Mushrooms are known to support immune system function. Many are also adaptogens.
They have been shown to boost innate immunity and stimulate NK cells, T cells, macrophages, and dendritic cells.
They can be eaten raw, cooked, brewed into tea, made into a tincture, or taken as a powder or supplement.
1. Reishi Mushroom
Reishi is a staple in many traditional Chinese medicine systems. The mushroom’s official name is Ganoderma lucidum, and it’s been known by other names such as the “mushroom of immortality.”
Reishi benefits include a boost to your immune system and protection against viruses and bacteria. It’s also known to balance the nervous system and promote longevity.
Its immune-enhancing beta glucans and triterpene compounds have been shown to help your body fight off infections and even slow the effects of aging. The best way to get the most benefits from this fungus is by drinking it as tea. You can make reishi tea by boiling whole pieces of the fruiting body in water or using a liquid extract made from the mushrooms.
2. Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s Mane Mushroom, or Hericium erinaceus, is a functional mushroom that may have a big impact on our brain health. This fungus supports the nerve cells that send and receive messages, and has been shown to slow cognitive decline in older adults.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom may also support gut health. It contains beta-glucan polysaccharides, which can help promote healthy microbiota in the digestive tract. It has also been shown to limit the growth of the bacteria H. pylori, which can lead to ulcers in the stomach.
This mushroom is available in a variety of forms, including capsules and tinctures. It’s also being used in functional food products like coffee blends and matcha latte mixes.
3. Maitake Mushroom
Grifola frondosa or Maitake mushrooms (mai-tah-keh) are known as “dancing mushroom” because they grow at the base of oak, pine and elm trees in Japan and North America. They are a low-calorie, low-sodium, no-cholesterol food rich in antioxidants, fiber, B vitamins and immune-boosting beta-glucans.
They are used for preventing and treating cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, hepatitis, hay fever, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Maitake is also an adaptogen, which means it works to regulate and balance systems that have become unbalanced.
It has also been studied for its role in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is characterized by the overproduction of male hormones leading to symptoms like acne and weight gain. Maitake mushrooms have been shown to stimulate ovulation in women with PCOS.
4. Cordyceps Mushroom
One of the more well-known medicinal mushrooms, cordyceps has become a wellness community favorite. The mushroom benefits include increased energy and endurance, immune system support, improved lung capacity and oxygen uptake, as well as libido boosts for men and women going through perimenopause or menopause.
Cordyceps is a non-toxic herb that has been used in ancient Chinese and Tibetan medicine to cure diarrhea, cough, liver disease, rheumatism, and even cancer. It has also been shown to increase ATP production in cells.
Whether as a supplement, tea or in powder form, cordyceps is used to improve exercise performance and immune health and has been found to be safe to use for most people. However, it may interact with certain medications like blood thinners or immunosuppressants.
5. Chaga Mushroom
Chaga is a charcoal-colored mushroom that grows on the trunks of birch trees and other cold Taiga forest species. It’s known for its antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
It’s been shown in animal studies to decrease cancer growth and prevent liver tumors. It has also been found to support healthy blood sugar levels and promote a balanced immune system.
Chaga contains high levels of antioxidants, including superoxide dismutase (SOD). It has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in animal studies.
6. Shitake Mushroom
Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) are becoming increasingly popular as both a medicinal mushroom and nutritional supplement. Research has shown they may help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure and provide immune-enhancing properties*.
Shitake mushrooms contain lentinan, an active component that has been found to activate immune cells and reduce cellular damage caused by free radicals. They also provide a good source of vitamin B2, C, and D, and minerals including calcium, iron, potassium, and selenium.
Traditional Chinese Medicine uses lion’s mane, or Hericium erinaceus, to support the spleen and help with stress-related disorders and lack of energy (qi deficiency). It has anti-viral and immuno-enhancing properties.