Mushrooms and Your Immune System
Now more than ever, it is important to maintain a healthy immune system. With flu season approaching and the coronavirus still weaking havoc across the globe, a weak immune system leaves us vulnerable to illness while autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disease, trigger overactive immune responses that beg to be dialed back.
When it comes to an overactive immune response “the confused autoimmune system feels the need to attack their host body, rather than just the foreign virus that arrives uninvited,” Chad Larson, NMD, Certified Clinical Nutritionist, writes for Physicians News Digest. Additionally, those with autoimmune diseases are more susceptible to infections and suffer longer recovery times, Dr. Larson explains.
Whether weak or overactive, the immune system needs regulation. It is the body’s defense system and like a weak or overly aggressive tactical team, it is only successful in doing the job when strong, stable and appropriately responsive. Healthy immune function is a result of both strength and balance.
Regulating the Immune System with Mushrooms
Since at least 3000 BC, medicinal mushrooms have been used to stave off infections and fight diseases. Many of these mushrooms were noted by physician, philosopher and naturalist, Hipprocrates who found the Amadou mushroom stopped bleeding and later by Dioscorides, physician, pharmacologist and botanist who named the Agarikon mushroom “elixirium ad longam vitam”—elixir of long life.
According to mycologist Paul Stamets, medicinal mushroom mycelium produce extracellular metabolites more powerful than Ribavirin in combating both flu viruses H5N1 and H3N2 in vitro. This was found in an experiment funded by the NIH and USAMRIID—the Department of Defense’s lead laboratory for medical biological defense research. The mushrooms used in this research included Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) and Chaga (Inonotus obliquus).
Other Noteworthy Mushrooms
Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) have also been indicated as immuno-modulators that exert antimicrobial activity against viruses. They have been touted as immune response modifiers and used for support during chemotherapy and for chronic inflammation.
Based on evidence from three placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trials, these fungi, in combination with the Brazilian mushroom Cogumelo do Sol (Basidiomycota Agaricus blazei Murill), were recently theorized to possibly have prophylactic or therapeutic effects against the severe lung inflammation associated with Covid-19 caused by the coronavirus.
Chaga, Shiitakes, Cordyceps Turkey Tail and Poria cocos, a truffle-like fungus, are believed to facilitate immunomodulatory activities. They work to stimulate, modulate and support the immune system through polysaccharides, polysaccharide peptides, proteins, terpenoids and nucleotides. Their phytoconstituents have been reported to activate chemical messengers such as interferons, cytokines and interleukins and potentiate cells important in immune function—host cells, monocytes, T cells, neutrophils, dendritic cells, natural killer cells and macrophages.
In a 2011 study conducted at the University of Florida, researchers showed Shiitake mushrooms provide an immunity boost. "If you eat a shiitake mushroom every day, you could see changes in [study participants’] immune system that are beneficial," University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty member, Sue Percival stated. The study screened for alcohol abuse (which can suppress the immune system) and selected individuals who were not ingesting probiotics or tea and were not eating a high-fiber diet (which can improve immunity).
In a review of more than 60 published articles, researchers at Helfgott Research Institute at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, highlighted previous studies which show medicinal mushrooms stimulate the production of cytokines—intracellular immune response mediators. Their review focused on Reishi, Turkey Tail, Cordyceps, Maitake and Agaricus blazei mushrooms due to their potential to trigger an anticancer immunological mechanism. In one example, the authors noted a phase I, dose-escalated clinical trial of Turkey Tail in women with breast cancer where researchers found radiation-induced collateral damage of natural killer cells notably reduced.
Choosing an Immune Supplement
Turkey Tail, Agaricus blazei, Maitake, Reishi, Chaga, Cordyceps, Shiitake, Lion’s Mane, Poria cocos are some of the mushrooms found in The Herban Shaman Mushroom Immune Support. It also contains Fomes fomentarius (Hoof fungus), Messima, Tremella (Snow fungus), Enokitake (Velvet Foot) and Zhu Ling mushrooms.
When it comes to choosing a supplement for your immune system, try The Herban Shaman Mushroom Immune Support. It is an American-made, organic, vegan-friendly blend designed based on the long history of medicinal mushroom benefits provided by nature to help you thrive, not just survive.
Exponential Medicine. (2015, October 15). Mushrooms as Medicine with Paul Stamets at Exponential Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7agK0nkiZpA
Guggenheim, A., Wright, K. & Zwickey, H. Immune modulation from five major mushrooms: application to integrative oncology. (2014, Feb; 13(1): 32–44) Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal
Hetland, G., Johnson, E., Grinde, B., et al. Can Medicinal mushrooms have prophylactic or therapeutic effect against COVID-19 and its pneumonic superinfection and complicating inflammation? (2020, July 29: e12937) Scandinavian Journal of Immunology
John Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Autoimmune Disease: Why Is My Immune System Attacking Itself? Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/autoimmune-disease-why-is-my-immune-system-attacking-itself
Physicians News Digest. (n.d.). How Autoimmune Disease Patients Can Avoid the Impacts of Flu and Cold Season. Retrieved from https://physiciansnews.com/2016/11/02/autoimmune-patients-avoid-impacts-flu-cold-season/
Science Daily. (2015, April 16). Mushrooms Boost Immunity, Suggest Research. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150416112826.htm#:~:text=%22If%20you%20eat%20a%20shiitake,that%20the%20immune%20system%20produces.%22