I’m so grateful for the many, many amazing experts I have interviewed for my podcast and for the Bottom Line Health and Happiness Show on Facebook Live over the past several years.I often interview experts I already know on topics that I am deeply passionate about. Needless to say, those are easy and fun.

But last week, I interviewed Christopher Hobbs, PhD, author of Christopher Hobbs’ Medicinal Mushrooms, on a topic that, frankly, I had little interest in even though I knew it was important and something that’s really good for you. Mushrooms! I’ve never cared for mushrooms—I always found them slimy to eat. But then I did the research. Those little fungus things are incredible forces of nature and sources of health and well-being. Given how eye-opening the research was for me, I thought I’d share.

For those who already are mushroom fans, please forgive me. For those who are not, let me open your eyes to the power of ’shrooms. I’m hopeful that I can teach even you mushroom lovers a thing or two here.

Mushrooms are a nutritional powerhouse—and not just for garnish. Besides being a great source of trace minerals such as potassium and copper, mushrooms are one of only a few nonfortified food sources of vitamin D, a nutrient that has been found vital in the fight against COVID-19. And, interestingly, according to Paul Stamets, another leading mycologist, you can put store-bought mushrooms out in sunlight before you eat them, and they will absorb even more vitamin D. Mushrooms also are a good source of B vitamins, including B-12, which is primarily found in animal products. According to Chris Hobbs, shiitake mushrooms, in particular, can serve as an important source of B-12 for vegans.

OK, now for the really amazing aspects of mushrooms—their healing and immune-boosting powers.

Mushrooms are fungi, and fungi have the incredible power of rebirth. The mycelium,  which supports mushrooms and other fungiis, is an immense network of filaments that aid in the decomposition of dead plants and the regeneration of nutrients into the soil—and  it creates the environment for the mushrooms we eat. If you want to see an incredible illustration of the powers of fungi, I recommend the documentary Fantastic Fungi. It’s beautifully photographed and discusses the power of mycelium to help with challenges as diverse as oil spills (the fungi “eat” the oil), toxin removal from soil, creating pesticides that don’t poison us and even cleaning water supplies.

For humans, mushrooms are similarly powerful—they are both toxic and healing, thanks to their enormous anti-inflammatory and immune-supportive properties. Their high concentration of the unique carbohydrate beta glucan provides them with the ability to protect against bacterial and viral infections, fight cancer, reduce heart disease, improve blood sugar management and more.

Here are just a few studies that we reported on at Bottom Line that show the power of mushrooms…

Maitake mushrooms: “Chinese doctors studied more than 300 people with bladder cancer after they had surgery for the disease, tracking the effectiveness of five standard and natural therapies, including supplements of a maitake mushroom extract. After an average of seven years, those taking maitake had the lowest rate of cancer recurrence (35%). And in a study of 36 cancer patients published in Alternative Medicine Review, maitake supplements improved symptoms and decreased the size of tumors in 69% of breast cancer patients, 63% of lung cancer patients and 58% of liver cancer patients. The supplements also boosted the cancer-killing power of chemotherapy by up to 40%—doses ranged between 50 milligrams (mg) to 150 mg daily (some patients received chemotherapy, and some did not).”

Turkey Tail—one of the most powerful cancer fighters: “More than 400 studies show that turkey tail can fight cancer. Nearly all the studies on people have been with PSK (krestin), a proprietary extract that has been used as a supportive therapy by thousands of cancer patients in Japan. In one study published in Anticancer Research, stage 1 and 2 lung cancer patients taking the extract had a five-year survival rate of 39%, compared with 16% for patients taking a placebo. Other studies show higher survival rates in people taking PSK for colorectal, esophageal and stomach cancers.”

Reishi—the “king of mushrooms:” In my interview with Chris Hobbs, he talked about Reishi’s amazing scope of benefits that include fighting cancer, preventing and treating infections, lifting mood and energy, promoting sleep, nerve, kidney and liver support, and more. You can watch my whole interview with Chris Hobbs here.

These are some of the most powerful mushrooms, but, in fact, everyday mushrooms including button, shiitake and portobello provide similar benefits. You can eat them, of course, but you also can use dried mushroom powders that you add to soups, sauces and smoothies and to make teas. While healthy, Reishi is actually inedible and can be consumed only in powdered or supplement form.

I have never cared for mushrooms, but after watching Fantastic Fungi and talking to Chris Hobbs, I am reformed. I may not love eating them, but I am a true believer in their power. And, as always, I would far prefer to help my body operate at its highest level, rather than use medications that “fix broken parts.” Remember—the stronger your immune system, the less you have to worry about COVID and the millions of other germs waiting to invade every moment of every day.

For anyone who wants to purchase some of these healing mushrooms, Chris’s favorite websites for quality and selection are FarWestFungi  and MushroomHarvest—and no, I am not receiving any money for these recommendations.

Sarah Hiner, president and CEO of Bottom Line Inc., is passionate about giving people the tools and knowledge they need to be in control of their lives in areas such as living a healthier life, the challenges of the health-care system, commonsense financial advice and creating great relationships. She appears often on national radio and hosts the Bottom Line Advocator Podcast,  where she interviews leading experts to help people be their own best advocates in all areas of life.