Christopher Hobbs's Medicinal Mushrooms: The Essential Guide

Boost Immunity, Improve Memory, Fight Cancer, Stop Infection, and Expand Your Consciousness


By Christopher Hobbs

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Mushrooms have been used as medicine for thousands of years and their value in boosting immunity, improving memory, and even fighting cancer is being recognized and documented in scientific research. Christopher Hobbs, a mycologist and herbalist at the forefront of contemporary research, profiles the most powerful medicinal mushrooms and explains the nutritional and medicinal compounds in each one. Detailed instructions cover how to select, store, and prepare each variety for use. Whether readers are growing or foraging their own mushrooms, or sourcing them from a local provider, this essential handbook will guide them in making health-boosting medicine.

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To my son, Ken,

who has taught me so much about service, humility, and love on an often joyful and sometimes difficult path to self-discovery and healing.

A Note of Caution from the Publisher

The information in this book is provided only as a resource. Any reader who forages for wild mushrooms and chooses to ingest them does so at his or her own risk; without a 100 percent positive identification, no wild mushroom should ever be consumed. Readers should not rely solely the information in this book for the purpose of identifying mushrooms; consulting other respected field guides (listed in Resources) is necessary, and consulting with an expert mushroom forager, who can identify the mushrooms in person, is recommended.

The author's opinions about the uses and risks of taking psilocybin in Chapter 4 do not constitute either legal or medical advice.

Any reader who nevertheless elects to use psilocybin for any of the possible benefits advanced by the author should first consult a qualified medical professional, or an experienced or qualified guide, who can make recom­mendations based upon the reader's medical and psychological history and current medical and psychological condition.

The reader should carefully consider the following before foraging, preparing, or ingesting psilocybin:

Psilocybin is a Schedule 1 drug (classified by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration). The manufacture, possession, and distribution of psilocybin is illegal under federal, state, and almost all local laws.

The publisher does not encourage or advocate acting in any way that violates local, state, or federal laws and regulations.



1. Mushrooms for Health and Healing

2. Making Mushroom Medicine

3. Top Medicinal Fungi

3. Top Medicinal Fungi (b)

3. Top Medicinal Fungi (c)

4. Visionary Mushrooms

5. Fungi in the Wild and at Home





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The inspiration for this book came from my ancestors, my passion for botany, nature, and science, as well as my lifelong interest in such questions as, What causes disease? Why does it come to some people who seem perfectly healthy, despite their best efforts to take care of themselves in a good way? Is good health just the absence of disease, or something greater?

These lifelong interests finally crossed with my passion for fungi in the late 1970s, when I attended one of the first mushroom conferences in the United States. It was on Orcas Island, the inspiration of Paul Stamets, the renowned mycophile. There I met Paul, as well as Dr. Alexander Smith, a wood sprite if I ever saw one, and a prominent mycolo­gist and author of mushroom field guides; Dr. Gastón Guzmán, the leading researcher on the genus Psilocybe; and many more luminaries in this tribe of unique fungi enthusiasts. Mushroom identification walks and talks from Dr. Smith, Dr. Guzmán, and local mushroom experts set me off like a rocket on a trajectory of fascination for fungi that has lasted a lifetime. It was just a beginning, but from the conference I took away some entry-level identification skills that enabled me to recognize chanterelles and a few other worthy edibles. Over the years since then, my passion and identification skills have expanded; I now find and eat more than 50 wild species of mushrooms. When no wild mushrooms are around, I'm reduced to growing oyster mushrooms at home or purchasing various cultivated fungi, as well as rehydrating the porcini and candycaps I dried the previous season.

My ancestors on my mother's side passed along their interest in community herbalism — my great-grandmother was an herbalist, and my grandmother was the community herbalist in her neighborhood of Pasadena, California, in the 1920s. On my dad's side, my grandfather was an organic grower of avocados and citrus. He had a compost heap in his orchard that I still remember, and a special canning kitchen where he processed crops from his orchard and farm to store for winter. My dad taught botany and biology at a university until he retired, then spent his retirement years consulting on environmental issues.

All the epigenetic signals my ancestors passed on to me led me into the woods, where every turn was a mystery with an unknown destination. Along the way were the most fantastic creations of nature — brightly colored fungi of every hue, tall fragrant trees, rugged landscapes high in the mountains, green meadows tall with every wildflower, with a babbling stream running through it. What brought it all together and brought these treasures into my life fully was the community of herbalists and lovers of nature and fungi whom I met and loved, as we explored the edges of the well-trod pathways of mainstream culture.

