How a combination of mushroom extracts boosts the immune system

Mushrooms

Extracts from Shiitake, Reishi and Maitake mushrooms have been found to work together to boost the immune response of human cells, proving the effectiveness of certain traditional and natural medicines.

According to Xinhua news, the study was led by Griffith University scientist Joe Tiralongo and funded by Australian health product manufacturer Integria Healthcare which sells a range of mushroom extract supplements.

Tiralongo told Xinhua on Monday that while mushrooms have previously been proven to elicit a benefit to the immune system, his team has found that extracts of different mushroom types can together create a potent response beyond the sum of their parts.

“What we’ve shown is that you can combine certain mushroom extracts from different species in a certain way, and you elicit a synergistic effect on the immune system,” Tiralongo explained.

“So generically you’d think 1+1+1 will equal three, so that’s an additive effect. What we’ve found is that 1+1+1 equals (up to) five times the effect.”

While similar synergistic effects have been seen in plant extracts, this is the first report of mushroom extracts eliciting a synergistic response, according to the scientist.

The immune response is caused by polymers of glucose called β-glucans, which are unique to mushrooms and other fungi, causing the human immune system to see them as foreign and therefore become more active.

The study was conducted in a laboratory setting using cultured immune cells, however the results are expected to extend to direct consumption by humans as well.

Mushroom extract is essentially a powdered form of the mushrooms. A similar immune effect may be experienced by simply eating the mushrooms, said Tiralongo. Although as extract is concentrated, dosage may vary.

An extremely vast range of products currently exist with varying combinations of mushroom extracts and other ingredients. So it is important, said Tiralongo, to provide evidence and scientific understanding of their effects.

“It’s very important work insofar as providing consumers with some confidence around these products that are on the market,” he said.

Shiitake, Reishi and Maitake mushrooms are all said to be widely used in traditional and alternative medicines currently, and have been of medicinal interest to humans for thousands of years.

Tiralongo said there is still more to understand about the root cause of the synergistic effect of the combined mushrooms in order to provide the best possible health outcomes.

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