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Medicinal Mushrooms Immune System Function

Reishi or ‘Lingzhi,” is known as the “Queen of Mushrooms.” It grows in humid and temperate locations in Asia, Africa, America and Europe. According to Bumam et al (2019), the mushroom has triterpenoids which are responsible for its antihistamine effects which help the body fight off seasonal allergies. Polysaccharides in Reishi are responsible for its antitumor and immunomodulating properties which help boost the immune system and protect against cancer. Polysaccharides also help protect against free radicals in the body, minimizing damage to the cells. This article by the Turkish Journal of Agriculture lists that Reishi also contains vitamins B1, B2, B6, proteins and 16 different amino acids. Reishi mushrooms is also an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Traditional Chinese Medicine honors the mushroom as one of the strongest adaptogens that has been used for thousands of years to treat asthma, diabetes, insomnia, bronchitis, indigestions, high cholesterol, neurosis and to promote life longevity. It’s also been used by itself or with chemotherapy and radiotherapy for its anticancer properties (Bumam et al, 2019). The magnificent mushroom also helps balance function of the endocrine system and detoxes and purifies blood.

Photo of Reishi by Rebecca Roberts

Chaga, also called the “King of Mushrooms,” is a parasitic polypore and grows in cold forests. Although it is usually found on birch trees, according to Géry et al (2018), it can also be found on oaks, poplars, alders, ashes and maples. Chaga is found in Canada, the northern part of the United States, Kazakhstan, in Siberia, in Ukraine, in Japan, in South Korea, in China and in mostly northern and eastern parts of Europe. It looks like a charred, black mass on trees. Most of the medicinal studies done on Chaga growing on birch trees. According to this 2018 study, 2 components found in chaga that are present in Chaga, betulin and betulinic acid have been found to antimicrobial, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, antiarthritic, and have anticancer properties.

Chaga’s primary use is to boost immunity and overall health for its antioxidant support. It has also been used to treat diabetes and heart disease. It is low in calories, high in fiber and loaded with antioxidants. Chaga is an adaptogen. According to Annanda Chaga, the adaptogen properties of chaga help balance the body and benefit the nervous system, immune system, the GI tract, cardiovascular system and the endocrine system. By supporting these functions, Chaga helps to take your body out of psychological and adrenal stress, which in turn helps the body stay away from emotional stress and depression. Chaga is a also high in antioxidants, helping to protect against free radicals which harm tissue cells.

Photo of Chaga by Rebecca Roberts

Cordyceps are a parasitic fungi. Traditionally used in Tibetan & Chinese folk medicine, it was used as a tonic for energy, appetite, stamina, libido, endurance, help sleeping and many other illnesses. It grows in high altitudes in the Himalayan Mountains and essentially grows by taking over and mummifying its’ host, which is usually some type of insect (Panda & Swain). It’s medicinal properties were first noticed when cattle, yak and sheep were eating Cordyceps in the fields. Herders noticed these animals had increased vitality and milk-production and then began eating the orange/yellow and brown mushrooms themselves. Known for promoting vitality, the mushroom helps boost exercise performance, anti aging properties, anti- tumor effects, and can help fight inflammation. It’s also an adaptogen and has antioxidant qualities. According to Mushroom Revival, Cordyceps can even boost athletic performance because of its ability to support energy, stamina and respiratory function in addition to allowing the lungs to blood to receive more oxygen. Cordyceps may also help balance blood glucose levels for athletes while exercising for a prolonged amount of time (Panda & Swain). The parasitic fungi may support the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which is how the body makes energy for the majority of its cellular processes. Cordyceps are have a compound in them called cordycepin which helps to regulate the metabolism. Traditional healers used Cordyceps as a treatment for cancer, athsma, diabetes and cough & colds. They have also been used for erectile dysfunction and as an aphrodisiac as a libido support in the bedroom. Additionally, Cordyceps have anti-inflammatory properties and can have medicinal constituents to present cancer and cardiovascular disease (Panda & Swain).

Lions Mane grows your brain! The mushroom is white and has dangling “teeth” that give it a furry like appearance. It is sometimes called “Yamabushitake,” which means the “Mountain Priest Mushroom,” in Japan for it’s Buddhist Shaolin roots for its spiritual effects on the body. The fungus grows in North America, Europe and Asia. It has bioactive substances good for the brain, heart, and gut. It stimulates brain cells hericenones and erinacines. A nootropic, the mushroom is most known to be good to support brain and cognitive/memory function and prevent cognitive decline. Some of the active medicinal constituents in Lions Mane are hericenones and erinacines which are known to promote healthy nerve cell function.According to Mushroom Revival, Lion’s Mane supports neurogenesis, “which is the process by which neurons are produced by neural stem cells” (Crigler). Lions Mane does this by stimulating Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). According to Berman & Faerman, NGF encourages communication between the brain neurons and axons and is being tested for treatment of depression and Alzheimer’s Multiple Sclerosis. This is partly due to the mushroom due to fending off environmental toxins and aging from the brain. BDNF is a protein in Lions Mane that produces new brain and nerve cells and also help to protect existing ones (Berman & Faerman). In addition, BDNF promotes positive brain neuroplasticity. This essentially helps your brain repair itself when you undergo stress by preventing neural pathways from shutting down easily. Lion’s mane also supports the immune system by supporting healthy gut bacteria and having anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, antioxidant and even anti-cancer properties. It protects against ulcers in international linings which can help with gut related inflammatory issues such as gastritis, Chron’s disease and colitis (Berman & Faerman). It’s also possible that Lion’s Mane can decrease risk of heart disease by reducing LDL cholesterol and increase better-for-you HDL cholesterol.


Berman, Noah, and Justin Faerman. “The Miracle Mushroom: The 10 Most Impressive Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane For Brain and Body.” Conscious Lifestyle Magazine,

Bulam, Sanem, et al. “Health Benefits of Ganoderma Lucidum as a Medicinal Mushroom.” Turkish Journal of Agriculture , 23 Aug. 2019. Food Science and Technology, doi:10.24925/turjaf.v7isp1.84-93.2728.

“Chaga Benefits – Health Benefits of Using Chaga Mushrooms.” Annanda Chaga Mushrooms,

Crigler, Lauren. “PUT ON YOUR THINKING CAP – LEARN ABOUT LION’S MANE HEALTH BENEFITS*.” Mushroom Revival, Mushroom Revival, 2 July 2020,

Crigler, Lauren. “The 5 Coolest Cordyceps Militaris Benefits Worth Knowing.” Mushroom Revival, Mushroom Revival, 15 June 2020,

Géry, Antoine et al. “Chaga ( Inonotus obliquus), a Future Potential Medicinal Fungus in Oncology? A Chemical Study and a Comparison of the Cytotoxicity Against Human Lung Adenocarcinoma Cells (A549) and Human Bronchial Epithelial Cells (BEAS-2B).” Integrative cancer therapies vol. 17,3 (2018): 832-843. doi:10.1177/1534735418757912

Panda, Ashok Kumar, and Kailash Chandra Swain. “Traditional uses and medicinal potential of Cordyceps sinensis of Sikkim.” Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine vol. 2,1 (2011): 9-13. doi:10.4103/0975-9476.78183

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