Mushrooms have been used for centuries to support health on many levels, in particular immune health. The immunomodulatory effects of mushrooms are due, in part, to the potent polysaccharides they contain known as beta glucans. In addition, mushrooms are comprised of antioxidant nutrients, as well as protein, phenolic and indolic compounds.
Several mushrooms have been the focus of attention for many researchers over the years. These include cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis), chaga (Inonotus obliquus), Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus), maitake (Grifola frondosa), reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), shiitake (Lentinus edodes), and turkey tail (Trametes versicolor).
Many of the studies involving these mushrooms demonstrate that they positively support immunity, as well as a healthy inflammatory response. The research demonstrates that these mushrooms may stimulate cytokine production, as well as T-cell and natural killer cell function. The compounds found in mushrooms have also been shown to support the development and activity of lymphocytes and macrophages.
A 2018 review describes the molecular influence that mushrooms have on PI3K/AKT, Wnt-CTNNB1, and NF-κB signaling pathways. “Some of the mushroom compounds target a single node of a signaling pathway and some have multiple targets in the same and/or different signaling pathway,” explain the authors.
According to a 2017 review published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, mushrooms contain numerous bioactive polysaccharides or polysaccharide-protein complexes that have been shown to influence innate and cell-mediated immune responses. The author reports that “More than 600 studies have been conducted worldwide, and numerous human clinical trials on MMs [medicinal mushrooms] have been published.”
Immune-supporting mushroom extracts are available as single ingredients or as part of comprehensive immune system formulations. When it comes to immune support, mushrooms are an essential component.
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