Winter is a fun and magical season – but not for your immune system. After all, your immune system is what bears the brunt of winter’s wet and frigid weather, diminished daylight, and overexposure to stuffy indoor air.It works relentlessly this time of year to help protect you from infection, while faced with tremendous environmental, physical, and mental stressors that make you prone to infection and fatigue.

Mushrooms have a five-star nutrient profile and are recognized for over 100 medicinal functions, including impressive immune-enhancing and antioxidant properties.[1] The popularity of mushrooms is growing amongst scientists and health enthusiasts as research continues to unveil their numerous bioactive compounds. Here are six of the top mushrooms to support your immune system:


The “mushroom of immortality,” most commonly known as reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to improve health and longevity.[1] It is one of the most studied and widely used of all the medicinal mushrooms and a popular remedy for chronic illness in Asia. Over 30 years of clinical research has confirmed that reishi both activates and modulates the immune system. It also works with the body’s immune system cells to protect against oxidative damage and can be safely used for long periods of time.[1,2]


Maitake (Grifolia frondosa) means “dancing mushroom” in Japanese. As an adaptogen, maitake increases the body’s resistance to stress. It is known to modulate the immune system and increase the activity of immune system cells, such as neutrophils and natural killer cells.[3] Early research has shown that maitake has antitumour activity, and researchers are studying whether it can be used with conventional cancer therapies.[4] Maitake also makes a delicious addition to soups and sauces because it contains a natural flavour enhancer called L-glutamate.


Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) is one of the most popular edible mushrooms with significant health benefits. It has been used for hundreds of years to relieve symptoms of the common cold and has both antioxidant and antimicrobial activities. Current research is focused on shiitake’s benefits for suppressed immune function, allergies, cardiovascular health, recurrent colds and flu, as well as numerous chronic health conditions.[5]


The “caterpillar fungus” called cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis) is found at high altitudes in the Himalayan mountains. Traditional healers use this unique fungus that lives on certain caterpillars, for its adaptogenic properties that enhance vigour and vitality, and reduce fatigue.[6, 7] Preliminary evidence also shows that cordyceps has a protective effect on the body’s organs and a sedative effect on the central nervous system.[1, 6]


Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a slow-growing fungus found in cold habitats. It has been used as a folk medicine in Russia and Eastern Europe for over 400 years where it is recognized for its superior antioxidant activity and ability to combat oxidative stress.[8, 9] Chaga contains a wide variety of phenolic compounds believed to stimulate the immune system.[8] 

Lion’s mane

Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) is an edible mushroom with a long history of use in Chinese medicine for fatigue and general debility.[10]It is also recognized for improving mood and brain function. A placebo-controlled clinical trial found that patients who took lion’s mane were able to lower their feelings of anxiety and irritation, while improving their concentration.


  1. Valverde ME, Hernández-Pérez T, Paredes-López O. Edible mushrooms: improving human health and promoting quality life. Int J Microbiol. 2015; 376387.
  2. Lin ZB. Cellular and molecular mechanisms of immuno-modulation by Ganoderma lucidum. J Pharmacol Sci. 2005; 99(2):144-53.
  3. Ulbricht C, Weissner W, Basch E, et al. Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa): systematic review by the natural standard research collaboration. J Soc Integr. 2009; 7(2):66-72.
  4. Deng G, Lin H, Seidman A, et al. A phase I/II trial of a polysaccharide extract from Grifola frondosa (Maitake mushroom) in breast cancer patients: immunological effects. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2009; 135(9):1215-21.
  5. Bisen PS, Baghel RK, Sanodiya BS. Lentinus edodes: a macrofungus with pharmacological activities. Curr Med Chem. 2010; 17(22):2419-30.
  6. Zhou X, Gong Z, Su Y, et al. Cordyceps fungi: natural products, pharmacological functions and developmental products. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2009; 61(3):279-91.
  7. Nagata A, Tajima T, Uchida M. Supplemental anti-fatigue effects of Cordyceps sinensis Tochu-Kaso extract powder during three stepwise exercise of human. Jpn J Phys Fitness Sports Med. 2006; 55:S145-52.
  8. Najafzadeh M, Reynolds PD, Baumgartner A, et al. Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in lymphocytes of patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Biofactors. 2007; 31(3-4):191-200.
  9. Zheng WF, Zhao YY, Zhang MM, et al. Phenolic compounds from Inonotus obliquus and their immune-stimulating effects. Mycosystema. 2008; 27(4):574-81.
  10. Thongbai B, Rapior S, Hyde KD, et al. Hericium erinaceus, an amazing medicinal mushroom. Mycological Progress. 2015; 14:91.


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