Medicinal mushrooms have had a fair bit of press in terms of the wonderful immune boosting benefits that some of them posit. This press coverage has even reached the likes of the Joe Rogan Podcast with renowned mycologist Paul Staments as well as Tero Isokauppila at Talks at Google. Mushrooms are slowly making their way into the mainstream and science is finally beginning to catch up to investigate the true potential mushrooms have for our health.
Shiitake Mushrooms (Lentinula edode)
Shiitake Mushrooms are a fairly common mushroom that you can buy from many supermarkets in the UK, which unfortunately can’t be said about many other mushrooms on this list. They are native to East Asia, having been cultivated for more than 1000 years and are even the inspiration behind the “Goomba” in the Super Mario video game franchise. Shiitake are well known for their immune system boosting properties and it is understood that the polysacharides in shiitake support the immune system. A study in 2015 found that shiitake contributed to a decrease in inflammation as well as markers for increased immune function. In fact, a similar clinical trial back in 1998 found that daily doses of the shiitake mushroom increased the amount of specific white blood cells. Shiitake is a mushroom that can easily be bought from the supermarket and added to your diet on a regular basis, moreover, they make an excellent substitute for meat if you’re looking to decrease your meat intake, with a meaty flavour and an amino acid content similar to that of Beef. They’re also rich in vitamin D, niacin, selenium and some B vitamins.
Turkey Tail Mushrooms (Trametes versicolor)
Turkey tail mushrooms are an incredible medicinal mushroom, and one that Paul Staments claims to have prolonged his mothers life following a severe case of breast cancer. Infact, Japan even prescribes turkey tail to cancer patients and it’s no wonder, since a study in 2012 found that patients with gastric, breast or colorectal cancers reduced their 5-year mortality rate by 9% when treated in conjunction with chemotherapy. They’re very common in the UK and usually found on rotting tree stumps, but you can also purchase turkey tail supplements if you’re unable to find them. Turkey tail mushrooms are also fantastic immune boosters, they contain Polysaccharide-K and Polysaccharide Peptide which boost your immune system responce and also reduce inflammation. Turkey tail is also rich in Phenol and flavonoid antioxidants that also promote immune system health.
Reishi Mushrooms (Ganoderma Lingzhi)
Reishi mushrooms have a whole host of benefits which can greatly impact your immune system. The mushroom typically grows in warm climates and there are many different types of Reishi musrhoom dependent on what area you have found them. Variants include: Ganoderma tsugae, Ganoderma curtisii,Ganoderma oregonense, Ganoderma lucidum, Ganoderma applanatum, Ganoderma sessile, Ganoderma carnosum,Ganoderma resinaceum and Ganoderma capense. Naturally, as the UK doesn’t have a particularly warm climate you may struggle to find them, but you can purchase Reishi supplements instead. Like the previously mentioned mushrooms, Reishi too containes polysaccharides that strengthen the immune system but also contain other vitamins and minerals that can enhance the immune system such as copper and zinc as well as anti-oxidants such as selenium. Reishi is also well known for its ability to counteract fatigue and also prolong sleeping which can both provide positive impacts to the immune system too. Reishi has also been noted for its ability to counteract depression and anxiety.
Chaga Mushroom (Inonotus obliquus)
Since ancient times, Chaga has been utilised as a botanical medicine among the Siberians to treat a wide range of pharmacological activities that includes: pain relief, liver & heart problems, stomach diseases and blood purification. In fact, Chaga tea was a very popular amongst the Siberians who consumed it to improve the overall health and wellbeing, and with a multitude of benefits, they were right to do so. The mushroom grows on Birch trees in cold regions, and they are more common in the northern regions of the UK, but there have been reports of Chaga in the South too. Research into the Chaga mushroom revealed that it regulates the production of Cytokines (immune system communicators). These Cytokines are the immune systems first line of defence, and Chaga is believed to regulate antigen-specific antibody production. Like many mushrooms, Chaga is also an anti inflammatory but even better than this, Chaga is the most nutrient dense medicinal mushrooms, containing copper, selenium, magnesium, calcium, fiber, pottasium, vitamin D, Zinc, Iron, B-complex vitamins and more to its arsenal.Packed with nutrients, it comes in high on the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) score at 52,000 making it one of the highest ORAC values in the world. Chaga is also known for its anti cancerous properties, with one study showing how the mushroom can suppress cancer progression.
Cordyceps (Cordyceps Sinisis)
These strange looking mushrooms are a genus of fungi that utilise insects or insect larvae as a host and thereby killing the insect/larvae as shown in the video below. They are technically not a mushroom but the fact that it is often mistaken for one, as well as it’s benefits, merited the Cordyceps a spot on this list. Cordyceps have been long used in Chinese medicine as an ailment for fatigue and low sex drive, but science is discovering that they also have a whole host of other benefits including those that are beneficiary to the immune system. For years, many have used Cordyceps as a remedy to aging, and it is understood that the mushrooms anti-oxidant content is at the heart of its anti-aging ability. Like many of the mushrooms in this list, Cordyceps also has the potential as an anti-inflammatory, with many studies on mice revealing that when exposed to cordyceps, the proteins within the mices body which cause inflammation are nullified.
Which Mushroom is the best for immune health?
All of the mushrooms are excellent in their own way. They all provide support to the immune systems in various different ways, however the one mushroom that appears to have the largest amount of benefits is the Reishi Mushroom. The sheer amount of studies that have discovered wide ranging problems that it can help to improve simply puts it head and shoulders above the rest.