it vegan. 

Research shows this cultivated variety has similar benefits to the wild variety and has traditionally been used as an alternative to Cordyceps sinensis in Traditional Chinese Medicine.REF#3218

What are Cordyceps’ Benefits and Traditional Uses?

Cordyceps was traditionally used to support the lungs, kidneys, sexual function, and respiratory function and for weak constitutions.*

Research has confirmed many of these traditional uses, including the use of Cordyceps for:REF#3226

  • Antioxidant and cell support
  • Sexual function
  • Immune function
  • Gut health
  • Energy and stamina
  • Kidney function
  • Liver function
  • And more

More research is needed to understand the potential benefits of Cordyceps.

Who May Benefit from Cordyceps?

Cordyceps is often taken for energy but may also be helpful for those seeking support for immune function, gut health, liver function, kidney function, sexual function, or extra antioxidants.* 

4. Shiitake Mushrooms

What are Shiitake Mushrooms?

Shiitake is one of the best-known and most beloved traditional mushrooms in the West, where it’s primarily used in culinary delights.

In the East, it’s been prized as an immune-supportive tonic for centuries* and has been the subject of various studies.

What are Shiitake’s Benefits and Traditional Uses?

Shiitake is best known for its immune-support properties*. However, it’s also been shown to promote:

  • Cell function via its antioxidant activities
  • Normal cholesterol
  • Heart and cardiovascular function
  • Gut health
  • Inflammatory response
  • And more

Like the other mushrooms mentioned in this article, Shiitake contains various plant compounds such as antioxidants, prebiotics, beta-glucans, and butyric acid, believed to play a role in its potentially beneficial effects.

More research is needed to understand the potential of this ancient mushroom.

Who May Benefit From Shiitake?

Shiitakes are most often consumed for their delicious flavor and to support immunity. 

They may also benefit those seeking support for cardiovascular function, gut health, inflammatory response, and cell function.

5. Maitake Mushrooms

What are Maitake Mushrooms?

Also known as “hen of the woods” or “dancing Mushroom” (In Japanese, mai means dance and take means mushroom), Maitake was highly valued in Japanese and Chinese traditional medicine for the support of the immune system.* 

It was also used as currency during Japan’s feudal era and is a popular culinary ingredient and flavoring due to its rich umami flavor.

What are Maitake’s Benefits and Traditional Uses?

Maitake has been used for thousands of years as an immune tonic, in recipes, and as an adaptogen.

Research has shown several active plant compounds in Maitake, such as beta glucans, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, alkaloids, flavonoids, fatty acids, prebiotics, and polysaccharides may support the following: REF#3227

  • Normal immune regulation
  • Cell Function via its antioxidant compounds
  • Metabolic function
  • Gut microbiota diversity and function
  • Normal cholesterol and lipid function
  • Normal blood pressure

More research is needed to understand the mechanisms of Maitake. However, emerging studies do suggest a wealth of potential benefits.

Who May Benefit From Taking Maitake?

As previously mentioned, Maitake is most commonly sought out for its immune-supportive properties and as a culinary ingredient. 

It may also benefit those seeking natural support for cell function, gut health, cardiovascular function, cholesterol, and metabolism.

6. Turkey Tail Mushrooms

What are Turkey Tail Mushrooms?

As the name suggests, Turkey Tail is a wild mushroom resembling a turkey’s tail. 

Known as a “magic herb,” Turkey Tail has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and other Asian wellness systems for over 2000 years to support immunity, strength, longevity, and overall well-being.

Scientific analysis has identified Polysaccharopeptide (PSP )as the main bioactive component in Turkey Tail.

What are Turkey Tail’s Benefits and Traditional Uses?

Turkey Tail has developed quite a reputation as an immune-supportive mushroom*, partly due to the results of specific studies and its widespread use in China, where there are currently at least 12 Turkey Tail-based drugs approved by the State Administration of Food and Drugs (SAFD) for clinical use.REF#3228

Research has shown Turkey Tail may support: REF#3229 REF#3230 REF#3231

  • Immune regulation
  • Normal blood lipids and cholesterol
  • Normal metabolic function
  • Liver function
  • Gut health
  • Normal inflammatory response

Who May Benefit From Taking Turkey Tail?

