Best Mushrooms for Inflammation



Usually, inflammation is a good occurrence—it shows your body's immune system is working. So, when you experience some inflammatory response, don't worry about it. It is your body's way of dealing with potential threats.

But too much of anything is toxic, including inflammation. Chronic inflammation can cause serious health issues that may be harder to spot. The good news is that inflammation is generally not difficult to treat. Common NSAIDs like ibuprofen, diclofenac, etc., can effectively alleviate acute inflammation.

But these drugs can cause side effects, especially when used long-term. So, in recent years, attention has been shifting to natural remedies like herbs and mushrooms. Traditional medical systems, like TCM and Ayurveda, extensively utilize herbs and mushrooms for their medicinal and adaptogenic properties.

Today, mushrooms are considered a superfood. They are chockful of valuable nutrients and compounds that can help with many health issues. Given their immense health benefits, let's look at the best mushrooms for inflammation.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Mushrooms may be beneficial for inflammation because they are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.
  • While inflammation is a normal immune system response to infection or injury, chronic inflammation may do more harm than good.
  • The best mushrooms for inflammation are cordyceps, reishi, chaga, and white mushrooms, among others.
  • Mushrooms may also help with auto-immune disorders since they also exhibit immunomodulating properties.
  • The best mushrooms for boosting the immune system are lion's mane, turkey tail, reishi, and shiitake, among others.

 

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is the body's natural response to harmful invaders like bacteria, viruses, toxic chemicals, or injury. An unusual occurrence like an infection or injury typically activates the immune system to release cytokines and inflammatory cells.

These cells seek and trap the offending agents kick-starting the healing process. During this time, pain, swelling, bruising, and redness can occur. However, other symptoms may not be visible.

There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. The former is probably the "good" type, while the latter is the one you should be wary about. Chronic inflammation results when the body continuously releases inflammatory cells, even without danger.

Auto-immune disorders are a classic example of an immune system gone rogue. A disease like lupus, for example, happens when the immune system attacks normal tissues causing widespread damage to body organs.

The other downside of chronic inflammation is that its symptoms are harder to detect. They can manifest as abdominal or chest pain, fatigue, fever, skin rash, or pain.

The most common causes of chronic inflammation are:

  • Toxins
  • Auto-immune disorders
  • Untreated acute inflammation

Lifestyle factors like alcoholism, smoking, chronic stress, obesity, over-exercising, or a lack of exercise can also predispose you to chronic inflammation.

 

What are the Best Mushrooms for Inflammation?

Generally, you rarely require treatment for acute inflammation. RICE therapy typically relieves the discomfort within a few days.

If it is chronic inflammation, your healthcare provider may recommend supplements, e.g., vitamins A, C, and D. Spices such as ginger, garlic, or turmeric are also excellent anti-inflammatories. 

Or, you could do mushrooms! Among the best mushrooms for inflammation are cordyceps, chaga, reishi, and white mushrooms. Let's get into more details.

 

Are Cordyceps Mushrooms Good for Inflammation?

Cordyceps is a parasitic fungus that grows on the larvae of a moth found in the high mountain regions of China. It is widely used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to address various health issues like fatigue, sexual function, premature aging, and inflammation.

A review of studies on cordyceps suggests that a bioactive compound called cordycepin is responsible for its anti-inflammatory property. Another compound called cordymin, obtained from cordyceps, is also shown to inhibit inflammation.

Furthermore, this mushroom appears to positively affect obesity—a condition linked to chronic low-grade inflammation. Due to its anti-inflammatory activity, cordyceps may be beneficial for conditions like asthma, hepatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.

 

Does Reishi Mushroom Help with Inflammation?

These large, glossy mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) native to Asia have a long history in TCM, where they were used to promote health and longevity. But this mushroom also appears to have potent anti-inflammatory effects.

A 2014 study described reishi as a "wonder herb" thanks to its powerful immune-modulating and immune-potentiating capabilities. These effects correlated with the mushroom's anti-inflammatory and antiallergic action.

Another study investigating the anti-inflammatory effects of G. lucidum on Crohn's disease found that compounds isolated from the mushroom, i.e., triterpene ganoderic acid C1, suppressed the production of pro-inflammatory proteins by macrophages.

Besides regulating inflammatory cytokines, reishi may also support gut microbiota, thus helping manage auto-immune digestive problems.

 

Are Chaga Mushrooms Good for Inflammation?

Also known as Inonotus obliquus, chaga mushrooms grow on the bark of birch trees, predominantly in cold climates. They are much more widespread and are found in Northern Europe, Canada, Russia, Korea, and Alaska.

Like reishi and cordyceps, chaga has been used in TCM for centuries to boost immunity and overall health. It has also been utilized in patients with heart disease and diabetes.

Animal and in vivo studies indicate that chaga may boost immunity by preventing long-term inflammation. It does this by supporting the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines and stimulating white blood cells to fight disease-causing pathogens.

At the cellular level, phenolic compounds in chaga have been shown to reduce histamine-induced inflammation. This attenuates the negative impact of inflammation on cell-to-cell communication, thus reducing the risks of cardiovascular diseases.

 

Are White Mushrooms Anti-Inflammatory?

Most mushrooms consumed in the US are white mushrooms. These mushrooms go by many names – button, table, common, or champignon mushrooms. White mushrooms are known for their unrivaled versatility since they pair well with most meals.

Besides being one of the most popular dietary fungi, white mushrooms are rich in polyphenols, polysaccharides, vitamin C, glutathione, and selenium. These compounds are responsible for its many health benefits.

For example, a 2018 study investigating the anti-inflammatory potential of white mushrooms found that it reduced the expression of cyclooxygenase-2 and prostaglandin F2α. Cyclooxygenase is an enzyme involved in the synthesis of prostaglandin. On its part, prostaglandin supports inflammatory and pain responses. So in effect, white mushrooms may minimize inflammation by suppressing pro-inflammatory agents.

Furthermore, according to the USDA, white mushrooms may enhance the activity of cells that regulate the immune system. Of course, you now know that the immune system heavily regulates inflammatory mechanisms in the body. As such, by boosting immunity, white mushrooms help with inflammation.

A clinical trial on the "Effects of White Button Mushroom on Inflammation in Obese Postmenopausal Women" is underway. It will be interesting to see what the researchers find out.

 

Do Lion's Mane Mushrooms Help with Inflammation?

Lion's mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) are easily identified by their long shaggy spines. Like white mushrooms, lion's mane is a popular health food across Asian nations thanks to its wide range of benefits.

When it comes to antioxidant levels, research shows that lion's mane has the fourth highest antioxidant activity among 14 types of medicinal mushrooms. Considering that antioxidants play a huge role in fighting inflammation and oxidation, it is easy to see why this mushroom makes it to this list.

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms investigated the anti-inflammatory effects of lion's mane. The researchers found that solutions of this mushroom significantly suppressed tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and interleukin (IL)-6. It also inhibited the activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase thought to aid the suppression of pro-inflammatory cytokines. 

In another study, lion's mane extract containing ergothioneine was shown to reduce inflammation markers and oxidative stress in the hippocampus. These are the two leading causes of brain aging. 

 

Does the Maitake Mushroom Have Anti-Inflammatory Properties?

Even though the maitake mushroom started gaining popularity in the US a couple of decades back, it has been used in Asian countries for thousands of years. After all, it grows wild in parts of China and Japan, mostly on Maple, Elm, and Oak trees. It can also be cultivated but does not do as well as in the wild.

Maitake is popular for its promising effects on vitality, health, and longevity. And one way it does this is by fighting inflammation. Inflammation is common in many illnesses, so anti-inflammatory agents are a vital component of integrative medicine.

Just as well because maitake mushrooms possess anti-inflammatory activity, a recent study on their anti-inflammatory effect on rats with hepatitis showed it affected changes in cytokine profile. Specifically, maitake extract increased IL-6 levels (anti-inflammatory) while reducing IL-4 (pro-inflammatory) levels. 

 

Do Shiitake Mushrooms Treat Inflammation?

Shiitake mushrooms are the most popular in Japan. They are low in calories and offer reasonable amounts of vitamins, fiber, and minerals. Besides these, they also contain terpenoids, polysaccharides, sterols, and lipids, which explain their immune-boosting, cholesterol-lowering, and anti-inflammatory properties.

