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Immune System Allies: Unlocking the Protective Power of Medicinal Mushrooms 

Jan 27, 2024 | Health Management

The immune system is the body’s way of preventing infections. Introducing a wide range of foods in your diet can help maintain a healthy immune system. In fact, most Americans add mushrooms to their meals. Aside from bringing a savory flavor without adding much fat, calories, or sodium, mushrooms are also medicinal, making them good allies for immune support. 

Trip down the History of Medicinal Mushrooms  

Mushrooms have been used for centuries in traditional medicine systems. Currently, these fungi have gained more popularity around the world, with more people using medicinal mushrooms in their everyday lives. While research is still ongoing, multiple studies suggest that certain mushrooms act as allies for immune system support. 

Common Types of Medicinal Mushrooms 

There are various types of medicinal mushrooms. Some of the commonly used types are: 

  1. Cordyceps. Known as the “caterpillar mushroom”, this mushroom helps the body utilize oxygen and enhance blood flow. Athletes and gym-goers also use this to aid in lung capacity and muscle recovery. 
  1. Reishi. Rich in triterpenes, this mushroom may aid alleviate anxiety, ease depression, keep the immune system healthy, and promote better sleep. 
  1. Shiitake. This fragrant mushroom contains lentinan, a polysaccharide that boosts the immune system. It also contains less “bad” cholesterol which makes it good for the heart, and phytonutrients that inhibit cholesterol absorption and production in the liver. 
  1. Lion’s Mane. This mushroom fosters the production of nerve growth factor (NFG) and myelin which are both vital to brain health. It improves cognition, memory, concentration, and motor function. 
  1. Maitake. When you eat this mushroom, it supports the immune system by stimulating lymphocytes, natural killer cells, monocytes, and T-helper cells. Maitake mushrooms have also been found to help maintain blood sugar level, heart health and weight loss. 
  1. Turkey Tail. This contains polysaccharide-K (PSK) that stimulates the immune system. Japan even approved PSK as an anticancer prescription drug. This mushroom helps improve the survival rate of people with certain cancers, fight leukemia cells, and enhance gut health. 
  1. Chaga Mushroom. This mushroom is an antioxidant powerhouse, effectively combatting free radicals and inflammation. The mushroom’s black outer layer is also rich in melanin, which is beneficial for the skin.  

Incorporating Mushrooms into Your Daily Routine 

You can incorporate medicinal mushrooms in your lifestyle through different ways. Here are some: 

  1. Mushroom powder. Harvest an entire mushroom, dehydrate, and grind it into a fine powder. You can then use it in smoothies, coffee, and gourmet dishes. 
  1. Dried whole mushrooms. Adding dried whole mushrooms into your favorite soup or tea can be a nutrient and flavor boost, without needing to use the mushrooms right away. 
  1. Gourmet mushrooms. This can be arguably the easiest way to start incorporating more mushrooms into your life. Whether you sauté them, add to stir-fry, make them into soup, or stuffed mushrooms, these are a flavorful addition to your meals. 
  1. Coffee alternatives. Mushroom coffee has been shown to enhance one’s focus, energy levels, and immune system. Just make sure to get these from reputable sources. 
  1. Mushroom supplements.  These can offer health benefits such as modulating stress and improving immunity. Make sure to do research and seek professional guidance first to know the right one for your needs. 

Nowadays, mushrooms are not only recognized as promising food sources but also as great health allies. Remember that incorporating medicinal mushrooms into your lifestyle as part of your holistic approach to health, along with balanced diet and regular physical activity, are the keys to having a healthy body. 

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