Cordyceps is a mushroom that was originally found in high altitudes of the Himalayas, more recently made available in the form of a tincture, a liquid extract, capsules, or powder. It has been used in Tibetan and Traditional Chinese Medicine for various ailments for some time, and I recommend it to promote energy and improve aerobic fitness.
It is one of my favorite medicinal mushrooms, and studies show that cordyceps has effects on both innate and adaptive immunity. In addition, cordyceps has modulatory effects on the intestinal cordyceps immune system, which can further impact the function of the immune system as a whole.
Does Cordyceps Strengthen Your Immune System?
A study done specifically looking at immune system function in those taking cordyceps vs a control/placebo group showed that immune system function improved with cordyceps supplementation potentially due to less inflammation. They concluded that cordyceps is safe and effective for enhancing cell-mediated immunity in healthy adults.
You can learn more from the paper here.
Western medicine has been slow to study the natural products used by Eastern practitioners over centuries, but several scientific papers have been published supporting the medical properties of some other mushrooms as well.
Maitake (Grifola frondosa) is sometimes called the “hen of the woods” because of its fuzzy appearance. Studies suggest that it has cancer-fighting properties, including one clinical trial showing promise against triple-negative breast cancer. Maitake can be used in cooking or taken as a supplement.
Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor), a mushroom named after its distinctive shape and color, has also been shown to improve immune system health of women treated with breast cancer. Turkey tail is strictly a medical treatment, being too hard and woody to be used as a cooking ingredient.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), known as lingzhi in China, is known for its antioxidant and immune-boosting properties. Reishi can be found in tea, in capsules, and in liquid extract form. Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edode) are high in antioxidants and vitamins.
They are a tasty, nutrient-dense addition to your diet, and they have been shown to help lower blood cholesterol levels and lower cancer risk.
Enoki mushrooms (Flammulina velutipe), also known as gold needle mushrooms, are mellow to taste, and they have been shown to reduce blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure. They are also high in antioxidants. They seem to provide a protective effect against cancer.
What all of these mushrooms have in common is that they all contain polysaccharides, which are known for playing a role in improving immune system health, decreasing inflammation, and even supporting a natural defense against viral infections. A recent review published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology found promise for cordyceps in various applications, based mostly on lab studies of compounds found inside. The review concluded that further studies are needed to support claims about its immune-boosting role, and to better understand its safety. While these investigations are ongoing, I recommend the other mushrooms listed above, which have been shown to enhance immune function. For more, check out my guide to my favorite mushrooms here.
You can find our favorite capsules, powders, and tincture’s on the following pages of our website and learn more about each individually: