Medicinal Mushrooms and Skin Health

Last Updated on March 6, 2023


     Natural skincare products are gaining popularity due to their protective and defensive role against free radical generation and reduced production of oxidative enzymes (1). Cosmeceutical formulations containing bioactive ingredients, such as phytonutrients, microbial metabolites, dairy products, minerals, and animal proteins, with medical-drug-like benefits capable of improving the structure, function, and appearance of the skin, are becoming increasingly popular (1,2). Mushrooms, in particular, which are recognized as nutritionally important foods and have been reported to have significant medicinal benefits, are slowly making their way into the cosmetic industry in cosmeceutical applications, such as creams, lotions, or ointments (1,2). When it comes to skincare, mushrooms were originally used for their lightening properties (e.g., kojic acid, a well-known skin-lightener), but thanks to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, mushrooms can now also be used for anti-aging and help reduce irritation and inflammation (1).

     According to one study published in the Archives of Dermatological Research, phenolic veratric acid, a compound found in mushrooms that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, helps improve the appearance of wrinkles (2). Mushrooms are a valuable tool for healthy skin, both internally and topically (2). When consumed, mushrooms such as reishi and shiitake help to strengthen the body’s natural immunities, reduce skin sensitivity and improve resilience to environmental irritants. Mushrooms hydrate skin as well, but you must apply them topically to achieve this effect (1).

     Given that mushrooms are associated with restoring vitality and aiding in the treatment of imbalances ranging from weakened immunity to sensitized skin by reducing inflammation, we decided to discuss in detail the range of benefits medicinal mushrooms provide to the skin, depending only on the most recent evidence published in trusted scientific journals. Medicinal mushrooms include Chaga, Reishi, Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, Maitake, Turkey Tail, and Tremella. This article will elaborate on the skin benefits of each type separately taking into consideration all the possible aspects.

1 | Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) and skin health

     Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) belongs to the fungus kingdom and spends its life parasitizing on the living trunk of birch trees in the cold circumboreal region of the northern hemisphere areas. Inonotus obliquus was widely used as a folk medicine in Siberia, Russia, and some western countries as early as the 16th century (3,4). Natural, non-toxic dietary antioxidants, such as those found in Chaga, may help to reduce oxidative damage to body tissues by preventing the formation of ROS, scavenging them, and promoting their decomposition (5), according to research. Chaga has one of the highest Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) values as an antioxidant (5). Due to various chemical components such as polysaccharides, triterpenoids, polyphenols, and melanin, it has been proven to possess anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antioxidant, hypoglycemic, and hypolipidemic activity without obvious side effects by long-term clinical and animal experiments.

     The benefits of Chaga for skin and other tissues are thought to be a synergistic result of many bioactive compounds working together. Melanin, a pigment found in all kingdoms of living things, is one of them (5). Melanin from Chaga has antioxidant and DNA-protective properties (5,6), and terpenic and phenolic compounds have been shown in laboratory studies to have antioxidant and prebiotic activity (5,7). Superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase are powerful enzymes found in Chaga that help protect cells from oxidative stress (5,8). The Chaga mushroom provides excellent skin support and can be extremely beneficial for people suffering from acne, allergic reactions, bug bites, rashes, dermatitis, psoriasis, itching, rosacea, and eczema (9-12). Chaga is also thought to aid in skin lightening by inhibiting skin melanin production (13).

     When free radicals increase as a result of pollution or stress, the skin begins to show signs of aging quickly. Chaga fights free radicals, slowing down the aging process (8,14). It also has an innate ability to restore skin elasticity through its unique form of Betulonic acid and aids in skin regeneration (collagen and elastin production), thereby maintaining healthy flexible skin (14). Among the many other functions of Chaga mushroom, it contains enzymes that continuously moisten skin, keeping it clean, nourished, and free of acne (14).

2 | Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) and skin health

     Ganoderma lucidum, also known as yeongji in Korea and reishi or lingzhi in other regions, is a modern-day elixir that has long been used medically in China, Japan, and Korea (15). Ganoderic acid, an active ingredient found in mushrooms, is well-known for its ability to improve cell immune function (15,16).  As a result, the risk of rashes and discomfort from atopic dermatitis neck is reduced (15,16). According to the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, Ganoderma luciduthusm can be a powerful anti-inflammatory for the skin (15).

