Medicinal mushroom benefits have become a very popular trend in the health and wellness community today, for good reasons.
Medicinal mushroom benefits are incredibly valuable for human health with many scientifically validated benefits to enhance immune health, support the adrenals and HPA axis, reduce stress, lower inflammation as well as their unique ability to boost and improve multiples systems within the body.
Additionally, one often unexplored or ignored aspect is the medicinal mushroom benefits for skin health.
Our skin is truly incredible. The skin is the body’s largest organ and is responsible for the first line of defence, protecting us against a myriad of invading pathogens that can potentially harm the body–internally and externally.
The quality of our skin largely determines how we experience the world.
Our skin is also a complex structure and highly intelligent organ system. Each skin cell –corneocyte, keratinocyte, fibroblast, langerhans cell or other–has its own life cycle and requires the right conditions to function properly, and thus, support healthy glowing skin and improve lines and wrinkles.
When it comes to skin care health, if you’re experiencing acne, hormonal break outs, psoriasis, eczema or have inflamed dry skin and want to help slow down the ageing process, functional mushrooms can help.
This article explores the top five medicinal mushrooms and how they can help improve skin benefits so you can glow and feel at your best.
Table of Contents
The Amazing Mushroom Benefits for Skin Health
Mushroom benefits work to boost skin health and its appearance in a multitude of ways.
One key way is that mushrooms buffer the body’s stress response and working to support and nourish the adrenals and central nervous system.
Contrary to traditional Eastern medicine systems, Western medicine often compartmentalises each organ system.
The West isolates and treats every organ system individually believing that each organ is separate from each system and that nothing influences the other.
This couldn’t be more further from the truth.
When the body experiences chronic stress–the usual daily life stressors that so many of us have to manage–the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) is activated.
This innate response and the release of cortisol impacts every single cell in the body – including skin cells.
Cortisol signifies the breakdown of collagen and elastin structures – the proteins that keep our. skin juicy, firm and strong.
Cortisol and stress shuts down digestion and inhibits the effectiveness for skin cells to receive the key nutrients they need to function optimally.
Cortisol and stress also increases free radical damage, especially within the skin. Free radicals damage cellular DNA, disrupt cellular function, accelerate cellular ageing, and wear down our own antioxidant systems.
These three key processes of continual cortisol release into the bloodstream ultimately disrupts the epidermal barrier, causes hormonal imbalances and promotes dry skin, dehydrated skin, psoriasis, eczema and acne.
Medicinal mushrooms also work as potent antioxidant boosters that protect skin health from environmental pollutants, free radical cells, and improve digestion by enabling proper assimilation of nutrients into the skin cells.
Medicinal mushroom extracts are highly beneficial and very versatile skin care ingredient.
You can consume mushroom extracts internally in your daily diet to improve your skin and you can also add them to your skin care products and daily routine.
Many innovative skincare brands are incorporating functional mushrooms into their products–moisturisers, cleansers, toners, face masks etc.
Why is the health of someone’s skin so important
Humans are visual creatures. Our skin health is often the metric we use to see ourselves in the world and also how other people see us.
As a nutritionist, healthy skin signifies a beautiful and healthy functioning individual.
Our quality of our skin is a key sign and symptom of any underlying chronic imbalances and inflammation. The health of our skin not only impacts our immune health but it also impacts our emotional and psychological health.
Poor skin often impacts self-esteem and self-confidence.
When we have healthy skin, we feel healthy, confident, and radiate that energy outwards. Healthy skin enables us to feel our best and this supports us going out and living our best lives.
The Top 5 Mushrooms for Skin Health
Scientific studies have shown that these five medicinal mushrooms offer profound anti aging benefits for the skin–boosts antioxidant activity, lowers inflammation, strengthens immunity, enhances hydration and more.
Choose these five best skin mushrooms:
- Reishi Mushroom
- Chaga Mushroom
- Cordyceps Mushroom
- Shiitake Mushroom
- Tremella Mushroom
Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) are a world renowned adaptogenic mushroom that has been used for centuries to improve overall wellbeing and extend longevity.
