Man in forest with large mushroom

Written by Timo Mendez - Published on 28 July, 2023

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Oyster mushroom growing on tree

Oyster Mushrooms occur around the world in almost any biome you can imagine. Despite this, they are still considered an exotic or strange food by many. After all, they weren’t really known by our parents or grandparents, and for western culture, they’ve only become somewhat “commonplace” within the past decades.

And thank goodness. If generations past had grown up eating oyster mushrooms instead of the typical “button mushroom”, maybe occidental culture would have a greater appreciation for mushrooms in general. Don’t get me wrong; I can enjoy a dish with button mushrooms, but they’re nowhere near as delicious as the noble oyster mushroom.

And, while I can go on and on about the gastronomic value of Oyster Mushrooms, that’s not what this article is about. No, this article is about what Oyster mushrooms can offer us beyond their mouth-watering flavors. More specifically, the many health benefits, both nutritional and medicinal, that they offer.

Pan seared Oyster mushrooms

It looks like chicken, but it's actually some pan-seared Oyster Mushrooms. Topped with a bit of parsley and lime, absolutely delicious! What’s not to love?

The Medicinal Properties of Oyster Mushroom

Oyster Mushrooms are a fabulous and healthy addition to the diet. They are low in calories, cholesterol, fats, and all types of carbohydrates. Meanwhile, they are rich in protein, vitamins, and countless minerals. They’re pretty much full of the “good” stuff and void of the “bad” from a nutritional perspective.

Yet Oyster Mushrooms aren’t only a nutritional food; they possess unique medicinal compounds that have been shown to boost your immune health while helping against many life-threatening diseases. This includes cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and many other maladies. While I’ll clarify that Oyster Mushrooms alone won’t cure a disease, they can be part of a healthy routine that, together with diet and exercise, can greatly improve one's health.

Helps Against Diabetes

Oyster Mushrooms have been studied for their anti-diabetic effects. This includes studies on human patients with diabetes (Choudhury, 2013; Banukie, 2014) and countless animal and laboratory studies (Badole, 2008;Zhang, 2016; Ravi, 2013; Sayeed, 2014). Currently they are considered some of the most effective medicinal mushrooms for diabetes.

Has Anti-Cancer Properties

Oyster Mushrooms not only contain high quantities of antioxidants, which may help prevent cancer, but they also contain special polysaccharides that can help combat it. While there haven’t been in-depth clinical trials regarding their use in cancer therapy (as is the case with other medicinal mushrooms), preliminary investigation shows great potential. (Yang, 2013; Lavi, 2006; Choi, 2004; Jedinak, 2008; Finimundy, 2018)


Anti-inflammatory foods and medicines are becoming increasingly popular as we come to realize how much illness is actually related to inflammation. Various types of Oyster Mushrooms have been shown to have highly effective anti-inflammatory compounds such as flavonoids, phenolics, and other forms of antioxidants. (Dandapat, 2015; Jose, 2002; Kawai, 2014; Lavi, 2010; Silveria, 2015; Yuan, 2017)

Regulation of Blood Pressure

Investigations have shown that certain compounds found within Oyster Mushrooms may have the ability to help lower blood pressure in hypertensive individuals. (Hagiwara, 2005; Choudhury, 2013; Miyazawa, 2008; Ikewuchi, 2014; Noriko, 2008)

Could Improve Brain Health

While this still lacks clinical trials, various investigations have shown that Oyster Mushrooms could help improve brain health. This includes “neuroprotective” effects (Liu, 2022; Zitte, 2019; Famii, 2019) and even possibly helping alleviate cognitive impairment caused by Alzheimer's (Zhang, 2016). Some preliminary studies also suggest Oyster Mushrooms can improve memory and hippocampus function (Ahmad, 2022).

Boosting Immune Function

The Immunomodulatory effects of Oyster Mushrooms have been extensively tested and have been shown to be primarily linked to polysaccharides known as beta-glucans. These might not only prevent various forms of disease, but they may also help in the treatment of daisease in immunocompromised individuals. (Xu, 2016; Jesenak, 2013; Wang, 2014; Hu, 2018)

How Do Oyster Mushrooms Improve Our Health?

The health benefits of Oyster Mushrooms can be split into two categories. The first comes from the rich nutritional qualities, and the second from the bioactive compounds that have medicinal properties. 

