Unique Properties of Mushrooms to Boost Immune System
The immune system, like other systems in our body, works best when it is exercised. Daily exposure to foreign elements coming in contact with the body via ingestion or inhalation is one way that the immune system is naturally exercised without much effort. Short duration colds, minor scrapes, or even bug bites, all also stimulate the immune function, preparing the body for future encounters with possible cancers or tough to treat bacteria. Another effective way to work out your immune system, without potentially getting sick due to exposure, is by taking something known as an immune stimulant or immuno-modulator. Enter in the best mushrooms to boost immune system. These mushrooms are the kings of immunity regulation!
Medicinal mushrooms differ greatly in their individual healing properties from one mushroom to the next, but despite their individuality, they nearly all have a commonality of boosting our immune systems. Mushrooms that boost the immune system are not strictly immunostimulants or immunosuppressants, but often times both, earning them the name “immunomodulators.” Immunomodulators work similarly to adaptogens, but relate only to immune function.
Mushrooms’ immune boosting abilities are highly attributable to the high level of polysaccharides (specifically Beta-glucans, one type of polysaccharide found in abundance in fungi) contained within their cell walls. This class of therapeutically active compounds are most widespread within the mushroom kingdom, and within our bodies they interact with specific fungal-polysaccharide receptors on our immune cells (macrophages, neutrophils, monocytes, and dendritic cells). For intense reading about this exact pathway, Martin Powell’s Medicinal Mushrooms: A Clinical Guide goes into fantastic detail of polysaccharides acting as nutrients to enhance our immune system.
Mushrooms to Boost Immune System: Shiitake
Shiitake is a well known superfood because it has an array of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that are necessary to fuel our bodily functions. Shiitake is an excellent choice of mushroom to boost immune system due to its high nutrients, such as B vitamins, vitamin D, selenium, niacin, and 7 of the 8 essential amino acids. Also worth noting is the wealth of enzymes in shiitake that result in better absorption of our food. Shiitake has shown robust anti-cancer activity, primarily through enhancing immune function, rather than by directly attacking tumor cells. The amount of published clinical work on one of these compounds (Lentinan), alone, is quite vast, and a great cursory review of the major works can be found in Hobbs’ Medicinal Mushrooms: An Exploration of Tradition, Healing, & Culture.
Mushrooms to Boost Immune System: Chaga
Gram for gram, chaga has the highest amount of antioxidants and melanin of any substance on the planet. It also contains a high amount of zinc, all of which support immune function. Chaga is regarded by the Moscow Medical Institute as an effective immune booster. Russian folklore tells of the fungus growing on birch trees with the ability to treat various cancers, supporting our modern day usage of chaga. It’s one of our favorite mushrooms to boost immune system.
Mushrooms to Boost Immune System: Reishi
Renowned for its anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties, reishi mushroom has also shown the ability to stimulate macrophages (a type of white blood cell) to produce more tumor necrosis factor (TNF-alpha) to result in anti-tumor activity. It has been shown in vivo studies to stimulate RNA and DNA production within the bone marrow – square one for the immune system, where all red and white blood cells are made. Furthermore, reishi has shown to increase the concentrations of white blood cells and hemoglobin in the peripheral blood in mice. These same immunostimulating polysaccharides render reishi as a valuable supporting herb for those who are HIV positive, or for those who are treating mononucleosis (aka mono), which is caused by the infectious Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV).
Mushrooms to Boost Immune System: Turkey Tail
The polysaccharide PSK is largely responsible for turkey tail’s inhibition of sarcoma formation. This same compound is effective in increasing Natural Killer cells’ activity, a type of white blood cell responsible for immunity against viral infection. PSK has been used pharmaceutically as an adjunct immunostimulant in cancer patients, and unlike many anticancer drugs, PSK derived from turkey tail mushroom produces few, if any, side effects on other organs, and no immunosuppressive action (1).
Mushrooms to Boost Immune System: Lion’s Mane
Lion’s mane mushroom is often called “Nature’s Nutrient for the Neurons” due to its impressive ability to stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF) production. While NGF is largely tied to its significance with neurological function, it is also effective in many other areas, including our immunity. Our immune cells express receptors for NGF, which allows for immuno-regulation when we have a supply of NGF.
Mushrooms to Boost Immune System: Maitake
Maitake has been shown to have an effect on the immune system for those dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome. Powdered maitake mushroom has shown to increase white blood cell activity and production – namely macrophage, natural killer cells, and T-cells.
Mushrooms to Boost Immune System: Cordyceps
Cordyceps has the unique ability to interrupt RNA/DNA synthesis, which has led to the inclusion of Cordyceps mushrooms in the treatment programs of viral based infections, such as HIV, hepatitis, as well as some cancers. In healthy cells, these RNA/DNA inhibitors are out-competed by endogenous, or native to the body, nucleotides – however, in cancer cells or virally infected cells which are rapidly dividing, Cordyceps is able to effectively inhibit the rate of replication (2).
Mush 10: An All-In-One Boost to the Immune System
At Mushroom Revival, we offer a blend that is equal parts of 10 different mushrooms: reishi, cordyceps, lion’s mane, turkey tail, chaga, maitake, shiitake, and more. These mushrooms work synergistically to maintain a healthy, resilient immune system.
With these mushrooms to boost immune system in your corner, you can feel confident that your body has a wealth of compounds to use as needed for a bullet-proof immune system. Try yours today!
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- Tsukagoshi et al. 1984. Krestin (PSK). Cancer Treatment Reviews 11:131-155.
- Powell, M. 2014. Medicinal Mushrooms: A Clinical Guide. Mycology Press. P 52.