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Can medicinal mushrooms combat stress?

What makes medicinal mushrooms so effective against stress?

In order to effectively combat stress, it is more important than ever to support our immune system. It is why more of us are turning to supplementation and medicinal mushrooms to help manage stress.

Mushrooms such as agaricusi, cordycepsii, coriolusiii, reishiiv, maitake, shiitakev and others have emerged as effective allies in managing chronic stress and mitigating against the impacts it can have on our immune system (along with our cardiovascular, digestive and nervous systems).

Medicinal mushrooms work as immunomodulatorsvi, substances that bring balance or calm and activate the immune system, as needed. They share the remarkable qualities of adaptogens, which protect our bodies from all forms of stress (physical, biological, emotional and environmental). They help our cells adapt to stressors and are unique in their capacity to support both the mind and the body in fighting the effects of stress.

Adaptogenic mushrooms support the immune system by increasing the production of natural killer cellsvii. This helps make them powerful anti-stress agents, especially when used as part of a holistic approach to wellness. Integrated strategies in stress management also include positive lifestyle solutions (including exercise, yoga, meditation, restorative sleep and therapies such as massage and acupunctureviii) and a well-balanced antioxidant-rich diet incorporating fruits and vegetables. Such a plant-based diet is rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber, which in turn promotes the removal of toxins and supports healthy digestive function.

The bottom line is that a well-balanced immune system – supported by supplementation — acts as the best antidote to daily stress. Since they work at so many different levels and against a wide range of stress symptoms, medicinal mushrooms are an increasingly popular part of that well-grounded plan.

Tawnya Ritco, RHN, specializes on the relationship between nutrition, lifestyle and vitality and has worked in the natural health industry for over 15 years.


i Effects of the medicinal mushroom Agaricus blazei Murill on immunity, infection and cancer. Review article Hetland G, et al. Scand J Immunol. 2008. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/18782264/
ii Pharmacological and therapeutic potential of Cordyceps with special reference to Cordycepin, 3 Biotech. 2014 Feb; 4(1): 1–12. Published online 2013 Feb 19. doi:  10.1007/s13205-013-0121-9 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4202470/
iii Coriolus versicolor mushroom polysaccharides exert immunoregulatory effects on mouse B cells via membrane Ig and TLR-4 to activate the MAPK and NF-κB signaling pathways.

Yang SF, et al. Mol Immunol. 2015. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/25480394/
iv Reishi immuno-modulation protein induces interleukin-2 expression via protein kinase-dependent signaling pathways within human T cells., Hsu HY, et al. J Cell Physiol. 2008. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/18189229/
v Immune-enhancing effects of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) extracts, Ann Transl Med. 2014 Feb; 2(2): 14. doi:  10.3978/j.issn.2305-5839.2014.01.05http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4202470/
vi Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology, Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014 Feb; 13(1): 32–44. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684115/
vii Purification and identification of a polysaccharide from medicinal mushroom Amauroderma rude with immunomodulatory activity and inhibitory effect on tumor growth Oncotarget. 2015 Jul 10; 6(19): 17777–17791. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4627345/
viii Malays J Med Sci. 2008 Oct; 15(4): 9–18. PMCID: PMC3341916 , Life Event, Stress and Illness, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341916/