Like many other mushrooms listed here, Turkey Tail is primarily used to support immune function and inflammatory response. 

Although more research is needed, it’s also a popular ingredient in cleansing and liver-support formulas. It may benefit those looking to support normal blood lipids, gut health, and metabolism.

7. Chaga Mushrooms

What are Chaga Mushrooms?

Chaga mushrooms, known scientifically as Inonotus obliquus, and as Cinder Conk or Black Massmushroom (which accurately describes its appearance), is traditionally used in Russian and European herbalism to support gastrointestinal function, heart, liver, inflammatory, and immune function.REF#3232

Chaga is typically taken as a powder and is a popular ingredient in modern supplement powders and mushroom coffees.

What are Chaga’s Benefits and Traditional Uses?

Chaga mushrooms contain many active plant constituents, including antioxidants, triterpenoids, melanins, polysaccharides, polyphenols, and flavans. 

However, more research is needed to determine their exact nutritional profile.

Research has shown Chaga may support the following: REF#3233 REF#3234 REF#3235 REF#3236

  • Cell function, via its antioxidants
  • Gut microbiome function and diversity
  • Inflammatory response
  • Immune function
  • Metabolic function
  • Liver function
  • Normal Cholesterol

Who May Benefit From Chaga?

Chaga may offer a wide range of potential benefits for those seeking immune, cardiovascular, metabolic, inflammatory function, and microbiome support.*

It also makes a tasty latte or tea, either alone or combined with other herbs, teas, or coffee, when blended with milk/plant milk and your favorite sweetener.

Are Mushroom Supplements OK for Everyone to Take?

Traditional mushrooms have been taken for thousands of years by millions of people. 

However, they should not be taken by anyone with a mushroom or related allergy and may interact with certain medications.

Check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner before taking mushrooms, especially if you have a pre-existing condition, are taking medications, or have a history of allergic reactions.

How to Choose a High-Quality Mushroom Supplement

A few years ago, finding mushroom supplements (outside your local acupuncturist’s office) was a challenge.

However, the growing awareness about mushrooms’ benefits has created a boom in supplements and supplement companies. You can even find mushroom coffee, chocolate, and other designer mushroom-based functional foods!

Although opinions on this vary, many experts recommend looking for mushroom supplements made from whole fruiting bodies (the flower of the mushroom) versus those extracted from mycelium (the mushroom's roots).

Mushroom extracts from fruiting bodies and mycelium have been studied and shown to provide potential benefits.

However, research has also shown higher concentration of bioactive compounds, such as beta-glucans, in the fruiting bodies.REF#3237

This honors the traditional selection and formulation techniques, resulting in a full-spectrum product.

It’s also essential to look for sustainably sourced, preferably organic mushroom supplements harvested at peak potency, as some varieties, like Chaga, can become endangered if harvested unethically.

High-quality mushroom supplements should also list and guarantee a certain level of Beta Glucans (the main active component in mushrooms) and tell you how much mushroom extract is in the bottle—the higher the concentration, such as 400-450 mg, the more bang for your buck.

How to Start Incorporating Mushrooms into Your Wellness Routine

Mushrooms are wonderfully versatile in that they can be added to recipes or taken as a beverage, tincture, powder, or capsule.

Many choose mushroom supplements, powders, or beverages for convenience and safety (learning to forage mushrooms safely takes time, vigilance, and mentorship).

If you’re interested in taking mushroom supplements, follow the tips above to choose a high-quality product, and always check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner if you have a pre-existing condition, are taking any medications, are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a history of allergic reactions.

If you want to add more mushrooms to your recipes, source them from a reputable supplier who knows their stuff. 

Although rare, ingestion of poisonous mushrooms can result in organ failure, the need for a liver transplant, and even death. So, you want to be sure you’re getting an authentic product.

For more information on foraging mushrooms, see A Beginner’s Guide to Mushroom Foraging: Tips and Resources.

Enjoy in good health!


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