Winter is coming and with it, cold and flu season. A pack of winter zombies has nothing on the cough, sniffles, aches, and chills that you dread every time the temperatures drop. And without your trusty sick tea and not-so-great over the counter flu meds, you're as good as a goner.
This winter, add one more flu remedy to your medicine cabinet-- medicinal mushrooms. Ancient people have been using mushrooms for immunity for more than 5000 years. But modern research is now starting to uncover how beneficial these little fungi can be.
From cold- and flu-fighting properties to potential anti-tumorigenesis effects, the mushrooms on this list are an excellent way to support your immune health. We know you want to avoid those sniffles altogether this year. That's why we've created this guide to everything you need to know about medicinal mushrooms.
Ready to start using mushrooms to give your immune system a serious supercharge? Check out this guide to our top 6 and stick around to find out where to get the best medicinal mushrooms on the market.
6 Mushrooms for Supercharging Immunity
In ancient times, medical texts reported on the antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties of mushrooms. Mushrooms were boiled in water and administered as a medicine, especially in China and the Far East. Experts of the times claimed mushrooms could reverse diabetes, delay natural aging processes, and even prevent death.
Today, researchers recognize that while mushrooms may not be the miracle cure-all they were once thought to be, these fungi are excellent for boosting immune system function. Why? Because these little fungi contain a plethora of compounds that modulate immunity, including polysaccharide-containing beta-glucans.
Beta-glucans and other microscopic properties of mushrooms affect many different cells in your body. For example:
- Stem cells
- Lymphocytes (white blood cells)
- Dendritic cells
- Natural killer cells
And what do all these seemingly distinct biomolecules have in common? Each supports or is directly responsible for a normal and healthy immune response.
The mushrooms on our list affect the immune system differently, but all of them do have one thing in common. From the Reishi to the aptly-named Turkey Tale mushroom, these immunity-boosting fungi increase a cytokine (immunity factors that help regulate inflammation and other immune factors) called Th1. And Th1 is special because of its role in fighting tumorigenesis.
Let's explore how each of the mushrooms on our list affects the immune response, in general, and Th1 more specifically.
Unlike its infamous cousin, the shiitake mushroom, the Maitake is a bit less well-known. That's a shame, though, considering that Maitake mushrooms boost natural killer (NK) cell production and inflammation (which is a good thing when it comes to fighting off the flu). What's more, Maitakes encourage Th1 production to help improve T-cell infiltration-- a vital factor of fighting tumorigenesis.
With the rise in popularity of anti-oxidants as a wellness buzzword, you may have heard of cordyceps' antioxidant activity already. What you may not know is that this mushroom's pro-inflammatory properties will give your cold or flu a one-two punch. With its unique feature of reducing blood flow to tumor cells, it's no wonder the Cordyceps is being looked at in cancer research, too.
3. Turkey Tail
If you're searching for the mother of all medical mushrooms, look no further than the Turkey Tail. Named for its unique rings and recognizable shape, this mushroom doesn't just boost natural killer cell activity through the production of cytokines like Th1. Turkey Tails also help increase white blood cells, T cells, and B cells for a better overall immunity response against those pesky cold and flu symptoms.
While the Turkey Tail may have the most robust response on the immune system, Agaricus mushrooms are impressive for the sheer number of uses it has. From allergies to infection and everything in between, researchers are looking at Agaricus mushrooms as a treatment for more than cancer alone. These mushrooms not only help produce more Th1 but they also enhance Th1 ability to respond to infections, allergies, and even tumors.
Dubbed the "mushroom of immortality," you can get all the benefits of the fountain of youth from this colorful little fungus. In all seriousness, though, Reishi mushrooms decrease inflammation through interaction with Th1 cytokines. While their anti-inflammatory properties aren't the most ideal for fighting that cold, studies have shown they may be beneficial against cancer, inflammatory disorders like asthma, and stress.
6. Lion's Mane
Lion's Mane is one of the more recent medical mushrooms to gain attention from researchers and consumers alike. Found in many nootropics, this mushroom has been shown to boost brain health by keeping brain cells from dying and even help produce new brain cells. Though the research is still in its infancy, scientists are looking into the Lion's Mane as a potential treatment for depression, stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases.
Where to Find Immune System-Boosting Medicinal Mushrooms
Reading this list, you may be thinking: Reishi? Cordyceps? I've never seen one of these mushrooms at the local supermarket.
Since these medicinal mushrooms are sourced from countries across the globe, they can sometimes be difficult to find. The typical supermarket isn't the place to find these kinds of mushrooms for immunity. Instead, you can source your new favorite cold- and flu-fighting superfood right here.
At Pure Feast, we believe that eating pure is living pure. That's why we curate the best selection of food-based supplements on the market today.
Looking for a healthy and natural supplement to help supercharge your immune system? Check out our medicinal mushroom products and discover the benefits for yourself today.