We get a lot of questions about the benefits medicinal mushrooms can provide to people with diabetes.
After looking through the latest research on the topic, we compiled a list of adaptogenic mushrooms diabetics (and, really, anyone) can benefit from.
Read on for a deep dive into the best mushrooms for diabetes and how they can help you stay healthy.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes (Diabetes mellitus) is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects your body’s ability to turn food (more specifically carbohydrates and sugars) into energy.
A healthy body breaks down carbohydrates into sugars and releases those sugars into the bloodstream. The pancreas then releases insulin, a peptide hormone that allows the cells to absorb the sugar and use it for energy.
People with diabetes don’t produce enough (or any) insulin or have trouble using the insulin properly, depending on the type of diabetes.
Patients with type 1 don't produce any (or not enough) insulin, while those with type 2 produce some but the body can’t use it properly (they become insulin resistant). Therefore, the sugars can’t get into the cells and provide energy to the body.
Newly diagnosed diabetes (especially type 1 diabetes in children) presents as an increase in hunger and thirst, the frequent need to urinate, dry skin, and weight loss. All of these symptoms will subside once a person starts taking insulin.
Still, if a person with the illness doesn’t keep track of their diabetes treatment or restrict their sugar intake, they can develop long-term complications, such as:
- eye problems
- slower wound healing
- nerve pain and damage
- skin infections
- kidney issues
- diabetic ketoacidosis
Traditional Diabetes Treatment Options
People living with diabetes have to keep track of their diet and take diabetes medication to manage their illness. The diabetes diet is low-carb (it’s integral to avoid foods with a high glycemic index) and lower in calories, as weight gain can exacerbate symptoms of diabetes.
Diabetes care also includes continuous glucose monitoring and insulin shots. Some diabetes patients opt for an insulin pump, a device that tracks your blood sugar levels and pumps insulin into your body when you need it.
Can Mushrooms Help With Diabetes?
Yes, various medicinal mushrooms seem to be beneficial for diabetes management. Mushrooms are generally low in calories and carbohydrates, and high in antioxidants, vitamin B12, and protein.
While it’s smart to consume any commercially available mushroom if you have diabetes (shiitake mushrooms and white button mushrooms, for example), a few adaptogenic fungi really stand out when it comes to anti-diabetic potential:
Lion’s Mane Mushrooms for Diabetes
Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) is an edible mushroom that’s been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. This mushroom is often praised for its ability to fight cancer and benefit overall mental health.
However, compounds found in Hericium erinaceus also have anti-diabetic potential, and this mushroom appears to improve blood sugar levels and prevent neuropathy, a common symptom of long-term diabetes.
The Hypoglycemic Potential of Lion’s Mane
Several studies suggest that lion’s mane mushroom extract may be able to lower blood glucose levels.
For example, an in vitro study examined the effects ofHericium erinaceus on blood sugar levels. Lion’s mane fruiting bodies had an α-glucosidase inhibitory activity, meaning that they exhibited the potential to lower blood sugar levels.
An animal study conducted in 2013 came to a similar conclusion. The researchers looked at the effect ofHericium erinaceus on diabetic rats. Results show that this mushroom improved blood sugar levels, at least in animals that exhibit diabetes, after 28 days of use.
Lion’s Mane and Diabetes-Related Neuropathic Pain
Taking a lion’s mane mushroom supplement may be able to improve symptoms of diabetes, such as nerve pain. A study investigated the effects ofHericium erinaceus on diabetic neuropathy in laboratory rats. Results show that the lion’s mane extract may be able to offer pain relief and aid in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy, at least in animals.
Oyster Mushrooms for Diabetes
Oyster mushrooms can be quite beneficial for diabetes patients. Due to the high protein and low carb content, this mushroom doesn’t spike insulin levels.
A human study looked into the anti-diabetic potential of oyster mushrooms. Eighty-nine diabetic subjects were given an oyster mushroom extract for a week, then paused for a week, and took the extract again for a week.
Results show that blood glucose levels were significantly lower during the two weeks the subjects were taking the extract. This warrants further research into the potential of oyster mushrooms when it comes to improving insulin sensitivity and lowering blood glucose levels.
Chaga Mushrooms for Diabetes
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is one of the healthiest mushrooms you can consume. It's been proven to aid in fighting cancer (especially liver cancer and digestive system cancers) and appears to improve insulin resistance in people with diabetes.