     According to a recent study, reishi is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory product that shows promising results when used to reduce skin inflammation (16).  Artemisia capillaris (A. capillaris), derived from G. lucidum, can reduce the rate of ear swelling by about 40% in an atopic dermatitis mouse model (16).  A. capillaris can significantly reduce the expression of some receptors while inhibiting others, resulting in a less active inflammatory response in the mouse ear. The study confirmed that A. capillaris may alleviate inflammation-related skin reactions due to its antioxidant capacity, indicating that it has a huge potential clinical application (16). Meanwhile, Ganoderma tea (30 g daily for 8 weeks) is being used to help patients suffering from eczema syndrome, an autoimmune inflammatory skin disease (16).

     Reishi mushrooms are well-known for their hydrating properties (15,16). You’ll already be familiar with beta-glucans if you’ve been searching your skincare requirements (16). This is a group of antioxidant glucose molecules that are responsible for directly attracting water from the environment and applying it to your skin, giving you that supple, hydrated look that we all want, regardless of age (15,16). Reishi also aids your body in the production of ceramide, which is a protective layer that runs over your skin and is designed to keep moisture in and stress out (15). Because of sun damage and the natural aging process, your body’s natural levels of ceramide will deplete over time (15). This is essentially what causes your skin to appear dehydrated over time (15).

     The reishi mushroom is extremely beneficial in skin lightening (16). Skin lightening is most commonly used to lighten areas of the skin that are prone to scarring, freckles, dark spots, or dark circles under the eyes (16). For hundreds of years, people have known about the impact superfood mushrooms can have on a person’s facial appearance, particularly the reishi mushroom benefits for the skin (16). Reishi mushroom helps in maintaining and improving skin health and integrity that are critical for normal skin function and combating UV ray effects on the skin (16).

     Reishi has a long history of use in skin lightening (16). Melanin, a black pigment synthesized from tyrosine by epidermal melanocytes, is the primary determinant of skin color. Tyrosinase, a multifunctional copper-containing oxidase, is thought to be the key enzyme in melanocyte melanogenesis. Ganodermanondiol, an extract from G. lucidum, has been reported to affect melanin production by decreasing the expression of tyrosinase-related protein-1 (TRP-1), TRP-2, and microphthalmia-associated transcription factor in B16F10 melanoma cells, resulting in skin lightening and reducing the effects of melanomas (Malignant tumors of melanin cells) (16).

     A 44-year-old male patient had been suffering from annular cutaneous sarcoidosis on his scalp for 4 years, according to a case report (16). Because of the immunomodulatory, anti-angiogenic, and cytotoxic properties, the multiple plaque lesions almost disappeared after 3 days of treatment with G. lucidum with the goat milk-containing soap (16). This report has been preliminarily validated as an effective treatment for such skin lesions (16).

     Skin carcinoma is a type of cancer that is most commonly found in Caucasians (16). Nonmelanocytic skin cancer and malignant melanoma are the two types of skin cancer (16).  Ganoderma tsugae methanol extract (GTME) (3 mg/ml) has been shown to inhibit the proliferation of human epidermoid carcinoma A-431 cells by up to 90% for 72 hours.  In a two-stage mouse skin carcinoma model, one compound of Ganoderma triterpene extract (85 nmol), 20-hydroxylucidenic acid N, delays the formation of papillomas in mouse skin by 55.56 percent and inhibits mouse skin carcinogenesis after 20 weeks of exposure (16). G. lucidum MeOH extracts may also be used in conjunction with cancer chemotherapy and targeted therapy (16).

3 | Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) and skin health

     Hericium erinaceus (also known as Lion’s mane or Yamabushitake) is a mushroom that grows on dead or dying broadleaf trees (17). H. erinaceus has a long history of research and a variety of therapeutic properties, including antioxidant activity (17). The antioxidant activity of lion’s mane was the fourth highest antioxidant capability among all fungus species (18). Several animal studies have found that lion’s mane extract reduces inflammation and oxidative stress markers in rodents and may be particularly useful in the treatment of inflammatory conditions such as eczema and psoriasis (18).

     Extracts from lion’s mane mushrooms may be useful in treating skin wounds. A study on rats with neck wounds discovered that applying lion’s mane extract topically resulted in faster healing (19). The skin can also benefit from the anti-aging properties of lion’s mane (20). This mushroom’s polysaccharides boost antioxidant enzyme activity and collagen levels in aged rat skin (20). Animal studies suggest that lion’s mane may play a role in the metabolism and skin’s healthy aging (20). Lion’s mane mushroom contains a high concentration of glucan polysaccharides, essential amino acids, carbohydrates, and fiber (21). Its diverse array of nutrients provides wide-ranging health benefits, with minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as vitamins such as folic acid (vitamin B9), thiamin (vitamin B1), and tocopherols (vitamin E) (21).

