Exploring Native BC Medicinal Mushrooms

March 18, 2024 | Dr. Silvana Jakupovic, ND

In the dense, lush forests of British Columbia (BC), a hidden world of natural medicine thrives underfoot. Medicinal mushrooms, an integral part of global herbal traditions, have found a unique and rich representation in the ecosystems of BC. 

As we approach BC Day, a time to celebrate the province's natural beauty and cultural heritage, it's fitting to turn our attention to these organisms. Not only do they offer a connection to the earth's healing powers, but they also serve as a bridge between ancient practices and modern science. 

What are the Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms in BC?


 Chaga Health Benefits

Turkey Tail Health Benefits

Cordyceps Health Benefits

Maitake Health Benefits

Oyster Health Benefits


The Rich Forests and Wild Mushrooms in BC

British Columbia's natural landscapes are as varied as they are majestic. From the rain-soaked coastal temperate rainforests to the dry, pine-clad interior, each ecosystem boasts its unique characteristics. These diverse environments are home to a multitude of plant and animal species, but among the most intriguing and least visible are the region's medicinal mushrooms.

Mushrooms, often overlooked, play a crucial role in the forest's ecology. They are great decomposers, breaking down organic matter and returning vital nutrients to the soil. This ecological process is the foundation upon which forests thrive. BC's climate, characterized by wet winters and warm summers, creates an ideal habitat for a wide variety of fungal species. In these woods, mushrooms of all shapes, sizes, and colours flourish, many possessing notable medicinal properties.

bc forest

Holistic Health with BC Mushrooms: Medicinal Mushroom Benefits

For centuries, these fungi have been a source of food, medicine, and even spiritual significance for the indigenous peoples of BC. They have recognized and utilized the medicinal properties of these mushrooms long before modern science began to uncover their benefits. Today, we find that these traditional beliefs are supported by scientific research.

Chaga Mushrooms in British Columbia: Chaga Mushroom Benefits

The Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) is known for its impressive antioxidant capabilities, potentially offering protection against oxidative stress and lowering the risk of various chronic conditions. Research indicates that Chaga is abundant in antioxidants like phenols, flavonoids, and melanin. These compounds are effective in neutralizing free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS), playing a crucial role in maintaining cellular health [2,3]. 

Additionally, Chaga appears to boost the body's antioxidant defences by enhancing the function of enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase. These enzymes are vital in breaking down harmful ROS, thus preventing cell damage [4]. Moreover, the antioxidant effect of Chaga may also stem from its ability to suppress the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines like tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), which are known contributors to oxidative stress [5].

Turkey Tail Mushrooms BC: Turkey Tail Mushroom Immunity

The Turkey Tail mushroom, scientifically known as Trametes versicolor, is recognized as an immune-supporting mushroom, particularly due to its rich concentration of polysaccharides like beta-glucans [6]. These beta-glucans are known to stimulate immune cells, including macrophages and natural killer cells, aiding the body in its defence against infections.

Beyond beta-glucans, the Turkey Tail mushroom is also home to other immune-supportive compounds. Notably, polysaccharide-K (PSK) and polysaccharopeptide (PSP) derived from this mushroom have demonstrated immune-modulating properties [7]. These compounds have shown promise in enhancing immune responses, with notable effectiveness in clinical studies involving cancer patients [7].

Additionally, the Turkey Tail mushroom is a source of potent antioxidants, such as ergothioneine [8]. These antioxidants play a crucial role in safeguarding the immune system against oxidative stress, further underscoring the mushroom's potential as a supportive agent for immune health. 

Cordyceps in British Columbia: Cordyceps Energy Boost

The Cordyceps mushroom (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) is well-known in Chinese medicine for its adaptogenic properties, which are believed to assist the body in managing both physical and mental stress. A key aspect of Cordyceps' potential benefits lies in its ability to boost energy levels. 

