Are All Mushrooms Adaptogens

No, not all mushrooms are adaptogens. There are only two mushrooms that meet the criteria by which adaptogens are classified. Those mushrooms are cordyceps and reishi.

There is controversy around this topic as modern science rediscovers these ancient healers. Before diving into these two special adaptogenic mushrooms let’s remember what classifies a plant or fungi as an adaptogen.

What is an adaptogen?
The history and use of medicinal mushrooms
What are cordyceps & reishi?
Future of mushrooms in the marketplace


An adaptogen contains biologically active compounds which help normalize all systems of the body in responding to stress. These mushrooms and herbaceous plants are therefore “adapting” and building resilience to stress.

In a more specific sense, plants and fungi that are accepted as adaptogens adhere to the original definition of:

• Being generally safe
• Non-toxic in normal therapeutic doses
• Producing non-specific states of resistance to stress
• Having a normalizing effect on physiology

This original definition has grown to include herbs and mushrooms that meet both the initial criteria and new additional criteria. The new criteria being that adaptogens regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathoadrenal system (SAS).



There are more than 14,000 identified species of mushrooms in the world. At that volume, it’s safe to assume we have only a small picture of the potential mushrooms have. Many mushrooms have been studied in modern times. However there is an entire world of “medicine maker” mushrooms that have not yet been discovered.

People have been using mushrooms as healers for at least as long as recorded history, and likely beyond. In their article for the NIH on medicinal mushrooms, Paul Stamets, DSc and Heather Zwickey, PhD say:

Ötzi, the Ice Man, who lived nearly 5300 years ago, carried amadou and a birch polypore tethered in a pouch to help him survive in the Alps of northern Italy.”

Two of the most well-researched medicinal mushrooms are cordyceps and reishi. Additional adaptogenic mushrooms will likely show up in this category in the future. Even now, some mushrooms are already being called adaptogens by some mushroom folks. However, more study is needed to have the experts definitively place the official title on their caps.

Labeled as adaptogenic, there are several kinds of mushrooms in many products on the market today. These include shrooms like Chaga, lion’s mane, shitake, and maitake. Just keep in mind that a mushroom being “medicinal” does not inherently mean it is an adaptogen.


According to David Winston, an adaptogen expert, there are several plants and mushrooms that are most likely adaptogens. However, only nine fall squarely into this classification.

Much research shows these nine to meet all the criteria for what makes plants and mushrooms to be called adaptogens. But only one of them is a mushroom - cordyceps. Reishi, according to Winston, falls into the “possibly an adaptogen” category.

  • Cordyceps
  • Reishi
Golden-Brown Reishi


The benefits of mushrooms to our wellness and our planet are exciting. That excitement is growing as more quality studies are making their way into mainstream awareness. It is likely that more mushroom products will show up in the marketplace as this scientific literature grows.

With widespread awareness and use, there may be a lack of high quality products that get produced. With this possibility, it could be even more important to educate businesses and consumers about what high quality mushroom products are. So, keep up on the homework. According to many mushroom enthusiasts, fungi just might save us all. Here’s to holding out hope!