     H. erinaceus has been shown to contain a variety of antimicrobial agents (22). Antifungal and antibacterial activity has been demonstrated for phenol-like and fatty acid-like compounds derived from H. erinaceus extracts (22). Other antimicrobial compounds from H. erinaceus were reported to be active against fungi, protozoa, and a variety of pathogenic gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria in the 2000s (22). Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) which is a gram-positive bacterium causing illness all over the world is one of them (22). H. erinaceus mycelium extract had a minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) of 5.5 l/ml and an EC50 value of 5.5 l/ml against Staphylococcus aureus (22). 

     H. erinaceus has an anti-inflammatory effect on the stomach and intestinal mucous membranes, as well as the ability to rebuild them (23,24). This property also makes it a valuable therapeutic agent in the treatment of allergies, atopic eczema in dogs or miliary eczema in cats, and food intolerances (23,24).

4 | Cordyceps and skin health

     Cordyceps is a fungus that lives on the larvae of insects, specifically moths and arthropods (25). It is also known as the caterpillar fungus (25). There are many different Cordyceps-related species (between 350 and 400), but only Cordyceps sinensis is officially recognized as a herbal drug by the Chinese pharmacopoeia (25). Cordyceps is best known as a health supplement, but some of its properties show a promise for cosmetically treating the skin and keeping it healthy, youthful, and beautiful (25).  Cordyceps has anti-tumor properties, and some cancer patients are advised to consume this medicinal fungus as a side treatment to aid in their recovery (26,27). Cordyceps can also help you control your LDL cholesterol and blood sugar levels, strengthen your immune system, treat kidney failure and lung disorders, and boost your libido and sexual activity (26,27).

     Cordyceps is primarily valued for its antioxidant, anti-aging, and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as its ability to stimulate skin cell repair (26,28). These are the most important bioactive compounds found in Cordyceps: cordycepin (or 3-deoxyadenosine), which is mostly found in cultured militaris (26,28). It is thought to have potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties (26,29). Polysaccharides are important for skin repair because they enhance the skin’s natural renewal process, and could potentially be used as an anti-aging agent to prevent and treat signs of skin photoaging (26-28). They are particularly beneficial in the treatment of dry and aging skin (26,28).

     Polysaccharides repair and strengthen the skin’s protective barrier, as well as improve the skin’s ability to retain moisture and stay hydrated for longer periods of time (26,28).  A healthy skin barrier also means that the skin is better protected from harmful environmental influences. Cordyceps fungi have yielded ergosterol and a number of other sterols (26,28).  D-mannitol (also known as cordycepic acid) is an important compound in both wild and cultured Cordyceps (26,28). It improves bone development in humans and may be the reason for several other therapeutic benefits of this fungus (26,28). Mannitol is a type of sugar alcohol that can be used to moisturize and condition the skin (27).

     It is primarily used in skincare as a humectant, and it works especially well when combined with other humectants, such as hyaluronic acid (26,28). Many fatty acids are also present, the most abundant of which are palmitic acid, linoleic acid, oleic acid, and stearic acid (27).  These fatty acids aid in the maintenance of healthy, youthful skin (27). Cordyceps fungi are made up of proteins, peptides, and amino acids. Some aid in hydration, while others act as antioxidants (27).

     In short, cordyceps can aid in the prevention of premature aging by reducing free radical and UVB damage (29). Cordyceps fungi also have an anti-inflammatory effect, which can help relieve many skin conditions and improve its overall health (26-28). Cordyceps fungi may also improve skin cancer outcomes (29). Cordyceps militaris, in particular, has been shown to inhibit the growth of malignant melanoma tumors (a type of skin cancer) (29).

5 | Maitake and skin health

     Maitake mushrooms appear to have immune-boosting properties, as do all medicinal mushrooms. Polysaccharides and beta-glucans have a variety of health benefits, including immunomodulatory, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties (30). Immunostimulating effects of natural molecules such as glucans are directly and/or indirectly caused by potentiation of synthesis and subsequent secretion of various cytokines, according to a study published in the Annals of Translational Medicine (30). The study discovered that not only did Maitake mushroom extracts increase the efficiency of immune response cells, but they also caused the body to secrete more compounds to further strengthen the immune system (30).

