About Sarah Goldstein, BA, CNP

Sarah is a Holistic Nutritionist practicing in Toronto, Canada. She runs a multi-faceted nutrition practice that offers 1:1 nutrition counselling and group coaching along with educational workshops and nutrition programs for the community and corporate clients. She also writes for her blog Twist&Sprout and nutrition articles for other sources. Visit www.sarahgoldstein.ca

Health Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms

The world of medicinal mushrooms is vast, and one which is currently entering the forefront of the health and nutrition industry. The immense benefit that mushrooms hold have been acknowledged for centuries, used in traditional medicine’s and fundamental to many healing practices. Today, the research on these health benefits is only increasing and the many applications of such mushrooms are being discovered daily!

Mushrooms are generally high in antioxidants and depending on the species, have various other health benefits. The main medicinal mushrooms that we see at the health food store are: Reishi, Cordyceps, Chaga and Lion’s Mane. They each hold their own unique nutritional composition and are useful for a variety of health concerns.


Reishi was named the mushroom of immortality. Reishi is highlighted for its defence against the immune system, providing antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. Reishi is also an adaptogenic herb, and balances the hormonal system to lower cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body. In relation to this, Reishi helps to relieve nervousness, increase energy and improve sleep quality. Reishi is also known to help with arthritis, cholesterol, blood sugar and heart health. There are many strains of reishi, Japanese red reishi being one of the most potent, most effectively cultivated and extracted. The process includes cultivating the mushrooms in dense soil for over a year and extracting the benefits of the fruiting body using hot water, which extracts the nutrients and polysaccharides leaving behind the unnecessary fibre and undigestible parts.


Cordyceps is another adaptogenic mushroom and helps to balance energy levels throughout the day. Cordyceps work to increase ATP, which are the coenzymes that transport energy into the cells, which means more energy overall. Cordyceps also increase oxygen level intake and can help with those who have respiratory conditions and high performance athletes.


Chaga is also an adaptogen, helping the body adapt and react appropriately to stress. It is also known as an “anti-cancer” herb, and is used as a potent anti-oxidant. Another natural immune booster, chaga also helps to improve the immune system, fight bacterial and viral infections and works to nourish hair, skin and nails.


Lion’s main is a great natural brain-boosting mushroom. It has been shown to increase cognitive function, memory, creativity and helps to improve concentration. The active ingredient in Lion’s Man stimulates NGF ( Nerve Growth Factors), which are important for neural and overall brain functioning.

Mushrooms are a great way to provide the body with extra support. No matter what your health goals are, mushrooms are a great addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle and a wonderful way to optimize wellness!

Reishi and Immune Health

Immune support is a very important topic, and one that pertains to most people. In North America, the average person spends 15 days with the cold or flu and takes 6.4 days off of work due to the symptoms. The role of the immune system is to protect the body against foreign pathogens (aka invaders) and a healthy immune system is one that does this effective and efficiently.

There are many factors that affect the workings of a healthy immune system and this system can be strengthened through a mix of diet, supplementation, herbs and lifestyle habits.

Firstly, it is a great start to eat a diet rich in colour, fermented foods, whole grains, nuts, seeds, lean proteins, healthy fats, low in sugar and including speciality foods such as citrus, garlic, ginger, turmeric and raw honey. Secondly, lifestyle habits such as managing stress, improving mood, improving sleep and exercising regularly all have drastic effects on immune health. Lastly, it is important to look at the products that can supplement a healthy diet and lifestyle providing extra help and support, especially during times of need. Vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc and selenium offer great support, as well as medicinal mushrooms such as Red Reishi, which will be the focus here.

Medicinal mushrooms are a great supplement option and contain some of the most potent immuno-supportive agents. The benefits of mushrooms are varied and complex, offering support to the entire immune system. Top of this list is Red Reishi, which contains many bio active components that have a proactive effect on the immune system to ward of illness and infection.

Anti-Viral, Anti-Bacterial and Anti-Microbial

One of the main ways that Red Reishi helps to support the immune system is to kill viruses, bacteria and microbes before they proliferate and cause infection. A strong immune system is one that prevents infection and sometimes the body needs a little extra support in doing so. Red Reishi is proven to inhibit the infection of herpes simplex (cold sores), herpes zoster (shingles), influenza, epstein-Barr virus (mononucleosis) and hepatitis B. Red Reishi compounds directly bind to these viruses and interfere with the way the viruses attach to healthy cells in the human body. These profound effects offer great hope and can be used within the comprehensive treatment of such illnesses.

