The Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms
Mushrooms may not seem the obvious choice for keeping your immunity strong, skin glowing and blood sugar balanced, but numerous clinical studies have proved medicinal mushrooms can have amazing superpowers when it comes to keeping our health in tiptop condition.
Everything from boosting immunity to keeping your blood sugar balanced; you can be supercharged with these fabulous fungi.
Dr. Vivienne Rolfe PhD, and Pukka’s Head of Herbal Research, explains why they should be a go-to natural remedy for staying in good health.
1. Keep your immunity strong and support natural defences
Mushrooms are high in beta-glucans – natural substances that have been found to help ‘prime’ our immune system, making sure it’s ready for action to fight off bugs and germs (1). Certain types of mushrooms such as reishi, shiitake and maitake are especially rich in the most powerful beta-glucans.
So, getting a daily dose of these mushrooms could be beneficial at times when we need extra support, such as during the cold and flu season. A recent study found that maitake mushrooms have a protective effect against the flu virus and reduce cold symptoms, so it's worth adding a dose of maitake to your wellbeing rituals.
2. Natural source of vitamin D
Studies have shown that vitamin D plays an important role in our immune systems. That’s why, combined with the fact we are spending a reduced amount of time outside, it’s a good idea to make sure we’re getting a sufficient amount of it. Mushrooms are a great vegan food source of vitamin D.
Known as the chestnut tree mushroom, the Shiitake mushroom contains essential amino acids and vitamins B1, B2 and D2. As an edible mushroom, it has been cultivated since ancient times both for culinary and nutritious uses. Vitamin D contributes to the normal function of the immune system and process of cell division
3. Boost energy and help you cope with stress
Certain medicinal mushrooms are traditionally used in many parts of Asia on a daily basis as a mood tonic or ‘adaptogen’. Adaptogens are natural substances that are said to help the body adapt to stress and protect against some of its negative effects, such as fatigue and poor sleep (3) meaning you have more energy too! Maitake and reishi are among the mushrooms said to have adaptogenic qualities.
4. Keep blood sugar balanced
When blood sugar levels get out of control, this can affect everyday energy as well as increase the risk of other problems such as type 2 diabetes and weight gain. The maitake mushroom has been found in studies to help bring blood sugar down by improving sensitivity to insulin (4,5) – the hormone that triggers cells to take glucose out of the blood. It may also help protect the pancreas, which produces insulin.
5. Keep joints healthy
Missing out on your morning run due to aching joints can set you back, but inflammation around the joints be a major concern for many people, especially those with arthritis or joint damage. Mushrooms are said to be anti-inflammatory, so could help to ease pain and discomfort (6). Reishi and shiitake mushrooms, in particular, are helpful here. A randomised, placebo controlled double-blind study (a robust clinical trial) found that reishi mushrooms helped to ease pain in people with rheumatoid arthritis over a period of 24 weeks (7). So, mushrooms could help keep you moving and doing the activities you love.
6. Look after your natural glow
Lastly and certainly not least of all, studies have found that mushrooms such as shiitake (8) and reishi (9) are rich in youth-boosting antioxidants, such as polyphenols, like those found in fruits and vegetables. But mushrooms actually go one better than most vegetables – in fact, two better. Firstly, because their powerful beta-glucans – which are also helpful for immunity – can have an antioxidant effect.
And, scientific reviews have found that mushrooms are also a great source of the minerals copper and zinc (10), used by our body to make its own powerful antioxidants. All this means that they can have anti-aging and protective activity for our skin, as well as our heart, brain and liver.
How do I get medicinal mushrooms into my diet?
You may have seen shiitake mushrooms in your local supermarket, but maitake and reishi are not as readily available in food form. For a convenient and effective way to get all the health benefits of these powerful mushrooms, try a good-quality organic nutritional mushroom supplement combining all three. Pukka’s Mushroom Gold is a blend of organic full-spectrum reishi, shiitake and maitake mushrooms.
1. Vetvicka, V., Vannucci, L., Sima, P., & Richter, J. (2019). Beta Glucan: Supplement or Drug? From Laboratory to Clinical Trials. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 24(7), 1251. doi:10.3390/molecules24071251
2. Nishihira J., Sato M., Tanaka A., Okamatsu M., Azuma T., Tsutsumi N., Yoneyama S., Maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa) enhances antibody production in response to influenza vaccination in healthy adult volunteers concurrent with alleviation of common cold symptoms. Functional Foods in Health and Disease 2017; 7(7): 462-482
3. Liao, L. Y., He, Y. F., Li, L., Meng, H., Dong, Y. M., Yi, F., & Xiao, P. G. (2018). A preliminary review of studies on adaptogens: comparison of their bioactivity in TCM with that of ginseng-like herbs used worldwide. Chinese medicine, 13, 57. doi:10.1186/s13020-018-0214-9
4. Kubo K, Aoki H, Nanba H. Anti-diabetic activity present in the fruit body of Grifola frondosa (maitake). I. Biol Pharm Bull 1994;17:1106-1110.
5. Kubo K, Nanba H. Antidiabetic mechanism of maitake (Grifola frondosa). In: Royse DJ, ed. Mushroom Biology and Mushroom Products. University Park,
6. Geng Y, Zhu S, Lu Z, Xu H, Shi JS and Xu ZH. (2014). Anti-inflammatory activity of mycelial extracts from medicinal mushrooms. Int J Med Mushrooms. 16(4):319-25.
7. Li EK, Tam LS, Wong CK, Li WC, Lam CWK, Wachtel-Galor S, Benzie IFF, Bao YX, Leung PC, Tomlinson B (2007) Safety and efficacy of Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi) and San miao San supplementation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot trial. Arthrit Rheum-Arthr 57(7):1143–1150.
8. Wu, F.; Jia, X.; Yin, L.; Cheng, Y.; Miao, Y.; Zhang, X. The Effect of Hemicellulose and Lignin on Properties of Polysaccharides in Lentinus edodes and Their Antioxidant Evaluation. Molecules 2019, 24, 1834.
9. Jeng-Leun Mau, Hsiu-Ching Lin, and, and Chin-Chu Chen. Antioxidant Properties of Several Medicinal Mushrooms Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2002, 50 (21), 6072-6077.
10. Borchers A. T, Stern J. S, Hackman R. M, Keen C. L, Gershwin M. E. Minireview: Mushrooms, tumors and immunity. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1999;221:281–93.