Medicinal mushrooms have been used in traditional and folk medicine for millennia. Check this out:
- In 1991, archeologists discovered a man who had frozen in ice around 3300 BCE. He was carrying 2 difference species of mushrooms – one for starting a fire, and one to fight parasites and infection.
- In ancient Egypt, pharaohs and other high ranking citizens consumed medicinal mushrooms, nicknaming them “sons of the gods”. You can find them in hieroglyphics often depicted as ‘plants of immortality’.
- Chinese medicine texts from as far back as 100 BCE site mushrooms as treatments of cancer, lung disease, and many other illnesses.
- Many ancient Greek and Roman authors, healers, and philosophers wrote about the benefits of medicinal mushrooms.
Fast forward, of course, to the 20th century, and you have Alexander Fleming and penicillin…
And sure, while we may not consider ourselves ancient philosophers or pharaohs, we often celebrate and write about mushrooms and all they have to offer. In our case, though, it’s medicinal mushrooms for dogs.
They’re our slice of fungi pie. (Hmmmm, mushroom pie… that sounds delicious!)
Why? Let us get down in the dirt…
The Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms for Dogs
To start, medicinal mushrooms are rich in a long list of healthy compounds, including:
And together, these properties form a powerhouse team.
But each mushroom is different.
Take chaga and turkey tail as the perfect example…
While chaga mushrooms are often celebrated as one of the highest antioxidant-containing foods on the planet, one of the things we love best about it is that it is an adaptogen. Adaptogens are compounds that help boost the body’s resistance to stress. They do this by supporting the adrenal glands, which are the part of the body responsible for the release of stress hormones.
And that’s incredibly important, particularly because of the number of diseases that have been directly linked to stress (ex. Cushing’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, Addison’s disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety).
Adaptogens also help support blood sugar regulation, inflammation reduction, metabolism regulation, and memory function (that’s really helpful for our senior dogs).
Additionally, because increased stress hormones play havoc on the heart, the gut, and the brain, and because chaga is so helpful for balancing these stress hormones, it has overall health benefits for all of these systems of the body!
Turkey tail mushrooms, on the other hand, contain the impressive polysaccharopeptides Krestin (PSK) and Polysaccharide Peptide (PSP). And these are really helpful for modulating the immune system.
PSP increases a type of white blood cells called monocytes, which help fight infection and boost immunity. PSK helps promote immunity to toxins and regulate the immune response. It also activates specialized white blood cells which protect the body against harmful substances like certain bacteria.
Chaga also loves the organs and has a special affinity for the large organs like the spleen.
It can even reduce Staphylococcus bacteria, a very common bacteria associated with skin disease (you’ve likely heard the term staph infection). It’s commonly found on skin or in the nose. Often animals are put on antibiotics when they have allergies. This is not to address the allergy, but to address the secondary infection on the skin (often times that infection is Staphylococcus).
Rotation, Rotation, Rotation
Now, perhaps you’re thinking “Yes, I love these benefits!” but wondering which option is best.
You’d be in good company – lots of people ask us which one to use.
And our answer is almost always “Both!”
Both are extremely safe to take and work best when taken long term, so adding them in rotation to your animal’s daily diet or supplement routine is encouraged for long term results.
When it comes to your animal’s health, diversity is key. By switching things up and rotating, you’re changing the body’s focus and you’re working with different systems. Like any nutritional food, medicinal mushrooms all target and act differently when you eat them. It’s the same with fruit – apples, blueberries, oranges – they all have similar things (antioxidants, etc.), but you don’t want to eat just one. You want to eat a diverse range to get that whole spectrum of vitamins and minerals and nutritional benefits. The more diversity in the diet, the more protection the body has, and the greater its ability to thrive.
This is why we prefer individual mushroom extracts, rather than a combination product. We like to give the body a chance to take in everything ONE mushroom has to offer, allow it to build on that, then we can offer it something new.
You’re encouraging the body to continually change, rather than just getting used to one thing. Rotating helps maintain the body’s resiliency by detecting and derailing anything that comes up. We want to give it the tools to approach different assaults on the body. Finite differences in each of these mushrooms have a more specific impact on different conditions. And that’s the importance of diversity – we’re giving more diverse foods and allowing the body to use those diverse tools for healing.
Just like you’d rotate proteins when feeding, or probiotics when focusing on gut health, by rotating medicinal mushrooms for dogs you’re giving the body a chance to take in that ancient plant wisdom that comes from the different varieties.
For example, while both turkey tail and chaga mushrooms provide valuable beta-glucans and antioxidants, as mentioned, one of the benefits of turkey tail is that it helps modulate the immune system and one of the benefits of chaga is that it targets stress. By rotating between the two, you’re offering your dog both of these valuable benefits. You don’t want to keep using the same thing over and over. We shouldn’t be and our dogs shouldn’t be either.
For healthy animals, for young animals, for senior animals, when it comes to medicinal mushrooms for dogs, it’s healthy to rotate.