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Mushrooms For Immunity: Nature's Gifts For Optimal Health
Nov 09, 22
This article has been vetted by the Onnit Advisory Board. Read more about our editorial process.
Author: Sony Sherpa

Mushrooms For Immunity: Nature's Gifts For Optimal Health

  • by Sony Sherpa

    Medically reviewed by

    Sony Sherpa

    Dr. Sony Sherpa is a board-certified Clinical Doctor and dedicated advocate for holistic medicine, specializing in functional mushrooms. Her blend of medical expertise and passion for alternative wellness lends authenticity to her role as a contributor for Natures Rise.

  • |
  • 16 min read
Mushrooms For Immunity: Nature's Gifts For Optimal Health

Ah, the common cold. Picture this: It's the middle of winter, the holiday season is in full swing, and just when you're about to head out for that long-awaited reunion, your nose starts to run, your throat itches, and you can't stop sneezing. Sounds familiar?🤧

But what if we told you there's a magical kingdom, right under our feet, bursting with natural soldiers ready to shield us? Nope, it's not a fairy tale. It's the enchanting world ofmushrooms!🍄

These aren't your everyday pizza toppings; they're nutrient-dense powerhouses. From the ancient Eastern healers to the cutting-edge labs of today, mushrooms like ReishiShiitake, and Chaga have been celebrated for their immune-boosting properties. And the best part? Nature's got a flavor for everyone.

So, before you reach for that over-the-counter pill, come with us on this fungal journey. Let's discover how mushrooms are the unsung heroes ready to arm your immunity and help you conquer any season!

The Mystical World of Mushrooms: A Brief Overview

The Mystical World of Mushrooms: A Brief Overview

When you think of mushroom immune support, does your mind instantly travel to dense forests and ancient ceremonies? If not, it should! Mushrooms have been more than just food; their powerful properties have mesmerized human history.

Fascinating History

Fascinating History

The pages of time are sprinkled with tales of our ancestors turning to medicinal mushrooms. Ancient civilizations knew a secret that modern science is just catching up with: the potent benefits of mushrooms for the immune system. 

From the high-altitude shamans of the Himalayas to the learned healers of traditional Chinese medicine, mushrooms have been used as powerful tools to bolster immune function and ward off ailments.

"But which is the best mushroom for immune system support?" you may ask. While it's hard to crown just one (given the variety of benefits each offers), the consensus among many experts points to a few top contenders, which we'll delve into later.

Common Misconceptions

Common Misconceptions

Let's address the elephant in the room. "Aren't all mushrooms poisonous?" A resounding no! While there are some you wouldn't want on your dinner plate, many mushrooms are safe and beneficial. 

These mushroom varieties have been a cornerstone in enhancing immune responses. However, knowing the difference is crucial, so seeking guidance on the best mushrooms for immune system enhancement is essential. This ensures a boost in immune response and safety in consumption.

In this journey, you'll discover how these fungal wonders have shaped history, debunked myths, and highlighted the role of the medicinal mushroom in supporting a robust immune function.

Unraveling the Science: How Mushrooms Support Immune Function

Unraveling the Science: How Mushrooms Support Immune Function

Diving into the world of mushrooms is akin to unlocking a treasure chest of nature's secrets. From the casual diner enjoying a mushroom-topped pizza to the health enthusiast sipping a mushroom-infused tea, many have sung praises about the health benefits of mushrooms. But how exactly do these fungal delights bolster our defenses?

The Immune System 101

The Immune System 101

Imagine your body as a bustling city and the immune system as its protective force, ensuring peace and order. The innate immune system acts as our first line of defense, warding off unwanted invaders. When you introduce the right medicinal mushrooms to this mix, you're boosting this protective force, empowering it to work more efficiently.

Bioactive Compounds

Bioactive Compounds

The real MVPs in the mushroom immune system connection are bioactive compounds, most notably, beta-glucans (1). These natural compounds weave magic by interacting with our immune cells, modulating their response. 

