The use of medicinal mushrooms dates back centuries, deeply entrenched in various cultures across the globe. From ancient Chinese practices to the Egyptian, Greek, Mexican, and Roman civilizations, mushrooms have played a crucial role in supporting health and fortifying the body against ailments.
Modern research continues to unveil the myriad benefits of these fungi, attributing their potency to a rich blend of nutrients and bioactive compounds. These compounds, including mushroom polysaccharides like β-glucan, possess immune-stimulating properties, aiding in bolstering our body's defense mechanisms.
So, which are the best mushrooms for immune system health? Here’s our top 8 research-backed mushrooms for immunity:
Table of Contents
Top 8 Mushrooms for Immune Support
Absolutely, here's the information restructured with individual sections for dosage and side effects for each mushroom:
1. Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
Chaga mushrooms, known by various names such as birch mushrooms and chaga conk, manifest as dark brown and black fungi commonly thriving on birch trees. Within Chaga mushrooms, numerous compounds contribute to their potential benefits, comprising antioxidant polyphenols alongside betulin and betulinic acid, which are linked to anticancer properties.
- Dosage: Generally, 1 to 1.5 grams of Chaga extract, taken 2 to 3 times daily, is recommended for immune support. Chaga dosage may vary based on the supplement concentration.
- Side Effects: No significant adverse effects have been reported at recommended doses. However, excessive intake might lead to gastrointestinal discomfort.
2. Cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps sinensis)
While not classified as a typical mushroom, cordyceps is a scarce fungus that thrives exclusively in the high-altitude locales of Sikkim, located in northeast India. Within cordyceps lie vital constituents such as polysaccharides, cordycepin, and cordycepic acid.
Research conducted over an eight-week period on healthy individuals in Korea revealed that the intake of cordyceps extract correlated with heightened activity observed in natural killer immune cells (NK-cells). The researchers concluded that the change was due to a noticeable enhancement in immune regulation compared to the control group.
- Dosage: Daily supplementation often ranges from 1,000 to 3,000 milligrams of Cordyceps extract. Consultation with a healthcare professional is advised for appropriate dosage.
- Side Effects: Cordyceps are generally well-tolerated, but rare side effects like dry mouth, gastrointestinal discomfort, and mild nausea might occur in some individuals.
3. Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
Hericium erinaceus earns its nickname "lion’s mane mushroom" owing to its distinctive white, fur-like aspect. Studies on animal models reveal its potential in fostering the growth of beneficial gut microorganisms and potentially mitigating colon tissue damage associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
While there's promise that lion’s mane could contribute to immune system regulation and enhance the well-being of those with IBD, clinical trials in human subjects are necessary for validation.
- Dosage: Recommended doses vary widely, with typical supplementation ranging from 500 milligrams to 3 grams daily. Always follow package instructions or seek professional advice.
- Side Effects: Lion’s Mane is considered safe, but some individuals might experience mild stomach discomfort or allergic reactions. Choose a high quality lion's mane supplement to ensure positive effects.
4. Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
Maitake, both esteemed in culinary circles and renowned for its medicinal properties, has exhibited promising anti-cancer attributes in animal studies focused on breast cancer, melanoma, and hepatoma cells.
The active compound, proteoglucan, integral to maitake's composition, has been linked to its immune-boosting capabilities. Notably, in mouse models, proteoglucan demonstrated a reduction in mammary tumor cell activity.
Moreover, in both in-vitro and animal research, the polysaccharides present in maitake showcased significant anti-viral potential against hepatitis B and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
- Dosage: For immune support, a typical dosage ranges from 500 milligrams to 1 gram of Maitake extract, taken 1 to 3 times daily. Individual responses may vary.
- Side Effects: Maitake is generally safe, but minor maitake side effects like stomach upset or allergic reactions might occur in rare cases.
5. Oyster (Pleurotus)
Oyster mushrooms, encompassing various species like Pleurotus ostreatus and Pleurotus florida, belong to a fungal genus. Laboratory studies have revealed that the polysaccharides found within P. ostreatus mushrooms demonstrate the potential to stimulate NK cells, exhibiting activity against lung and breast cancer cells.
Moreover, an extract derived from P. florida, comprising multiple active constituents such as phenolics, flavonoids, and polysaccharides, demonstrated noteworthy anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects in animal experiments.
