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Several species of medicinal mushrooms are valued for their adaptogenic activities that support the body’s ability to cope with stress from within and without. The adaptogenic activities of mushrooms also function to support the immune system. While short-term stress can enhance immune response, chronic or long-term stress in linked to numerous immune health problems including:
- Suppression of the immune system
- Premature aging of the immune system
- Enhance risk and illness and age-related diseases
- Increased incidence of upper respiratory tract infection (URT)
The link between chronic stress and immune function is complex and involves pituitary and hypothalamic hormones along with immune system cells, predominantly the white blood cells (leukocytes). The body reacts to a stressor by releasing hormones such as cortisol to restore homeostasis. However the continued release of cortisol negatively impacts immune function. The adaptogenic, stress-relieving activities of mushroom species such as Reishi, Cordyceps and Lion’s Mane can help to increase the resistance of the body against stressors and therefor increase the threshold level at which stress becomes a chronic condition that adversely affects the immune system.
Scientists continue to discover “new” biologically active compounds in mushrooms on a regular basis. While extracted medicinal mushroom products may contain high concentrations of certain active ingredients present in mushrooms, many other biologically active compounds are either discarded or destroyed in the extraction process. Additionally, more is not always better in healing modalities. The activity of mushrooms against pathogens and aberrant cell growth is not direct but rather via a host-mediated response that involves a cascade of immune and cell signaling events. Just as it does not take large amounts of an injected vaccine to effect an immune response, it does not necessarily take large or concentrated amounts of mushroom beta glucans to effect significant immune responses. “Full spectrum”, non-extracted mushroom products contain a complex nutritional matrix of biologically active compounds that function to elicit broad-based immune and immunity-supporting responses.
MUSHROOMS FOR SPORTS PERFORMANCE APPLICATIONS
Medicinal mushrooms offer several modes of activity that can be useful in many aspects of sports performance, endurance, and recovery including:
Increasing cardiovascular endurance includes an array of physiological improvements that all contribute to the increased efficiency of oxygen uptake, delivery, and utilization in the working muscles. Medicinal mushrooms can contribute to the training effects through several mechanisms:
- Increased oxygen uptake – Bronchial Dilation, oxygen absorption/transfer in alveoli,
- Increased oxygen delivery – increased hemoglobin content and increased number of red blood cells contributes to increased oxygen-carrying capacity
- Increased cardiac output through improved cardiac function
- Increased cellular oxygen absorption
- Increased ATP synthesis & mitochondrial function
- Super-antioxidant L-ergothioneine reduces oxidative damage from free radicals
- Support of Liver and Kidney function for efficient processing and elimination of toxic metabolic by-products of strenuous exercise
- Support for healthy inflammation response
IMMUNE HEALTH: Maintaining good immune function is critical to sports performance because strenuous exercise often results in a temporary depression of immune function that may make the athlete or “weekend” warrior more susceptible to illness.
- Beta Glucan compounds support the healthy, strong and balanced immune system
- Organic vegan Vitamin D
CORDYCEPS (Cordyceps militaris)
Cordyceps mushrooms have attracted the world-wide attention of professional sports and endurance athletes for their positive effects on energy, endurance and athletic performance. Cordyceps first attracted the attention of the West in 1993 during the Chinese National Games where a team of nine Chinese women runners shattered 9 world records, including breaking the 10,000 meter run by an astounding 42 seconds. The athletes’ coach attributed their performance in part to the use of Cordyceps. More recently in forced swimming capacity studies on mice, supplementation with Cordyceps militaris was shown to significantly increase the swimming time to exhaustion as compared to the control group.
Cordyceps mushrooms are considered to be tonic, adaptogenic herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) where they has been used for centuries to boost energy, promote immune system health and treat a number of diseases.
There are many active ingredients in Cordyceps that boost energy, increase endurance and speed recovery in several ways. Cordyceps has been reported to increase the cellular synthesis of ATP (the energy “currency” of our muscles) thereby reducing fatigue and speeding recovery. Cordyceps also increases the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood and is used by many high-altitude mountain climbers. Cordyceps’ support of immune function helps our bodies to quickly and efficiently deal with pathogenic infectious agents that can dramatically sap our energy levels when we succumb to illness. The well-documented anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties also positively impact athletic performance and recovery. Cordyceps also promotes healthy liver function, a critical aspect of recovery after strenuous exercise. Cordyceps is highly-valued for its ability to promote sexual health and steroidogenesis, the production of hormones in the adrenal glands. Cordyceps is favored by body builders for its ability to increase testosterone production.
While the Cordyceps species Cordyceps sinensis generally receives the most attention in the marketplace, the closely-related species Cordyceps militaris has actually been shown to consistently contain higher levels of active ingredients such as antioxidants, cordycepin and adenosine and is thus the preferred species of well-informed performance athletes.
REISHI (Ganoderma lucidum)
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Reishi is known as a “three treasure” herb that harmonizes jing (life force), qi (energy) and shen (spirit). Reishi is listed among the “superior tonics” in the distinguished Chinese Materia Medica. “Superior” tonics or medicines can be taken in any amount as desired on a continuous basis with no unfavorable effects. Reishi is sometime referred to as the “Elixir of Life” and the “Mushroom of Immortality”. As with Cordyceps, Reishi contains an array of active ingredients that positively impact endurance, performance and recovery in a number of ways.
Reishi is highly regarded for its cardiotonic properties. Researchers have reported that various active compounds in Reishi, especially triterpene compounds, can function to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, inhibit atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in arteries) and inhibit platelet aggregation (the clumping of blood cells which may lead to strokes). Reishi has been reported to improve blood flow and lower oxygen consumption in the heart muscle. Reishi has also been found to be effective at oxygenating the blood and has been used to alleviate high altitude sickness. The antiinflammatory effects of Reishi also contribute to its cardiotonic properties.
In aged rat studies, Reishi was shown to improve mitochondrial function. Mitochondria are the cellular sites of ATP synthesis that provide “fuel” for our muscles. The antioxidants contain in Reishi function to help reduce oxidative stress in the mitochondria by neutralizing the buildup of free radicals that can decrease the rate and efficiency of ATP synthesis.
The combination of cardiotonic, antioxidant/anti-inflammatory, and cellular energy promoting effects make Reishi an excellent performance-enhancing supplement for athletes.
KING TRUMPET (Pleurotus eryngii)
King Trumpet mushrooms have been reported to support bone health, strength and density by upregulating the activity of osteoblasts and down-regulating the activity of osteoclasts. Additionally,
the King Trumpet contains significant amounts of the “master antioxidant” L-ergothioneine (LE). LE is actively transported to areas of our bodies and cells where there are conditions of high oxidative stress. LE helps to optimize the efficient functioning of our mitochondria, the cellular sites of ATP synthesis. LE protects red cell bloods against oxidative damage and increases the efficiency of oxygen uptake, transfer and utilization.