Mushrooms are the unsung heroes of a plant-based diet. They’re extremely nutritious and some special types of mushrooms won’t be found in your local produce section! Adaptogenic medicinal mushrooms are growing in popularity due to their ability to help your body cope with the effects of stress.
What are adaptogenic mushrooms?
Including these unique mushrooms into your routine can benefit your immune system! Many adaptogenic mushrooms and herbs have been a part of different cultures’ traditional use for thousands of years. Named for their ability to bolster our bodies’ “adaptive” processes, adaptogens are rapidly gaining in popularity for their capacity to help protect the body against the effects of stressors - something we have an abundance of in our modern lives!
When triggered by acute stress, our adrenal glands produce “alarm system” hormones including cortisol, which can increase your blood sugar and alter your immune response. Cortisol release helps your body effectively overcome short-term stresses, but ongoing (chronic) stress and consistently high levels of cortisol in your body can have detrimental longer-term effects, such as creating fatigue and diminishing your immune response.
There are plenty of lifestyle choices you can make that will benefit your immune system and help you manage stress. An additional powerful option to assist with managing the effects of stress is incorporating adaptogenic medicinal mushrooms into your daily regimen. Adaptogens have a holistically supportive effect that help strengthen your overall mental and physical resilience.
5 immune system bolstering mushrooms
Several studies have shown a connection between mushroom consumption and reduced inflammation due to their high antioxidant levels, as well as immunomodulatory benefits due to specialized polysaccharides called beta-glucans found in their cell walls. Check out these 5 powerhouse mushrooms!
Although Cordyceps has a rather unsettling origin, growing in the wild as a parasitic fungus on larval hosts, it is now cultivated on plant-based substrates. Cordyceps has long been regarded as a powerful component in traditional Chinese medicine, prescribed by practitioners to support the immune system, help with fatigue and recovery during convalescence, and provide respiratory system support along with many other uses.
Formal study has suggested that cordyceps may offer immunomodulating properties, which means that it may help balance or regulate your immune system (increase or decrease its activity, as needed).
Common to the colder, northern hemisphere countries like Canada and Siberia, chaga can be found growing wild on birch trees. Though commonly referred to as a mushroom, chaga is actually a combination of fungus plus the hardened, darkened woody tissue (conk) that it creates when it grows on the tree.
Chaga has been long used in folk remedies as a tea and in traditional Chinese medicine. Chaga is nutritionally dense, offering vitamins, minerals, and high levels of antioxidants which can provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Along with its beta-glucans, chaga is rich in a compound called betulin which provides additional immune-enhancing properties and may also help regulate blood sugar levels.
Growing wild in Japan, China, and North America, maitake has long been used therapeutically in Japan and China and is now gaining popularity globally. Maitake can offer general health benefits as it is highly nutritious, and has also been used to support healthy immunity. The beta-glucans found in maitake have been linked to immune stimulation, and maitake may be more effective when used synergistically with shiitake and reishi.
4. Turkey Tail
Its descriptive common name referring to its brightly colored fan shape resembling the tail of a turkey, Turkey tail (or Trametes versicolor) is loaded with both phenol and flavonoid antioxidants including quercetin.
Antioxidants help support the immune system by reducing inflammation and stimulating the release of immunoprotective compounds in the body, and Turkey tail is commonly prescribed in Japan to support cancer patients’ immune health. Turkey tail also contains prebiotics, which are beneficial for flourishing gut health.
Known as lingzhi in traditional Chinese medicine, reishi is high in nutrients and antioxidants and has been used for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. Reishi is commonly used in TCM for supporting the immune and respiratory systems, providing health benefits to cancer patients, and promoting calmer mental and emotional wellbeing. Some research has shown a positive connection between stronger white blood cell functioning and consumption of reishi, and that it could have recovery benefits for cancer patients and offer relief from fatigue.
How to take adaptogenic mushrooms
While medicinal mushrooms are one of the hottest ways to support your immune function and overall health, it’s not practical to have to down multiple types of capsules, powders, and infusions just to attain a variety of beneficial fungi! Additionally, it’s important to source high-quality, organically grown, and properly processed ingredients to make sure you’re getting the full range of benefits from your adaptogenic mushroom products.
A convenient and effective option is to choose a single, trusted product formulated with multiple potent mushroom and plant allies, where all ingredients have been carefully chosen for their synergistic support of your immune function and overall health. Keeping things simple can help you succeed at making your healthy adaptogenic routine a daily habit.