Boost your Immune System with Medicinal mushrooms (during the Covid-19 pandemic)

Disclaimer: this is not medicinal advice, I’m not a doctor and don’t play one on the internet. This is coming from an enthusiastic mycophile. This is my best understanding of the topic at hand, please reach out if I got anything wrong or if you have anything to add (reach out on twitter or comment below).

Quick Summary

  • Covid-19 is here and it’s a big deal. Prepare yourself.
  • Medicinal mushrooms are shown to support the immune system, and show signs of being active against viruses (Covid-19 is a virus)
  • Are medicinal mushrooms a silver bullet? Absolutely not.
  • Will consuming medicinal mushrooms help to support your immune system? Absolutely. I share my favorite medicinal mushrooms below.
  • There is no downside, why not give your body the best chance for success?
  • Finally, this article is NOT about psilocybin containing “magic mushrooms”

Mushrooms Have Been Used as Medicine for Thousands of Years

The bottom line is they are safe to consume and have a long history of being used by humans as medicine. You can eat them daily for the rest of your life without negative consequences.

Medicinal mushrooms describe a category of edible members of the kingdom Fungi, traditionally associated with health-supporting properties. They have been used for millennia to treat an array of ailments, particularly in traditional Asian medicine and Eastern European traditions. They are well regarded for supporting longevity, treating infectious disease and cancer, and promoting overall well-being [1]

I’ve personally been taking medicinal mushroom supplements nearly daily for 5+ years. And eating wild foraged mushrooms daily during the 4–5 month season. While I wildcraft the majority of my personal use medicinal mushrooms, I also purchase many products from reputable producers (my recommendations below).

Why Mushrooms?

Chicken of the woods mushroom

You can call mushrooms “nutraceuticals” as in natural pharmaceuticals.

Medicinal mushrooms work because humans and fungi are very similar biologically. I know this sounds weird, but it’s true.

Fungi and Animals both inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide and we both find our own food (plants make their own food). Taxonomists even proposed a new super-kingdom that combined fungi and animals, called Opisthokont.

Fungi are constantly in an underground microbiological war against viruses, bacteria, and other fungi. Over time, these fungi have developed molecules to defend themselves against these invaders. Turns out these fungal medicines also work well on humans.

Medicinal mushrooms support your immune system and are active against viruses

How do we benefit from consuming medicinal mushrooms. Medicinal mushrooms are known to help with many different things. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on the 3 main ways medicinal mushrooms can be helpful during a viral pandemic.

Benefit #1: Improve Immune System

Medicinal Mushrooms are considered “adaptogens.”

Definition: adaptogens are herbs that help to support and balance the body in adapting to emotional, physical, biological, and mental stress.

In other words, medicinal mushrooms work bi-directionally. If your immune system needs to be turned on, then it gets turned on. If your immune system is hyperactive, then the mushrooms signal to your body to turn off your overactive immune system. Sounds like magic right? Well, it kinda is.

Herbal immunomodulators work their magic in part through the equilibration of the endocrine and nervous control of the immune system. By balancing the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, these tonic herbs help to harmonize the control centers of the body by affecting hormonal regulation of the immune system. Another possible mode of action is the regulation of T helper cell (Th1 and Th2) balance, which involves the equilibrium of cell-mediated (T cells) and antibody-mediated (B cells) immunity. [2]

Benefit #2: Improve General Wellbeing

Mushrooms are known to do many non-specific things for the body that are useful when preparing for and fighting an illness.

Examples include: Improve sleep, improve gut health, and reduce inflammation.

None of these things are directly related to stopping Covid-19 but they all prepare your body to be as effective as possible against the illness.

Benefit #3: Some Mushrooms are Active Against Some Viruses

However this doesn’t mean taking medicinal mushrooms will cure you of Covid-19. In fact, as far as I know, there are no medicinal mushrooms have been shown to defeat Covid-19.

We know that many mushrooms show high levels of activities against many of our well known viruses. Showing activity against viruses is not the same as “we have a medicine ready to treat X virus.”

We’re at the limit of modern science here and the answer is we don’t really know how far medicinal mushrooms can go in fighting viruses, but so far the results are extremely promising.

What is Active Inside the Mushroom? (Let’s Get Sciency)

Feel free to skip this section if you just want to buy your supplements and move on with your day.

There are two main categories of medicine inside fungi: Beta-glucans and a wide range of secondary metabolites (polyphenols, triterpenes, etc)

Medicinal properties #1: Beta-glucans

These are the main thing we’re going after when looking to support your immune system.

Mushroom polysaccharides (ie: β-glucans) possess documented immuno-modulatory properties, specifically through the activation of natural killer cells, macrophages, and neutrophils, as well as induction of innate immune cytokines and interleukins. [3]

Beta-glucans are found in various quantities in all the medicinal mushrooms. However the secondary metabolites are unique to each species of fungi — this means if you have a very specific goal in mind, be more selective on your species.

Medicinal properties #2: Secondary Fungal Metabolites

These secondary metabolites are low-molecular-weight compounds that fall into a few main categories such as polyphenols and triterpenes.

  • Polyphenols have been shown to help with inflammation. [5]
  • Triterpenes are also effective at fighting inflammation. [6]

Then there are a host of specific metabolites like those found in the Lion’s Mane mushroom that are used to stimulate neurogenesis (which has been shown to improve dementia in a Japanese study) — however we won’t get to these today as it’s not related to Covid-19.

Mushroom Supplements 101

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, as always you should make your own decisions regarding your health. Some of the products below contain affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission for purchases. Of course this comes at no extra expense to you.

Ok this section is for the impatient people who scrolled here immediately. I don’t blame you 😉 it’s getting weird out there.

