Man grabbing shouldher in pain

4 Promising Functional Mushrooms for Musculoskeletal Pain and Inflammation

Functional mushrooms have become an important trend in the health and beauty market, but they may have much more to offer than just yet another passing fad. Mushrooms appeal to those interested in the multitude of benefits they provide to help manage or prevent health concerns including supporting healthy inflammatory processes.

However, accessible research in the West on their mechanisms of action and pharmacological implications are limited for pain.

Therefore, we have reviewed promising studies and condensed them for you so you can concentrate on what you do best— treating your patients.

4 Mushrooms Worth Researching for Pain and Inflammation Management

mushroom lab

The search for new solutions to manage pain has become a top priority among consumers due to fears of unwanted side effects and/or addiction. This includes age-old mushrooms.

However, there is limited clinical research on macrofungi in the United States for pain and inflammation.

That said, you can speak to their nutritional value for healthy bones, muscles, and joints as well as their powerful bioactivity.

While science is strongest for oncology and immunity, a handful of studies have surfaced that show promise for adjunctive treatment for pain management.

Bioactivity of Functional Mushrooms for Inflammation Control

person massaging wrist

Inflammation is certainly vital for our protection against pathogens and the facilitation of the healing process in the case of injury. However, as you know, inflammation also plays a major role in chronic pain, including neuropathic pain like sciatica.

These involve inflammatory cells (e.g., macrophages), the production of molecules that mediate inflammation (cytokines/interleukins), and the production of nerve growth factor (NGF),” notes Professor Michael Tal of Hebrew University, even when there is no evidence of nerve damage.

This inflammation is what your patients try to keep at bay. Mushrooms may just do that.

Functional mushrooms have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory compounds thanks to their polysaccharide-rich compounds, proteoglycans, terpenoids, phenolic compounds, steroids, and lectins. They have been shown to reduce the production of inflammatory mediators (e.g., cytokines, oxygen free radicals, etc.)

You can tell your patients: Functional or medicinal mushrooms contain compounds that encourage a healthy inflammatory response in the body. .

Top 4 Common Functional Mushrooms for Musculoskeletal Support

functional mushrooms close up

Individual mushrooms also contain specific properties to help balance inflammation as well as secondary properties that can help reduce symptoms associated with muscle and joint pain, including neuralgia.

These are the top 4 mushrooms easily obtainable in most health food stores in the United States, specialized herb stores, or Asian markets.

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) for inflammatory support

Reishi is the dinosaur of the medicinal mushroom world. It is one of the first mushrooms to be used extensively by traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners and Western herbalists alike. And there is no shortage of touted benefits of this mushroom, long since known as “the mushroom of mortality.

Reishi has shown significant anti-inflammatory properties beneficial for:

  • gut health
  • skin health
  • nerve health
  • and the healthy function of muscles and joints

Reishi has also been shown to reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress in the skeletal muscles of mice.

Moreover, it has been shown to stimulate the nerve growth factor (NGF) (If you need a biology refresher, it is the gene responsible for instructing the nerve growth factor beta (NGFβ) protein, which supports the survival and health of neurons). This finding could benefit patients with concerns about neurodegenerative diseases.

While the study was primarily focused on age-related neurodegeneration like Alzheimer’s disease, scientists have taken interest in the NGF for its connection to neuropathic pain.

To use reishi: You can encourage your patients to add reishi powder to a protein shake before a workout or physical therapy exercises to promote quick recovery. Likewise, patients can use MYCO CLINIC topicals to mitigate pain.

Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris) as an adjuvent to pain treatment

Cordyceps closeup banner

You may have heard of the power of cordyceps if you are old enough to have experienced the 1993 Olympics or read the accusations about the Chinese female running team taking steroids to break so many records.

As it turns out, they credited their success to taking cordyceps as part of their nutritional support plan for training. This is attributed to their powerful antioxidants and myriad of other nutrients necessary to support healthy muscles and joints as well as stamina.

The cordymin peptide is also thought to contain antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory properties, which may serve as an adjuvant to conventional pain treatment.

Cordyceps has been proven to enhance exercise performance by upregulating ATP generation pathway to muscle cells.

To use cordyceps: When pain strikes, be sure to offer MYCO CLINIC. Additionally, cordyceps is a great addition to a morning coffee, tea, or shake for patients looking to improve exercise performance, including fending off exercise-induced inflammation. Those who are not comfortable working with powders get the supplement in pill or gummy form. There are also many teas and coffees available on the market with cordyceps already in them, but the dosage will not be consistent in these forms.

Lion's mane (Hericium erinaceus) for neuroprotection and neuroregeneration

lion's mane close up banner

Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) is one of the most popular and fascinating neurotrophics on the market. This white beard-like mushroom has caught the attention of researchers for its potential as an adjunctive treatment for neurogenerative and cognitive impairment like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease thanks to its capacity to stimulate the nerve growth factor (NFS).

The stimulation of the NGF may also help pain sufferers manage or protect against neuropathic pain or facilitate nerve regeneration.

A 2011 study on the treatment of nerve damage published in the Evidence-based Complementary Medicine journal found that the return of hind limb function occurred earlier in rats who were given a daily oral administration of lion’s mane than the control group. The findings suggest that lion’s mane may promote the regeneration of crushed peroneal nerves in the early stages of recovery. Lion’s mane is also known for a myriad of beneficial properties that can protect or support

  • healthy inflammation
  • gut microbiome
  • mood stability
  • And more

All of this and more makes lion’s mane an important superfood to keep in the nutritional medicine cabinet. This combination of benefits may be particularly attractive to fibromyalgia patients experiencing a myriad of symptoms, although the studies are limited on the subject.

