There is a possibility you’ve been hearing words like “adaptogens” “turkey tail” “reishi” and even “ashwaganda” more often in the last few years. Since we are at the height of flu season, and of course due to the continued spread of Covid-19, Mushrooms are a great addition to your arsenal of the vitamins Zinc, D3 and C you’ve most likely been taking more of this year.
In this post, I will focus on the immune capabilities of certain mushrooms. This is Part 1 in a 3-part series dedicated to the benefits of mushrooms and what they can do for the body.
Part 2 will look at Mood & Stress Support & Part 3 we will discover how mushrooms can benefit our internal organs.
What are Adaptogens? Well they are essentially herbs used for centuries in Eastern medicine and are finally making their way into the US and becoming mainstream again (they are also a little “trendy” but if you dig deeper, the science is pretty amazing.) These adaptogens naturally protect your body from stress & anxiety by helping your system “adapt” to outside stressors. They target the bodies 3 stages of stress, Alarm, Resistance and Exhaustion, also known as the “Flight or Fight” response.
Certain mushrooms contain these properties along with herbs like the aforementioned, Ashwaganda. However, I don’t want to delve into this too much, but that’s a sneak peek into Part 2 😊
Part 1: Immunity
Medicinal mushrooms have been used primarily in Eastern medicine for thousands of years, one of the biggest reasons for this is what are in the mushrooms, called polysaccharides. What are those? Well they are basically the sugars found in the cell walls of fungi, plants, yeast, algae & oats. Beta-Glucans are naturally occurring in these polysaccharides and have scientifically proven to positively impact immune health and even inhibit tumor growth. Beta-glucans attach themselves to the cytokine receptor sites on the immune cells and activate them, in turn balancing boosting the system, as well as fighting inflammation.
** When writing blog posts such as this one, you will always find citations below linked to scientific studies I have read and researched. **
Top 5 Immune Boosting Mushrooms
Chaga: Containing amino acids, and B-Complex vitamins Chaga can be considered a superfood due to its antioxidant (anti-aging) properties. Chaga is known to support the immune system by essentially helping cells communicate more efficiently, in turn helping to fight colds and serious illnesses.
Reishi: May give your immune system a boost due to the affect they have on our white blood cells (macrophages.) They increase their production & lower inflammation levels thereby making it easier for your body to fight infection.
Cordyceps: Are powerhouses for the respiratory & immune systems as well as increasing energy production. They have similar properties as the ones in chaga, but specifically enhance lung function and I thought it pertinent to add the “Himalayan Gold” of fungi in the group!
Agarikon: An Agarikon mushroom can live up to 100 years! This is honestly my favorite mushroom of all and here’s why. Agarikon has a strong anti-viral capability, is anti-bacterial and battles candida, it can strengthen the GI Tract, support the kidneys, improve circulation and respiration, and supports your adrenals.
Paul Stamets with an Agarikon Mushroom
Turkey Tail: Turkey Tail have a high level of the polysaccharides we were talking about earlier and along with Krestin, helps activate the good immune cells, and inhibit the bad guys. Krestin activates macrophages which can protect you against harmful bacteria.
These mushrooms are all best consumed in a powder or tincture and there are several blends available by very well-trusted companies in the community. My favorite being Host Defense by Paul Stamets. I highly recommend you checking him out if you are interested in this topic! Paul is not only doing wonders for humans but he is also very active in saving the bees and their colonies.
The other company is called OM Mushrooms. OM is a local company in Carlsbad, CA and was started by Sandra Carter, PhD and Steve Farrar, a mycologist.
Scientific citations below, and stay tuned for Part 2 (Mood & Stress Support) in the coming weeks!
Volman JJ, Helsper JP, Wei S, Baars JJ, van Griensven LJ, Sonnenberg AS, Mensink RP, Plat J. Effects of mushroom-derived beta-glucan-rich polysaccharide extracts on nitric oxide production by bone marrow-derived macrophages and nuclear factor-kappaB transactivation in Caco-2 reporter cells: can effects be explained by structure? Mol Nutr Food Res. 2010 Feb;54(2):268-76. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.200900009. PMID: 19885842.
Chan GC, Chan WK, Sze DM. The effects of beta-glucan on human immune and cancer cells. J Hematol Oncol. 2009 Jun 10;2:25. doi: 10.1186/1756-8722-2-25. PMID: 19515245; PMCID: PMC2704234.