CBD vs. Medicinal Mushrooms: What’s the Scoop?


In the past, humans relied on herbal medicines to maintain health and treat disease. However, as medical science advanced, many people shunned these natural remedies in favor of modern pharmaceuticals.

Now, the tide is beginning to turn again, with more and more patients regaining an interest in healing herbs. This resurgence is in part due to a growing awareness of the potentially harmful side effects of many drugs.

It has also been fuelled by some doctors’ overly liberal prescribing of certain treatments. For example, the current opioid crisis is just one instance where over-reliance on prescription medicines has gone seriously wrong.

With ever-increasing numbers of patients now looking for alternatives, products such as CBD oil have become extremely popular. Another natural remedy that is gaining plenty of attention is medicinal mushrooms such as reishi and chaga.

So, what are the benefits of CBD and medicinal mushrooms? And how do the two compare? Here’s all you need to know.

What Is CBD?

CBD is one of the hundreds of active compounds that the cannabis plant produces. It has risen to fame in recent years, as it provides many of the same benefits as medical marijuana. However, unlike marijuana, CBD does not cause intoxicating effects.

Providing that it comes from industrial hemp with a THC content below 0.3%, CBD is widely available in the majority of states. You can purchase it without applying for a medical marijuana card, and it is available in a whole range of different forms.

Since CBD is easily accessible and does not cause a high, it has become the treatment of choice for many. Here are some of the primary reasons why people use CBD:

CBD Benefits

Research into CBD’s benefits has shown that it has potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties. This makes it a versatile substance, with a variety of potential benefits. These benefits include:

  • Pain relief
  • Anxiety relief
  • Antipsychotic effects
  • Reducing seizures
  • Protection against neurodegenerative disease
  • Anti-tumor properties
  • Treating substance use disorders

These benefits stem from CBD’s ability to interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that exists within the human body. The ECS comprises chemicals called endocannabinoids and specialized cell receptors.

When these chemicals and receptors combine, they trigger a range of physiological and psychological responses. These responses include regulating mood, appetite, immunity, and sensation, among other things. By doing this, the ECS helps to maintain a state of balance within the body at all times.

Cannabinoids from the cannabis plant, such as CBD, also influence this system. Therefore, they can alter the way that the ECS works and enhance its many useful functions. This feature makes cannabis compounds highly adaptable, with the ability to help a wide range of conditions.

What Are Medicinal Mushrooms?

Medicinal mushrooms are another versatile and natural treatment. Humans have used fungus as a medicine for thousands of years, and it is popular in many East Asian traditions. Moreover, there are over 100 species of medicinal mushrooms. Many of these grow on live or rotting wood.

Some of the most popular species of medicinal mushroom include:

  • Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
  • Shiitake (Lentinus edodes)
  • Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
  • Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
  • Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor)
  • Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus)

Medicinal Mushroom Benefits

Most mushrooms consist of about 90% water. The remainder is made up of carbohydrates, protein, fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Medicinal mushrooms also contain numerous other beneficial compounds, including:

  • Polysaccharides
  • Glucans
  • Polyphenols
  • Terpenoids
  • Steroids
  • Cerebrosides

The exact ingredients will vary depending on the type of fungus and the extraction method (water, alcohol, etc.).

In traditional and folk medicine, medicinal mushrooms have many different uses. For example, doctors in ancient China believed that reishi could slow down the aging process and promote longevity. Other traditional uses of medicinal mushrooms include increasing energy and libido, treating respiratory conditions, liver problems, and insomnia, and acting as an antidote to poisoning.

In modern medicine, the most common use of medicinal mushrooms is an adjunct to cancer treatment. Scientists believe that the active compounds in fungi work synergistically to target tumors in a multi-faceted way. Furthermore, this therapy appears to target cancer cells without damaging the surrounding healthy tissue.

More recently, researchers have been investigating the effects of a specific type of fungus on mental health conditions. The fungus in question is a species called psilocybin or ‘magic mushrooms’. The existing studies on psilocybin for mental health are small and limited. However, they do show a great deal of promise.

CBD vs. Medicinal Mushrooms

CBD vs medicinal mushrooms

As you can see, there is some crossover in the potential benefits of CBD and medicinal mushrooms; specifically, in the treatment of mental health disorders. But is one better than the other? Let’s take a look.

CBD vs Mushrooms: An Initial Comparison

In China and Japan, doctors have used mushrooms (specifically turkey tails) as a supplement to conventional cancer treatment for over 30 years. They have an extensive history of being safe either alone or in combination with radiation or chemotherapy.