     Furthermore, the antimicrobial and antiviral properties of the polysaccharides and beta-glucans show that Maitake mushrooms can effectively support the immune system against a variety of diseases (30). Maitake mushrooms have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties (30). Reduced inflammation can help alleviate symptoms of allergic reactions and inflammatory conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, in addition to benefiting the immune system (30). Furthermore, lowering oxidative stress can help to slow the degenerative effects of aging (30). Maitake mushroom can give you glowing and bright skin in addition to boosting immunity and fighting cancer (30). Because it is antibacterial, it aids in the fight against unwanted bacteria on the skin (30). It also helps to keep your skin moist (30), making it a very useful natural product.

6 | Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) and skin health

     Skin cosmetics range from skin revitalizing agents to anti-aging and anti-wrinkle products (31). Skin rejuvenation is essential for providing healthy toned skin free of wrinkles, and it goes hand in hand with anti-aging (31). Many products are available on the market, and many of them include mushrooms, mushroom products, or products that can be fermented using fungi. Turkey Tail fungi have a long history of use in skin lightening products (31). They are also anticancer, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and have radical scavenging properties (31,32). When combined with other skin whitening agents, it has a synergistic effect. It has a sebum-controlling function and reduces skin redness (31,32).

     Oxidative stress can cause a variety of health problems, including cellular damage and certain cancers (31,32). A recent study suggests that Turkey Tail mushrooms have the ability to reduce oxidative stress and, as a result, inflammation (31,32). Not only is this beneficial for immune response, but Turkey Tail’s lower levels of oxidative stress and inflammation may also lead to a reduction in chronic pain caused by different inflammatory conditions, improved sleep quality, and a reduction in symptoms of inflammatory skin lesions such as psoriasis (31,32).

7 | Tremella (Tremella fuciformis Berk) and skin health

     Tremella (Tremella fuciformis Berk) is the fruiting body of the basidiomycete fungus tremella, also known as snow ear, and white fungus (33). For thousands of years, it has been used in China for its excellent traditional therapeutic effects on skin care, immune enhancement, and disease prevention (33). Tremella polysaccharide is an important active substance found in Tremella fuciformis’ fruiting body, mycelium, and fermentation broth (33). Tremella polysaccharide is made up of xylose, mannose, and glucuronic acid linked by a -1,3-glycosidic bond, with galactose, arabinose, and small amounts of fucose in the side chains (33).

     Skin moisture content is closely related to skin health (33). When the skin is dehydrated, the intracellular metabolism is disrupted and the cell membrane’s stability is compromised, resulting in poor skin elasticity, wrinkles, and even rashes (33,34). Tremella polysaccharide is a natural moisturizer that can be used to increase skin hydration, repair the skin barrier, and maintain skin health (33,34). Tremella polysaccharides can also help to reduce skin photodamage caused by ultraviolet rays (33,34). Histopathological studies have shown that oral Tremella polysaccharides can promote endogenous collagen regeneration and maintain the I/III collagen ratio, thereby protecting the skin structure from UV ray damage (33,34).

     Tremella polysaccharides are also found to significantly promote wound healing in the isolated pig skin wound healing model (33,34). It has been clinically used as an antineoplastic agent due to its safety and minimal toxicity (33,34). Tremella fuciformis is naturally rich in polysaccharides, a type of antioxidant that may contribute to anti-aging and antioxidant effects due to their ability to prevent free radical cell damage (33,34). Tremella mushrooms can also help the body fight inflammation due to their high polysaccharide content (33,34). Because of the beta-glucans found in its polysaccharides, the tremella fuciformis mushroom helps support a healthy immune system (33,34).

     In short, numerous studies have shown that Tremella polysaccharide has potent moisturizing, gelatinous, anti-inflammatory, wound healing, anti-oxidation, anti-aging, and anti-radiation properties (33,34). Tremella polysaccharide, as a new drug, is incomparably safe when compared to synthetic drugs (33,34). As a safe and nontoxic natural active product, it has been clinically used for antineoplastic agents (34). Tremella polysaccharide can be used as a moisturizing additive in the cosmetics industry (33,34). Compared with the traditional moisturizer hyaluronic acid, the cost is reduced by 86% under the same effect (33,34).


