Do Mushrooms Help Your Immune System?*
Mushrooms are our business — and our passion. We grow and harvest mushrooms, we cook with them and sometimes drink them, and we (of course) extract them into high-quality tinctures and powdered extracts. For fun, we even “hunt” them in the woods and on fallen logs. We could fawn over fungi all day, every day. One of the most common questions we hear is: Do mushrooms help your immune system?* This blog will answer that question — and introduce you to a few of our favorite types of fungi.
What’s Inside Mushrooms?
To get to the root of the question “do mushrooms help your immune system?” you need to take a look inside.* From white buttons and morels to Shiitake and Lion’s Mane, mushrooms contain several varieties of carbohydrates, including starch and a type of complex carbohydrate (also known as a polysaccharide) called beta-glucans.
Beta-glucans have been studied extensively, and they are also found in the cell walls of lichens, grains (including oats), and seaweed. They are named based on their branching structure; mushrooms contain beta-glucans 1-6.
Research shows that beta-glucans support the immune system, including your immune cells, and healthy cell turnover and growth.* Certain mushrooms also have unique polysaccharides, such as the lentinan found in Shiitakes or PSK in Turkey Tails.
Mushrooms also contain components including terpenes and steroids, that can support the immune system, too.* Other active components in mushrooms include terpenes in Reishi, hericenones in Lion’s Mane, and cordycepin in Cordyceps.
Due to their beta-glucan content, all mushrooms are considered to be immunosupportive.*
According to research by herbalist and mycologist Christopher Hobbs, published in 2017 in Herbalgram, beta-glucans bind with macrophages (a type of white blood cell) in the intestines. From there, the beta-glucans are ingested and transported to the spleen, lymph nodes, and bone marrow, among other sites. In the marrow, the beta-glucans are further broken down. This is how they offer your immune system support.* (Does this answer the question “do mushrooms help your immune system”?)
Types Of Mushrooms That Offers Immune Support*
Some mushrooms support the immune system from an “offensive” perspective (such as Cordyceps, Shiitake, and Turkey Tail), while others play “defense,” just like the different aspects of your immune system.* Other mushrooms are immune tonics, meaning they support and nourish the system in general or specific parts.* Reishi, Cordyceps, and Shiitake are tonic mushrooms that support the immune system. *
Adaptogens — including Cordyceps and Reishi — also support the immune system because they help support our response to stresses, by supporting and balancing the endocrine system.*
Here’s a list of some of the most common mushrooms that support the immune system.* Next time you hear someone ask “Do mushrooms help your immune system?” you can share this list with them!
- Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
- Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris)
- Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
- Meshima (Phellinus linteus)
- Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
- Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
- Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)
So there you have it: Do mushrooms help your immune system?* Only you can decide that, but we think they’re definitely worth making a part of your regular healthy habits.