This mushroom contains adenosine, an integral part of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is the primary energy currency of the body. Research suggests that Cordyceps can enhance ATP production, potentially leading to increased energy and reduced fatigue [9]. Additionally, Cordyceps has been observed to improve the efficiency of oxygen utilization by augmenting oxygen delivery to cells, a process that can further amplify energy production [10].

Maitake Mushrooms BC: Maitake Health Properties

The Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa) shows promise as an enhancer of metabolism, potentially aiding in weight loss and management. Research indicates that extracts from the Maitake mushroom can improve lipid metabolism, the process by which the body breaks down and utilizes fats for energy [11,12]. This effect is partly due to Maitake's activation of key enzymes like lipase and carnitine palmitoyltransferase-1 (CPT-1), which play a role in the breakdown and transportation of fatty acids for energy production [13]. 

Additionally, Maitake is rich in beta-glucans, a type of soluble fibre known to decelerate carbohydrate absorption in the intestines. This leads to lower blood sugar levels and less insulin resistance, which can prevent excess glucose from being stored as fat and support the maintenance of healthy blood sugar levels [14].

Oyster Mushroom Health Benefits: Antioxidant-Rich Mushrooms

The Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus), a popular edible variety, has garnered attention for its potential role in blood sugar regulation. This mushroom's efficacy in this area might be largely attributed to its rich beta-glucan content. Beta-glucans are known for their hypoglycemic properties, enhancing insulin sensitivity and facilitating glucose absorption [15].

Beyond beta-glucans, the Oyster mushroom also boasts components like lovastatin. Research indicates that lovastatin is beneficial in managing diabetes, as it has been observed to enhance glucose metabolism and diminish insulin resistance, particularly evidenced in studies involving diabetic mice [16]. bc forest mushroom walk

BC Natural Remedies: Medicinal Mushroom Uses by Indigenous Communities

The relationship between British Columbia's indigenous communities and medicinal mushrooms is rich and storied. These communities have long recognized and utilized the healing powers of these natural resources, integrating them into their healthcare practices.

The use of mushrooms by First Nations peoples in BC is deeply interwoven with their understanding of the land and its ecosystems. For example, the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en peoples have used Chaga for generations, often as a remedy for stomach ailments and to boost immunity, especially during the harsh winter months [1].

These practices highlight a deep understanding and respect for the natural world. The indigenous peoples of BC not only used these mushrooms as medicines but also as a way to maintain a harmonious balance with their environment. Their traditional knowledge passed down through generations, is a testament to the enduring relationship between humans and the natural world, offering valuable insights into sustainable living and natural health.

BC Day Celebrations: Medicinal Fungi in British Columbia

BC Day offers a perfect opportunity to celebrate the province's rich natural heritage, including its medicinal mushrooms. Here are some ways to incorporate these natural wonders into the festivities:

Educational Walks and Workshops: Participate in guided mushroom foraging tours or workshops. These events are great for learning about local species, their uses, and sustainable harvesting.

Mushroom Cuisine: Incorporate medicinal mushrooms into your BC Day menu. Whether it’s a Chaga tea or a Maitake-infused dish, these ingredients can add a unique local flavour.

Community Events: Look for local BC Day events focusing on natural history or Indigenous practices involving medicinal mushrooms.

Share Knowledge: Use the occasion to educate friends and family about the importance of these mushrooms. Share recipes, and experiences, or even organize a small informational session.

Healing Mushrooms: Canada’s Eco-Diversity

Exploring British Columbia’s native medicinal mushrooms reveals a world of natural wonder and ancient wisdom. As we celebrate BC Day, it’s important to recognize and appreciate these natural resources that contribute significantly to the province’s cultural and ecological fabric.

On BC Day, let us not only celebrate the beauty and diversity of British Columbia but also commit to preserving its natural wonders. By learning about and responsibly engaging with medicinal mushrooms, we honour the land and its gifts, ensuring that these treasures can be enjoyed by generations to come.


Related Articles

• Oyster Mushroom: Benefits and Uses for a Healthier Life

• Red Mushroom Wonders: A Comprehensive Guide

• Medicinal Mushrooms for Acne: 3 Types to Add to Your Skin Routine



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