Here’s the science behind the immune-supporting power of functional mushrooms

Here’s the science behind the immune-supporting power of functional mushrooms

Your immune system is a large network of specialized organs, cells and endogenously produced chemicals that defend your body against foreign threats. When your immune system is functioning optimally, it responds quickly to the presence of dangerous substances or microorganisms by deploying an army of immune cells and complementary biomolecules. This is how it thwarts infections that could otherwise cause health problems or leave you severely ill. [1]

Much like any organ in your body, the different components of your immune system need regular nourishment to do their jobs properly. This is why it’s important to include immune-supporting foods in your daily diet. According to experts, adopting a healthy lifestyle and eating foods rich in a wide variety of micronutrients are the best ways to keep your immune system in shape. Being deficient in vitamins A, B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folate), C and E, and minerals like copper, iron, selenium and zinc, has been found to unfavorably alter immune responses in multiple studies. [2] 

Organic functional mushrooms for immune support 

There are many superfoods that you can eat to support the healthy functions of your immune system. Citrus fruits, for instance, are rich in vitamin C, which is important for your body’s natural production of white blood cells. Cruciferous vegetables, meanwhile, are packed with micronutrients that are critical for the growth and optimal functioning of immune cells. [3]

Probiotic and prebiotic foods, which help increase your good gut bacteria and allow them to thrive, respectively, are also said to benefit the immune system. After all, your gut is a major site of immune activity and is where most immune-related proteins are synthesized, so keeping it healthy by maintaining good gut microbial balance is crucial for optimal immune function. [4] 

In addition to these, herbs like garlic, ginger and turmeric are great for your immune system because of their rich phytonutrient content. Studies show that the beneficial compounds they contain not only support the activities of various immune cells, but also help keep them in check for optimal immune regulation.

Among the best superfoods for immune health, functional mushrooms are highly regarded for their potent immune-supporting properties. Like fruits and vegetables, mushrooms are packed with essential vitamins and minerals, as well as protein and fiber. They are also considered prebiotic foods as they are rich in polysaccharides like beta glucan and mannans that help feed the good bacteria in your gut. [5]

What’s more, functional mushrooms have been used in traditional remedies for centuries due to the fact that they are loaded with beneficial phytonutrients, especially powerful antioxidants. [6] Antioxidants are particularly useful for your immune system as they provide support for your immune cells. Although your immune system is designed to face up to threats from the outside, it still needs protection from threats that originate from within your body. These threats come in the form of free radicals, which are notorious for causing oxidative damage to all kinds of cells, including immune cells. At high levels, free radicals cause oxidative stress, which has been linked to the premature aging of healthy cells and an early decline in immune function. [7]

In order to stop free radicals from accumulating, your body needs adequate levels of antioxidants. These compounds have the unique ability to neutralize free radicals and protect cells from their harmful activities. Mushrooms are rich in antioxidant vitamins and phytochemicals, which makes them excellent immune-supporting foods to add to your diet.

According to clinical trials, increasing your antioxidant intake is one of the best ways to support healthy immune responses, and this has been proven to be true even for the elderly. [8] In fact, a study published in the Journal of Dairy Science noted that human immune functions are highly dependent on the consumption of antioxidant-rich foods. [9]

Aside from antioxidants, functional mushrooms also contain copper and zinc, two essential minerals that are known to support optimal immune function. Copper is important for the maintenance of healthy white blood cells, while zinc is necessary for the normal development and activity of immune cells involved in both innate and adaptive immunity. [10]

Your innate immune system is your body’s first line of defense and is non-specific to external threats. Your adaptive immune system, on the other hand, is more sophisticated, highly specific and provides long-lasting protection. The components of your innate and adaptive immune systems work together to defend your body and get rid of harmful invaders. [11][12]