What mushrooms species should I focus on?

I haven’t heard of any specific species being highly active against Covid-19. Which means I would focus on a wide range of species known to simply support your immune system. Good choices include: Reishi, Chaga, Turkey Tail, Birch Polypore, Shiitake, Maitaki, and Cordyceps

How do you select high quality medicinal mushrooms?

First off, do NOT buy random mushroom supplements. The industry is full of bullshit products taking advantage of uneducated customers. Good products are more expensive, no way around it.

NEVER consume raw mushrooms as humans cannot digest them. You’re paying to poop out the medicine. Instead you want mushrooms that have undergone a dual extraction — this means a hot water extraction and an alcohol extraction. These extraction methods are what make the medicine bioavailable. Cooking with fat also works, but many of the medicinal mushrooms are not useful in culinary endeavors.

Quick rant on shady mushroom companies… Many companies are selling dehydrated raw mushroom powder which is not digestible by humans — avoid them at all costs. Some medicinal mushrooms (like chaga) are only found in the wild and are currently being over-harvested.

The companies selling you “raw chaga powder to put in smoothies” should be boycotted. They’re profiting by selling you an over-harvested mushroom supplement that offers no medicinal benefits. Be sure to send these companies an email saying “go fuck yourselves” for taking advantage of your consumers and our environment.

How to select good mushroom supplements? Look for these:

  • Dual extracted (never raw)
  • The company lists the % of beta-glucans (20% is a good bench mark)
  • Third party testing (COA) available for you to see
  • Extracts are made from fruiting body* (though this is nuanced, so a better approach is to ensure they measure beta-glucans and it’s above 20%)

How often should you take them?

Medicinal mushrooms are a marathon. For maximize results you want to be taking these 1–2x per day for months. The effects compound over time. Remember there are no known side effects to daily use.

Before adding supplements, make sure your fundamentals are covered

If you’re not doing the basics right, it doesn’t matter how many medicinal mushrooms you shove down. These are all mandatory… Good sleep, moderate exercise (avoid at the gym), eliminate sugar/soda, and reduce stress.

Our emotions play a central role in the functioning of our immune systems — so much so, that there’s a whole field of science called psychoneuroimmunology. Our moods — and sense of connection — have a profound effect on our white blood cells (immune cells, such as B cells, T cells, natural killer [NK] cells, and macrophages). The feelings of stress and social isolation are some of the biggest immune “downers” out there. Stress hormones, such as adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol, weaken immune function. Conversely, when we are relaxed and happy, our cells produce neuronal signaling molecules such as serotonin, dopamine, and relaxin, which have a strengthening effect on the immune system. [2]

Specific Mushroom Products I use and Recommend

Please note: these supplements will likely all be sold out in the coming weeks.

I personally wildcraft the majority of my own mushroom medicine. However, I also purchase some that I love. Here are a few that will be most helpful to support your immune system during a viral pandemic.

  • Real Mushrooms — 5 Defenders capsules [Amazon] — 100 servings. Each capsule contains a dual extraction from the following mushrooms: reishi, chaga, maitake, shiitake and turkey tail mushrooms. I purchased this exact product yesterday.

Besides medicinal mushrooms, here are some other supplements I recommend taking daily for the next ~2 months minimum.

  • Live Wise Naturals — Vitamin D3 + K2 liquid — Vitamin D3 is crucial for many of your body’s functions, including the immune system. If you live near the equator, just go outside for 20–30 minutes per day. If it’s winter or you don’t live near the equator, it’s smart to supplement with vitamin D. I take 2,000–4,000 iu daily every day during winter. No brainer during Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Gia Herbs — Astragalus — an herb with a long history of human use, known to be effective against viruses. I will be taking this daily until the pandemic settles down. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, “This is a very well-known medicinal plant. It’s non-toxic and can be used long-term. There’s good research supporting its efficacy against viral infections.” [7]
  • Allimax — Allicin — the active ingredient in garlic is known to support your immune system [8]. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, there is a county in China where no one got sick with Covid-19. The hypothesis: the unaffected county is where they grow garlic and all the people here consume lots of garlic. I cannot verify this claim, however allicin is known to support the immune system and IMO it’s a no brainer to add to the stack. I purchased some Allimax branded Allicin and plan to consume daily for the next 30 days.

Let’s Flatten the Curve

eat those shrooms!

Take care of yourself and your loved ones. Consume your medicinal mushrooms. Take a few deep breaths. Read a book.

Sources

  1. Study: The mycelium of the Trametes versicolor (Turkey tail) mushroom and its fermented substrate each show potent and complementary immune activating properties in vitro [link]
  2. Article: Introduction to Immune Stimulants, Immunomodulators, and Antimicrobials, By Juliet Blankespoor [link]
  3. Study: Differential Immune Activating, Anti-Inflammatory, and Regenerative Properties of the Aqueous, Ethanol, and Solid Fractions of a Medicinal Mushroom Blend by Paul Stamets, et all [link]
  4. Study: Antiviral Agents From Fungi: Diversity, Mechanisms and Potential Applications [link]
  5. Study: Polyphenols help with inflammation [link]
  6. Study: Triterpenes help fight inflammation [link]
  7. Podcast: Dr Andrew Wiel recommends mushrooms, astragalus, allicin [link]
  8. Study: Therapeutic effects of garlic [link]
  9. Study: Lions mane shown to help with dementia in Japan [link]

About the author

Brandon Quittem

Brandon Quittem is an entrepreneur, write, speaker, seeker, and Bitcoiner. Been writing online since 2013 and his articles have been read over 2 million times. Brandon synthesizes information to shorten your learning curve.

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