Mushrooms and fungi have been used in medicine for thousands of years. They have been used traditionally to treat and prevent infections, protect the liver and offset the negative effects of stress. There are many different varieties of mushrooms that have demonstrated beneficial effects against boosting the immune system. Mushrooms contain specific compounds including polysaccharides; in particular β-glucans, polysaccharopeptides (PSP), polysaccharide proteins, and proteins.
The various glucans, and especially β-glucans, have become the focus of a great deal of research into immune system modulation and infection prevention. β-glucans are large polysacharrides, which means that they are formed from a large number of sugar molecules (glucose) linked together in specific patterns. Research has shown that the most active types of β-glucans are insoluble and have a very specific type of linkage between their individual molecules called a β 1,3/ β 1,6 linkage. For example, some mushroom metabolites like the D- fraction from the maitake mushroom represent important biological response modifiers due to their ability to enhance the activity of natural killer cells in patients.
Mushroom polysaccharides also induce the maturation and function of cells called dendritic cells, causing them to stimulate the proliferation of T-cells, thereby enhancing the immune response. B cells and antibody production have also been shown to be activated by mushrooms polysaccharides. Overall, glucans and other mushroom molecules have wide-ranging effects on the immune system, and are able to enhance its function, whether it is for preventing infection with the common cold or flu or for improving the health of patients. Furthermore, other bioactive substances, including triterpenes, lipids, and phenols, have been identified and characterized in mushrooms and have been shown to have proven medicinal properties.
The most well studied types of mushrooms are Coriolus versicolor, Agaricus blazi, Grifolia frondosa (AKA Maitake), and ganoderma lucidum (AKA Reishi). While these mushrooms are excellent in their own right there is a largest amount of research supporting a more refined mushroom extract called Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC) is an oligosaccharide extracted from Basidomyces mushrooms grown in rice bran. This extract is grown and fermented before the active components are extracted. It was developed in Japan in 1989 and it has since been used to improve the immunity of over 100, 000 patients. AHCC is used along side chemotherapy treatments in many Japanese hospitals for its immune supportive effects. The majority of studies have shown reduced side effects, increased quality of life and improved survival rates.
The primary mechanism that AHCC delivers its beneficial effect is by stimulating and balancing the immune system. The studies found it increased a specific arm of the immune system that go after and targets microbes for destruction. These specialized immune cells are called macrophages, T-cells, dendritic cells and natural killer cells. This board spectrum of action is very important to recreate immune balance so while blood cells are able to recognize and attack foreign bacteria invaders. The immune effects of AHCC have been applied to microbial infections as well.
One interesting application is that AHCC supplementation improved the immune response to vaccinations, which is very applicable to the aging population that sometime has a difficult time mounting an adequate immune response to vaccines. In a study examining the effects of AHCC on the body’s response to influenza infection. In the study, 29 individuals were immunized with an influenza vaccine. Half of them were supplemented with 3000 mg/day of AHCC on the day of vaccination and for two weeks following the inoculation, the other half were given a placebo. It was found that individuals taking AHCC had significantly higher levels cytotoxic T-cells and natural killer cells, suggesting an improved immune response. In studies with mice, AHCC has been shown to improve survival and viral clearance in mice infected.
If you are looking for one of the most powerful ways to boost your immune system look no further then AHCC. Backed by solid science this extract packs a powerful immune punch for those stubborn infections. The most used doses in studies have been from 1-6 g of the AHCC extract.
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