Mushrooms make a delicious addition to your favorite recipes, but did you know they can also be great for your skin? Medicinal mushrooms have been an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, but Western cultures are only just beginning to realize the healing potential of these humble but mighty fungi.
From the familiar packages you pick up on your weekly grocery run to exotic specimens that look like they came from bottom of the ocean, mushrooms are packed with compounds that can benefit your whole body. If your goal is healthier, more radiant skin, it’s time to make friends with these four ‘shroomy superheroes.
Mushroom Benefits for Skin
Let’s start with the king of antioxidants: chaga. Chaga mushrooms grow on trees, appearing as hard, rocklike protrusions. They may not be pretty, but these unusual mushrooms pack more antioxidant power than any of the most popular “superfoods.” (Sorry, acai and goji.)
Antioxidants protect all body systems and organs – including your skin – from free radical damage. If left unchecked, free radicals can damage skin cells and accelerate the aging process. One particular type, known as superoxide radicals, can negatively affect cellular DNA by encouraging iron oxidation. But it’s chaga to the rescue with a potent antioxidant called superodixe dismutaste (SOD), which combats superoxide radicals to restore balance, protect your skin and keep you looking young.†
If you want to get the most antioxidant bang for your chaga buck, look for a dual-extracted preparation. Dual extraction draws out both water- and alcohol-soluble compounds to give you the greatest benefit from medicinal mushrooms. You can also use dried chaga powder to make a tasty coffee alternative or try topical skin creams containing chaga extract.
Good news if you love Asian food: Shiitake mushrooms can do wonders for your skin! These familiar long-stemmed, broad-capped mushrooms contain kojic acid, which inhibits the formation of melanin. Melanin is responsible for skin pigmentation, but having too much concentrated in particular areas makes your skin appear mottled or blotchy. The kojic acid in shiitakes can help reduce the appearance of sun spots, acne scars and other unwanted marks.†
Shiitakes can help your skin from the inside out, too. They contain lentinan, which may have hepatoprotective properties. How does this help you have healthier skin? The liver is your major organ of detoxification. When it’s healthy, your body is better able to get rid of the waste generated from normal metabolic processes and chemicals encountered in daily life.†
Unlike some medicinal mushrooms, shiitakes are completely edible in their fresh form. Sautee them with a little rice vinegar, toss them in a stir fry or dehydrate them into mushroom “jerky” for a delicious way to boost skin health. In powdered form, shiitakes add depth of flavor to broth, salad dressings and even smoothies.
No list of skin-healthy mushrooms would be complete without tremella. This ripped, jellylike fungi is used in traditional Chinese medicine to promote clear, healthy skin, and today we know why. Polysaccharide compounds in the mushroom are able to hold up to 500 times their weight in water, making tremella a true hydration powerhouse.†
When used topically, tremella “plumps” your skin without the harshness of the chemicals found in many skin care products. You also get the benefit of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. These keeping your skin looking healthier by preventing damage, sensitivity, swelling and itching.†
Get the benefits of tremella from skin creams, or use fresh tremella in recipes. It’s not the biggest ‘shroomy delicacy, but it does add a unique, chewy texture to soups and salads.
There’s a lot of power hiding in the slender white stalks and delicate round caps of enoki mushrooms, including:
- Vitamin D to combat skin inflammation†
- Antioxidant ergothioneine to reduce sun damage†
- Proflanin and flammulin, polysaccharides with immune support properties†
Because both low vitamin D levels and excessive sun exposure can cause your skin to age faster, the enoki mushroom makes a doubly powerful ally. The support for your immune system is an added bonus. Having a strong immune system can reduce your risk for cancer, including skin cancers like melanoma.†
Enoki mushrooms are deliciously versatile. Enjoy them sautéed, steamed, with noodles, in soup or smothered in a flavorful Asian sauce. For more mushroom power, add topical preparations featuring enoki extracts to your anti-aging skin care regimen.
The best part about using mushrooms for skin health? It’s easy to get started. Mushrooms are readily available fresh, dried, powdered and in extract form. The highest-quality products come from fruiting bodies, the familiar “caps” and other visible parts of mushrooms. Remember: Dual-extracted liquids have the highest amounts of beneficial compounds regardless of mushroom type.
Talk with your doctor if you have a medical condition or are pregnant or nursing before making medicinal mushrooms part of your skincare regimen.
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.
Don't miss out on mushrooms in your skincare routine! Try these products to get started: