Next time you’re taking a walk outdoors remember that just beneath our feet are massive amounts of mycelial networks some call “Nature’s Hidden Treasures.”
With such abundance, it can be easy to forget that mushrooms contain potent immune-supporting phytonutrients like clinically studied beta glucans and vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). They’re also adaptogenic, which means they help bolster the body’s ability to thrive under stressful situations.
Reishi mushrooms are a relatively rare find in nature so more often than not, you’ll find them cultivated. Fear not, cultivated mushrooms can provide distinct benefits including consistent polysaccharide profiles and the increased ability to capture elusive spores.
Reishi spores are believed to contain a mixture of several long-chain fatty acids that may contribute to the mushroom’s many immunological benefits and contain even more triterpenes than the fruiting bodies.
Turkey tail mushrooms grow plentifully on trees in beautifully curved and richly colored concentric circles that resemble turkey tail plumes. They’re also showing up in some of the most exciting modern scientific studies.
Research in animals looks at how this fungi functions as a prebiotic and may benefit immune health by instigating positive changes within the microbiome. Turkey tail polysaccharides PSK and PSP may also support a healthy immune response.1
This unmistakable shaggy mushroom grows wild in North America, Europe, or Asia and naturally contains high amounts of beta glucan polysaccharides and hericenone and erinacine terpenoids.
While promising research suggests potent nervous system health benefits, lion’s mane’s bioactive components are also believed to interface with immune cells, particularly those found in the gut, to help regulate the immune system.2
This unique mushroom that looks peculiarly similar to a caterpillar is found only in extremely high-altitude locations. Long honored as a longevity promoting botanical, cordyceps has been used traditionally by both Chinese and Tibetan cultures for centuries to support immune health by enhancing stamina and endurance.
More recent research continues to explore the myriad potential this fungus holds for immune health, including respiratory benefits.3
Probably more popular for its culinary possibilities than its potential for immune health, shiitake has been highly prized in Asia for thousands of years—as both a food and for its health-supporting benefits.
One of its many bioactive components is the well-researched polysaccharide lentinan, a type of beta glucan believed to support immune function by stimulating the body’s defenses.4
Interested in more topics about immune health? Check out 22 Vitamins and Supplements for Immune Health to get more details on what can help support you and your immune health. Or get back to the basics and learn The Science Behind Your Immune System and How to Keep it Strong.
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1. Aida, F. M. N. A., Shuhaimi, M., Yazid, M., & Maaruf, A. G. (2009). Mushroom as a potential source of prebiotics: a review. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 20(11-12), 567-575.
2. Diling C, Xin Y, Chaoqun Z, et al. Extracts from Hericium erinaceus relieve inflammatory bowel disease by regulating immunity and gut microbiota. Oncotarget. 2017;8(49):85838-85857. Published 2017 Sep 6. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.20689
3. Liu, et al. The Inhibitory Mechanism of Cordyceps Sinensis on Cigarette Smoke Extract-Induced Senescence in Human Bronchial Epithelial Cells. International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. 2016. 11: 1721-1731.
4. Gaullier, et al. Supplementation with a soluble beta-glucan exported from Shiitake medicinal mushroom, Lentinus edodes (Berk.)singer mycelium: a crossover, placebo-controlled study in healthy elderly. Int J Med Mushrooms 2011; 13(4): 319-326.