     As an herbal medicine, mushrooms have been widely used in Asian countries to ameliorate plenty of health problems and to prolong life span in the past 2000 years. Medicinal mushrooms have been confirmed to have anti-fatigue, antioxidant, antiaging, and antitumor activities in skin diseases and skin care. Thus, it should not be underestimated that the bioactive metabolites from different mushrooms are the suitable strategies for new skin-related drug development. Crucially, because the efficacy of these medicinal mushrooms varies depending on the extraction and drying techniques, it’s important to seek out high quality nutraceuticals and creams in which the extraction process is optimized and perfectly controlled.


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2- Mushrooms extracts and compounds in cosmetics, cosmeceuticals and nutricosmetics—A review <>

3- Introduction to Distribution and Ecology of Sterile Conks of Inonotus obliquus <>

4- Inonotus obliquus – from folk medicine to clinical use  <>

5- High-ORAC Foods May Slow Aging <>

6- Melanin Complex from Medicinal Mushroom Inonotus obliquus (Pers.: Fr.) Pilat (Chaga) (Aphyllophoromycetideae) <>

7- Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health <>

8- Investigation of three lignin complexes with antioxidant and immunological capacities from Inonotus obliquus <>

9- Bioactive triterpenoids and water-soluble melanin from Inonotus obliquus (Chaga) with immunomodulatory activity <>

10- Optimization for the extraction of polyphenols from Inonotus obliquus and its antioxidation activity <>

11- Inonotsuoxide B regulates M1 to M2 macrophage polarization through sirtuin-1/endoplasmic reticulum stress axis <>

12- Inhibitory and Acceleratory Effects of Inonotus obliquus on Tyrosinase Activity and Melanin Formation in B16 Melanoma Cells


14- What are chaga mushrooms? Nutrition, benefits and risks <>

15- New efficacies of Ganoderma lucidum: Treatment of skin conditions like atopic dermatitis <>

16- Preventive and Therapeutic Effect of Ganoderma (Lingzhi) on Skin Diseases and Care <>

17- Improved simultaneous production of mycelial biomass and polysaccharides by submerged culture of Hericium erinaceum: optimization using a central composite rotatable design (CCRD) <>

18- Protective Effects of Hericium erinaceus Mycelium and Its Isolated Erinacine A against Ischemia-Injury-Induced Neuronal Cell Death via the Inhibition of iNOS/p38 MAPK and Nitrotyrosine <>

19- Potential activity of aqueous extract of culinary-medicinal Lion’s Mane mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae) in accelerating wound healing in rats <>

20- Chemical analysis of Hericium erinaceum polysaccharides and effect of the polysaccharides on derma antioxidant enzymes, MMP-1 and TIMP-1 activities <>

21- The Beginner’s Guide To Lion’s Mane Mushroom <>

22- Hericium erinaceus, an amazing medicinal mushroom <>

23- Treating Atopic Dermatitis Neck Holistically <>

24- Hericium erinaceus <>


26- Protective effects of Cordyceps extract against UVB‑induced damage and prediction of application prospects in the topical administration: An experimental validation and network pharmacology study <>

27- Cordyceps for skin: are there proven benefits? <>

28- Ultraviolet radiation, aging and the skin: prevention of damage by topical cAMP manipulation <>

29- Melanoma in the elderly patient: relevance of the aging immune system <>

30- Immune-enhancing effects of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) extracts <>

31- Antigenotoxic Effect of Trametes spp. Extracts against DNA Damage on Human Peripheral White Blood Cells <>

32- Fungi – An unusual source for cosmetics <>

33- A review on the production, structure, bioactivities and applications of Tremella polysaccharides <>

34- Natural Products as Sources of New Drugs from 1981 to 2014 <>

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  • Dr Buddhini Dolapihilla is a Medical Doctor, Author and Contributor to medicinal mushroom discourse. She graduated from the University of Colombo with Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) and works at the faculty of medicine.

World Mushroom Society is a collective of fungi enthusiasts and health advocates, sharing information, research, studies, and identifying top producers of high quality medicinal mushroom supplements.


The information on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information found here is not meant as a substitute for, or alternative to, information from your doctor for ongoing medical treatment you currently receive. If unsure, please consult with your doctor before using medicinal mushrooms. Any content related to cancer should not be considered as prescriptive medical advice and should not be a substitute for any cancer treatment, unless advised by your doctor first. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by TGA and FDA-approved research. If you are pregnant or on prescription drugs that thin the blood, consult with your medical professional before using medicinal mushrooms.
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