The anti-inflammatory effect of shiitake mushrooms is attributed to Lenthionine. This compound is shown to decrease the production of TNF-α, which is widely involved in many inflammatory responses.

A 2022 study investigating shiitake's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties showed the extract inhibited the production of Nitric oxide (NO). Although NO is critical in immune and inflammatory mechanisms, high NO levels may be harmful and typically signal disease status and progression.

Generally, more research is required to offer more information on the anti-inflammatory activities of functional mushrooms.

 

What are the Best Mushrooms for Auto-immune Disease?

Scientists are not sure yet what causes auto-immune diseases but think genes, the immune system, and the environment may play a role in its pathogenesis. Naturally, if you are interested in mushrooms for auto-immune disease, top on the list should be those with immunomodulating properties.

Many mushrooms contain immune-regulating compounds such as vitamin D and melatonin. However, it is crucial to note that these mushrooms may not treat auto-immune diseases. Instead, they can help boost the immune system to help it cope better with various symptoms of auto-immune diseases.

Here are some of the best mushrooms for auto-immune disorders:

  • Cordyceps: A Korean study found that cordyceps extract increased the activity of natural killer immune cells (NK-cell). This was accompanied by better immune regulation.
  • Lion's mane: owing to its beneficial contribution to intestinal microbiota, scientists contend that it could help regulate the immune system, thus improving the health of IBD patients.
  • Shiitake: A study showed that this mushroom improved immune markers and lowered inflammation. Another mouse study found that shiitake supplements could reverse age-related decline in immune function.
  • Reishi: The "King of Mushrooms" is known to have a wealth of health benefits, including immunomodulation. Like lion's mane, reishi's immune-regulating effect stems from its ability to modulate gut microbiota.
  • Turkey tail: in TCM, turkey tail is used to manage fungal infections and immune deficiency diseases. This mushroom is packed with antioxidants and immune-boosting polysaccharopeptides. These fortify the immune system by inhibiting and activating specific immune cells.

 

How Can You Take Medicinal Mushrooms for Inflammation?

Fresh, whole mushrooms are undoubtedly the best for health issues like inflammation. But these generally have short life spans (1-3 days) even when stored in the fridge. So, supplements are ideal.

Mushroom supplements are available as powder, pills, and extracts. Pills/capsules are great for on-the-go use. Extracts are more potent and suitable for people seeking stronger effects.

Mushroom powder is versatile and can be taken with many food types or alone. VYU's TUNE IN mushroom powder contains a potent blend of lion's mane, cordyceps, and a host of other herbals like ashwagandha, rhodiola rosea root extract, and vitamins, to increase focus, energy, memory, and recall. 

TUNE IN supercharges your brain and takes your productivity to the next level. What's more, it is vegan, keto, and paleo-friendly.

 

Final Thoughts

Mushrooms are superfoods with a world of benefits for people suffering from chronic conditions or those seeking to improve their overall health. Many of these health benefits are backed by science. However, more research is needed to concretize the position of medicinal mushrooms in mainstream medicine.

Mushrooms are generally well-tolerated, but they are not for everyone. There is no safety information regarding their effects on pregnant and breastfeeding women, so it is better to keep off for such persons.

Also, people on certain medications like blood thinners should consult a physician before taking mushroom supplements. That's because mushrooms, like lion's mane, may slow blood clotting. 

 

FAQs

Do Reishi Mushrooms Help Inflammation?

Reishi is called the "king of mushrooms" for good reason. It is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, making it valuable for inflammation.

Are Mushrooms Good or Bad for Inflammation?

Mushrooms are great for inflammation. These edible fungi have been used as medicine for thousands of years because they are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds and other medicinal ingredients.

Which Mushroom is Best for Auto-immune Disease?

Several mushrooms could be beneficial for people with auto-immune diseases. These include reishi, turkey tail, shiitake, lion's mane, and cordyceps.

Which Mushroom is the Healthiest?

Mushrooms offer diverse medicinal and therapeutic benefits, so any edible mushroom is healthy. If you are interested in healthy mushrooms to eat, try the following:

  • Shiitake
  • Reishi
  • Lion's mane
  • Chanterelle
  • Maitake
  • White buttons
  • Oyster mushrooms
  • Porcini

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