Red Reishi and Immune Cells

Red Reishi also has a direct effect on cells of the immune system. Polysaccharides found specifically in Reishi activate the body’s own immune cells to attack harmful and foreign invading cells. Red Reishi also boosts the function of specific cells called dendritic cells, which help other immune cells recognize and then destroy foreign invaders. Red Reishi also promotes the development of B cells and T cells, which are both involved in production of the body’s own antibodies. Lastly, Red Reishi helps with the development of Natural Killer (NK) cells that specifically target foreign invading cells. Red Reishi is very effective at modulating the immune system and increasing the body’s own defence mechanism, and for this reason is effective to use as a preventative measure.

Anti-inflammatory Properties

Lastly, Red Reishi contains many bioactive sterol-like components that have anti-inflammatory properties and when taken regularly can lower inflammatory response in the body. Red Reishi is also known to inhibit histamine, the chemical responsible for allergic reactions and symptoms such as runny nose, watery eyes, hives etc. Studies show that Red Reishi extracts can work equally as well as steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, with lower side effects.

Red Reishi can be part of a holistic plan to boost and strengthen immune health. Including a Red Reishi supplement is a safe way to provide your body with extra support and can be effective in the prevention of disease, infection and even used as part of the treatment.

Superfood Red Reishi Chai Latte

This warming and soothing latte is high in antioxidants and a powerful drink to boost immune system, balance blood sugar and provide a natural energy throughout the day!

  • 1 bag of chai tea steeped in 1/2 cup pure water
  • 1 cup almond milk or coconut milk, heated just before boiling 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp raw honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 capsule Mikei Red Reishi, opened
  • 1/2 tbsp maca


Add all ingredients together in a blender while hot. Make sure the blender can withstand high heat. Blend together and enjoy

Reishi Hot Chocolate

This recipe helps to boost energy, while balances blood sugar levels to minimize any crash that comes along with coffee or sugary drinks. This drink is also anti-inflammatory and helps to boost the immune system. This is a great replacement for a morning coffee, or wonderful for an afternoon pick-me-up!


  • 3 tbsp raw cacao
  • 2 cups almond milk or coconut milk, heated just before boiling
  • 1 capsule Mikei Red Reishi, opened
  • 1 tbsp hemp hearts
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp raw honey


Blend all ingredients together in a blender. Make sure the blender can withstand high heat as the milk should be warm. Enjoy!

Red Reishi for the Holidays

The holiday season can be a wonderful time of joy, however can also be a time of stress when typical eating habits are thrown off. This time of year often includes many parties, late nights, cocktails, sweet treats, an off-set routine and indulgent dinners. I see many of my clients looking for ways to stay healthy over the holidays and to prevent feeling bloated, tired, stick, stressed and too-full come January 1st. Amongst various dietary, supplement and lifestyle recommendations, one of my favourites is Japanese Red Reishi mushroom.

Red Reishi mushrooms has been used in traditional eastern medicine for over 4000 years and was highly regarded for it’s vast therapeutic application. Today, Reishi is studied within a western context and the amazing benefits are continually discovered. I love recommending Japanese Red Reishi for prevention, or as part of a holistic treatment plan for certain diseases. Red Reishi is exceptional at supporting the body when the body needs it most and can help with the various concerns that most people have throughout this time of year.

Firstly, Red Reishi is considered an adaptogen, which means it helps the body “adapt” to life stressors. Adaptogens help to regulate and moderate stress responses. Since stress is related to many other functions of the body including immune, cardiovascular and hormonal, adaptogens minimize the affect stress has on these other systems. Red Reishi is also known to have a slight relaxing effect too, which also helps to decrease stress. As a bi-product of reducing stress, Red Reishi also modulates and improves energy. The adaptogenic effect of this mushroom makes it the perfect product to include during the holidays.

Red Reishi also contains anti-inflammatory properties and can have a direct effect on blood sugar. It is common to indulge in food and drinks during this time of year and that is not necessarily a bad thing. However, some of the foods that people consume can be inflammatory to the body. This means it may be difficult to digest, may contain food allergies or sensitivities and maybe high in sugar and unhealthy fats. Including anti-inflammatory food and supplements help to offset any negative affects of these pro-inflammatory foods. Furthermore, including Japanese Red Reishi can potentially help to lower blood sugar, which helps to balance out the sugary food and drinks.

Lastly, Red Reishi is also wonderful for immune support. No one wants to be sick over the holidays and as winter is typically the cold and flu season, Red Reishi can help to boost immune functions during this time. Red Reishi is best used preventatively as certain components increase and enhance antibodies to fight bacteria and viruses.

Red Reishi is typically a superior product due to the high standards in growing, harvesting and production. For Reishi, it is optimal for it to be produced in a greenhouse, not a lab and harvested at peak time. Since it is a growing food item, organic is very important. The product should also only contain the therapeutic aspect of the mushroom, which is the concentrated extract. Lastly, when comparing supplements, it is important to look for a high ratio and high content of extract.

Including certain supplements over the holidays, such as Red Reishi, truly allows you to enjoy this time of year and all the happiness that surrounds it. Here is to a happy and healthy holiday season!