Since May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, it seems an appropriate time to review a form of treatment support many Lyme disease patients, doctors and practitioners may have overlooked. Used by ancient Greek and Asian cultures for thousands of years, medicinal mushrooms are just now making their way into our public awareness because of powerful medicinal properties that rival the most popular pharmaceutical and herbal remedies.

The collection of mushrooms mentioned in this article have been “handpicked” for individuals with Lyme disease because of their abilities to curb inflammation, support nervous system repair, and fight viruses and bacteria. We intentionally left off Turkey Tail and Maitake mushrooms, varieties which have strong anti-cancer properties but do not seem as helpful to the average patient with Lyme disease as these following mushrooms.


Chaga is a mushroom that has been used by ancient cultures for thousands of years and given a reverent nickname, “Gift from God.” Its tough texture is similar to wood, with a dark black outer layer and a golden-brown interior. It is usually found co-existing with birch trees in some of the harshest and coldest climates in the word, including the northern U.S., Canada, Scandinavia and Russia. It not only survives in these climates, but it strengthens itself and its host tree in the process.

The health benefits of chaga are well-documented, but perhaps its most impressive abilities are as an actual cancer treatment as identified by the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. It is well known to curb cancer growth and can be used as an adaptogen tonic.

Also most impressive is chaga’s ability to activate immune cells to stimulate lagging immune systems, reduce inflammation by limiting cytokine production, protect the liver by increasing antioxidants, and fight gastritis by reducing ulcer-causing Helicobacter pylori bacterium.

 Best ways to consume it: By making a tea out of its powder.


Cordyceps mushrooms have been used for centuries as a tonic herb in both Chinese and Tibetan medicine. It grows at high altitudes of over 3,800 meters above sea level in the Himalayan mountains where it was first noticed by yak farmers who noticed the health benefits their livestock enjoyed when consuming it.

Cordyceps is known to boost metabolism, reduce fatigue, increase testosterone in men, and act as an immune stimulant and strong antioxidant.

Well-known Lyme disease doctors, Dr. Stephen Buhner and Dr. Qingcai Zhang, both use cordyceps in their protocols because of the natural killer cell function, immune-boosting properties and anti-inflammatory abilities.

 Best ways to consume it: By tincture.

Lion’s Mane

The Lion’s mane mushroom grows on broad-leaf hardwood trees in temperate areas of North America, Europe and Asia. It gets its name from its waterfall-like flowing tendrils. It’s also known by other nicknames, such as “bearded tooth” and the “pom pom mushroom”.

Like other medicinal mushrooms, lion’s mane is excellent for the immune system. However, what sets it apart is its health benefits for the brain and nervous system. It has been shown to improve cognition and concentration, and to reduce depression and anxiety. Lion’s mane also has compounds that stimulate the production of nerve growth factor (NGF). NGF is a valuable tool in helping patients with nerve damage, which is a concern of many Lyme disease patients. Lion’s mane can indirectly stimulate the production of NGF without having to pass through the blood-brain barrier to do so.

And, finally, lion’s mane protects the network of connections that nerves use to send signals throughout the body. These can be compromised in Lyme disease patients. The mushroom is known to promote the growth of this insulation, called myelin.

Best ways to consume it: Must be consumed by tincture to receive full benefits.


The Reishi mushroom has been used by physicians for thousands of years in China, where it was nicknamed the “mushroom of immortality” for its effectiveness at preventing illness and curing disease. Initially it was only available to the ruling class in the Orient, however, more recently reishi mushrooms have become widely available and are one of the most studied natural medicines available.

Reishi is what is known in Chinese medicine as a tonic, meaning it is recommended for it to be consumed regularly and in high quantities to achieve its beneficial effects. Reishi also falls into the category of adaptogen herbs due to its ability to help the body adapt to and blunt the negative effects of stressors such as anxiety, fatigue, trauma and emotional distress.

Its most impressive feature may be its ability to curb cancer growth. In a 2013 study, reishi mushrooms were found to shrink aggressive breast cancer cells in vitro and in vivo by 50 percent. Reishi has also been found to have antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

Best ways to consume it: By making a tea out of its powder.


Found growing wild in the mountainous regions of China, Japan, Indonesia and Taiwan, the shiitake is the second most-widely cultivated mushroom in the world. It is commonly used in many Asian cuisines. The Chinese were the first to cultivate this mildly fragrant mushroom more than 600 years ago, and its medicinal properties have also been known for centuries.

Shiitakes are heart-healthy because they can lower cholesterol and decrease the tendency of blood platelets to stick together. Like all medicinal mushrooms, they can help prevent cancer formation, even going so far as to stimulate cancer cells to destroy themselves.

Shiitakes show strong anti-viral properties with an ability to stimulate the immune system, which is important to Lyme disease patients. The mushrooms can even destroy the microbes that cause tooth decay.

Best ways to consume it: Fresh in cooking or by tincture.

 Gregg Kirk is a Lyme disease advocate, former patient and current practitioner who runs the Lyme Recovery Clinic in Darien, the Ticked Off Foundation nonprofit patient fund and the Ticked Off Music Fest benefit concert series. Connect at 203-858-9725 or