Medicinal mushrooms have been a treasured part of Eastern diets for centuries, shown to support immune function by providing an amazingly robust ingredient called beta glucans. Beta glucans are a type of natural polysaccharide found in a variety of medicinal mushrooms, including cordyceps, reishi, shiitake, and maitake. These special mushrooms promote the activation of the immune system, packed with elegant polysaccharides that are proven to promote immune system health and overall wellness.
Studies have shown that taking a combination of maitake, shitake, and/or reishi mushrooms significantly improved immune system function by increasing the activity of a specific type of white blood cell called natural killer cells.1,2 The activation of these white blood cells helps to destroy bacteria and other dangerous invaders in the blood stream.
Solid evidence shows that beta glucans can also support heart health. Research suggests that beta glucans may lower cholesterol and triglycerides. In one study, participants who ate oats (that contained at least 3 g of beta glucans) daily reduced their “bad” cholesterol (LDL) levels between 5-7%3. Evidently, the beta glucans were able to help prevent the absorption of cholesterol from food in their diet.
Many foods do not contain the amounts of beta glucans required to reap all its health benefits. As a result, people can opt to take a beta glucans supplement. For example, good amounts of beta glucans are available in supplements that contain nutritional yeast and medicinal mushroom blends. When selecting a mushroom blend, it is important that the product contain the mushroom mycelial biomass. The mycelia naturally contain biologically active polysaccharides (including beta glucans) that promote a healthy immune response.
In addition, by fermenting these mushrooms, their immune compounds are more easily digestible. Releasing their nutritional payload through fermentation breaks down the chitin (typically harder to digest) in mushrooms and also provides postbiotic metabolites to further support immune health.
Beta glucans are truly a treasured immune powerhouse and a fantastic way to support your immune system!
- Vetvicka V, Vetvickova J. Immune-enhancing effects of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) extracts. Ann Transl Med. 2014;2(2):14. doi:10.3978/j.issn.2305-5839.2014.01.05
- Mallard B, Leach DN, Wohlmuth H, Tiralongo J. Synergistic immuno-modulatory activity in human macrophages of a medicinal mushroom formulation consisting of Reishi, Shiitake and Maitake. PLoS One. 2019;14(11):e0224740. Published 2019 Nov 7. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0224740
- Rgia A Othman, Mohammed H Moghadasian, Peter Jh Jones, Cholesterol-lowering effects of oat β-glucan, Nutrition Reviews, Volume 69, Issue 6, 1 June 2011, Pages 299–309, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00401.x