Immune health is at the forefront of our minds as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues. But outside of the crisis, our immune health affects so many parts of our body including our heart and brain. While we’re doing our best to take our supplements and maintain a healthy lifestyle, there are certain foods that boast potent immune-boosting properties that we should take advantage of, and one of those is mushrooms.
Mushrooms have consistently shown to have benefits for our health, but with so many varieties of fungi out there, we want to highlight a few that have specific benefits for the immune system. Taking them as a supplement ensures that you maximize their health-boosting properties because the nutrients are more concentrated, plus you can take them regularly!
You can purchase these mushrooms in powder form and add them to coffee, juices, or smoothies without even noticing the taste. Otherwise, you can always purchase supplements in capsule form and take them that way. Either way, you’ll be experiencing all the same benefits.
Check them out below.
Reishi is sometimes called “the mushroom of immortality” which might be a bit dramatic, but it’s indicative of this fungi’s powerful healing properties. Reishi works on the nervous system thanks to high amounts of a chemical compound called triterpene. Triterpene helps to alleviate anxiety and depression and may even promote better sleep. In addition, they’ve been found to modulate immune activity by regulating our inflammatory response. Some research even shows that reishi can fight the growth of tumors and cancer cells!
On top of all these benefits, reishi is considered to be healthy for the gut — another important factor in immune health. Bacteria present in our gut help to fight off infection and disease. Reishi mushrooms contain prebiotic fiber which feeds those beneficial gut bacteria to boost our immunity and fight sickness.
For a reishi supplement we love, try this one from Samsara Herbs: $9.95, Amazon.
Sometimes called birch mushrooms, chaga mushrooms are dark in color and packed with disease-fighting antioxidants. Antioxidant polyphenols in chaga fight free radical damage to our cells, warding off sickness and disease. Other plant compounds in chaga mushrooms include Betulin and betulinic acid, which have been found to have anti-cancer effects. What’s more, chaga mushrooms have shown in studies to reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol and reduce inflammation — another marker of immune health.
For a chaga supplement we love, try this one from Blue Earth Organics: $14, Amazon.
Lion’s mane mushroom is so called because of it’s white, furry appearance. Similar to reishi, research shows that lion’s mane might promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria that boost our immune response and digestive health. One study showed that taking lion’s mane reduced colon tissue damage in those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) because of its ability to regulate the immune system.
Even further, lion’s mane is packed with antioxidants that fight oxidative damage and cause dysfunction, especially for the brain. Chemical compounds in lion’s mane encourage the production of nerve growth factor (NFG) and myelin (an insulation that surrounds nerve fibers). NFG and myelin are both important for brain health because when they are not balanced, neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s can arise. That being said, lion’s mane can help prevent the damage that leads to cognitive impairment.
For a lion’s mane supplement we love, try this one from Fresh Cap Mushrooms: $23.90, Amazon.
Last but not least, we have cordycep mushrooms. Cordyceps contain polysaccharides, as well as other compounds like cordycepin and cordycepic acid. One study found that taking cordycep extract was associated with increased activity of natural killer immune cells (NK-cells). Even further, those taking the cordyceps experienced improved regulation of their immune response compared to those who didn’t supplement.
Cordyceps are a stimulating mushroom, and they have also shown to improve blood flow and assist the body in using oxygen more efficiently. This mushroom is often used to improve athletic performance and even speed-up muscle recovery after a workout.
For a cordyceps supplement we love, try this one from Om Organics: $27.99, Amazon.
With all the different types of fungi in the world, these four will surely help you keep your health in order. As always, talk to your doctor before trying any new supplement regimen.
Here’s to better health and immunity — the natural way!