Build a Better Immune System with Medicinal Mushrooms
by Derek Fleming M.H. (Master Herbalist) of New Earth Organics
Medicinal Mushrooms have been used for thousands of years for both food and medicine. Health promoting actions of medicinal mushrooms have been found in a wide array of areas ranging from anti-inflammation to anti-aging, overall enhanced well being to helping build a more robust immune system.
As we enter into the colder months this Fall and Winter the dreaded “cold and flu” season rears its ugly head – and along with it an array of pathogens just waiting to find a suitable host (you) to continue to spread their aches, pains, coughs, sniffles and other ailments these virus and bacteria bring. Now more than ever we need strategies in place to support immune system adaptability against these ever increasing and evolving pathogens, and it turns out, medicinal mushroom may be one of the most important key allies in these preventive strategies.
What are Medicinal Mushrooms?
Although medicinal mushrooms hold quite a mysteriousness about them, they truly are a quintessential medicinal food. Being food (mushrooms) these fungi (pronounced ‘fun-guy’ or ‘fun-j’eye’) are safe for any age group, easy to consume, versatile, yet also offer us health promoting aspects such as immune building substances, anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins, and novel chemistry such as terpenes.
Medicinal mushrooms can be both fleshy type mushrooms that you find at the grocery store (think of Shiitake) ranging to hard wooden ‘conk’ tree mushrooms that are literally as hard as wood and require specific methods of slicing or grinding so that we can make use of them. Although an inexperienced person should never pick a wild mushroom unless under the guidance of an experience mushroom picking veteran, the medicinal mushrooms we know today are propagated and cultivated safely in many different countries ranging from the USA to China and Japan.
Medicinal Mushrooms and Immunity
When it comes to building a stronger immune system, in my opinion, there is no better place to start then medicinal mushrooms. We share roughly 67% of our DNA with medicinal mushrooms – this in turn allows us to ‘highjack’ the 2 million years+ of ‘immune evolution’ that medicinal mushrooms have endured. Fungi (mushrooms) have been exposed to a wide array of pathogens such as harmful yeast, fungus, bacteria and viruses over their evolutionary history which has allowed (forced) them to adapt and develop powerful innate immune systems in order for their continual survival. When we consume medicinal mushrooms we are literally ingesting and utilizing (due to the high percentage of shared DNA) the immune system of these mushrooms – essentially allowing us to ‘highjack’ these compounds which in turn create positive immune system responses within the human body.
The immune system compounds we receive from medicinal mushrooms are in the form of long chain sugar molecules known as ‘polysaccharides’ which contains a specific subset group called Beta-glucans. Polysaccharides and Beta-glucans have been well researched, with Beta-glucans exerting diverse biological immunomodulatory activities including increasing macrophage activity, stimulating the production/maturation and activity of lymphocytes, anti-infectious activity and even playing a role in important foreign or mutant cell signaling (CR3). These functions alone help ensure a stronger more adaptable immune system which may be able to keep those coughs and colds away or a possibly a more serious immunological compromised condition.
Some of the most popular medicinal mushrooms include:
Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
Scarlet Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris)
Lions Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
Turkey Tail (Trametes/coriolus versicolor)
If you’re new to medicinal mushrooms a blend can be a great place to start.
New Earth Organics offers many single mushrooms and also a 5 mushroom and a 16 mushroom blend for the greatest synergy and broad spectrum function.
How do you consume Medicinal Mushrooms?
Making medicinal mushrooms apart of your life is a marvelous thing! The most common question I get asked when taking medicinal mushrooms is when should I take them?!? The simply answer is anytime that suits you and your lifestyle will work great – you don’t need to overthink it. Personally I consume medicinal mushrooms once to twice daily – a little bit in my mid-morning coffee type elixir drink, and a little bit again in an evening before bed with a relaxing type elixir drink – this follows the suggested strategy set out in the Chinese Compendium of Materia Medica – using medicinal mushrooms up to twice daily in divided amounts for maximum benefit. If you only have time to make one drink a day then great! – the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of consuming medicinal mushrooms isn’t so much about when, or even how much you consume, it’s about the daily consistency – as consistency is key! For example, studies on Turkey Tail mushroom have shown an increase in immunomodulation occurring within the first day of consumption, a 90% peak increase in immune function over a consistent two-week period, and a doubling in the amount of natural killer cells after only 8 weeks of consistent use!
What is the best form of Medicinal Mushrooms?
There are several forms of medicinal mushrooms on the market – teas, capsules, tinctures and powders. All forms are good so you have to weigh out what works best for you and your budget. New Earth Organics offers several Organic USA grown medicinal mushroom powders that are grown to full life cycle and then extracted for maximum benefit. Our medicinal mushroom powders go through an extended fermentation process in order to produce important extracellular fermented metabolites that add to the overall antiviral/antifungal benefits. Although capsules are convenient, New Earth Organics powders pack a really significant bang for your buck: 1 tsp of powder is approx. 3-4 grams (3000-4000mg), while capsules are generally 400mg – 500mg - which means you would have to consume 6-10 capsules to equal only one teaspoon of powder! When you also break it down to the price per gram, powders offer a HUGE financial savings – which is an added (and important) bonus to bulk powder offerings.
Here is an example of one of my daily Coffee-type Elixirs (blender drink):
Medicinal Mushroom Coffee Elixir:
-4 Tbsp – Dandy Blend Herbal Coffee Substitute
-Handful of Amaranth bulk Cashews (2-4tbsp)
-1tsp New Earth Organics Reishi Mushroom Powder
-1tsp New Earth Organics Mega Mushroom 16 Mushroom Blend Powder
-2Tbsp New Earth Organics Collagen Peptide Powder
-1-2Tbsp Raw Honey
-1 generous pinch New Earth Organics Crystal Sea Salt
-500ml hot boiled water
Add all ingredients to a blender (Vita-mix) and blend on high for 30-45 sec until creamy smooth and frothy. Adjust the sweetness to your liking. Makes 1-2 servings.
The medicinal mushrooms used in the recipe above can be interchanged with any you would like to consume ie. 5 mushroom blend, Lions Mane, Cordycps, Chaga, Turkey Tail etc.
Optional - yet I usually always add:
1 tsp - New Earth Organics He Shou wu powder
1 tsp - New Earth Organics Astragalus Powder
Embrace the preventative lifestyle of tonic herbalism and get consistent with Medicinal mushrooms today! Enjoy!