I have been fascinated by fungi for decades. This is a mushroom walk I led at the Breitenbush Herbal Conference in the early 1990s.

It is estimated that there are 2.2 to 3.8 million species of fungi on Earth, of which only about 4 percent have been documented and described.

My Early Research

In 1985, my interest in herbalism and natural health led me to begin researching how people have used fungi for healing and health in different cultures around the world. I also started combing the scientific literature for studies that might show the ways in which fungi affect our nutrition, metabolism, and immunity. This latter idea really struck me. Mushrooms and fungi could activate many aspects of our immune response, whose fundamental purpose is to protect us from pathogenic types of viruses and bacteria. According to traditional Chinese medicine, disease-promoting factors are created in our bodies through our constitution, diet, and metabolism, as well as external influences from the environment like hot, cold, dry, and damp. To the ancients, fungi like reishi could help remove these pathogens and restore healthy balance throughout our body's systems, enabling us to maintain homeostasis.

Orange peel fungus

Aleuria aurantia

Woolly chanterelle

Turbinellus floccosus

I was fascinated and powerfully attracted to learning more about how and why these interactions between fungi and humans happen. These interactions are ancient — fungi have been around for about 1 billion years, according to a recent discovery based on fossils collected in northern Canada by an international team of researchers.1 The previous estimate was about 460 million years. This research shows that fungi appeared on land prior to the evolution of flowering plants, prior to the rise of insects, and long before the evolution of mammals. Other research shows that our distant ancestors were interacting with fungi. It's no wonder, then, that we have developed sensors throughout our body to detect the presence of fungi.

These stunning illustrations are from an early German field guide I found while doing research in Europe.

In 1986, I wrote the first edition of Medicinal Mushrooms: The History, Chemistry, Pharmacology and Folk Uses for Modern Times. In 1995, I spent months researching and pulling together more than a thousand references to write the second edition of the book, greatly expanded, which is still in print today.

At the Mendocino Mushroom Foray, we found dozens of species.

Mycena species

Inspecting a Suillus species

Since then, the scientific research and publication on the myriad ways fungi interact with our immune system and other body systems, as well as their disease-preventing and healing properties, have grown tremendously. Currently, the published scientific literature on turkey tail fungus alone is likely to rival all the combined literature that existed in 1985 on all species of fungi used for medicine by all world cultures. In 1985, about 70 studies were published based on the keywords "medicinal mushrooms" in the scientific literature. By 2019, that had grown to about 4,400.

Over more than 35 years of researching, writing, and speaking about the rich history of human-fungi interactions, I have learned from many passionate and curious students. The experiences they've shared with me and the questions they've asked have been enlightening and inspiring, and have helped direct my research. I've learned what people are curious about; the questions they ask are often focused on how to incorporate mushrooms into their daily lives. People want to know if medicinal mushrooms can help them resolve their health issues and stay healthy under stress or during the cold and flu season, and if they can help other members of their family.

The Healing Potential of Fungi

The purpose of this book is to address many of the common questions I receive from the people who attend the talks and workshops I have offered over the years, and to share the passion I have for fungi, health, and the natural world. I have included my hands-on experience, clinical experience with patients, and a distillation of my extensive research about medicinal fungi. I want to share the amazing story of how fungi interact with our body to activate global immune responses, help calm our nervous system, benefit our cardiovascular system, and protect us from toxins and stresses in our environment, all the while supplying important nutrients. The healing potential of fungi is promising indeed.

lobster mushroom

Hypomyces lactifluorum

deer mushroom

Pluteus cervinus

Exploring the world of fungi and connecting with them in the environments where they live — in fields and pastures, forests, and compost heaps — contributes to good health. In this way, we experience the calm and reflection of "forest therapy," the joy of going on mushroom-­collecting forays for personal solitude, and the healing practice of mindfulness. We bond with family members and connect with friends as we explore, encouraging young children to feel connected to the natural world and building friendships. The excitement of the hunt for edible and medicinal fungi adds to the healing properties of the mushrooms themselves. Being in the forest, finding mushrooms, and experiencing the sensual qualities of fungal smells — often earthy, fresh, or even fruity — and the inviting textures of moist duff and silky mushrooms trigger ancient instincts. Every color of the rainbow is represented in the mushroom world, enhancing their appeal and making it easy to spot them.

