Now that summer is drawing to a close, it's a good time to start talking about herbs that help improve immune system functioning. There are quite a few herbs that have a tonifying effect on the body's immune system, such as Echinacea, Astragalus, Garlic and Ginseng.
There are also some mushrooms which have almost legendary status as immune system tonics. Today, I want to talk about Shiitake and Reishi mushrooms.
Shiitake mushrooms are widely available in supermarkets and health food stores, they are often available either fresh or dried. It is even possible to purchase Shiitake growing kits.
Shiitake mushrooms are delicious added to soups, stews, and sauces; pretty much anywhere you would use any other mushroom. The stems are very woody, so use only the caps.
Studies in Japan have shown that Shiitake mushrooms boost the immune system, as well as inhibit viral replication, two activities which make Shiitake a great addition to your diet. Japanese research has also led to a cancer treatment based on Shiitake mushrooms.
Reishi mushroom is another immune boosting powerhouse. At one time, these mushrooms were extremely rare, and prohibitively expensive, because they were only found growing in high, remote mountains. Relatively recently, it was discovered how to grow Reishi mushrooms, so you no longer need to be the Emperor to afford them.
Reishi mushrooms were thought to increase longevity and were highly prized as a result.
Modern research has shown them to be high in immune boosting phytochemicals, and to improve production of lymphocytes (lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell, and an important part of the body's defenses against infection). Reishi also seems to modulate immune response, (this means it can both strengthen a weakened immune response, and lessen an overactive immune response), and helps some allergy sufferers get relief from their symptoms. Reishi also seems to have some anti-cancer properties, and is a part of several commercially available preparations said to protect the immune system while patients are undergoing radiation or chemotherapy as part of a cancer treatment regimen. (If you are being treated for any medical condition, please check with your doctor before taking any herbal supplements.)
Reishi mushrooms don't seem as widely available as Shiitake mushrooms, although most local health food stores carry several varieties of prepared Reishi supplements, as powders, capsules and extracts, as well as an instant tea concentrate. It's a useful supplement anytime you feel your immune system needs a boost.
herbal remedies, herbs, natural remedies, alternative remedies