- Dosage: Dosage recommendations for Pleurotus extracts are limited. Incorporating culinary amounts into meals or following supplement instructions is advisable.
- Side Effects: Pleurotus mushrooms are considered safe, but allergic reactions or mild stomach upset might occur in sensitive individuals.
6. Reishi (Ganoderma lingzhi)
Reishi earns its monikers as the "supreme mushroom" or the "elixir of life." Research suggests its potential in averting or managing diverse ailments, including its role in mitigating inflammation linked to high cholesterol. The health benefits attributed to Reishi might stem from its capacity to balance microbiota composition, wherein its polysaccharides exhibit prebiotic qualities, fostering the proliferation of advantageous bacteria within the body.
- Dosage: Typical doses of Reishi extract range from 400 to 1,800 milligrams per day. However, consult with a healthcare provider for personalized guidance.
- Side Effects: Reishi is generally safe, but mild side effects like dizziness, dry mouth, or gastrointestinal discomfort might occur in some individuals.
7. Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
Historically, Shiitake mushrooms held a role in traditional remedies for ailments like the common cold. An investigative four-week clinical study hints at a correlation between consuming Shiitake and positive alterations in immune compound secretion. These modifications suggest a potential enhancement in gut immunity and a reduction in inflammation.
Similar to several mushroom types, Shiitake might harbor anti-cancer properties. Lentinan, a Shiitake-derived glucan, is presently embraced as a supportive therapy for tumors, notably in China and Japan.
- Dosage: Shiitake supplements usually suggest 200 to 800 milligrams per day. Always adhere to labeled dosages or seek professional advice.
- Side Effects: Mild side effects like allergic reactions or digestive issues might occur in some individuals, especially with high doses.
8. Turkey Tail (Coriolus versicolor)
Turkey tail mushroom is an incredible mushroom containing Polysaccharide-K (PSK) and Polysaccharide Peptides (PSP), compounds known for boosting the immune system, helping the body fight infections, cancer, and other illnesses.
Research has shown that PSPs stimulate immune cell production, aiding in the fight against infections. Similarly, PSK supports the immune system by activating natural killer cells, reducing inflammation, and aiding the body's immune response.
In Japan, turkey tail extracts have been used alongside traditional cancer treatments. Studies have demonstrated that cancer patients receiving turkey tail alongside standard treatments lived longer than those undergoing chemotherapy alone. This was especially true for breast, gastric, and colorectal cancer patients.
Furthermore, studies suggest that turkey tail extracts inhibit cancer cell growth and enhance immune function in individuals with certain cancers.
- Dosage: Dosage recommendations for Turkey Tail supplements vary widely, often ranging from 500 to 3,000 milligrams per day. Consulting a healthcare professional is recommended.
- Side Effects: Turkey Tail is generally safe, but mild side effects like nausea or digestive discomfort might occur in some individuals.
Why Medicinal Mushrooms for Immune System Health?
Now that we’ve explored the bet mushrooms for immune system health, we want to talk a bit about why you may choose mushrooms as your daily immune booster (as opposed to other immune boosting compounds).
Medicinal mushrooms, visible to the naked eye, represent a subset of edible macroscopic fungi. With an estimated 14,000 to 22,000 known species globally, a select few stand out for their medicinal potential. Of these, around 20 to 30 are cultivated species and approximately 15 are wild-foraged varieties.
These mushrooms can be consumed as functional foods or dietary supplements, offering a wealth of nutrients like fiber, proteins, vitamins B1, B2, B12, C, D, E, selenium, potassium, and an array of bioactive components.
Additionally, mushrooms contain compounds that interact with the nervous system, and particularly compounds that directly impact gut health by acting as prebiotic fiber. As research on immune function advances, we’re learning more about how important gut health is to a strong immune system. More specifically, the gut microbiome is our first deffense against pathogens and intruders, and it lays the foundation for our overall immune system.
These fungal powerhouses impact the immune system through various mechanisms. Some mushrooms positively influence gut microbiota, enhancing protection against pathogens. Others demonstrate the ability to bolster both innate and adaptive immune responses, while certain extracts even exhibit anti-allergic effects.
Plus, mushroom supplements usually have only rare and mild side effects, making them a good option for daily use. Daily dosing is key to fortifying the immune system, so you want an immune booster that can be taken regularly.
How to Use Mushroom Immune Boosters
Mushrooms can be consumed as supplements in various forms or incorporated into meals. Mushroom teas, powders, capsules, and culinary usage in dishes like soups and stir-fries offer versatile consumption options.
