Chaga mushrooms on a table with a wooden spoon on them

Finnish functional mushrooms – beyond the nutritional benefits and culinary experiences

The possibilities of functional mushrooms are a subject of great interest and constant research. As opposed to mushrooms purely used for culinary purposes, functional mushrooms have health benefits beyond their nutritional composition. Functional mushrooms are mushrooms that literally serve certain functions such as supporting the immune system, improving cognitive function and reducing stress. They often function as adaptogens, helping the body to fight against mental and physical difficulties and regulating imbalances in the body.

Functional mushrooms are a subject of great interest, and Finland is in the forefront of the growing functional mushrooms trend. Our vast and clean forests offer a good environment for the growth of mushrooms and our research institutions are continuously exploring the medicinal properties of mushrooms and their applications in health and wellness products. This has led to the development of some of the most innovative and high-quality functional mushroom products available in the market.

From traditional medicine to a booming trend

Before any medicines as we know today were developed, remedies were sourced from nature’s offerings, including plants, herbs and mushrooms. Mushrooms have played an important role in different cultures around the world throughout the ages: traditional Asian medicines, Indian ayurveda, native American medicine and folk medicines in Europe, Russia and Siberia all have included mushrooms in their medicinal practices. Mushrooms have traditionally been used to promote longevity and vitality, treat ailments, boost immunity and calm the mind.

Long before any scientific research was available, the use of mushrooms for medicinal purposes was based on empirical observation of their effects. Knowledge about the use of mushrooms as medicine was often passed down orally and through cultural traditions by elders and healers in the communities. Mushrooms were often included in rituals and ceremonies which, in addition to their unique appearance and sometimes toxic properties, contributed to their mystical allure. The cultural significance of mushrooms perhaps also strengthened peoples’ belief in their medicinal qualities and thus played a part in their medicinal use.

Though the traditional knowledge of the medicinal properties of mushrooms was mostly based on observational knowledge and cultural traditions, modern-day scientific research has in fact backed-up many of these traditional observations. Since the interest in the functional and medicinal properties of mushrooms has increased in recent years, there has been a growing number of scientific studies breaking down the active compounds in mushrooms associated with various mushroom species and exploring the various ways they can support human health. Still, modern research is only beginning to catch up with the possibilities of functional mushrooms.

Finnish functional mushrooms: the Fab Five

Finland is a rising star in the functional mushrooms industry. Foraging wild mushrooms has long traditions in Finland, but during recent years, there has also been a growing interest in cultivating functional mushrooms for commercial purposes. This goes hand in hand with the fact that Finland is a country of cutting-edge scientific research and innovation. The many possibilities of fungi have caught the attention of the commercial players and the research community, who are digging deeper into the bioactive compounds of functional mushrooms. That is why mushroom farms in Finland combine the cultivation of functional mushrooms with research, with the aim of innovating new industry solutions with fungi.

Chaga mushroom growing on a birch tree
Chaga mushrooms decorate our birch trees here up North.

The functional mushrooms which can be found growing wild in Northern forests are chaga and reishi. Other functional mushrooms, such as lion’s mane, shiitake and maitake are also cultivated in the Finnish forests. Each mushroom has their unique characteristics and uses, from stimulating the immune system to relieving stress.

Chaga – a boost for the immune system

Chaga has been used in traditional medicine in the Northern and Slavic countries and Russia. Chaga is considered to have both antioxidant and immune-enhancing properties due to its high levels of antioxidants, particularly polyphenols such as phenolic acids and flavonoids. Antioxidants help to protect cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals, which are associated with aging and various diseases. Oxidative stress and inflammation are often interrelated: when the body is under stress, it can trigger an inflammatory response. Antioxidants help break this cycle by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, allowing the immune system to operate more effectively.

