Medicinal mushrooms are certainly having a moment - health conscious consumers are taking them as capsules, adding them to smoothies and coffee drinks, and posting all about it on social media. While use of functional mushrooms were growing prior to the pandemic, the focus on immunity during COVID-19 really brought them into the mainstream; referred to as the “shroom boom”. And the category is projected to continue high growth until at least 2025.
These nutritional powerhouses offer so many health benefits - and researchers are continually finding more. While there’s lots of research going into psilocybin (better known as the hallucinogenic component in “magic mushrooms”), it’s the legal, medicinal or functional mushrooms I want to focus on here. Medicinal mushrooms are rich in various nutrients such as vitamin D, potassium, calcium, vitamin B, amino acids, fiber, and other nutrients that are essential for the human body. The benefits are many; from their antioxidant power, brain-boosting ability, hormone balancing help and immune system enhancement. Kind of like an all-natural mini-vaccine for living in the modern world.
There are many different medicinal mushrooms, each with their own special powers. These are my favourites for immune system support; to help get you fight-ready for the cold, flu and virus season, and to help shorten the duration and reduce the intensity if you do happen to catch something icky.
Reishi grows in hot humid climates like Asia, and has been used in Eastern medicine for centuries. Reishi boosts the immune system by improving lymphocyte (killer cells) function, which helps fight off infections, and may also kill off cancer cells. Reishi has also been attributed with reducing fatigue, anxiety and depression, as well as sharpening mental focus.
Chaga mushrooms grow in the northern hemisphere on birch trees. Extremely rich in antioxidants, Chaga help reduce free radical damage and oxidation. In addition to their anti-cancer properties, Chaga can also help support the immune system’s ability to fight off infections ranging from minor colds and flu to more serious illnesses. Chaga’s ability to lower blood sugar makes it useful for diabetes and heart disease as well.
This fungus has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for hundreds of years. Thought to be an immune modulator, Cordyceps have the adaptive ability to both restore the immune system to normal to fight off illness, and to control auto-immune disorders. In TCM, it has been used to treat respiratory infections and cancers. It’s a potent anti-inflammatory. And best of all, it is somewhat energizing (helps with athletic performance and stamina), so if you are feeling under the weather, Cordyceps will actually help you feel better too.
Another immune booster and antioxidant, Turkey Tail mushrooms are rich in the polysaccharides beta-D-glucans, and sort of look like a turkey’s fan-like tail. These adaptogenic mushrooms are amazing for helping the body deal with stress, and contain the immune fighting molecules PSP and PSK. PSP boosts the immune system’s ability to fight off inflections and viruses, and PSK has been used to treat several types of cancers.
Evidence suggests taking several mushrooms together can be more beneficial than taking just one. It’s one of those 1+1=3 scenarios that often happen with natural medicines. At Niyama, we’ve created the ultimate immune “stack” with all four of the above medicinal mushrooms, plus a clinically studied source of beta-glucans, called Immudyne, vegan sources of the aminos l-glutamine and n-acetyl-cysteine, as well as vitamins C, D and zinc. We call it Immune Warrior, and there’s nothing like it out there. You can take it daily during cold and flu season, or even year round, but it’s not too late to start if you feel something coming on and want to fend it off or make it shorter and less severe.
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