While exercise, sleep, and diet are all crucial factors in maintaining a healthy immune system, functional mushrooms should not be left behind. From Chaga to Shiitake, there are a variety of single species mushrooms that have a long and revered history in ancient Eastern medicine for helping to support the immune system. Even more, there are now several mushroom blends that combine the comprehensive health-promoting qualities of these mushroom species to offer even more health benefits to consumers. To help support your defenses against pathogens at any time of year, here are six mushroom superfood products to consider adding to your wellness regimen.
Often referred to as the “King of Mushrooms,” Chaga has been shown to help the body fight free radicals and oxidative stress while support a healthy immune response. Dating back to indigenous people living near the Ural Mountains in Russia, Chaga has the power to stimulate white blood cells, which are crucial in fighting off harmful bacteria or viruses. Chaga mushrooms also have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Taken traditionally as an herbal tea, Chaga mushroom powder can be added to any drink or recipe, or taken in capsule form. Enjoy Chaga as a superfood hot chocolate blend, which you can easily mix into hot water or your favorite milk.
With descriptions like “Elixir of Life” and the “Mushroom of Immortality,” Reishi mushrooms have been celebrated in Chinese medical literature for centuries due to its ability to stimulate the immune system and improve multiple cardiovascular risk factors. Thanks to complex polysaccharide compounds, Reishi helps to activate immune cells and support an increase of immunoglobin levels to defend against pathogens and microbes. Take advantage of Reishi’s immune-supporting qualities Om Reishi mushroom powder or capsules. Or, go a step further with a blend like the Om Immune+ drink mix, which combines Reishi with other functional mushrooms like Turkey Tail, Maitake, Agaricus blazei, and probiotics along with a natural superberry flavor.
3. Turkey Tail
Featuring a broad array of naturally occurring compounds that support immune response and gut health, Turkey Tail is one of the most researched functional mushrooms. Known for its potent natural polysaccharides, such as polysaccharide K (PSK) and polysaccharide peptide (PSP), this functional mushroom has the ability to build helper T cells as well as improve the body’s inflammatory response at the cellular level. Mix Turkey Tail mushroom powder into recipes or drinks, or enjoy the convenience of daily capsules. Om Matcha Latte, a delicious drink mix, contains Turkey Tail as well as Lion’s Mane, Reishi and Chaga powder.
4. Agaricus blazei
Agaricus blazei, also known as “mushroom of the sun,” “God’s mushroom” and “mushroom of life,” is a superfood mushroom that has been used for centuries because of a belief in its power to support longevity and give users greater energy. Its wide range of benefits — including anti-infection and anti-inflammatory properties — are attributable to its rich storehouse of immunomodulating polysaccharides and β-glucans. For those whose immune systems may be compromised — such as nurses and teachers — Agaricus blazei can be a great ally in your daily wellness routine. Try it in Om’s Immune blend, which you can add to soups, smoothies, desserts and more.
With a high level of macronutrients and B vitamins and minerals, Shiitake mushrooms have been used as a food and medicine for thousands of years in the Far East. Studies show that Shiitake mushrooms have also been shown to ward off illness with its antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties and contain beta glucans. While whole Shiitake mushrooms are commonly used in a variety of dishes, taking a mushroom blend like those found in Om Mighty Veggie Miso Broth or Beef Bone Broth will give you the powerful qualities of Shiitake along with other immune-centric mushrooms like Lion’s Mane and Reishi.
6. Lion’s Mane
Nicknamed the “the smart mushroom” because of its ability to support cognitive and neurological health, Lion’s Mane mushroom benefits also include immunity due to being high in antioxidants. The mushroom also contains beta glucans, which have been associated with immunity, cardiovascular health, and healthy gut bacteria. While the mushroom was typically reserved for royalty in the past, Lion’s Mane mushroom powder and capsules make it easy to access the benefits of Lion’s Mane no matter who you are. Om Coffee Latte — a delicious superfood blend that you can mix into hot water — is a great way to get a dose of Lion’s Mane.
Native to China, northeastern Japan, and North America, Maitake mushrooms have a diverse range of health benefits, including an ability to help support healthy blood sugar levels and immune response thanks to beta glucans and the ability to naturally reduce stress in the body. Adding Maitake mushroom powder to soups, stews, pasta, rice or bean dish, dressings, salad dressings, and smoothies, or your favorite drink is an easy way to take advantage of its health benefits. Or enjoy Maitake with other functional mushrooms like Reishi and Turkey Tail in the Om Immune blend.
In addition to taking functional mushrooms, explore other ways to support your immune system here.
Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, and VICE.