The Healing Power of Medicinal Mushrooms for the Immune System

The Healing Power of Medicinal Mushrooms for the Immune System

The Healing Power of Medicinal Mushrooms for the Immune System

In the realm of natural remedies and holistic healing our fungi friends evoke a sense of awe and inspiration which not only gets many of us hitting the trail in search of these allies but expands the horizons of healing to vastly new roads of intrigue.

These ancient fungi have been used for centuries in traditional medicine systems around the world for their unparalleled ability to support and strengthen the immune system.

I want to take time explore the profound healing qualities of some of the most renowned medicinal mushrooms, including our well loved Reishi, Turkey Tail, Chaga, and perhaps some of the stranger or less well known African Meshima, Cordyceps, and Shiitake.


Reishi: The Ancient Guardian of Vitality and Balance

Reishi, scientifically known as Ganoderma lucidum, holds a revered position as the "Queen of Mushrooms" in traditional Chinese medicine. Its long history of use can be traced back thousands of years, where it was regarded as a symbol of longevity, vitality, and spiritual enlightenment. The name "Reishi" itself translates to "spiritual potency" in Chinese, reflecting the deep spiritual connection and healing potential associated with this remarkable mushroom.

Scientific research has uncovered the incredible healing properties of Reishi, confirming its reputation as a powerful immune modulator. It possesses a complex array of bioactive compounds, including triterpenoids, polysaccharides, and peptidoglycans, which contribute to its therapeutic effects. These compounds work synergistically to enhance immune function, reduce inflammation, and protect against various diseases. Studies have shown that Reishi consumption can lead to improved immune response, increased activity of natural killer cells, and enhanced production of cytokines, which are essential for regulating immune responses and promoting overall well-being [1].



Turkey Tail: Nature's Immune Boosting Architect


Turkey Tail, scientifically known as Trametes versicolor, derives its name from its captivating resemblance to the tail feathers of a wild turkey.

Beyond its incredible beauty, this mushroom has been treasured in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine for centuries due to its extraordinary immune-boosting capabilities. It is considered a symbol of strength, adaptability, and resilience.


Recent scientific studies have shed light on the remarkable healing potential of Turkey Tail and further validated its historical use. At the core of its immunomodulatory potency lies its unique composition of polysaccharide peptides, including the well-researched compound PSP (polysaccharide peptide). PSP has demonstrated anti-tumor activity and has been extensively studied for its ability to strengthen the immune system. It stimulates the production and activity of immune cells, such as lymphocytes and macrophages, which play crucial roles in immune defence. Additionally, compounds found in Turkey Tail have been shown to enhance the effectiveness of cancer treatments, making it a promising adjunct/ alternative therapy for conventional approaches [2].

Chaga: The Sacred Mushroom of Siberia

Deep in the remote forests of Siberia, a truly sacred mushroom known as Chaga, or Inonotus obliquus, thrives. For centuries, Siberian shamans have revered Chaga for its ability to promote longevity, vitality, and overall well-being. It is considered a symbol of spiritual enlightenment, wisdom, and connection to the natural world.
Chaga is rich in a wide range of bioactive compounds, including beta-glucans, triterpenes, and polyphenols. These compounds endow Chaga with potent antioxidant and immunomodulatory properties. Research has shown that Chaga can stimulate the immune system by activating immune cells and increasing the production of important immune mediators, such as interferons and interleukins. By doing so, it helps regulate the balance of inflammatory responses, promoting a state of equilibrium in the body. The unique combination of antioxidants found in Chaga helps neutralise harmful free radicals and protect against oxidative damage, thereby supporting overall health and well-being [3].



African Meshima: The Hidden Jewel of Africa


While not as widely recognized as other medicinal mushrooms, African Meshima, scientifically known as Phellinus linteus & spp , holds great promise in the realm of immune support. Native to Africa, and covering the forests of the Tsitsikamma and Hogsback this elder mushroom has a rich history of use in traditional African medicine, where it has been revered for its healing properties and considered a hidden gem of the natural world.
African Meshima contains various bioactive compounds, with polysaccharides playing a crucial role in its remarkable healing properties. These polysaccharides have been found to stimulate the immune system, promote anti-inflammatory responses, and exhibit potent antioxidant activity. By enhancing immune function, African Meshima supports the body's natural defence mechanisms and helps maintain overall health. Its multifaceted benefits make it a valuable addition to immune support regimens [4].




