Medicinal Mushrooms – Superheroes for the Immune System

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Since starting my studies in Microbiology last year I have started to fall in love with the Fungi Kingdom especially the “Medicinal Mushrooms”. A lot of Ancient Asian Medicine base their remedies on these medicinal mushrooms.

 

Over the last year, I've found a couple of companies that sell Wild Crafted Medicine Mushroom Powders that I have incorporated in my daily life. I happened to stumble across some information by Botanical Expert Renee Davis on Medicinal Mushrooms and thought I would share.

 

Mushrooms support immune function, and they do so in a way that is normalizing to the immune system as opposed to being a stimulant. You can think of them as immune tonics that are applicable in a wide variety of situations such as when you are catching things easily, having persistent infections & certain autoimmune symptoms.


 

 

Mushrooms affect immune function because they have compounds that resemble a microbe. Our vigilant immune cells sense this and respond to it by increasing innate immune activity (our front-line defenses). This puts our system on alert and provides a workout for our immune systems, making them stronger over time. Many types of mushrooms provide this activity, even common edibles like Shiitake and Oyster mushrooms.

 

I love to add these ones to salads, omelets, casseroles, stir-fry’s and on top of a steak. I love the fresh ones that I get from “Be Organics”, the Organic Store on Tawa Street in Mount Maunganui.

 

Though these mushrooms are rock stars for our immune systems, they also help support other areas of the body too, like the nervous system, liver, cardiovascular system, and others. For a closer look, let’s examine the three key mushroom species that are frequently used for their health benefits.

 

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)


 

Reishi is probably the most well known medicinal mushroom. Its use as a general wellness tonic is evident in some of its other common names, like “Mushroom of Immortality” and “Mushroom of Longevity”. It can be used on an acute as well as long-term basis to support immune functioning. Its restorative properties also help support the adrenal glands.

 

I think of this as the mushroom to use when you’re stressed out, run down, and getting sick frequently. It’s also a fabulous mushroom for allergies and hay fever as it can reduce the histamine response to environmental triggers.

 

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)


 

Lion’s Mane is a beautiful white mushroom that resembles a white pom pom with elongated spines. It too supports immunity, but Lion’s Mane is really best known for its neurological and mental health benefits.

 

It contains compounds that protect and promote growth in neurons. Clinical research with Lion’s Mane has demonstrated efficacy for anxiety, depression, and cognitive function. This is a mushroom to consider for overall nervous system health.

 

Maitake (Grifola frondosa)


 

This is a prized gourmet mushroom famous for its immune supportive properties. It contains a compound known as D-fraction that has been heavily researched for cancer treatment. Maitake may also help address common cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, and even blood sugar issues.

 

The first thing to know is that they have to be heated in order to be bioavailable. The fungal cell wall is indigestible, and heat allows the cell wall to break down in order to access their nutrients. In fact, this is the traditional way that they were prepared as immune tonics.

 

Mushrooms are easily obtained in dried and sliced forms, which is perfect for making tea. Below is a recipe for a Reishi Chai that I love. Give it a try and let us know what you think :)

 

Reishi Chai Recipe:


 

 

In small stove pot with about 2 cups water add:

  • 2-3 tsp. of dried Reishi mushrooms 
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • 5 allspice berries
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 peppercorn
  • Pinch nutmeg

Turn heat on medium-high until the tea reaches a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Strain and add some honey or milk of your choice.

I prefer it without milk to indulge in the spice. 

This can be stored in the fridge and chilled for an iced version. Enjoy!

xx Dr Ally