What are the immune system benefits of Reishi mushrooms?

Reishi is a powerful all rounder when it comes to optimizing our health and wellbeing. Studies suggest that it may improve the body's response to viral infections, making it a potential treatment for conditions such as the common cold and flu.

Reishi has been shown to:

  • Increase the production of white blood cells, which are important for fighting off infections and other foreign invaders.
  • Enhance the activity of immune cells such as macrophages and natural killer cells, which help to identify and destroy infected or cancerous cells.
  • Increase the production of interferon, a protein that helps to protect cells from viral infections.
  • Reduce inflammation throughout the body, which can help to prevent damage to healthy cells and tissues.

Before we get too much further into Reishi and the immune system, please read this essential explainer:

Immune-enhancing vs Immune-modulating

So where does Reishi fit in?

Reishi mushroom is more often described as immune-modulating rather than immune-enhancing. Reishi mushroom is believed to have immune-modulating properties, as it has been shown to help regulate the immune system, reduce inflammation, and balance the immune response. This is important because an over-active immune system can lead to autoimmune disorders and chronic inflammation, while an under-active immune system can leave the body vulnerable to infections and diseases. By modulating the immune system, reishi mushroom may help to support overall health and well-being.

How does Reishi modulate the immune system, let’s get technical!

The immune-modulating effects of reishi mushroom are thought to be due to its high content of polysaccharides, triterpenes, and other biologically active compounds. These compounds have been shown to modulate the activity of various immune cells, including T cells, B cells, natural killer (NK) cells, and macrophages.

One mechanism of action is the ability of reishi polysaccharides to stimulate the production of cytokines, which are signalling molecules that play a key role in regulating the immune response. For example, reishi polysaccharides increase the production of interleukin-1 (IL-1), interleukin-2 (IL-2), and interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), which are important cytokines involved in activating the immune response.

Reishi triterpenes inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), which are involved in the development of inflammation and disease. In addition, triterpenes enhance the activity of immune cells, such as natural killer (NK) cells, which play a key role in fighting infections and cancer.

Reishi mushroom has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which can protect against oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which can weaken the immune system. In addition, reishi mushroom improves the balance between Th1 and Th2 cells, enhancing the activity of dendritic cells, and increasing the production of antibodies.