Ganoderma lucidum is commonly known as the reishi mushroom with a well-established role in East Asian medicine that has been used for centuries. G. lucidum polysaccharides (GLPs) are constituents of the whole plant that have been shown to support the body’s response to oxidative stress, immune function, and many other pathways and functions.
A recent review highlights the current research outlining the supportive role of G. lucidum and its constituents in human health. The immune-supportive role of polysaccharides from G. lucidum is robust and extensive. GLPs influence many types of cells related to immune function, including macrophages, dendritic cells, natural killer (NK) cells, and B and T lymphocytes. GLPs have been shown to interact with Toll-like receptor (TLR) 4 and TLR2, which may augment B- and T-cell proliferation. They also influence nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), interferon-gamma, and interleukin (IL)-1, IL-2, and IL-6.
Research also indicates that extracts from G. lucidum may support a healthy response to inflammation, including neuroinflammation. A laboratory study outlined in the review explored the effect of an extract from the G. lucidum fruiting body on microglia cell lines (BV2) and reported a decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokines through its influence on MAP kinase and NF-κB. Other studies, also outlined in the same review article, suggest that GLPs may attenuate neurotoxic changes induced by beta-amyloid peptides. Animal studies indicate that GLPs may play a protective role in the presence of oxidative stress in the murine hippocampus.
The current understanding of gastrointestinal dysbiosis includes its possible influence on chronic inflammation, immune disorders, and glucose metabolism. In an animal study, polysaccharides from G. lucidum were shown to reduce the incidence of pathogenic bacteria, including Corynebacterium and Proteus, and to increase the species of beneficial bacteria, including Bacteroides. Additionally, significant decreases in fasting blood glucose levels were observed in the study. Other research shows promise regarding the correlation between the gut microbiome, glucose metabolism, and health-supportive influence of mushroom species such as Cordyceps militaris. There is considerable information yet to discover regarding the interplay between the gut microbiome and glucose metabolism.
Mushrooms, such as G. lucidum, support health in numerous ways. G. lucidum and its extracts have been shown to support cellular health and a healthy response to oxidative stress; they may also help support healthy lipid and glucose metabolism. Supplementation with G. lucidum may also support a response to inflammation and a healthy immune system.
By Colleen Ambrose, ND, MAT