Adaptogenic Mushrooms

Research Library

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Reishi mushroom, commonly referred to as the “mushroom of immortality” consist of the dried fruiting bodies of Ganoderma lucidumand have history dating back thousands of years. They were traditionally used by Taoist monks in China to promote a centered calmness, improve meditation, and attain a long, healthy life. Reishi mushrooms were also highly regarded in Japanese culture as their most important medicinal polyspores.

Shiitake mushroom, Lentinus edodes, has historical cultivation originating in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1127 AD). Grown mainly in Eastern Asia,shiitake is one of the top cultivated edible mushrooms in the world today.

Maitake, Grifola frondosa,is a Japanese edible fungus with a large fruiting body that typically occurs as a heavy mass at the base of stumps and roots of trees. In Japanese, ‘mai’ means dance and ‘take’ means mushroom, hence ‘dancing mushroom’.

Immune support

Edible mushrooms are being extensively studied for their immunomodulating and antioxidant properties. The primary compoundsin medicinal mushrooms that support the immune system are polysaccharides.

Polysaccharides such as Lentinan from shiitake mushrooms restore or augment the responsiveness of host cells to lymphocytokines, hormones, and other biologically active substances by stimulating cell maturation, cell differentiation, or cell proliferation involved in host defense mechanisms (2).

A 4-week dietary intervention trial of 52 healthy adults found that consuming shiitake mushrooms supported immunity by significantly increasing NK-T (natural killer T) and Gamma-Delta T cell proliferation and activation after stimulation and increasing sIgA (secretory immunoglobulin A) levels. Additionally, CRP (C-reactive protein) levels were significantly reduced by approximately 30% (4).

Reishi mushrooms contain multiple constituents that may attribute to their nutritional properties such as triterpenes and polysaccharides. Of interest are the neutral polysaccharides, Beta 1-3, Beta 1-6 glucans (1).

Researchers evaluated the immunomodulatory activity of beta-glucans derived from reishi mushrooms in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 124 children and found that those given beta-glucans had a significantly increased absolute number of circulating CD8+T cells. Other immune parameters (peripheral blood lymphocytes, circulating CD3+ cells, circulating CD4+ T cells) also significantly increased compared to placebo (5).

Maitake mushrooms contain D-fraction polysaccharides which have a unique structure from other mushrooms. D-fraction polysaccharides have a higher molecular weight which is believed to contribute to activation of a greater number of immune cells (3).

In addition to their immunomodulating properties, mushrooms are touted for their antioxidant activity which includes inhibition of lipid peroxidation, reduction of human low-density lipoproteins and scavenging of free radicals (6).

Health Canada reviewed information supporting the safety, efficacy or quality of reishi, shiitake and maitake mushrooms and determined the following claims to be acceptable for natural health products containing those ingredients. The doses required to bear these claims are 1.6 –7 g dried maitake per day, 1.6 –6 g dried shiitake per day and decoctions of 3-15 g dried reishi per day (7-9).

•Source of fungal polysaccharides with immunomodulating properties

•Use in Herbal Medicine to support the immune system

  1. Reishi Mushroom Monograph

    Upton R, American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, 2006

  2. Shiitake (Lentinus edodes)

    Wasser S, Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements, 2005

  3. Maitake Extracts and Their Therapeutic Potential

    Mayell M, Alt. Med. Review, 2001

  4. Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A randomized dietary intervention in healthy young adults

    Dai X, Stanilka J, Rowe C, Esteves E et al, JACN, 2015

  5. Randomized clinical trial for the evaluation of immune modulation by yogur enriched with b-glucans from lingzhi or reishi medicinal mushroom, Ganoderma lucidum (Agaricomycetes), in children from Medellin, Colombia

    Urrego S, Higuita E, IJMM, 2018

  6. Bioactives and Health Benefits of Mushrooms Mainly from China

    ZhangJ, Li Y, Zhou T, Xu D, Zhang P et al, Molecules, 2016

  7. Natural Health Product Monograph: Reishi

    Health Canada, Health Canada, 2015

  8. Natural Health Product Monograph: Maitake

    Health Canada, Health Canada, 2015

  9. Natural Health Product Monograph: Mushrooms

    Health Canada, Health Canada, 2015