While edible species are generally considered safe, caution is advised, especially concerning wild mushrooms or supplements without established dosing guidelines. Consulting with an integrative healthcare practitioner is recommended before incorporating medicinal mushrooms into one's routine.
Preventative Daily Dosing vs. Spot Dosing
Choosing between preventative daily dosing and spot dosing of mushrooms for immune support largely depends on individual health goals.
Daily preventative dosing involves regular intake, usually in smaller amounts, to consistently fortify the immune system. Spot dosing, on the other hand, involves consuming a higher dose intermittently, especially during periods of illness or increased vulnerability to boost immune response.
Many people take a mushroom blend daily for immune support, and then increase their dosage (alongside other immune boosters) when they are ill.
When’s the Best Time to Take Mushrooms for Immune Boosting?
Optimal timing for mushroom intake varies. Some prefer incorporating them into morning routines to kickstart the day with immune support. Others find evening consumption beneficial for reinforcing the body's defenses during the night. Ultimately, choosing a time that aligns with personal habits and allows consistent intake can optimize immune benefits.
Best Mushroom Dosage for Immunity
Determining the ideal mushroom dosage for immune support involves considering various factors such as individual health, mushroom type, and concentration of supplements. Recommended dosages vary widely among mushroom species and formulations.
Starting with lower doses and gradually increasing while monitoring any effects can help gauge the most effective dosage for immune enhancement. If you choose a high-quality mushroom blend, you should follow the manufacturer’s recommendation. Always involve your doctor when implementing new supplement regimens.
What Are Mushroom Stacks for Immune Boosting?
Mushroom stacks involve combining multiple mushroom types or incorporating them with other supplements known for immune support to create a synergistic effect. For instance, blending Reishi, Shiitake, and Maitake might create a powerful immune-boosting combination. Additionally, combining mushrooms with vitamin C or zinc supplements can further amplify their immune-boosting potential.
It's crucial to consult with a healthcare practitioner for personalized guidance on the frequency, timing, and dosage of mushroom intake, especially when considering stack combinations for immune support.
The evolving understanding of medicinal mushrooms as potent agents for immune support holds promise for holistic health. Their rich history intertwined with their contemporary scientific validation underscores their potential as natural allies in fortifying our body’s defense mechanisms. However, careful consumption, guidance, and research remain crucial in effectively harnessing their benefits.
If you want to harness the power of medicinal mushrooms for your immune system, you may consider a mushroom stack. This allows you to consume a diverse array of mushrooms, multiplying their potential benefits for your immune health.
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- “Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), a Future Potential Medicinal Fungus in Oncology? A Chemical Study and a Comparison of the Cytotoxicity Against Human Lung Adenocarcinoma Cells (A549) and Human Bronchial Epithelial Cells (BEAS-2B)” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6142110/
- “Immunomodulatory effects of a mycelium extract of Cordyceps (Paecilomyces hepiali; CBG-CS-2): a randomized and double-blind clinical trial” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6441223/
- “Extracts from Hericium erinaceus relieve inflammatory bowel disease by regulating immunity and gut microbiota” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5689651/
- “A Critical Review on Health Promoting Benefits of Edible Mushrooms through Gut Microbiota” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5618583/
- “Experimental evaluation of analgesic and anti-inflammatory potential of Oyster mushroom Pleurotus florida” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3608298/
- “Edible Mushrooms: Improving Human Health and Promoting Quality Life” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4320875/
- “The Pharmacological Potential of Mushrooms” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1193547/
- “Polysaccharides and Their Derivatives as Potential Antiviral Molecules” https://www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/14/2/426
- “The mycelium of the Trametes versicolor (Turkey tail) mushroom and its fermented substrate each show potent and complementary immune activating properties in vitro” https://bmccomplementmedtherapies.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12906-019-2681-7
- “Biological mechanism and clinical effect of protein-bound polysaccharide K (KRESTIN®): review of development and future perspectives” https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00595-011-0075-7
- “Efficacy of Yun Zhi (Coriolus versicolor) on Survival in Cancer Patients: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” https://www.eurekaselect.com/article/39867
- “Medicinal Mushrooms (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version” https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/mushrooms-pdq
- “Prebiotics: Health Benefits and Sources” https://fullscript.com/blog/prebiotics
- “The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3337124/