Stress is a key driver of skin imbalances and ageing on all levels. Reishi mushrooms are traditionally known as the “Ultimate Anti-Stress Herb” for its amazing abilities for helping with hormonal break outs and skin ageing caused by stress.
Stress drives sex hormone imbalances which can cause manifestations in the skin such as pre-period break outs around the chin in women, or androgen driven acne along the jawline, neck and upper back.
Reishi mushrooms work to calm the nervous system, preserves cortisol and improves the body’s overall resistance to stress. This ability assists the balance of sex hormones and may help prevent various skin issues or can even treats acne.
Reishi mushroom contains various skin-protective compounds such as polysaccharides, triterpenoids and polyphenols that act as antioxidants and help protect the skin from oxidative damage (1, 2).
UV rays, environmental pollutants, toxic ingredients found in make-up and personal products, all add additional oxidative stress and damage to our skin cells, causing them to age more rapidly and degenerate faster.
Reishi mushroom, when taken both internally and used topically, protects skin cells from this damage, improving their function and structure and thus improving the appearance of our skin.
Studies have shown that Reishi mushrooms can increase the thickness of the epidermis and dermis - improving skin structure, protects skin cell DNA, prevents the degradation of collagen and elastin and enhances superoxide dismutase (SOD) levels within the skin – the body's master endogenous antioxidant compound (1, 2).
When used topically, Reishi mushrooms have also been shown to improve and speed up wound healing which can be beneficial in those with acne scars or other topical wounds. Reishi elicits anti-tyrosinase activity, reduces pigmentation and may have a skin lightening effect (3, 10).
Reishi mushrooms have also shown to support heart health and may balance blood pressure. When the heart is healthy, blood flows efficiently delivering all the right nutrients to the skin to support its maintenance.
Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) is one of the most potent antioxidant foods on the planet. Chaga mushrooms can help act as a protective blanket of sorts to help fight the pro-inflammatory compounds we’re exposed too and produce naturally every day.
Chaga mushroom is also one of the richest food sources of melanin – a protein which determines the colour of our skin and also acts as protection from UV rays and accelerated ageing that comes from sun exposure. The incredible antioxidant boosting power of Chaga enhances melanin production and acts almost like an internal sunscreen of sorts.
Chaga mushrooms are rich in superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase - two master endogenous antioxidants.
Antioxidants are vital for the health of our skin because they help prevent oxidative damage caused by stress. Whether the stressors are environmental (sun, UV exposure) or physical from wounds or trauma or over exfoliating - this causes senescence (deterioration), premature cell death, ageing, pH and lipid imbalances and slows wound healing.
The skin will show signs of accelerated ageing–oxidative stress can drive breakouts, oil imbalances, and decreases the ability to create new cells to replace the damaged ones that exists from sunburn or after we’ve popped a pimple.
Chaga mushrooms are rich in vitamins and minerals like selenium that help prevent oxidative liver damage. When the liver is functioning optimally,
Chaga mushrooms contains beta glucans polysaccharides which stimulates the creation of collagen – which we know to be the key structural component of our skin that keeps our skin plump, tight and hydrated.
Collagen production naturally declines year over year when we reach 25 years of age.
Cordyceps mushroom is another potent antioxidant mushroom with incredible abilities to protect the skin against ageing and inflammation. Cordyceps improves skin cell health via it’s role in supporting healthy circulation and cardiovascular health.
Cordyceps mushroom increases vasodilation and the release of nitric oxide within the blood vessels, improves oxygen and nutrient flow, and supports a healthy delivery to our skin cells.
Skin cells are just like our muscle or intestinal cells – they require oxygen and specific nutrients to perform their tasks, replicate and function optimally.
Cordyceps mushroom not only supports healthy circulation, it also can help with hormonal acne and breakouts through it’s phytosterol components that help balance testosterone and progesterone.
Studies have also shown Cordyceps mushrooms have protective effects against another free radical damage molecules; hydrogen-peroxide in human dermal fibroblasts that help prevent rapid ageing and premature cell death (8).
Shiitake mushrooms contain L-ergothioneine a potent antioxidant compound that prevents skin damage, skin ageing and skin cell break down.