Reishi – calming the busy mind

As chaga, reishi is also rich in antioxidants. It also contains polysaccharides and beta-glucans which have immune-boosting properties. However, reishi is perhaps even better known for its adaptogenic properties which help the body adapt to stress. The adaptogenic compounds reishi contains are triterpenes, particularly ganoderic acids. These compounds help to regulate the body’s response to stress, reducing the feelings of anxiety and promoting the sense of calm. This is why reishi has been used to treat restlessness, insomnia, stress and palpitations.

Lion’s mane – food for the brain

Lion’s Mane is the subject of interest due to its potential effects on cognitive function and neurological health. Sometimes referred to as excellent brain food, lion’s mane contains compounds (hericenones and erinacines) which studies have shown to benefit neurological health. Lion's mane may stimulate the growth and repair of nerve cells, which potentially enhances cognitive function, memory and learning. So opt for lion’s mane when extra focus is required.

Shiitake – a culinary favorite with many functional properties

Shiitake is an edible mushroom essential in East Asian cuisine. It has a rich and savory flavor as well as good nutritional values, being rich in fiber, B vitamins, copper manganese and zinc. In addition to its culinary and nutritional properties, it is also known to have functional effects.

Shiitake is rich in antioxidants and beta-glucans, making it a good support for the immune system. Studies also suggest that shiitake can support cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Shiitake also has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, which may help to battle certain bacterial and fungal infections.

Maitake – for resistance and immunity

Maitake is also known for both its culinary and functional properties. It has a long tradition of medicinal use in Japan and China. Maitake contains plenty of beneficial compounds, such as beta-glucan, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, particularly the antioxidant glutathione. It is used to support overall immunity and gut health.

Mushroom drinks for all preferences and needs

KÄÄPÄ Mushrooms and Four Sigmatic are perhaps the most well-known and established Finnish companies that focus on the possibilities of fungi and offer high-quality functional mushroom products.

KÄÄPÄ Mushrooms makes innovative mushroom extracts from chaga, lion’s mane, reishi, maitake and shiitake. The extracts are made with an industry-leading ultrasonic assisted extraction (UAE) method which ensures the bioavailability of the compounds in the mushrooms, making it easier for the body to absorb and utilize them. This makes the KÄÄPÄ Mushrooms extracts of the highest quality.

Mushroom coffee on a table with various mushrooms on the background
Mushroom coffee brings the additional benefits of functional mushrooms to your morning fuel.

Another good way to enjoy the benefits of functional mushrooms are mushroom drinks, and this is the area of expertise of Four Sigmatic. Since 2012, the brand has gained tremendous success for their functional mushroom elixirs, mushroom coffees and mushroom cacaos. The products’ signature feature is their delicious flavor: you can’t taste the mushrooms in their drinks, but you can certainly feel their benefits. Four Sigmatic offers mushroom coffees for better focus and energy as well as mushroom cacaos for melting the stress away.

The delicious and nutritious Finnish forest mushrooms complete the diet

Functional mushrooms are of course not the only way to enjoy mushrooms – you can enjoy their benefits on your plate as well. While many of the functional mushrooms such as shiitake also have their place in the culinary world, the Finnish forest mushrooms are a real foodie's dream.

Finnish forests are a treasure chest and wild mushrooms are among the best that the forests have to offer. The most beloved of these are chanterelles, porcini, black trumpet and funnel chanterelle. The nutritious forest mushrooms are an excellent way to diversify your diet – not to mention to enjoy wonderful culinary experiences. The fresh and wild flavors of the forest mushrooms go well with various savory and sweet dishes.

Kaavi Porcini brings the delicious flavors of Finnish forests to everyone’s reach. Their mushrooms are handpicked in Eastern Finland, from the forests of North Savonia and North Karelia, which are known to be excellent areas for mushrooms. The mushrooms are dried and packed in airtight jars ensuring that their rich flavors preserve for a long time. Therefore you can enjoy delicious Finnish forest mushrooms all year round in risottos, pastas and pizzas.

Arctic Pure offers an extensive selection of high-quality and multi-use Finnish mushroom products. Get to know the selection!

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