How Hemp + Mushrooms may help boost the Immune System.
“When you mention mushrooms people either think magic mushrooms or portobellos. That a homely, humble fungus could fight off virulent diseases like smallpox and TB might seem odd, until one realizes that even though the animal kingdom branched off from the fungi kingdom around 650 million years ago, humans and fungi still have nearly half of their DNA in common and are susceptible to many of the same infections." - Paul Stamets
Over the past decade we have dedicated ourselves to applying the science of hemp to support health and wellbeing. Our Mushroom + Hemp products represent the accumulation of this knowledge and wisdom. Thanks to our community of researchers and scientists, we have created specialized Hemp + Mushroom supplements and topicals specifically designed to support the immune system.
Our Hemp + Mushroom Blend Capsules provide the best of 2 natural medicinal powerhouses in one capsule: our tried and true Full Spectrum CBD combined with a 6-mushroom mycelium blend. The synergistic blend of mycelium, the most medicinal part of the mushroom, combined with our Full Spectrum Hemp makes for a potent immune and health supporter.
Mushrooms (especially mushroom mycelium) are known to contain a host of scientifically studied and proven disease-fighting chemicals, including polysaccharides, glycoproteins, ergosterols and triterpenoids, as well as antimicrobial, antibacterial (and most important to us now) antiviral compounds, all varying according to species and strain.
In fact, a handful of pharmaceutical medications are derived from mushrooms, including the antibiotics ganomycin (from reishi mushrooms) and campestrin (from meadow mushrooms) and the chemotherapy drugs calvacin (from giant puffballs) and Illudin S (from the glow-in-the-dark jack-o’-lantern mushrooms).
The scientific rationale for combining hemp and mushroom mycelium’s immune-enhancing and antiviral constituents is that both hemp and mushroom polysaccharides act to potentiate the immune system. Their mechanisms of action are complementary; respective receptor sites are able to cascade reactions that are similar to and that are also different from one another, allowing the interplay of these agonists to tune the immune system according to one's state of health.
When most people think of mushrooms they think of the fruitbody that you can buy at a grocery store. However, mushroom mycelium is the root and immune system of the mushroom fruitbody, and is the part of the mushroom ecosystem that is the most bioactive and immuno-enhancing (1). It is also a cellular network that supports the health and immunity of the surrounding habitats where it grows...capable of spreading as far as the nutrients available allow for. As a result, they have been shown to spread for miles, and even act as nature’s internet that allow trees to communicate with one another (2).
SHOW ME THE SCIENCE
The proven efficacy of mushroom mycelium for supporting immunity and overall wellness has become well-documented in scientific communities. Peer-reviewed research is continually being published that not only shows the health-supporting benefits of mycelium, but also substantiates mycelium’s immunological ability to trigger human immune cell function. While there are numerous studies, here are three of the more prominent studies attesting to mycelium’s antiviral properties.
Testing done by the National Institute of Science confirmed that agarikon, turkey tail, chaga, and reishi, among other species:
increase innate immune cells for protection
activate white blood cells for immune strength
regulate immune cell compounds for a balanced immune response.
A seven year NIH-funded study by Bastyr University and the University of Minnesota to determine whether turkey tail mushrooms could help breast cancer patients whose immune systems had been compromised by radiation therapy found that natural-killer cell activity, CD8 T-cell counts and other immune functions improved significantly with Turkey Tail.
Project BioShield, the Department of Health and Human Services’ biodefense program, has found that agarikon showed strong activity against H1N1 swine flu and H5N1 bird flu, as well as viruses in the smallpox family, and was highly resistant to many flu viruses.
ABOUT THE MUSHROOM MYCELIUM IN OUR CAPSULES + LIP BALM TOPICALS
Agarikon (Fomitopsis officinalis)
Once widespread, Agarikon (Fomitopsis officinalis) was known in ancient Greece as 'elixirium ad longam vitam', the 'elixir of long life'. Agarikon is now extremely rare, surviving in the old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. We work with a US Certified Organic company that is focused on building an extensive culture library to preserve this species. Our mycelium has a full spectrum of constituents: polysaccharides (beta glucans, arabinoxylan, glucose, xylose, galactose and mannose), glycoproteins, ergosterols, triterpenoids and other myco-nutrients, which are essential for supporting immune health.