Nutritional Content Of Oyster Mushrooms (per 100 grams raw USDA)

  • Calories: 33
  • Protein: 3.3 g
  • Fat: 0.41 g
  • Carbohydrates: 6.09 g
  • Fiber: 2.3 g
  • Iron: 1.33 mg
  • Magnesium: 18 mg
  • Potassium: 420 mg
  • Zinc: 0.77 mg
  • Niacin: 4.96 mg

Now, there is one thing that I think is important to consider when reading the nutrition facts of any mushroom. Fresh mushrooms are actually mostly water, about 80–90%! When you cook them, they may lose more than half of their weight in water. What looks like an overflowing pan full of mushrooms quickly diminishes to a reasonable size after 15–20 minutes of cooking. Thus, by cooking down the mushrooms, you are concentrating the nutritional content. For example, fresh Oyster mushrooms only have about 3% protein while dehydrated they can go up to 30% or greater.

Medicinal Compounds In Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster Mushrooms contain a cocktail of medicinal compounds that are effective for improving health and helping with disease. The most important and most studied of these is the beta-glucan known as “pleuran”.

Beta-glucans, like pleuran, are polysaccharides largely responsible for the medicinal effects found in all mushrooms. This includes the highly acclaimed Turkey Tail and Reishi mushrooms. While all mushrooms contain beta-glucans (even yeasts), each species contains slightly different beta-glucans, which impose slightly different effects on the human body. 

Beta-glucans are known to work through a diverse array of mechanisms, but their interaction with the immune system is fundamental. It is known that our immune cells contain specific receptors for fungal beta-glucans that, when activated, help mediate several different immune functions.

They might stimulate your immune system, helping it recognize disease, infections, or even cancer cells. In some cases, it has also been shown to help lower hyperactive immune systems, which can help in the treatment of inflammation and allergies. This ability to either stimulate or depress immune function gives them the name of "Immunomodulators".

Other than interacting with your immune system, beta-glucans are also known to mediate your gut microbiome as a “prebiotic”. This means that it naturally promotes populations of healthy microorganisms in your gut without you having to consume them in the form of a “probiotic”. While I won’t be going into the details, it is now known that having a healthy gut microbiome is intimately linked with physical and mental health. 

Some of the other important compounds found in Oyster Mushrooms include antioxidants like gallic acid, chlorogenic acid, naringenin, and ergothioneine. These help fight oxidative stress by reducing inflammation and diminishing free radicals, which have been linked to cancer.

Incorporating Oyster Mushrooms Into Your Health Regime

While there are countless tinctures, powdered extracts, and many other medicinal products made from oyster mushrooms, I believe the best way to consume them is directly in your diet. They can be added to stews, stir-fries, or any recipe you can imagine to make a delicious functional dish.

This is how many mushrooms are designed to be consumed in the context of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). For those who don’t know, TCM is the ancient medicinal practice that spearheaded the use of mushrooms in medicine. A lot of what we know about medicinal mushrooms has its roots in TCM.

In this traditional context, herbs, vegetables, and even meats are prepared into certain dishes that are meant to alleviate symptoms and cure disease in an ill individual. Mushrooms, for example, would be mixed in stews with other healing foods like ginger, garlic, and certain animal proteins to have a synergistic effect. Not that this is something completely exotic, as even we Westerners know that a hot, steaming bowl of chicken soup can help when you’re feeling under the weather.

Mushroom soup

Okay, I admit, this Polish mushroom soup was a little heavy on the butter, but delicious and nutritious nonetheless!

mushroom stew

Another delicious mushroom stew with fresh vegetables This time featuring agave flowers!

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re trying to treat a very specific condition using Oyster Mushrooms, a processed product like a tincture can be a great way to go. Yet, for most of us who are just trying to improve our well-being, incorporating Oyster Mushrooms (and other varieties too!) into our weekly diet is generally enough to get some of the health benefits.

Of course, I must emphasize that eating mushrooms shouldn’t be the central pillar of your health regime. Instead, it is just one part of the many lifestyle choices like diet and exercise that can improve your health and well-being. Thankfully, eating oyster mushrooms shouldn’t be a challenge for anyone, as they are delicious!