Other immune-supporting nutrients that you can get from mushrooms are choline, selenium and vitamin C. According to a study by researchers from the University of Ottawa in Canada, choline is important for supporting the healthy functions of macrophages. [13] Macrophages are immune cells that are part of your innate immune response. Meanwhile, selenium, being an antioxidant mineral, helps protect immune cells from oxidative stress. [14]

Like selenium, vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant. This essential vitamin supports both your innate and adaptive immune systems by maintaining healthy skin’s barrier function. [15] Because your skin serves as a protective interface between your internal organs and the environment, it is considered an active immune organ. [16] Your skin also harbors a wide variety of innate and adaptive immune cells, so its health and optimal functioning is crucial to your body’s natural defenses. [17]

Another benefit mushrooms offer is that they can help boost your vitamin D intake. Aside from improving your absorption of minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphate, vitamin D is also needed for healthy immune regulation. [18] Mushrooms contain a compound called ergosterol, which is a precursor to vitamin D2. According to a study published in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, increasing your intake of ergosterol can help you maintain healthy vitamin D levels that are already within the normal range. [19] 

7 Immune-supporting mushrooms to add to your diet* 

Since ancient times, mushrooms have been consumed for nutritional and medicinal purposes. The ancient Romans referred to them as “food of the Gods,” while the ancient Chinese thought of them as “elixirs of life.” Today, mushrooms have gained popularity as health foods because they are low in calories, fat and sodium but high in essential nutrients and beneficial phytonutrients. Mushrooms also offer a wide range of health benefits, which include unparalleled immune support. [20]

To date, more than 2,000 different species of mushrooms have been identified by researchers. Among these, there are seven widely studied mushrooms that can provide invaluable support for your immune system:

  1. Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) – Considered one of the most nutrient-dense mushrooms on the planet, this edible fungus grows on birch trees and can easily be recognized by its orange tissue. [21] Despite its uncomely appearance, chaga mushroom is a rich source of immune-supporting minerals like copper, manganese, selenium and zinc. [22] It also has an abundance of antioxidants, such as flavans, melanin, polyphenols, polysaccharides and triterpenoids. Thanks to these, chaga mushroom has the highest ORAC score – a measure of antioxidant capacity – of any superfood and can support healthy immune functions by protecting your immune cells from oxidative stress. [23][24]
  2. Cordyceps mushroom (Cordyceps sinensis and militaris) – According to research, there are approximately 500 different species of Cordyceps in existence, but only a few have been extensively studied for their health-supporting properties. Two species (C. sinensis and C. militaris), in particular, have been widely used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. These cordyceps contain plenty of essential nutrients, including antioxidant vitamin E and immune-supporting iron, manganese, selenium and zinc. [25] Cordyceps also owe their beneficial properties to ergosterol, antioxidant polysaccharides and the nucleoside, cordycepin. [26] Together, these immune-supporting components allow cordyceps to support the healthy functions of your innate and adaptive immune cells. [27]
  3. Lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) – Known as yamabushitake in Japanese, this edible mushroom gets its name from its unusual appearance, which is similar to the shaggy mane of a white lion. Lion’s mane mushroom is widely used in East Asian cuisine and is also a popular ingredient in health supplements. [28] Studies show that lion’s mane mushroom contains bioactive proteins and polysaccharides that can support a healthy intestinal immune system. These phytonutrients work by helping you maintain a balanced composition of gut microflora. [29][30] Because your intestinal immune system is responsible for combating threats that come with the foods that you eat, supporting its optimal functioning is important for your overall health. [31]
  4. Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa) – Native to northeastern Japan, Europe and North America, hen-of-the-woods or the dancing mushroom can be found at the base of trees, especially old oak trees. This edible mushroom has a sweet umami taste and is often used as a culinary ingredient and food flavoring. [32][33] Maitake mushroom is a good source of immune-supporting nutrients, such as vitamin B6, copper, iron, manganese, selenium and zinc. It also contains high amounts of vitamin D – the highest, in fact, of all edible fungi. [34] Like lion’s mane mushroom, studies have found that maitake mushroom contains bioactive proteins and polysaccharides like grifolan that can support the healthy functions of certain immune cells. [35][36]
  5. Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) – Also known as lingzhi, this fungus is a staple herb in Eastern medicine and is used to promote health and wellness. Reishi mushroom is often described as a large, dark-colored mushroom with a glossy exterior and a woody texture. [37] Like all the mushrooms on this list, reishi mushroom is an excellent source of immune-supporting minerals like copper, selenium and zinc. It also contains iron and manganese, both of which are important for optimal immune cell functions. [38][39] Meanwhile, the polysaccharides in reishi mushroom not only give it potent antioxidant properties, but they also help support the normal activities of various immune cells. [40][41]
  6. Shiitake mushroom (Lentinula edodes) – One of the most popular edible mushrooms on the planet, this fungus with a dark-brown cap is native to East Asia, where it can be found growing on decaying hardwood trees. Shiitake mushroom has an earthy, meaty flavor that makes it a tasty addition to vegetarian and vegan recipes. [42][43] Nutritious shiitake mushroom is a great source of immune-supporting nutrients, such as folate, pyridoxine, copper, manganese, selenium and zinc. Folate is a B-vitamin that plays a crucial role in DNA and protein synthesis. As such, it affects certain aspects of immunity, particularly the production of antibodies. [44] Meanwhile, pyridoxine is needed for the maintenance of healthy immune cell functions. According to a study published in the journal Nutrition Reviews, being deficient in this vitamin can weaken your immune responses. [45]
  7. Turkey tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) – A common mushroom that grows in many parts of the world, this fungus resembles a strikingly colored turkey’s tail and is widely known for its immune-supporting properties. [46] Aside from immune-supporting minerals like copper, manganese and zinc, turkey tail mushroom is rich in B-vitamins as well as antioxidant flavonoids and other phenols that can protect immune cells from DNA damage caused by free radicals. [47][48] As reported by separate studies published in the journals Food Chemistry and Clinical Cancer Research, turkey tail mushroom also contains protein-bound polysaccharides like krestin (PSK) and polysaccharide peptide (PSP) that can support healthy immune responses. [49][50] 