According to animal studies, chaga mushrooms have incredible anti-diabetic properties. A 2017 study examined the effects of Inonotus obliquus polysaccharides in streptozotocin-induced diabetes in diabetic mice and the potential mechanisms of its antidiabetic effects.
The mice were fed a high-fat diet and given 900 mg of chaga extract. The researchers examined the effect of Inonotus obliquus polysaccharide on resting blood glucose levels, which reduced significantly after taking chaga.
Although further research is needed, activating the PI3K-Akt pathway could be the potential mechanism behind the hypoglycemic effects of chaga. This pathway promotes metabolism and cell growth, and its damage is closely associated with type 2 diabetes.
Reishi Mushrooms for Diabetes
The reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is known for its anti-cancer benefits, as it’s one of the best mushrooms you can consume for bladder cancer. But, did you know this mushroom also has incredible anti-diabetic potential?
The reishi mushroom appears to improve insulin resistance, according to a 2019 study review. This study review examined the anti-diabetic potential of mushrooms from the Ganoderma genus with an emphasis on Ganoderma lucidum.
The reishi mushroom improved insulin resistance in obese diabetic mice after four weeks of use. Ganoderma polysaccharides appear to stabilize levels of insulin by regulating hepatic glucose regulatory enzymes (liver enzymes that balance blood glucose levels).
Maitake Mushrooms for Diabetes
Grifola frondosa (maitake mushroom) is a low-calorie adaptogenic fungus with known hypoglycemic potential.
In addition to lowering blood sugar levels (at least in diabetic animals), maitake mushrooms also appear to alleviate immune function problems related to diabetes.
A 2015 study compared the effects of Grifola frondosa on diabetic and non-diabetic mice. While there were no significant changes in blood glucose levels of healthy mice, the maitake fungus alleviated blood glucose increase post-meal in diabetic mice.
Cordyceps Mushrooms for Diabetes
Cordyceps is a potent medicinal mushroom, often praised for its benefits for cancer patients and energy-boosting potential.
Anecdotal evidence and scientific research suggest that this mushroom can also aid in blood sugar control and lower the incidence and severity of diabetic nephropathy, a common side effect of diabetes.
Although more human research is needed, cordyceps mushrooms appear to stabilize glucose metabolism in animals. Both Cordyceps militaris and Cordyceps sinensis provide anti-diabetic activity, which could be beneficial for preventing and managing diabetes.
Cordyceps Militaris and Glycemic Control
Cordycepin, a compound found in cordyceps, appears to lower blood sugar levels in alloxan-induced diabetic mice. A 2015 animal study examined the hyperglycemic effects of Cordyceps militaris.
The mice that were given cordyceps water extracts had a lower blood glucose level compared to those that didn’t receive the treatment.
These results suggest that cordycepin, in particular, had a beneficial effect on glucose absorption and could be used as a therapeutic agent in the treatment of diabetes.
Cordyceps Sinensis and Blood Sugar Levels
An animal study looked at the hypoglycemic activities of polysaccharides found in the cultural mycelium of Cordyceps sinensis.
After taking a Cordyceps sinensis extract for a week, diabetic rats and mice had higher serum insulin levels, which suggests that their pancreas was able to produce more of the hormone.
Cordyceps and Diabetic Nephropathy
According to the Journal of Diabetes Investigation, diabetic nephropathy is the most common complication of diabetes. Taking a cordyceps supplement could lessen your chances of developing kidney issues as a result of diabetes.
A 2016 study investigated the effects of Cordyceps militaris powder on renal function in type 2 diabetic mice with nephropathy. The powder combined beneficial compounds found in the cordyceps fruit body and the mycelium.
After 8 weeks of treatment, renal dysfunction biomarkers were significantly mitigated, which suggests that cordyceps could exhibit potent renoprotective action against diabetes-induced nephropathy.
Are You Interested in Taking Medicinal Mushrooms for Diabetes?
Whether you want to prevent or manage diabetes, including medicinal mushrooms in your diet is a good idea.
If you’re looking for an easy way to include medicinal mushrooms in your life, our mushroom granola could be the perfect choice for you.
In a delicious bowl of granola, you get your daily dose of hyperconcentrated cordyceps, lion’s mane, and chaga mushroom extracts.
The granola is gluten-free, vegan, low in sugars, and full of nutrients. You can choose from three delicious flavors, or get a bundle with all three if you like to start your mornings with some variety.
This article was written strictly for informational purposes and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease. The statements contained herein are not evaluated by healthcare professionals or the FDA advisory board and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment information.