Reishi is a promising candidate for treating the symptoms of allergic, asthmatic and autoimmune diseases, thanks to its ability to suppress an inappropriately vigorous immune response. Medicinal mushrooms have traditionally been used for protection against infectious diseases and various types of cancer. These mushrooms have a long history of use to maintain health, particularly in early Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Mexican and Roman cultures. In fact, in 1991, a 5,300-year-old mummy carrying the polypore fungus of birch was discovered, which exerts a purgative effect and may have been used to treat intestinal parasites in the mummified person.
Modern research has shown that medicinal mushrooms provide a rich source of nutrients and bioactive compounds that are associated with several health effects, including support for the immune system. Medicinal mushrooms are macroscopic edible mushrooms (visible to the naked eye) that are used for their beneficial properties for health. It is estimated that there are between 14,000 and 22,000 known species of fungi worldwide (1 of which approximately 20 to 30 are cultivated edible species and approximately 15 species are wild fed for consumption). These mushrooms can be eaten as functional foods or as dietary supplements.
However, some preliminary clinical trials suggest that eating mushrooms in the diet may reduce the risk of breast cancer (and may improve cancer-related symptoms, such as insomnia and sweating). Certain fungi can positively influence the intestinal microbiota, improving protection against pathogens. In addition, several fungi have been shown to promote immune health by improving innate and adaptive immune responses. An eight-week study in healthy Korean people found that supplementing with cordyceps extract was associated with increased activity of natural killer immune cells (NK cells).
This change was accompanied by better immune regulation compared to controls. The health effects of the reishi mushroom may be due to its ability to regulate the composition of the microbiota, since the polysaccharides found in reishi demonstrate prebiotic effects and can increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the host. Shiitake mushrooms have traditionally been used to treat conditions such as the common cold. A four-week clinical trial suggests that shiitake intake was associated with favorable changes in the secretion patterns of several immune compounds.
These changes may indicate an improvement in gut immunity and an anti-inflammatory response. As is the case with many other varieties of mushrooms, shiitake can have anti-cancer effects. Lentinan, which is a glucan derived from shiitake, is currently used as a complementary treatment for tumors, particularly in China and Japan. Woody, dry mushrooms, such as reishi or chaga, may need to be left to sit longer or boiled.
Reishi mushrooms seem to have many medical advantages, and even cancer patients can use them in chemotherapy. Although there are few studies in this regard, reishi mushroom is likely to worsen symptoms in people who take immunosuppressive medications to treat autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease or psoriasis, due to its ability to stimulate the immune system's response. A qualified mycologist or mushroom picker should be consulted to help identify mushroom species that are safe for consumption. While mushrooms, such as white buttons and reishi, contain polysaccharide fiber that is considered prebiotic, they also seem to stimulate microbes in a unique way, similar to a probiotic.
Fungi have activated both classical and alternative complement pathways, and anti-complementary activity has also been detected in different fungi. .