Research suggests that one of the compounds in turkey tail mushrooms, known as polysaccharide K, may increase the 5-year survival rate of gastric cancer patients significantly when combined with chemotherapy. Further studies suggest that medicinal mushrooms could be used to supplement treatments for other types of cancer, too.

It appears that these incredible effects are due to medicinal mushrooms’ ability to stimulate immune cells as well as targeting tumors directly. While CBD does (according to the National Institue of Health’s PubChem Database) possess “antineoplastic, chemopreventive, anti-proliferative, anti-angiogenic and pro-apoptotic activity,” it appears to function in a different physiological manner compared to mushrooms.

Pharmacology of CBD

Indeed, the specific pharmacology and metabolic activity of CBD in the human body requires additional research. That much is certain. We we do know, however, that CBD exerts an influence on activity in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), stimulating localized cells. We also know that work to inhibit specific pathways in the cell cycle, such as the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway.

What does this mean? Well, the latter is an intracellular signaling pathway, which implies that CBD may have an ability to galvanize autophagy (“self-eating”), as well as promote apoptosis (wherein cells are “programmed” to self-destruct). Again, all of this information comes from the National Institute of Health’s PubChem Database.

Furthermore, researchers know that cannabidiol (CBD) is able to enhance the internal manufacturing of ROS, otherwise known as reactive oxygen species. This further supplements the notion that CBD possesses apoptotic activity. So while CBD and mushrooms may overlap in certain pharmacological aspects, they indeed possess quite different physiological pathways.

Mushrooms vs CBD: A Matter of Availability

Also, there are clear differences between CBD and mushrooms in terms of the availability of each. Even though CBD is not explicitly legal in all 50 states of the US, it is widely available in most of them. It is also easily available online for those who wish to order and have it shipped to their home.

Mushrooms, on the other hand, do not share the same ease of accessibility (unless of course we’re talking about the kind of mushrooms that you can get down at your local grocery store).

CBD vs. Medicinal Mushrooms for Mental Health

Both CBD and mushrooms may also have several benefits for mental health. However, this is one area where CBD has the advantage. Providing that CBD comes from hemp rather than marijuana and has a THC content below 0.3%, it is extremely accessible.

Conversely, the fungus that most research suggests may be helpful here is psilocybin, which has been illegal since 1970. Psilocybin also has powerful hallucinogenic effects and could cause psychological distress. This means that patients should only consume it under the close supervision of a healthcare professional.

This problem does not apply to CBD, which has no mind-altering effects other than inducing a state of calm. Let’s take a look at what conditions the two might help.

Mushrooms

Psilocybin produces psychoactive effects as it has a high affinity for serotonin receptors. As you may know, serotonin is the neurotransmitter that psychologists associate with conditions like depression. Research into psilocybin for mental health suggests that it may help the following issues:

  • Anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Alcohol and tobacco dependence

These mushrooms also appear to have an overall positive effect on mood for 2–3 weeks after dosing.

CBD

When CBD interacts with the ECS, it increases levels of an endocannabinoid known as anandamide. This, in turn, affects the release of several neurotransmitters, including serotonin. Research suggests that CBD may have antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects. It could also help to reduce stress and compulsive behavior.

Further studies suggest that CBD could benefit patients with psychosis or schizophrenia. It also appears to be useful in the treatment of substance use disorders, including cannabis and tobacco dependence.

Is It Safe to Take CBD and Medicinal Mushrooms Together?

There is insufficient evidence regarding whether it is safe to take CBD and medicinal mushrooms together. However, both substances inhibit the activity of certain enzymes in the liver, meaning it may be safer to stick with one or the other.

This also means that if you take any prescribed or over-the-counter medicines, you should exercise caution using CBD or medicinal mushrooms. Consult your physician to determine whether these natural remedies are safe and appropriate for you.

CBD vs. Medicinal Mushrooms: Final Thoughts

Both cannabis and medicinal mushrooms have a range of potential benefits. For this reason, humans have used them for centuries – and they continue to do so today.

One of the areas that we know the most about is mental health and its assortment of related conditions. Both CBD and medicinal mushrooms could be useful here, although there are a couple of caveats.

Studies supporting the use of psilocybin for mental health are only just beginning to emerge. Furthermore, this fungus is illegal, making it difficult to access outside of clinical trials. CBD, on the other hand, is widely available, providing that it is extracted from hemp and has a minimal THC content.

If you are considering using CBD or medicinal mushrooms for any condition, be sure to consult your physician first. They will advise you on whether these natural remedies are safe for you.

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