To use lion’s mane: You can invite your patients to add the powder to their morning tea or coffee or take a pill or gummy form daily for additional nutrition to promote clarity, focus, and neurohealth. Lion’s mane, known as monkey’s head in East Asian supermarkets, can be purchased for consumption as well.

As we said before, be sure to recommend MYCO CLINIC to your patient to help alleviate pain from the outside.

Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) for healthy inflammation and bone support

Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) is most known to the West for their savory taste in Japanese cuisine, however they are far more than just tasty sushi fillers.

Shiitake extracts have shown the ability to downregulate the gene expressions of proinflammatory mediators, which decreased paw oedema (swelling) in rats.

In another study, shiitake extracts showed anti-inflammatory activity and inhibition of induced nociception in male Swiss mice.

These results show promise for your aging patients concerned about bone and joint degeneration.

Lentinan, a polysaccharide extracted from shiitake mushrooms, has been demonstrated to possess significant anti-inflammatory effects (among other potentially life-improving properties). It shows promise in treating age-related inflammatory diseases like osteoarthritis.

A 2013 study found that shiitake possess bone inducing properties which may ease complications associated with bone disorders such as

  • Osteoporosis (weakened bones)
  • Osteopenia (low bone density)
  • Late complications with diabetes

Their high Vitamin D and calcium content may also contribute to the improvement of bone mineralization, which can help offset symptoms of osteoporosis.

All of these findings suggest that shiitake supplements may be useful for musculoskeletal support for your aging patients.

To use shiitake: Invite your patients to regularly add shiitake to their cuisine for an easy, tasty way to support their health. Just tell them not to overdo it. Too much shiitake can soften stools. For those not interested in eating mushrooms, they can find them in a range of supplement forms including powders, pills, and gummies.


Western research on functional mushrooms is still limited, however the results reveal promise for the next generation of musculoskeletal support. While most of the current studies are in-vivo or animal studies, they show promise for pain and inflammation in humans as well. In fact, East Asian cultures have been using them for thousands of years. Now, they are available on the shelf for consumers to supplement their conventional treatment.

Reishi, shiitake, lion’s mane, and cordyceps are 4 of the most common mushrooms available in supplement form to encourage healthy inflammation, bone density, and healthy nerves.

You can encourage your patients to take them as pills, powders, gummies, or even cook them in a healthy recipe.

Chen S, Li Z, Krochmal R, Abrazado M, Kim W, Cooper CB. Effect of Cs-4 (Cordyceps sinensis) on exercise performance in healthy older subjects: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2010;16(5):585-590. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0226 

El Sheikha AF. Nutritional Profile and Health Benefits of Ganoderma lucidum “Lingzhi, Reishi, or Mannentake” as Functional Foods: Current Scenario and Future Perspectives. Foods. 2022;11(7):1030. Published 2022 Apr 1. doi:10.3390/foods11071030 

Lee GS, Byun HS, Yoon KH, Lee JS, Choi KC, Jeung EB. Dietary calcium and vitamin D2 supplementation with enhanced Lentinula edodes improves osteoporosis-like symptoms and induces duodenal and renal active calcium transport gene expression in mice. Eur J Nutr. 2009;48(2):75-83. doi:10.1007/s00394-008-0763-2 

Li IC, Lee LY, Tzeng TT, et al. Neurohealth Properties of Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Enriched with Erinacines. Behav Neurol. 2018;2018:5802634. Published 2018 May 21. doi:10.1155/2018/5802634 

Ling-Sing Seow S, Naidu M, David P, Wong KH, Sabaratnam V. Potentiation of neuritogenic activity of medicinal mushrooms in rat pheochromocytoma cells. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013;13:157. Published 2013 Jul 4. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-157 

Elsayed EA, El Enshasy H, Wadaan MA, Aziz R. Mushrooms: a potential natural source of anti-inflammatory compounds for medical applications. Mediators Inflamm. 2014;2014:805841. doi:10.1155/2014/805841 

Eunhyun Choi, Junsang Oh & Gi-Ho Sung (2020) Beneficial Effect of Cordyceps militaris on Exercise Performance via Promoting Cellular Energy Production, Mycobiology, 48:6, 512-517, DOI: 10.1080/12298093.2020.1831135 

Saif A, Wende K, Lindequist U. In vitro bone inducing effects of Lentinula edodes (shiitake) water extract on human osteoblastic cell cultures. Nat Prod Bioprospect. 2013;3(6):282-287. Published 2013 Dec 3. doi:10.1007/s13659-013-0070-3 

Tal M. A Role for Inflammation in Chronic Pain. Curr Rev Pain. 1999;3(6):440-446. doi:10.1007/s11916-999-0071-4 

Venturella G, Ferraro V, Cirlincione F, Gargano ML. Medicinal Mushrooms: Bioactive Compounds, Use, and Clinical Trials. Int J Mol Sci. 2021;22(2):634. Published 2021 Jan 10. doi:10.3390/ijms22020634 

Wong KH, Naidu M, David P, et al. Peripheral Nerve Regeneration Following Crush Injury to Rat Peroneal Nerve by Aqueous Extract of Medicinal Mushroom Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae) [published correction appears in Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018 Dec 16;2018:9820769]. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:580752. doi:10.1093/ecam/neq062 

Zhang Y, Gong S, He L, et al. Nerve growth factor for neuropathic pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;2017(11):CD012800. Published 2017 Nov 4. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD012800 

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Zhonghui Z, Xiaowei Z, Fang F. Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides supplementation attenuates exercise-induced oxidative stress in skeletal muscle of mice. Saudi J Biol Sci. 2014;21(2):119-123. doi:10.1016/j.sjbs.2013.04.004 

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