Shiitake mushrooms are rich in kojic acid – a compound that naturally brightens the skin and prevents melanin pigment forming. Shiitake is often labelled as the “natural hydroquinone substitute”, being useful if you’re want to naturally fade sun spots, melasma or pigmentation.
Like all the other mushrooms, Shiitake mushrooms offer anti inflammatory effects, supports healthy skin cell turnover and the reduction of skin irritation.
Shiitake mushrooms also inhibits elastase – the enzyme that breaks down elastin within the dermis, eliciting anti-ageing effects and supporting healthy skin (7, 8)
Tremella mushrooms (Tremella fuciformis) are renowned for being an ancient beauty tonic for centuries.
Tremella mushroom is an ultra hydrating superfood, holding 1000x its weight in water, and is ~5x more hydrating than hyaluronic acid – who is an amazing ingredient in skin care products for improving hydration.
Topically, Tremella mushroom is a small particle which enables it to penetrate the epidermal layer of our skin and is beneficial for our skin when consumed internally too, improving the appearance and hydration of the skin.
Tremella mushrooms also contains uronic acid – an antioxidant compound that increases SOD (superoxide dismutase), glutathione, peroxidase and catalase – key master antioxidants that protect the skin, reduce lipid barrier dysfunction and protect our moisture barrier.
Tip: You may also like to try white button mushrooms for extra skin benefits. Agaricus bisporus (button mushrooms) are naturally high in vitamin D and rich in beta glucans for excellent skin care benefits. Note: vitamin D is only present when the mushrooms have been exposed to sunlight.
Additional products that can benefit skin health
Additionally to medicinal mushrooms, there are other powerful adaptogens and tonic herb products that have shown to also effect profound anti-ageing benefits for the skin–boosts antioxidant activity, lowers inflammation, strengthens immunity and more.
- Astragalus Root
- Schizandra Berry
- Pearl Powder
Learn more about the skin benefits of tonic superfoods.
Astragalus root (Astragalus membranaceus) is a powerful tonic herb traditionally known for its immunomodulating and energy-restorative benefits.
Astragalus is also an amazing skin adaptogen with potent anti inflammatory properties, antioxidant, UV protecting, collagen boosting and hydrating health benefits (4).
Astragalus has been shown to inhibit pro-inflammatory pathways, reduce reactive oxygen species, oxidative stress and the activation of cytokine signalling all of which are prevalent in skin conditions (5).
Inflammation is at the core of all pain, redness and degradation in skin structure. Astragalus contains incredible anti inflammatory properties that helps protect skin cells, decreases cell damage and reduces an autoimmune response in the skin which is seen in conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
Astragalus also decreases collagen break down, inhibits enzymes such as elastase, catalase and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP’s) – that digest collagen, elastin and accelerate ageing.
In studies, Astragalus roots has specifically shown to protect collagen breakdown from environmentally induced drivers such as UV damage from the sun (6).
Additionally, Astragalus increases the creation of hyaluronic acid within our skin. Hyaluronic acid is a hero product in anyone’s skin care routine. It holds water within the epidermis, improves hydration and skin health.
By Astragalus improving our bodies own creation of hyaluronic acid, it superchargers our skin's hydration, preventing dry skin and dehydrated skin and ageing that’s associated with a lack of moisture (5).
Schisandra has been deemed the “beauty berry” for thousands of generations in Chinese Medicine, with it being connected to giving women soft, youthful and beaming skin.
Being a potent antioxidant, Schisandra is able to reduce free radicals, prevent accelerated aging and has been shown to protect the skin from environmental stressors, such as environmental pollution, UV damage and cigarette smoke (10).
Schisandra berry is also a potent liver herb that not only supports the creation of endogenous antioxidants but also supports the liver in regenerating itself which is very advantageous to skin health.
The liver plays a key role in metabolizing toxins, drugs and hormones, all of which can accelerate oxidative stress and free radicals, as well as disrupt healthy skin. It’s also our liver that filters our blood, bringing nutrients to our skin cells and supporting the elimination of cellular toxins.
We can’t talk about healthy skin and not mention Pearl powder.
Used by Cleopatra herself, the long history of Pearls being a cornerstone herb in the world of beauty and aesthetics has spanned across ancient Egypt, India, China and the Mayan civilisation.