When we turn our attention to nature, we receive her blessings, her nurturing, and her vast wisdom, which is so restorative and healing to mind, spirit, and body.

Clockwise from top left: Stropharia ambigua, Lepiota species, Boletus edulis, Ganoderma applanatum

The scope of this book could be encyclopedic if we had the space to tell all the stories from world cultures, the uses of fungi in current herbal practice and as a medicine and food of the people in many countries of the world, as well as attempting to summarize the vast amount of scientific research that has been published. Instead, I focus on the information, hands-on instruction, recipes, and formulas that are imminently practical, and on the published studies that are most helpful in understanding the usefulness of a particular species.

The published studies I've included are typically randomized, double-blind, placebo-­controlled studies, or actual clinical reports to help us understand the benefits to humans, how to purchase high-quality products that are the most active, how to harvest medicinal species, how to prepare them, how to take them for oral use, and for how long. We will highlight the best species for many health conditions, and what, if any, are the potential side effects. Most importantly, we will discuss what to expect when using fungi for prevention and support to help heal various diseases — such as for cancer support, cardiovascular support, metabolic syndrome, and obesity; for preventing and treating various viral and bacterial infections, such as urinary tract infections and respiratory tract infections; for restoring and healing nerve problems; for cognition; for increasing energy; for easing mood disorders like depression and anxiety; and more. I will also share my years of clinical and personal experience collecting, extracting, making products, testing in the lab, and use with my patients in the clinic.

I hope this book answers many of your questions, so you can fully incorporate and enjoy the health and medicinal benefits of fungi in your daily life.

Shaggy mane (Coprinus comatus) is an edible species that's relatively easy to identify by its shaggy cap, among other traits.

Ganoderma oregonense is a beautiful species of reishi found in the Western United States.


Mushrooms for Health and Healing

Mushrooms are a familiar food. Even the least adventuresome eater has probably enjoyed button ­mushrooms sliced up on a pizza, or shiitake in an Asian stir-fry. These mushrooms add pleasing textures, mouthfeel, and flavor to many meals. Despite their familiarity, though, many people aren't aware of the nutritional benefits of mushrooms. As a nutritional powerhouse, they have so much more than flavor and texture to offer. As you eat them and learn about their nutritional and medicinal benefits, you may start thinking of them as essential superfoods.

A Healing and Healthful Food

Hippocrates is thought to have said, "Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food." This statement is more relevant than ever, now that modern science has found so many active and healing compounds in common foods like curcumin in turmeric and curry, allicin in garlic, quercetin in apples and onions, and the cancer-preventive compounds in brassica vegetables like broccoli and kale called Se-methylselenocysteine and glucosinolates.

Thinking of mushrooms as both food and medicine, as have many cultures throughout time, can encourage you to incorporate them in your daily diet. Taking pills or tinctures is another way of getting mushroom medicine, but because this is often separate from our regular lives and habits, developing a regimen of regular mushroom consumption with pills and tinctures can be hit or miss. Eating mushrooms frequently and using mushroom powders you've made yourself will enable you to get a higher dose and much greater benefit for the amount of money you spend, considering the production costs that go into making commercially available pills and extracts. (See Choosing Mushroom Products off the Shelf for further discussion of the variable quality of commercial mushroom products.)

Some species of edible mushrooms have a nearly complete complement of all necessary nutrients — vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, carbohydrates, and fatty acids. To absorb these nutrients, mushrooms should be well cooked to break down the tough fibers.

High in Minerals, B Vitamins, and Protein

When it comes to nutrition, mushrooms have so much to offer! They are a rich source of vitamins, and they have an incredibly high mineral content (some types have 7  to 12 percent total minerals); they are a particularly good source of trace minerals such as zinc, copper, and iron, as well as the macrominerals phosphorus and potassium. Mushrooms also have a significant amount of all the B-complex vitamins (including B12) — almost as much as meat. Since B12 is a crucial vitamin for our body to create new, healthy blood cells, and meat is the highest and most bioavailable source, vegetarians can become deficient in this important nutrient. Cooking mushrooms helps break down cell walls and render the minerals more bioavailable. Heat can destroy some of the vitamins, but stir-frying mushrooms like oyster mushrooms and shiitakes with a ­little water will ­preserve a good portion of the B vitamins.

Fungi are also an excellent source of high-­quality protein; some oyster mushrooms, for example, contain up to 30 percent protein. This makes mushrooms a valuable addition to the diet, especially in parts of the world where protein is scarce; fungi can efficiently convert plant waste into a sustainable form of protein that humans can digest and assimilate efficiently. The protein in mushrooms contains all nine essential amino acids.

