How do we “boost” our immune systems besides eating well, getting enough sleep, and trying to lower our stress? One possible answer could be medicinal mushrooms, whose healing benefits have been utilized in cultures all around the world for thousands of years. Although each mushroom has their unique list of health benefits, they are each immune system helpers and stress relievers in one. Below are five especially potent allies during this period of time.
According to herbalist Sarah Levine, “In ancient China, Reishi was and continues to be revered as a miracle tonic elixir and is said to usher in many cycles of good health. Chinese paintings, embroideries, and sculptures of the gods and immortals depict Reishi as a sacred symbol of longevity and truly one of the most powerful tonics in all of existence….
Reishi is highly revered for its uniquely astounding myriad of medicinal properties. Reishi can restore, tone, and invigorate systems in the body while enhancing our overall vitality. In vivo and in vitro studies have found Reishi to be anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral (has been shown to be active against numerous viruses including Epstein-Barr, HIV, HBV, and the flu), antioxidant rich, analgesic (reduces pain), antiallergenic, stimulating and modulating to the immune system, liver protective, liver regenerative, antitumor (inhibiting or regressing tumors), and a wonderful tonic for the heart and lungs.
Reishi is traditionally used in a tincture or tea form, but can also be incorporated into a soup base, worked with in powdered form, or in a syrup decoction. It can be brewed in fermented beverages or infused into honey. It tastes really nice combined with coffee or cacao. There are endless possibilities for how one can work with it and there is no such thing as taking too much Reishi.”
You can take reishi in tincture form, in a powder, or in a hot cacao mix! One of the most studied mushrooms to date, reishi also helps maintain healthy blood sugar, healthy blood pressure and healthy liver function.
According to Medical News Today, “Many people claim that reishi mushrooms can boost the immune system, combat cancer, and relieve symptoms of many other health conditions.” You can take them in this delicious Elderberry Reishi Tincture daily. Or, drink this Mushroom Hot Cacao in the afternoon or before bed to help relax while also boosting your immune system.
“In traditional medicine, turkey tail has been used therapeutically for fungal infections, cancer, and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).” This mushroom is called “turkey tail” due to its multi-colored surface covered in tan and brown rings, similar in appearance to the feathers of a turkey. It’s filled with antioxidants that can reduce inflammation, contains immune-boosting Polysaccharopeptides, and can possibly even suppress the growth of some cancers!
“Cordyceps sinensis has been described as a medicine in old Chinese medical books and Tibetan medicine. It is a rare combination of a caterpillar and a fungus and found at altitudes above 4500m in Sikkim. Traditional healers and local people of North Sikkim recommend the mushroom, i.e., Yarsa gumba, Keera jhar (C. sinensis) for all diseases either as a single drug or combined with other herbs.” In short– cordyceps is another wonderful mushroom that can support the body’s response to stress, the respiratory system, and more! Cordyceps is a more energizing and an immunomodulator (used to help regulate or normalize the immune system). This mushroom is especially wonderful for those wishing to enhance their physical endurance– it acts as a broncho-dilator, which means better respiratory function. It also helps to restore the adrenal glands.
As if this wasn’t enough evidence to begin adding it into your diet, according to writer Karolina Zaremba, “An eight-week study in healthy Korean individuals found that supplementation with cordyceps extract was associated with increased activity of natural killer immune cells (NK-cells). This change was accompanied by improved immune regulation compared to controls.” (12)
Chaga, according to Annanda Chaga, “has the ability to improve the immune response, lower high blood sugar and combat abnormal and mutagenic cell growth. This mushroom also has the capacity to stimulate the immune response, reduce inflammation and to multitask on so many levels making it a very powerful adaptogen for the body.”
Some research also points to chaga as regulating the production of cytokines, which support the immune system by helping cells communicate with one another. This can help fight infections, colds, and life-threatening illnesses, according to MedicalNews.
“Cytokines are the immune system’s chemical messengers. They are proteins that play a vital role in stimulating white blood cells, which are the immune system’s first line of defense against a range of illnesses.”
As if that wasn’t enough reason to add chaga to your diet, “Chaga may also reduce fatigue and inflammation, and increase mental sharpness.” You may be feeling more tired or hazy due to stress, and chaga can help! You can take chaga in a powder, a tincture, and even Chaga Chai!
Some people refer to Lion’s Mane as the “hedgehog mushroom” for its odd appearance of white pom-pom clusters. It might be easy to walk right past this powerhouse of nutrients. Lion’s Mane contains “polysaccharides known as beta-glucans, which support immune health and overall wellness, as well as normal, healthy cell growth and turnover,” according to Gaia Herbs. Lion’s Mane also provides nourishment for the brain by crossing the blood-brain barrier to directly support brain cells.
New research shows that lion’s mane mushroom can boost immunity by increasing the activity of the intestinal immune system, which protects the body from pathogens that enter the gut through the mouth or nose. Lion’s mane can create beneficial changes in gut bacteria that perhaps stimulate the immune system, though more research is needed.