April 16, 2013

Immunity Boosting Benefits of Echinacea and Reishi Mushroom Extract

Posted in Pharmacy tagged , , , , , , at 7:59 pm by Peter Fallon

By Peter L. Fallon

Author: Nathan Wilson. Posted at Wikimedia Commons.

Reishi Mushroom Growing out of a Stump in Changdeokgung, Korea.

Taking extra vitamin C, vitamin D3, zinc, and multiple-vitamin supplements is generally effective in boosting the immune system during flu season. In addition, lifestyle factors such as getting proper sleep and minimizing stress are critical in maintaining high levels of immunity. Homeopathic immunity boosters such as Echinacea and mushroom extracts offer benefits as well. Mimicking bacteria in the bloodstream, these microscopic herbs and fungi increase the number of bacteria fighting cells, which seek and kill infections.

Immunity enhancing supplements often include extracts of the reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum), which is traditional in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean medicine. Reishi extracts offer a significant source of water soluble beta-glucan polysaccharides, an active ingredient that is believed to have immune system modulating effects, as well as blood pressure reduction and anti-tumor benefits. The extract is notably used as an immunostimulant among HIV and cancer patients. Reishi shares its immunity boosting properties with maitake, shiitake, and Cordyceps mushrooms. It is unique in containing triterpenes (ganoderic acid), which gives it a bitter taste and may offer benefits still not fully explained.

Echinacea extract comes from a flower in the daisy family, indigenous to eastern and central North America. It was traditional to Native American healing practices, ingested to protect against colds and flu and used topically in cases of wounds, infections, and insect bites. Like reishi mushrooms, Echinacea is rich in polysaccharides. The extract also contains an abundance of flavonoids, phenols, and alkylamides.

Natural extracts, such as those from reishi mushrooms and Echinacea, are most effective in priming the body’s defenses, preparing immunity-enhancing cells to eliminate infections as they find them. I do not generally recommend long-term preventative use of these remedies for this reason. It is better to time their use, starting a regimen when a threat is imminent, such as when someone in the family, at work, or at school has come down with a serious cold. Taking these remedies boosts the body’s immunity-enhancing cells to ready for fighting bacteria at the exact time when they are needed. While most people tolerate Echinacea and mushroom extracts well, they should always be taken in a small dose first, assuring that there are no unexpected allergic reactions.

About the Author: Peter Fallon has been a pharmacist since 1974. Peter Fallon holds pharmaceutical compounding accreditation with the Washington, D.C.-based Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board.

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