Agarikon is not only a strong anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent, its extracts have also demonstrated antiviral properties. The BioShield BioDefense program, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases found that Agarikon showed exceptionally strong activity against viruses including pox (cowpox), swine (H1N1) and bird (H5N1) flu, and herpes (HSV1, HSV2) viruses. In several sets of tests against flu viruses, agarikon exceeded the potency of the positive drug control -- ribavirin -- against flu viruses by a factor of 10 or more. Most recently, a team of Russian researchers has confirmed the strong antiviral activity of Agarikon against H5N1 flu virus and found that Agarikon is comparatively non-toxic to human cells (3).
Agarikon also contains antiviral molecules new to science. Researchers for pharmaceutical companies may have missed its potent antiviral properties. Analyses show that the mycelial cultures of this mushroom are most active but that the fruitbodies, the natural form of the mushroom, are not. The fact that Agarikon is active against both viruses and bacteria suggests that it can provide a natural bioshield against potential infection and disease transmission. As the medical values of Agarikon continue to be researched, the value of biodiversity -- or mycodiversity -- of this species can truly be appreciated. (4)
Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)
Turkey Tail is one of the best-documented mushrooms in scientific research. With a wide spectrum of beneficial properties, promising clinical trials funded by the National Institute of Health have shown significant improvement in the immune systems of breast cancer patients.
The Phase 1 trial was published in ISRN Oncology Journal. The initial conclusion was that turkey tail mushrooms can augment conventional therapies for treating breast cancer by increasing NK and CD8+T cell activity. This study suggests that turkey tail mushrooms are an effective adjunct to conventional chemotherapeutic medicines and radiation therapy. For you doctors and scientists out there, here is an excerpt from their findings:
“... research by our center continues to indicate that Trametes versicolor represents a novel immune therapy with significant applications in cancer treatment ... The CD8+ T cell counts over the 9-week dose escalation study were enhanced in the 9 gm Tv dose cohort compared to both the 3 g or 6 g group. One-way ANOVA was used to analyze the overall difference between dosage groups over the treatment period (2-4-6 weeks). It showed the statistically significant increase in the CD8+ cytotoxic T cells for the 9 g group compared to both the 3 g and 6 g group (F(2, 6) = 42.04, P = 0.0003).”
Basically, enhancing the population and activity of NK cells and other lymphocytes and ensuring antioxidant effects against free radicals can both limit damage to healthy cells and reduce inflammation, which is especially important for those undergoing cancer treatment. (5).
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum s.l.)
Used for more than two millennia Reishi has been respectfully called the “mushroom of immortality.” While it is well known for supporting general wellness, studies are underway and are showing promise for extending the disease-free period of cancer patients when augmenting chemotherapy. Because of its iconic place in natural medicine, Reishi is one of the few mushroom species whose DNA has been fully sequenced (16,113 genes), which have revealed a remarkable diversity of genes coding for cytochrome P450 enzymes. These enzymes not only afford this species a broad arsenal for producing metabolites for digesting nutrients, but may also confer benefits to human health such as enhancing the degradation of toxins and free radicals and increasing the liver's metabolic efficiency. The variety of these enzymes, among more than 400 active constituents that have been found, indicates that mushrooms such as reishi are like miniature pharmaceutical factories that can produce hundreds of medicinally-interactive compounds. The U.S. Defense Department's BioShield BioDefense program showed that Reishi can also inhibit virus replication of H5N1 aka "bird flu," among other viruses. (6).
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
Chaga has been widely-studied for its antioxidant, free-radical cellular regeneration, blood oxygenating, and immune-boosting properties. Coincidence? Chaga has one of the highest antioxidant ORAC scores (the measure of antioxidant potency) of any superfood, and is distinguished by its large number of polysaccharides, which boost immune system health in addition to regulating blood sugar and cholesterol. ORAC tests conducted by Tufts University Dept. of Health Sciences Boston and the National Institute of Health showed that Chaga’s ORAC score was 3,655,700 vs Acai Berries at 80,000, and Goji Berries at 40,000 (7).
Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
Lion’s Mane is a truly fascinating mushroom species. The subject of recent studies, Lion’s Mane is renowned for providing support to the brain and nervous system. Numerous studies have shown its ability to induce Nerve Growth Factor synthesis in nerve cells, which could alleviate the symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, while also boosting your mood and focus (8).
Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris)
Cordyceps has been traditionally used as an energy enhancing supplement for high altitude athletes, and as an immune tonic. Professional athletes and trainers have long discovered that Cordyceps increases oxygen uptake, cellular energy and cardiovascular endurance (9).
FOR YOU DOCTORS, MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS, AND SCIENTISTS AND SCIENCE ENTHUSIASTS READING THIS...
Full Spectrum Hemp significantly complements the immune modulating capacities of fungal polysaccharides. Fungal polysaccharides are agonists for a few key pattern recognition receptors such as TLRs 2, 4, 6 and Dectin-1. These receptors are expressed on immune cells that regulate cell-mediated immunity, such as macrophages, NK cells, and others. Activation of these cells initiates cross-talk with the complement system and, current research suggests, humoral branches of the immune system. Agonist activity at these receptor sites activates MAPK and MyD88 pathways, activating Nf-kappa B. Fungal PS also activate Thi cells, which coordinate the cell mediated immune response.
CBD is a weak agonist (with low affinity) at the CB2 receptor site, which is expressed on all immune cells and tissues (i.e., tonsils, spleen). From what is currently known, CBD downregulates TNF-alpha. This is of interest, as TNF-alpha can be upregulated by fungal PS. CBD is also a weak agonist at GPR55, also known in some circles as the CB3 receptor. This receptor is expressed on a diverse array of cells in the body, and is increasingly being researched for its role in endocannabinoid homeostasis (appetite, memory and mood) and oncogenesis.
Perhaps the most intriguing interaction between CBD and fungal PS lies with T-lymphocytes. Fungal PS activates the Thi arm of lymphocyte activity. CBD suppresses certain aspects of lymphocyte activity. CBD primarily induces apoptosis by activating the ER-mediated ROS pathway in primary lymphocytes. This yields a net anti-inflammatory effect and is considered to be the mechanism of the anti-arthritic effects of the compound. The full scope of CBD's effects on immune function is still being characterized, and appears to be context-dependent (specifically, receptor density and target cell population).
CBD has additional pharmacological characteristics, including activity at TRPVl (involved in nociception) and 5-HTlA. The latter suggests a natural pairing with neurologically active and Serotonergic mushrooms species like Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) or Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum). CBD has been researched for neuroprotective activities, and is a known antipsychotic, anxiolytic and antidepressant. CBD has also been studied for a very wide range of anticancer actions, including induction of apoptosis (via activation of capsase 3, 8 and 9), antiproliferative activity, anti-angiogenesis and prevention of tumor migration and invasion. At high doses (1 g/day), CBD has demonstrated antineoplastic effects in vitro. CBD appears to round out and complement the effects of mushroom based ingredients on immune function.
Cabral G A, Rogers T J and Lichtman A H., Turning Over a New Leaf: Cannabinoid and Endocannabinoid Modulation of Immune Function. Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, 10(2):193-203 (2015).
Hassan S, Eldeeb K, Millns P J, Bennett A J, Alexander SPH and Kendall D A., Cannabidiol enhances microglial phagocytosis via transient receptor potential (TRP) channel activation. British Journal of Pharmacology, 171(9): 2426-2439 (2014).
Kaplan BLF, Springs AEB and Kaminski NE., The Profile of Immune Modulation by Cannabidiol (CBD) Involves Deregulation of Nuclear Factor of Activated T Cells (NFAT). Biochemical Pharmacology, 76(6): 726-737 (2008).
(2) NPR has a great podcast on how trees communicate through mycelial networks: https://one.npr.org/?sharedMediaId=488026888:488026890
(3) Teplyakova, T.V, N.V. Purtseva, T.A. Kosogova, V.A. Khanin, V.A. Vlassenko. 2012. Antiviral activity of polyporoid mushrooms (higher Basidiomycetes) from Altal mountains from Russia. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. 14 (1):37-45.