Some studies (2), especially in breast cancer patients, have shown promising results with certain mushrooms, suggesting they may help inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells. 

While these findings are still in their early stages, the potential of mushrooms in cancer treatment is becoming hard to overlook.

How Mushrooms Interact with the Human Body

How Mushrooms Interact with the Human Body

When you consume mushrooms, whether as a delicious dish or as mushroom supplements for immune system boosting, they introduce compounds that play well with our body's defense mechanisms. 

Certain medicinal mushrooms have been observed(3) to stimulate the immune system, especially in cancer patients, enhancing the body's ability to combat disease

This goes beyond just the battle against cancer. The health benefits of mushrooms span a spectrum, with many experts highlighting their role in improving human health in various domains, from combating infections to offering health-promoting effects.

Interestingly, experts often point to a range of options when asked about the best mushroom for immunity, emphasizing that their collective benefits can play a pivotal role in improving human health.

The Best Mushrooms for Boosting Immunity

1. Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum): The Mushroom of Immortality

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum): The Mushroom of Immortality

The iconic Reishi mushroom, known as Ganoderma lucidum, has been revered for thousands of years—ancient records brim with tales of this mushroom conferring unparalleled longevity and health. 

Modern research (4), too, seems to echo this sentiment. Numerous studies (5) have illuminated its profound immune health benefits, especially its potential to promote adaptive immune responses

Its application in cancer immunology is particularly noteworthy, with some reports (6) suggesting Reishi's benefits for cancer and its supportive role for those undergoing radiation therapy. From mushroom extracts to functional foods, the Reishi mushroom's versatility in consumption remains unmatched.

2. Shiitake: A Delight Beyond Taste

Shiitake: A Delight Beyond Taste

Esteemed as a culinary jewel, Shiitake's prowess extends well beyond the plate. Ancient narratives celebrate this edible mushroom for its potent health-boosting properties

Cutting-edge studies (7) have mirrored this sentiment, revealing Shiitake's potential to stall tumor progression and invigorate white blood cells. 

Whether relished fresh, as a mushroom powder or within dietary supplements, Shiitake seamlessly integrates health and flavor.

3. Turkey Tail: A Symphony of Colors and Health

Turkey Tail: A Symphony of Colors and Health

The vivid Turkey Tail mushroom, reminiscent of its avian namesake, is a true testament to nature's artistry. However, its brilliance isn't merely skin deep. 

Recent placebo-controlled studies (8) involving advanced-stage cancer patients have spotlighted Turkey Tail's remarkable immune-enhancing properties

Often savored in turkey tail mushroom teas or as part of functional foods, this mushroom promises visual and healthful delight.

4. Chaga: Siberia's Timeless Gift

Chaga: Siberia's Timeless Gift

Originating from Siberia's frigid landscapes, Chaga mushrooms have been the stalwarts of traditional healing. 

Their potent anti-inflammatory attributes have intrigued modern researchers (9), leading to promising findings, especially concerning inflammatory bowel disease. 

Chaga is a beacon of health and tradition in aromatic Chaga mushroom teas, mushroomed extract, or dietary supplements.

5. Maitake (Grifola frondosa): The Dance of Wellness

Maitake (Grifola frondosa): The Dance of Wellness

The Maitake, translating to 'dancing mushroom' in Japanese, offers a dance of health and vitality. 

This edible mushroom, rich in numerous bioactive compounds, has been the focus of various studies (10pointing to its substantial health effects, particularly in enhancing immune functions

Its versatility in consumption, from culinary dishes to supplements, ensures this wellness dance remains accessible.

Incorporating Mushrooms into Your Daily Regime

Incorporating Mushrooms into Your Daily Regime

As the dawn of understanding about the incredible potential of mushrooms breaks, many find themselves wondering: "How do I make these edible mushrooms a staple in my daily routine?" 

Whether you're a culinary maestro or seeking healthful simplicity, mushrooms offer a vast canvas of possibilities.

Supplements vs. Whole Foods: Which one's for you?

