Mushroom Medicine for Kids
**Disclaimer: this blog post is for educational purposes only. It does not take into consideration the specific health concerns that children may or may not have. Before giving your child(ren) mushrooms please consult with a naturopathic doctor or herbalist who is familiar with mushrooms and children's health.
Mushrooms are some of my favourite medicines to work with with my adult patients, but a frequent question that comes up is, "can I give this to my kids?" so I wanted to write a post on mushrooms and children's health.
Mushrooms elicit all sorts of reactions in people. Some people find them fascinating and love everything about mushrooms. Others are hesitant and worried because they've heard that they can be poisonous or otherwise dangerous. I find there is greater hesitancy around mushrooms than other plants. This makes sense to me since few other plants have as much myth, lore and mystery surrounding them as do members of the kingdom Fungi.
When it comes to children over the age of 2 (as long as mushrooms have been properly introduced and didn't cause a reaction), medicinal mushrooms can be given in a similar way that other herbs are given. Mushrooms, like other plants, can be given in the form of teas, infusions, tinctures, or as food. I'll go through each one and give you some ideas and tips. But first, a little bit about why mushrooms are so wonderful to include in your diet!
Health Benefits of Mushrooms
There are numerous health benefits to mushrooms so I will highlight only the main ones in this post.
High in antioxidants: in general, mushrooms have high levels of antioxidants which protect us from oxidative damage. Oxidative damage can occur from just about every aspect of our modern lifestyle including, but not limited to: electronic use (phones, tablets, TVs, etc), vegetable oils, stress, environmental toxins, etc. Being able to protect from this is a massive advantage.
Immune modulating properties: mushrooms help to balance our immune system so if it's too overactive (think allergies and autoimmunity) it will help bring it down a notch. If it's under-active (think chronic infections, slow healing, more than one cold or flus each season) then it will strengthen it. Mushrooms essentially teach our immune system how to function optimally.
Prebiotic source: did you know that you have to feed your gut microbes? Now you know. These are called prebiotics and mushrooms are an excellent source. Mushrooms also balance the good bacteria in our guts.
Mushrooms As Food
This is my favourite way to give kids mushrooms. If you're buying mushrooms from your local grocer or farmer you might be able to find a nice variety of fresh and seasonal mushrooms including button mushrooms, enoki, shiitake, maitake, portobello, cremini, oyster, chanterelles, lion's mane, and morels. I always recommend including children (even toddlers) in food shopping and preparation because there is so much that they can learn about nature, the seasonal nature of food, and nutrition just through being invited to participate in the process. They can touch, smell, and taste the mushrooms which allows them to engage with these wonderful beings in a fully experiential way. It's truly amazing what a child will notice about a plant that our adult minds no longer find interesting or special.
You can include mushrooms on pizza, in soups and stews, and toss them into bone broths as well.
The other awesome way is through mushroom powders. The two that I use at home are the following:
Harmonic Arts 5-mushroom or 14-mushroom blend. You can use RenataM15 at checkout for 15% off your order. A little bit goes a long way. 1/4tsp in a smoothie, oatmeal, soup, or juice is plenty for kids as this is a medicinal dose.
Forbes Wild Food makes a wild mushroom powder that can be sprinkled on top of just about anything. It's not as potent or concentrated as Harmonic Arts so you can use this one more liberally. This is just food where as Harmonic Arts is food medicine.
Infusions, Decoctions and Tinctures
This is where we get into the more medicinal uses of mushrooms. The most important question is how much is safe for a child to consume. In general with children and any kind of herb, including mushrooms, there are three ways to determine how much is okay for a child to consume.
Young's Rule - Add 12 to the child's age. Divide the child's age by this total. Example: dosage for a 4 year old: 4 divided by 16 (4+12) = .25, or 1/4 of the adult dosage.
Cowling's Rule - Divide the number of the child's next birthday by 24. Example: dosage for a child who is 3, turning 4 would be: 4 divided by 24 = .16, or 1/6 of the adult dosage.
Clarke's Rule: Divide the child’s weight (in pounds) by 150, then give the child that fraction of the adult dose as the appropriate child’s dose. For example, for a 50 pound child give 50/150 (or 1/3) of the adult dose.
In terms of which mushrooms are okay for kids, my rule is that anything you would eat, they can eat as long as:
they're over the age of 2 and not sensitive to mushrooms. Before that, most kids, (especially if breastfed to age 2 and beyond), just don't require much medicine. They tend to be very healthy, vibrant and if they do get sick they mount a good, strong fever and bounce back quickly. If you do want to give your child mushrooms before age 2, the easiest way is through mushroom-rich bone broths.
the mushrooms come from a trusted source and are of very high quality (ie. organic, non-GMO). Don't buy mushrooms unless you trust that the seller knows their mushrooms well and knows about proper storage and processing practices. The only places I get mushrooms are Forbes, trusted grocers/farmers and Harmonic Arts.
Some great mushrooms to start with, that have a high safety profile, are some of the following:
chaga (as a decoction, broth, tincture)
button (as food, broth)
cremini (as food, broth)
turkey tail (as broth, decoction, tincture)
chanterelles (as broth or prepared as food)
portobello (as food)
reishi (as broth, tincture)
If you have any questions, please feel free to email! For liability reasons I'm unable to include specifics regarding health conditions or dosing. For information on that please book an appointment.