Reishi Mushroom – Taking a look under the cap!
Reishi Mushroom – has been in amongst ancient Chinese medicinal literature for hundreds of years and was originally reserved for the royals due to its rarity and peculiar growth preference. It is a contrastingly striped deep burgundy-red fanned fungus that at the time was selective to appear only on the trunks of pretty pink peony trees! Why were the royals searching high and low for this resource? Because it is absolutely jam-packed with benefits to our body including the following:
Just to name a few of it’s studied and proven benefits on the human body. Reishi Mushroom is one of the now most studied mushrooms in the world for its beneficial properties. These aspects that we now know to be studied are only around 2 of the over 400 constituents known of this mushroom… the health potentialities for this incredibly broad-spectrum fungus appear to be almost endless!
How can Reishi Mushroom help the Immune system?
Part of the main acting and promoted benefits of this mushroom come from the Polysaccharides of the fungus. Polysaccharides, much to the confusion of our naturopaths, for some reason get a bad wrap and this is usually associated with FODMAP broadening the reach of complex molecules to avoid, however, Reishi’s modulating effects on Bacteria and modulating of the inflammatory mechanisms have proven to be extremely beneficial, so in this instance here, the polysaccharides of Reishi are the hero! Reishi Mushroom works via the promotion of our own innate immune response systems. Including the support of our:
- Humoral immunity – Black Bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood.
- Cellular immunity - activation of phagocytes, antigen-specific T-lymphocytes and the release of various cytokines which are the integral chemical messengers!
- Immunomodulating effects – promoting the proliferation of, differentiation and function of antigen-presenting cells – these present the threat for cells like our Dendritic cells to rip apart and give it as a show and tell to immune cells such as our T-cells, phagocytic function of engulfing, immunoglobulin production, T and B lymphocyte response and cytokine signaling.
Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma) Enhances Innate immune function
When we say ‘innate’ immune function we are talking about our natural non-specific immunity, this is a series of natural defense mechanisms that respond insanely fast to pathogenic microorganisms and also the initiation of our specific immunity too. Modulation and enhancing our overall immune response, including the ever-important maturation and function of our dendritic cells, these are the tough guys. The Vikings of the body that grab an antigen, shred it to bits and hold it present it in a gloating manner to the rest of our immune cells; almost as if to say, “get em’ boys!”. Looking after these cells is extremely important, they set up the body for action and memory of pathogens from then and thereafter.
How do you use it?
Reishi Mushroom can often be found in a powdered form in most good health food stores and Chinese herbalists, its flavor spectrum is exceptionally recognizable if you’re an Aussie… it tastes like a big lick of vegemite. It has a rich deep flavor of salty stock like nature, which makes it a great addition to soups, broths, teas or flavoring some nice savory mince. It’s extremely versatile and something you can provide the whole family with on a day to day basis to help support their immune system. If you can’t get your hands on a bulk powdered form, it can often be found in supplemental form too often as mushroom or herbal blends on a variety of health food store shelves.
Fun fact - Not all Mushrooms are created equally!
There are mushrooms that can work against our immune response... Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) for example is one. Lectin from Pleurotus ostreatus stimulates a cytokine (immune chemical messenger) called Interleukin 21 (IL-21) (1) IL-21 actually reduces T helper 1 (Th1), which is the CD4 immune cell that mounts an immune response to attack viruses. Below is a diagram that demonstrates how Pleurotus boosts IL-21, which actually down-regulates the Th1/virus fighting aspect of your immune system.
While this seems terrible, it is not the end of the world. In some cases where your Th1 immune system is too high (such as some autoimmune conditions), increasing IL-21 would be a good idea. However, if you want viral protection or you have an infection, taking Pleurotus may not be the best idea.
Mymensingh Med J. 2007 Jan;16(1):94-9. Oyster mushroom reduced blood glucose and cholesterol in diabetic subjects. Khatun K1, Mahtab H, Khanam PA, Sayeed MA, Khan KA.
Ganoderma lucidum: A Potent Medicinal Mushroom with Numerous Health Benefits. DOI: 10.4172/2153-2435.1000e159