Major Nutrients for Ten Important Mushrooms


Pleurotus spp.

Protein^ % Fats % Sugars %
24.7–34.7 1.8–5 19.6
Dietary Fiber** % Magnesium mg/100 g Iron mg/100 g
66.4 128–190 9–15
Potassium mg/100 g Calcium mg/100 g Copper mg/100 g
2,722–5,100 89–150 2.6
Phosphorus mg/100 g Zinc mg/100 g Thiamin*** mg/100 g
618–1,339 3–12 0.042–0.3
Riboflavin**** mg/100 g Niacin mg/100 g Folate (µg/100 g)*****
0.083–1.27 3.88–14.1 13–163
Vitamin D2* (µg/100 g)


Lentinula edodes

Protein^ % Fats % Sugars %
9.6–29.4 2.1 25.8
Dietary Fiber** % Magnesium mg/100 g Iron mg/100 g
67.9 116.5–132 20.1
Potassium mg/100 g Calcium mg/100 g Copper mg/100 g
2,647.5 11–42.3 0.9–5.2
Phosphorus mg/100 g Zinc mg/100 g Thiamin*** mg/100 g
294–493 4.3–7.6 0.009–0.3
Riboflavin**** mg/100 g Niacin mg/100 g Folate (µg/100 g)*****
0.057–1.27 2.6–14.1 25–163
Vitamin D2* (µg/100 g)

Lion's mane

Hericeum erinaceus

Protein^ % Fats % Sugars %
24–41.1 1–4.2 17.4
Dietary Fiber** % Magnesium mg/100 g Iron mg/100 g
64.8 94.8


  • “Nothing less than a masterpiece. This is the authoritative resource on medicinal mushrooms for anyone seeking to enhance their physical and mental health.” — James Lake, MD, University of Arizona College of Medicine Department of Psychiatry clinical assistant professor and author of The Integrative Mental Health Solution

    “Many books claim to be ‘essential,’ but Christopher Hobbs’s Medicinal Mushrooms: The Essential Guide actually is. For those of us fascinated by fungi, this book is a glorious feast of full-color photos, detailed but understandable information on medicinal, edible, and visionary mushrooms, recipes, an introduction to basic mycology, and even cultivation tips. This book is best in class, hands down.” — David Winston, RH (AHG), DSc (hc)

    “What a timely, beautifully illustrated publication, brimming over with well-researched and documented sources and reflecting Chris Hobbs’s lifelong fascination with and love for mushrooms. It’s great to have all the information on how to use the medicinal power of mushrooms to treat yourself so appealingly presented. An awesome contribution that empowers those old and new to mushroom magic to unleash its healing potential.” — Daniel Winkler, author, ethnomycologist, and founder of MushRoaming Adventures

    “An absolutely incredible book! Brilliantly written, amply illustrated with gorgeous photos, and overflowing with practical information, scientific studies, and earth wisdom.  I couldn’t put this book down! The author, a seasoned mycologist, weaves together ancient knowledge with modern scientific research and covers every aspect of mushroom lore, from medicinal and edible uses to home preparations, selecting high quality commercial products, growing your own mushrooms, wild identification, and respectful wild harvesting. A must-have book for anyone interested in mushrooms, yes, but also health, healing, and nature.”  — Rosemary Gladstar, best-selling author and herbalist

    "Christopher Hobbs is one of the leading herbalists in the world and among his many achievements is his recognition as one of the leading experts on the use of medicinal mushrooms." — Dr. Michael Tierra, OMD, LAc, RH (AHG), author of The Way of Herbs and Planetary Herbology and founder/director of the East West Herb Course

On Sale
Mar 30, 2021
Page Count
272 pages

Christopher Hobbs

Christopher Hobbs

About the Author

Christopher Hobbs, PhD, LAc, is the author of Christopher Hobbs’s Medicinal Mushrooms: The Essential Guide. He is an internationally renowned mycologist, herbal clinician, licensed acupuncturist, botanist, and research scientist with over 40 years of experience in herbal medicine. The author of more than 20 books, he lectures on herbal medicine worldwide. Hobbs has taught at universities and medical schools such as Stanford Medical School, Yale Medical School, Bastyr University, UC Berkeley, and the National School of Naturopathic Medicine. He lives in the Sierra foothills of California. 

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