Cordyceps: The Energising Force of Nature


Cordyceps, scientifically known as Cordyceps sinensis/ militaris (OR ophiocordyceps sinensis), boasts a fascinating history deeply rooted in traditional Tibetan and Chinese medicine. This unique mushroom has captured the imagination of many due to its intriguing life cycle, as it grows on the larvae of caterpillars in the high Himalayan mountains (don’t worry ours are grown so as to ensure that no caterpillars are involved in the process). 
Cordyceps has gained renown for its energising and performance-enhancing properties, making it a sought-after natural remedy for boosting vitality and supporting optimal physical and mental performance.
Cordyceps contains a diverse range of bioactive compounds, including cordycepin, adenosine, and polysaccharides. These compounds have demonstrated immunomodulatory effects, enhancing the production of immune cells and promoting the body's defence mechanisms. By strengthening the immune system, Cordyceps supports overall well-being and helps protect against infections and diseases. Additionally, Cordyceps has been shown to increase oxygen utilisation, improve endurance, and support respiratory health, making it a favourite among athletes and individuals seeking renewed vitality [5].


Shiitake: The Culinary Delight with Medicinal Might


Originating from East Asia, Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) have long been celebrated for their culinary excellence and delightful umami flavour. However, beyond their delectable taste, Shiitake mushrooms have been treasured for their remarkable immune-boosting properties for centuries. They have earned a well-deserved reputation as a medicinal powerhouse.


Scientific research has shed light on the mechanisms behind Shiitake's immune-enhancing effects. Key bioactive constituents, such as beta-glucans, polysaccharides, and ergosterol, contribute to its therapeutic properties. These compounds stimulate the production of immune cells, enhance their activity, and promote anti-inflammatory responses. Shiitake mushrooms have also been found to possess antiviral and antimicrobial properties, further fortifying their role in strengthening the immune system and supporting overall health [6].


As we continue to explore the healing powers of medicinal mushrooms, it becomes evident that these humble fungi hold profound potential for supporting and empowering our immune systems. The scientific research validating their medicinal benefits, coupled with their rich histories rooted in traditional medicine, only deepens our admiration for their wisdom and healing capabilities.


Forming a relationship and ally-hood with these incredible medicines invites a space to develop a relationship not only with them - learning more about them, but also in the embodiment of what health means to you as an individual and how you can deeper support your health and wellbeing, irrespective of the season.

I invite you to enact upon the multitude of mushrooms around you, inviting you to treat yourself with the love and care you are so deeply deserving of - focusing on preventative medicine as apposed to merely treating a symptom.


May this inspire your hiking and foraging shoes to get out and perhaps make a cup of harvested Reishi tea


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[1] Gao Y, et al. (2003). Effects of water-soluble Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides on the immune functions of patients with advanced lung cancer. Journal of Medicinal Food, 6(4), 371-381.
[2] Wu J, et al. (2012). PSP-induced apoptosis in human colorectal cancer cells is mediated by ER stress-regulated ATF3. Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, 16(3), 554-562.
[3] Lemieszek MK, et al. (2011). Anticancer effects of fraction isolated from fruiting bodies of Chaga medicinal mushroom, Inonotus obliquus (Pers.:Fr.) Pilát (Aphyllophoromycetideae): in vitro studies. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 13(2), 131-143.
[4] Park YK, et al. (2004). Cellular immune response in mice fed a diet supplemented with an ethanol extract from Phellinus linteus. Journal of Medicinal Food, 7(4), 417-423.
[5] Li SP, et al. (2006). The pharmacology of Cordyceps sin
ensis, a traditional Chinese medicine that has broad clinical applications. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 4(13), 1-21.
[6] Jayachandran M, et al. (2017). A critical review on health promoting benefits of edible mushrooms through gut microbiota. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 18(9), 1934.