Supplements vs. Whole Foods: Which one's for you?

Navigating the vast world of mushroom consumption can feel overwhelming, especially with the options of whole foods or supplements. Mushroom supplements, particularly mushroom extract, offer a concentrated dose of the goodness found in these fungi. 

They're convenient, especially for those constantly on the move. But then, the experience of savoring a year-old recipe of Reishi mushroom soup has its charm, not to mention the myriad of nutritional benefits it brings. 

While supplements can be potent, whole foods provide a holistic experience, allowing you to benefit from every aspect of the mushroom, including enhancing the activity of dendritic cells crucial for our immune response.

Delicious and Easy Recipes for a Daily Dose of Mushroom Goodness

Delicious and Easy Recipes for a Daily Dose of Mushroom Goodness

Mushrooms are culinary chameleons. The options are endless, from a hearty Reishi mushroom soup rich with tradition and taste to a refreshing iced tea infused with turkey tail mushrooms. 

And for those with a sweet tooth, imagine indulging in a Reishi mushroom chocolate mousse, a treat that satisfies cravings and supports immune function. 

With their unique textures and flavors, these edible mushrooms can slide into any dish, making healthy eating easy and delicious. Let's make something tasty with mushrooms right now: 

Traditional Reishi Mushroom Soup

Traditional Reishi Mushroom Soup


  • 3 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 cup of sliced Reishi mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh herbs (like parsley or thyme) for garnishing


1. In a pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions and garlic until translucent.

2. Add the sliced Reishi mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes.

3. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil.

4. Reduce the heat, cover, and let it simmer for 25-30 minutes.

5. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve hot.

Refreshing Turkey Tail Mushroom Iced Tea

Refreshing Turkey Tail Mushroom Iced Tea


  • 2 teaspoons dried turkey tail mushrooms
  • 2 cups of boiling water
  • Honey or any sweetener of choice
  • Lemon slices for garnishing
  • Ice cubes


1. Place dried turkey tail mushrooms in a teapot or heatproof pitcher.

2. Pour boiling water over the mushrooms.

3. Allow steeping for 5-7 minutes.

4. Strain the liquid and let it cool to room temperature.

5. Refrigerate until cold.

6. Serve over ice, garnished with lemon slices and sweetened to taste with honey.

Reishi Mushroom Chocolate Mousse

Reishi Mushroom Chocolate Mousse


  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons Reishi mushroom powder
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Melt the dark chocolate chips in a microwave or over a double boiler until smooth.

2. Allow the melted chocolate to cool slightly, then stir in the Reishi mushroom powder.

3. Whip the heavy cream with sugar and vanilla extract in a separate bowl until it forms soft peaks.

4. Gently fold the chocolate mixture into the whipped cream until well combined.

5. Pour the mousse into serving dishes and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

6. Serve chilled and enjoy a delicious treat with the added benefits of Reishi mushroom!

A Word on Sourcing

A Word on Sourcing

In the quest for incorporating mushrooms, quality is paramount. Given their ability to absorb their surroundings, ensuring your mushrooms are organic, wild-crafted, and sustainably harvested is vital

Especially when sourcing potent varieties like the Reishi mushroom, care must be taken to ensure no harmful chemicals taint their natural goodness. As the saying goes, "You are what you eat." 

In this case, you'd want your mushrooms to have grown in the purest of environments, enhancing the activity of vital immune cells like dendritic cells.

Potential Concerns and Considerations

Potential Concerns and Considerations

While the allure of mushrooms, with their immune-enhancing prowess, is undeniable, it's essential to approach their consumption with an informed perspective. 

Every rose has its thorns, and while mushrooms are no exception, being aware can ensure that their thorns never prick you.

Interactions with Medications

Interactions with Medications

Mushrooms, especially those with strong immune-stimulating effects, can sometimes interact with medications. This is particularly the case for those on immunosuppressive drugs. 

