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Fungi 101, Immune System
This article has been professionally reviewed by Licensed Acupuncturist Corinna Loo L.Ac, MTOM. As with everything you read on the internet, this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Never disregard the advice of a medical professional, or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website
Mushroom health supplements are part of a rapidly growing market that’s expected to reach $13 Billion by 2022. But there’s nothing new about using mushrooms to boost immunity and improve overall health. In fact, mushrooms have been a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, First Nations and Northern European health culture for thousands of years. Nowadays, more research on mushroom supplements benefits are being done, revealing their positive effects on the human body.
Western science and research is beginning to catch up with these millenia-old modalities confirming that mushrooms have the potential to boost overall immune system health, and with it, well-being.
Specific mushrooms are thought to be capable of the following:
So which mushroom should you add to your daily routine? Below, we’ll review the best mushrooms for immune system health.
If you’re familiar with an immune-boosting mushroom, it may very well be the reishi. Also called the lingzhi (scientific name Ganoderma lucidum), the reishi mushroom is known in China as the “mushroom of immortality.” These dark, glossy mushrooms grow in semi-circles on deciduous trees. However, they’re relatively rare, as well as woody and unpleasant to eat.
That’s why they’re more commonly consumed as teas or extracts.
Reishi mushrooms are thought to have several immune-boosting properties:
Scientists are continuing to study the traditional uses of reishi to understand exactly how the mushrooms achieve their lauded effects.
Other traditional uses include:
In time, we’ll learn more about the specific ways this mushroom can promote longevity.
Chaga mushrooms (scientific name Inonotus obliquus) grow on birch trees in cold, Northern climates. Also called “birch rot,” they appear as blackened, burnt growths. Cut open, they reveal an orange interior, but like reishi mushrooms, the chaga mushroom is hard, woody and unpleasant to eat.
Because of this, chaga is often consumed as a tea -- it’s been a staple of Russian and Baltic medicine for centuries.
Chaga mushrooms have hundreds of compounds that may benefit immune health. According to a 2015 meta-analysis of studies on chagas, their benefits include:
In addition, chaga mushrooms have been studied as a potential aid for immunocompromised patients. While more research is needed, a 2005 study found several positive immunomodulating effects related to chaga mushroom extract.
Like reishi mushrooms, chaga mushrooms may also have a beneficial effect on gut health, aiding the maintenance of healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels, which in turn strengthen immunity.
The turkey tail mushroom (scientific name Coriolus versicolor) is common throughout North America. These colorful mushrooms grow on live trees and fallen logs, and really do look like turkey tails. Like many other immune-boosting mushrooms, they aren’t known for their great taste, but rather for their healing potential.
Like chaga and reishi mushrooms, turkey tails are best enjoyed in an extract, tea or powder.
Turkey tails have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to promote health and longevity for years, and recent studies support science behind this ancient wisdom.
Turkey tails may possess:
Finally, like many other mushrooms, turkey tails have beneficial fibers that may improve gut health.
Unlike the previous three mushrooms, the maitake mushroom is commonly found in grocery stores, where it also goes by the name “hen of the woods.” Scientifically named Grifola frondosa, these feathery looking mushrooms can be found at the base of trees, including oak trees, and are known for their sweet, earthy taste.
If you don’t like the taste of mushrooms, you can also find them in supplements.
While the maitake mushroom is a great source of vitamins and minerals, providing antioxidants, Vitamin B and Vitamin C benefits, it also has other impressive health benefits.
Thanks to their abundance of vitamins and antioxidants, maitakes likely have many more beneficial immune effects, too.
The lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is a shaggy white mushroom that looks exactly like its namesake. These mushrooms are popular with professional chefs and at-home cooks, and they grow throughout forests in North America and Europe.
The lion’s mane mushroom shares many of its impressive qualities with other mushrooms:
Plentiful antioxidants – One study found that lion’s manes are second only to reishi mushrooms in terms of beneficial antioxidants.
Stunting the growth of invader cells – A 2013 study found that lion’s mane liquid extract helped suppress the growth of tumor cells in mice.
Combining its immune-boosting properties with its delicious taste and texture, this is an excellent mushroom to add to recipes.
While most of the fungi we’ve discussed so far grow on trees, cordyceps grow on caterpillars. That said, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, Cordyceps Sinensis may not be the best mushroom for you, as the fungi are sometimes harvested along with the caterpillar.
If you’re adventurous in your supplements, this long, tubular fungi may be of interest. Its history can be traced back 4,000 years, and well-known medicines including Penicillin are derived from related species of fungi.
Considered a key to health and vitality in ancient Tibetan and Ayurvedic traditions, modern science is confirming some of its traditional medicinal uses. According to a meta-analysis of existing studies, immune benefits include:
Now that you see mushrooms’ effects on immune health, you’ll likely be looking for a way to add these amazing fungi to your daily routine.
As you can see, many of these mushrooms are sourced carefully and should be ingested in specific ways, meaning that it may be tough to incorporate all of them at once.
Thankfully, there are many mushroom teas, powders and extracts in the market However, not all products contain the amounts or varieties they advertise. That’s why it’s critical to source your mushrooms from a reputable company.
That’s where we come in.
Plant People has blended four of the best mushrooms for immunity in one easy to take capsule. Our new Immune Power Multiplex combines the best of plant and fungi power. Made with extracts of reishi, turkey tail, chaga and maitake mushrooms -- as well as Vitamin C and the Chinese medicinal herb astragalus-- these 100% vegan capsules are the simplest way to reap the benefits of mushrooms’ potent qualities.
At Plant People, we’re committed to connecting people with the unique powers of plants and fungi. That’s why all our CBD tinctures, capsules, topicals, and other products are 100% vegan, organic and sustainably sourced from USA farms. Our line of hemp and herbal supplements boosts health and vitality, while our new Immune Power Multiplex delivers some of the most impactful functional foods found in nature.
Add it to your daily routine for vitality and immunity Looking for more ways to support your immune system? Check out our guide to learn how to boost your immune system naturally.
Reviewed by Gabe Kennedy
Co-Founder of Plant People, Gabe Kennedy is an acclaimed chef and entrepreneur. Growing up in a house of healers and herbalists, he is passionate about the power of food as a tool for health, and actualized this passion and belief system into his company, Plant People. Named to Forbes 30 under 30 Gabe has shaped menus and cooked his way around the world with his mission to promote a more communal, green and healthy world.
Gabe is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. You can learn more about his work at his website.
Forbes. What is the mushroom of immortality? https://www.forbes.com/sites/linhanhcat/2019/04/07/mushroom-of-immortality/#79c78d0c1e47
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Healthine. 5 immune boosting benefits of turkey tail mushroom. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/turkey-tail-mushroom#section6
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Mycobiology. Immunomodulatory Activity of the Water Extract from Medicinal Mushroom Inonotus obliquus. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3774877/
PBS. This mushroom might alter gut bacteria for the better. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/reishi-mushroom-can-alter-gut-bacteria-better
Immunological Investigations. Effects of Ganopoly® (A Ganoderma lucidum Polysaccharide Extract) on the Immune Functions in Advanced‐Stage Cancer Patients. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1081/IMM-120022979
Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. Recent progress of research on medicinal mushrooms, foods, and other herbal products used in traditional Chinese medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3942920/
Market Watch. Global medicinal mushrooms market. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200224005422/en/Global-Medicinal-Mushrooms-Market-2018-2022-Evolving-Opportunities
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Hericium Erinaceus (Lion's Mane) Mushroom Extracts Inhibit Metastasis of Cancer Cells to the Lung in CT-26 Colon Cancer-Tansplanted Mice. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23668749/
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