Pearl is very rich in micronutrients such as calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate, silica, as well as an array of amino acids, building blocks for our collagen and elastin.
Pearl powder is another potent antioxidant that protects the skin from further damage, accelerated ageing and enhances healthy skin function and structure.
Pearl is also a Shen tonic – helping to calm an overactive mind and spirit and reducing the impact of stress on the body, as well as being shown to prevent the presence of melanin and sun spots, literally helping the skin to become more porcelain like.
You can use Pearl powder either topically as a face mask or internally adding it into your hot drinks, smoothies or other food and dessert recipes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do mushrooms provide skin benefits?
Medicinal mushrooms contain a myriad of skin-supportive compounds such as polysaccharides, triterpenoids and antioxidants that help lower inflammation in the skin, maintain hydration, reduce damage caused by stress and elicit anti-ageing and skin balancing benefits.
Which mushrooms are best for overall skin health?
In various studies, Reishi, Chaga, Cordyceps, Shiitake and Tremella mushroom have all been scientifically proven to be the best medicinal mushrooms for supporting overall skin health.
How do mushrooms help with the rejuvenation of skin cells?
Mushrooms contain unique antioxidant and polysaccharide compounds that help skin cells rejuvenate by protecting them from oxidative stress that drives accelerated skin cell damage and ageing (9).
Adding medicinal mushrooms into your skin care routine, whether topically or internally has so many health benefits to lift glowing skin and improve lines and wrinkles.
Mushrooms are rich in antioxidants that helps protect skin cells from accelerated ageing and premature death, and helps to balance skin pH and lipid levels.
Mushrooms are naturally anti inflammatory and possess anti-tyrosinase activity that improve inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
Mushrooms can help increase the moisture and hydration of the skin, fight off bacteria and prevent the break down of collagen and elastin that help contribute to supporting healthy, vibrant, youthful looking skin.
The mushroom benefits for skin health can also be enhanced by combining your mushroom extracts with vitamin C.
- Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide prevents oxidation and skin aging - https://www.cjter.com/CN/article/downloadArticleFile.do?attachType=PDF&id=4130
- Ganoderma lucidum as a cosmeceutical: antiradical potential and inhibitory effect on hyperpigmentation and skin extracellular matrix degradation enzymes - http://www.serbiosoc.org.rs/arch/index.php/abs/article/view/3759
- Effect and Mechanism of Ganoderma lucidum Polysaccharides on Human Fibroblasts and Skin Wound Healing in Mice - https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11655-018-3060-9
- Anti Aging Implications of Astragalus Membranaceus (Huangqi): A Well-Known Chinese Tonic - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5758356/
- Anti inflammatory activity of compounds isolated from Astragalus sinicus L. in cytokine-induced keratinocytes and skin - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24651533/
- Astragaloside IV controls collagen reduction in photoaging skin by improving transforming growth factor-β/Smad signaling suppression and inhibiting matrix metalloproteinase-1. - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25591734/
- Cosmetic Benefits of Natural Ingredients: Mushrooms, Feverfew, Tea, and Wheat Complex - https://jddonline.com/articles/dermatology/S1545961613S0133X/2
- Development of Mushroom-Based Cosmeceutical Formulations with Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-Tyrosinase, Antioxidant, and Antibacterial Properties - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6274557/
- Mushroom Cosmetics: The Present and Future - https://www.researchgate.net/publication/305078746_Mushroom_Cosmetics_The_Present_and_Future
- Schisandra chinensis Protects the Skin from Global Pollution by Inflammatory and Redox Balance Pathway Modulations: An In Vitro Study - https://www.mdpi.com/2079-9284/5/2/36
Written by Eliza Hedley
Eliza is a health, mindset and abundance enthusiast obsessed with helping millennial's experience living at a higher level.
Her relaxed new age approach and understanding of nutrition and wellness sees her empowering and coaching individuals to understand that their health is the ultimate asset. Upon experiencing first hand the power and place of tonic herbalism and medicinal mushrooms in everyday life, Eliza’s become an adaptogen fangirl and feels their utilisation in today’s world is essential for abundance and wellbeing.