Something in between a plant and animal, fungi are a kingdom all their own. And what a kingdom it is! Known to us are over 140,000 different fungi species, a mere 10% have been studied in depth by mycologists (mushroom scientists). Weird mushrooms thrive across the globe. The largest living organism in the world (a resident of Oregon) is a single honey mushroom system stretching over three square miles and is roughly 2,200 years old! 
Mycelium, the root system of fungi, often connects trees together by their roots to help them share nutrients and arboreal information in a sort of “wood wide web.” There’s truly no shortage of strange and cool mushrooms out there. Some are deadly, some are deleterious (like the humongous fungus mentioned above), some are delicious.
Like, crazy delicious.
Not only that, but many of the most bizarre and weird mushrooms out there also provide a diverse and powerful array of health benefits.
In this blog, we’ll be looking under the caps, so to speak, of some seriously cool mushrooms with seriously good benefits, plus where to get them in supplement form. You know… to save you from scavenging and picking your own. (Which—all jokes aside—is NOT a good idea, since many edible mushrooms have poisonous doppelgängers!)
1. Lion’s Mane
These cool mushrooms get their name from the wild, shaggy fibers purling down like a lion’s mane. To me, it also looks a little like a depressed sea anemone. Certainly one of the grade-A weird mushrooms, lion’s mane is one of the best fungi you can feast on.
May help prevent dementia
Lion’s mane mushrooms are shown to protect our brain health, notably by defending against neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. This is because lion’s mane actually helps us grow new nerve and brain cells. 
Helps reduce stress, anxiety & depression
Beyond improving cognitive function, lion’s mane mushrooms also have adaptogenic properties, which help us to reduce stress and anxiety, and appear to fight depression. This is because the compounds in lion’s mane seem to help with neurogenesis in the hippocampus.  That is, they have compounds that regenerate neurons in the part of the brain responsible for memory and emotional response.
Fights inflammation and oxidation
Inflammation and oxidative stress are some of the worst and most common offenders of human health. Thank goodness for weird mushrooms like lion’s mane, which boasts powerful anti-inflammatories and antioxidants that help fight common, tragic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and liver damage. [4, 5]
2. Oyster Mushrooms
Oyster mushrooms are a testament to how familiar-looking yet still weird mushrooms can be. They’re one of the most identifiable in today’s strange-mushrooms breakdown. Oyster mushrooms look like, well, actual oysters! But they’re more appetizing in appearance, if not by much. Luckily, oysters offer some incredible benefits.
Absorbable protein & essential nutrients
Certain species of oyster mushrooms can have up to 30% complete proteins, and are the most digestible mushroom variety, according to Christopher Hobbs, PhD.  They also have vitamin B12; not to the useful quantity as meat, but still a great source for vegans and vegetarians who aren’t afraid to eat these weird mushrooms by the forkful.
Oysters are a plentiful source of ergothioneine, a powerful dietary antioxidant, known to reduce systemic inflammation. In fact, oysters are among the best sources of this incredible antioxidant. [7, 8]
Chalk oysters up on the list of cool mushrooms now, because they really help to support our immune response. That’s because they’re rich in polysaccharides that help arm our body with strengthened immune and inflammatory responses.  ⚔️
If your knowledge of mushrooms extends beyond the usual store shrooms—shiitake, creminis, and portobellos (points if you knew portobellos and creminis are the same mushroom)—then you may have heard of cordyceps. Despite their reputation for being incredibly healthy (and delicious), these cool mushrooms cost me an uncool $20-30 a pound when I do find them. But for many people, the flavor and benefits are worth every penny.
Abundance of bioactivity
To say cordyceps are healthy is an understatement. Each serving of these strange mushrooms bolsters your body with an army of anti-basically-everything-bad activity.  Properties of cordyceps include:
- Immune protection
- Anti-fungal (irony much?)
So, yeah… Eat cordyceps.