Certain mushrooms' potent immune supportive properties might counteract the medication's intent, potentially leading to undesirable side effects. 

Hence, always consult a healthcare professional before integrating mushrooms, especially if you're on medication.

Understanding the "Herxheimer Reaction" or Detox Symptoms

Understanding the "Herxheimer Reaction" or Detox Symptoms

Ever heard of things getting worse before they get better? That's the Herxheimer Reaction in a nutshell. 

As the body detoxifies, it sometimes produces flu-like symptoms—a sign that it is purging toxins. Some individuals, upon consuming mushrooms, especially those with strong immune stimulating effects, might experience these symptoms. 

It's essential to recognize this and consult a healthcare practitioner if these symptoms persist or are severe.

When It Might Not Be Best to Consume Mushrooms

When It Might Not Be Best to Consume Mushrooms

Mushrooms, with their myriad immune-supportive properties, are not always everyone's best friend. 

Certain health conditions, especially autoimmune disorders, might not gel well with the potent effects of these fungi. 

Moreover, some individuals might be allergic or sensitive, leading to side effects. As with everything, listening to your body and seeking expert advice when in doubt is crucial.

Mushrooms For Immunity Video

FAQs on Mushrooms for Immunity

How Often Should I Consume Mushrooms For Optimal Immune Benefits?

While the frequency can vary based on individual needs and the specific mushroom type, a general recommendation is to include mushrooms in your diet 2-3 times a week

However, if you're taking concentrated mushroom supplements or extracts, following the manufacturer's instructions or consulting with a healthcare professional is essential. Regular, moderate consumption allows you to harness the immune benefits without overdoing it.

Can Children And Pregnant Or Breastfeeding Women Consume Medicinal Mushrooms?

While mushrooms like Shiitake, Maitake, and others are commonly consumed in many cultures, even by children and pregnant women, it's always advisable to exercise caution.

It's best to consult a pediatrician or obstetrician when considering medicinal mushroom supplements or higher doses. Some mushroom compounds could be too potent for children or interact with pregnancy and breastfeeding in ways not fully understood.

Are There Any Known Allergies Associated With Medicinal Mushrooms?

Yes, like any food, individuals can be allergic to specific mushrooms. Symptoms can range from mild (like a skin rash or digestive upset) to more severe allergic reactions. 

If you're trying a mushroom product for the first time, it's wise to start with a small amount and monitor any reactions. If you suspect an allergy, discontinue use and consult with a healthcare professional.

Key Takeaways

As we close this chapter on the magical realm of mushrooms, it's impossible not to marvel at nature's ingenuity. From deep within the forest's heart to our dining tables, these humble fungi emerge as nature's unsung heroes, ready to fortify our defenses and enhance our wellness journeys. 

But, like any adventure, the mushroom path requires respect, knowledge, and a sense of wonder. As you ponder embracing these natural warriors, remember to balance enthusiasm with caution and always seek knowledge that makes your journey delightful and healthful.

🌟 Now, it's over to you! 🌟
Have you had a personal tryst with these medicinal marvels? Do you have a favorite mushroom recipe or story to share? 

Dive into the conversation below, and let's enrich this community with our collective wisdom. Comment away, and let's make the wellness world even more wondrous!

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  1. Effects of beta-glucans on the immune system, (1),
  2. Current Uses of Mushrooms in Cancer Treatment and Their Anticancer Mechanisms, (2),
  3. Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology, (3),
  4. Chapter 9: Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi), (4),
  5. Immuno-physiological effects of dietary reishi mushroom powder as a source of beta-glucan on Rohu, Labeo rohita challenged with Aeromonas veronii, (5),
  6. Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for cancer treatment, (6),
  7. Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults, (7),
  8. Therapeutic Effects of Medicinal Mushrooms on Gastric, Breast, and Colorectal Cancer: A Scoping Review, (8),
  9. Immunomodulatory Activity of the Water Extract from Medicinal Mushroom Inonotus obliquus, (9),
  10. Immune-enhancing effects of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) extracts, (10),

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