Today, we don’t have to simply trust anecdotal evidence about their effectiveness. Instead we have volumes of scientific research on the topic. Scientists have examined a variety of mushrooms for their effects on diseases like polio and hepatitis B, as well as HIV and influenza.
Some research has shown that mushrooms can have antiviral and antibacterial properties, lending credibility to the idea that they have the power to prevent serious illnesses.
Specifically, there are seven mushrooms that are known to have biologically active glucans, which help regulate your body’s natural defense system. This regulation provides a natural immune enhancer and modulator to help your immune system detect and fight against harmful antigens—without attacking normal cells within the body. Let’s review the seven:
Cordyceps sinesis is a fungus that grows on insects. Preclinical studies suggest that it increases the number of T cells; therefore, it is often recommended for immune support. Other studies show that cordyceps can also support cardiovascular and respiratory health. In animals with cancer, it has been known to reduce tumor size and increase life expectancy. Preliminary animal studies suggest cordyceps could be used in treating systemic lupus erythematosus. It is often found in supplements as part of a blend or on its own.
The agaricus mushroom originated in Brazil. It has two main applicable parts: the mycelia and fruiting body. The mushroom is now also produced in China and Japan, where it is used medicinally and consumed as food. (Extracts of the fruit bodies are approved food additives in Japan). Agaricus is used to help treat a variety of diseases and disorders, including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, hepatitis and digestive problems.
The agaricus mushroom is also used as an immunostimulant; the dehydrated mushroom contains proteins, carbohydrates, fibers, lipids, B vitamins and ergosterol, a precursor to vitamin D and potassium. Some preliminary in vitro and animal research suggests it might stimulate the production of cytokines and the monocyte production of interleukin-12, which may result in antitumor activity.
Trametes versicolor is commonly known as the coriolus mushroom. Taken orally, coriolus is used for stimulating the immune system. It’s also used for treating a number of conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome and urinary tract infection. Coriolus mushrooms have been used in folk medicine for many years. Now research is being conducted to determine their pharmacological properties.
The mushroom is a source of polysaccharide peptide (PSP), which can improve immune function by increasing white cells, natural killer cells and antibodies. A study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania looked at the median time of development or progression of abdominal metastases in dogs receiving 100 mg/kg/day of PSP. The study indicated that high doses of PSP could potentially provide higher survival rates and overall better results than could a standard chemotherapy treatment.
Poria mushrooms have been traditionally used for intestinal problems, anxiety, insomnia, gastrointestinal tract bleeding and many other similar conditions. It may also inhibit leukotriene B4, an action that could be useful for treating skin conditions, such as psoriasis. Other studies may suggest that poria extracts have immunosuppressive effects, and isolated triterpene constituents point to evidence for antitumor effects.
Maitake mushrooms have been used in traditional Japanese herbology for hundreds of years due to their high nutritional profile. They have been shown to enhance the immune system, help the body cope with stress and normalize body functions. Maitake is also rich in beta-glucans. These mushrooms have been used for supporting patients with HIV/AIDS, chronic fatigue syndrome, hepatitis, diabetes, high blood pressure, weight management needs and polycystic ovary syndrome. Preliminary research suggests that maitake mushrooms can prevent metastasis of experimentally induced tumors and prevent tumor occurrence in normal cells.
Chaga (inonotus obliquus) is a mushroom that has been traditionally used in folk medicine in Northern Europe for many generations. More recently, this mushroom has been in the spotlight in health news and popular media. Chaga mushrooms grow on Birch and similar trees in cold climates; the active constituents are thought to be a combination of triterpenes and polysaccharides. Studies indicate that Chaga can have immune stimulating properties in vitro, and that it has the ability to inhibit tumor cell growth in animals.
The shiitake mushroom is used for boosting the immune system and for reducing serum cholesterol levels, plasma levels of free cholesterol, triglycerides and phospholipids. They have also been used as an anti-aging agent, and they contain very low concentrations of lentinan, which is known to have antitumor effects. Shiitake mushrooms have been used for certain cancers, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.
With these seven known medicinal mushrooms, your health and immune function has a serious support system. Want to learn more about maitake supplements and how they can support your healthy lifestyle? Click here.