To be absolutely clear, there is no recognized, FDA-approved cure for Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. But out of all the natural remedies that have been hyped for their immune-boosting properties, mushrooms are at the top of the list. And by mushrooms we’re not talking about psilocybin, the main active chemical in psychedelic ‘shrooms, which have been gaining traction as a therapy for PTSD, depression and anxiety. Rather, the mushrooms that may help your immune system won’t make you hallucinate; they’re edible fungi.
Mushrooms have come a long way in recent years. Once associated with a slimy, squishy pizza topping and an after-thought in stir fry dishes, these days, even without a pandemic, edible mushrooms have become very popular in natural health circles.
Benefits of Mushrooms
The health-boosting properties of mushrooms have been well-known for centuries in the Far East. In the west, mushrooms have been used for eight decades to treat bacterial infections, ever since Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, the antibiotic derived from the fungus, penicillium.
From a nutritional standpoint, edible fungi are one of the only natural, food-based sources of vitamin D, albeit mostly in the form of vitamin D2, which is not as potent as D3, which humans can synthesize from direct sun exposure, or from supplements.
Mushrooms also contain protein, fiber, B vitamins and the trace mineral, selenium, which may help prevent viral replication. Research shows an association between selenium deficiency and an increased risk of infections such as West Nile virus. Fungi also contain another trace mineral that’s been receiving increased attention because of Covid-19: zinc. Whereas selenium may help prevent a virus from making copies of itself, zinc may help prevent the virus from penetrating into the cells in the first place. The controversial anti-malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, has shown efficacy in halting viral replication, especially when the drug is used in combination with zinc.
Shiitake mushrooms, which are available in the produce aisle of many supermarkets, is particularly high in zinc.
Furthermore, certain mushrooms have demonstrated anti-cancer properties in research studies. A 2012 peer-reviewed research article says that mushrooms complement chemotherapy and radiation therapy, by countering the side-effects of these interventions, such as nausea, bone marrow suppression, anemia, and lowered resistance. “Bioactive molecules, including anti-tumor agents, have been identified from various mushrooms,” says the research study.
Not only can edible fungi support a healthy immune system, they can also benefit cardiovascular health. Research in the journal, Foods, says the starchy, cellulose carbohydrate components of mushrooms—polysaccharides; beta-glucan is the most heralded of these sugars—can help lower cholesterol levels and make the arteries more flexible and pliable, preventing plaque build up in the arteries. This is why edible mushrooms, mushroom powder and other fungal supplements are considered one of the best natural immune remedies for seniors.
Best Mushrooms To Eat For Health
Really, any edible mushroom can contribute to a balanced immune system. A balanced immune system is more ideal than a strong one. Sometimes, a strong immune system can be too strong, leading to a cytokine storm, in which the immune system goes haywire; many Covid-19 fatalities are a result of this immune overreaction.
As for the best way to prepare edible mushrooms, one study concluded a surprising result: microwaving mushrooms significantly increases their antioxidant activity.