Where to get clean, lab-verified organic functional mushroom powders

Functional mushrooms are some of the best superfoods that you can incorporate into your daily diet. Besides providing you with a wide variety of nutrients, they can also support a healthy immune system in many ways. If you’re looking for clean mushroom products that are made of only high-quality ingredients, the Health Ranger Store is where you’ll find them.

Health Ranger Select Organic Seven Treasures Mushroom Powder, Health Ranger Select Organic Chaga Mushroom Powder and Health Ranger Select Reishi Mushroom Powder are three of the cleanest superfoods you’ll find on the market. These premium mushroom powders are made from high-quality functional mushrooms that are meticulously sourced and laboratory verified for purity and potency.

Health Ranger Select Organic Seven Treasures Mushroom Powder is the ideal addition to an immune-supporting diet. It combines all the beneficial properties and nutritional benefits of seven functional mushrooms, namely, chaga mushroom, cordyceps mushroom, lion’s mane mushroom, maitake mushroom, reishi mushroom, shiitake mushroom and turkey tail mushroom, to support the optimal functions of your immune system.

Like our seven treasures mushroom powder, Health Ranger Select Organic Chaga Mushroom Powder and Health Ranger Select Reishi Mushroom Powder can provide reliable immune support, thanks to their abundance of antioxidants and immune-supporting minerals like copper, manganese, selenium and zinc.

Our powerful immune support mushroom powders can be added to a variety of recipes, including healthy drinks. They are vegan, non-China, non-GMO and certified Kosher and organic. As with all our products, our high-quality mushroom powders are also extensively lab tested for glyphosate as well as common mushroom contaminants like lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury.

Support the healthy functions of your immune system by adding functional mushrooms to your diet today!

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not recommended to treat, cure or diagnose any disease.