4. Morel Mushrooms
You can’t find more strange mushrooms than morels—at least as far as weird mushrooms you can safely eat. They look something like sponges. Or maybe some extraterrestrial space salad. 👽🖖 That actually makes sense; they’re flavor and health benefits are out of this world. (Sorry, couldn’t pass one up.)
French cuisine is some of the most renowned the world over. And in the world of French cuisine, morels are one of the most renowned mushrooms. Sure, they may be the most strange mushrooms on the menu, but these flavorful fungi have a delicious and delicate, nutty flavor that begs for savory exubérance.
Supports liver health
A 2013 study from India showed that morel mycelium could play a significant role as a hepatoprotector, fighting liver damage.  I don’t know about you, but considering all the wine I’ve been drinking during quarantine, these healthy albeit weird mushrooms are topping my grocery list.
Morels, more than a lot of other mushrooms, have a hefty dietary fiber makeup. Fiber, of course, is important to our health and digestion.  This improved gut health can help you prevent the onset of health problems such as indigestion, constipation, bloating, and weight gain.
5. Reishi Mushrooms
Last on our list of strange mushrooms is also one of the most cool mushrooms, at least in terms of medicinal properties. Reishi mushrooms have been a staple in Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years, though, like all medicinal mushrooms, have been overlooked in the West. Here are my top reasons to add these miracle mushies to your grocery list.
Our immune system is our best defense against viruses, bacterial, harmful fungal infections, and a nearly innumerable blitz of other diseases. Despite being very strange mushrooms (or because of it), reishis work wonders in boosting our cellular immunity, antigen-presenting cells, humoral immunity, and more. 
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for American men and women, accountable for one in every four deaths, according to the CDC.  Adding reishi mushrooms to your weekly diet can help counter cardiovascular issues by increasing HDL—the good cholesterol—and decreasing triglycerides. 
Reishi mushrooms have been shown time and again in studies to contain notable anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties. So much so that reishi compounds are being studied for treatment efficacy. Reishi mushrooms help boost white blood cell count, which increases the body’s immune response to cancer.  A five-year study is set to conclude at the end of this year using a synthetic reishi compound in the treatment of stage IV metastatic breast cancer.  For many, these studies mark the beginning of the end of the Eastern/Western medical divide.
Mushroom Powder Supplements To Try
In the same way that different plants have different health benefits, different mushrooms broaden our nutrient intake. Eating a variety of mushrooms is important, with the more exotic or strange mushrooms often provide the most benefit.
For this reason, mushroom powders are becoming an increasingly popular option for people looking to hack their physical and mental health. Searching for the perfect powder can be overwhelming, so I thought I’d share the two mushroom powders I use regularly.
My go-to, hands down. Here’s why: Skinny Fit Beauty Juice contains my top three of the five strange mushrooms listed above (lion’s mane, cordyceps, reishi) and it also contains 33 ADDITIONAL superfoods, probiotics, and anti-aging ingredients. Beauty Juice’s anti-inflammatories and antioxidants help to support those found in its medicinal mushrooms. The result is a well-balanced increase in my energy, mood & focus, and gut health. Oh, and I haven’t been sick in… I forget. (True story.)
DIY Mushroom Powder
To diversify my mushroom intake (or when Beauty Juice sells out—which is often… ugh!) I’ll make my own mushroom powder. I buy about three pounds of mushrooms a week anyway, so I just dehydrate the ones I don’t think I’ll get to. A few rounds in the food processor later and I’ve got a custom mushroom powder to add to smoothies, yogurts, or healthy energy bites. This can get super pricey, but it’s worth trying if you A) buy a shiitake-load of mushrooms every week 🙋🏼♂️ or B) love embarking on new culinary quests. 🧙♂️
Oh, and if you’re interested in learning more about the unbelievable power of weird mushrooms, your life will change by watching Fantastic Fungi: How Mushrooms Can Heal, Shift Consciousness, and Save the Planet.
Mentioned In This Post
Beauty Juice Red Superfood Powder
Beauty Juice is a delicious adaptogenic, anti-inflammatory superfood blend containing all of your essential daily nutrients in one simple, açai-flavored scoop!