reishiCF20165.5 million people die each year as a result of air pollution (1).  With that statistic in mind, would you be interested to learn that a mushroom may be able to protect your body against the damaging effects caused by pollution exposure?

Pollution is no joke, and if you’re looking to optimize your health, this is definitely an area worth exploring. 

How does pollution exert its destructive force?
Whenever human cells are exposed to ambient particulate matter — especially in the form of diesel exhaust — interesting things occur in the body (2).  Oxidation increases.  Fats, proteins, and DNA become damaged.  Inflammatory molecules are released.  Internal antioxidant defenses are suppressed, and the integrity of a cell’s barrier is breached (it becomes more permeable).

Once inhaled, diesel nanoparticles can migrate from our lungs into our body’s circulatory system.  According to several epidemiological and experimental studies, there is a correlation between rising concentrations of particulate matter in ambient air and the incidence of heart attack within 48 hours of inhalation.  These studies also clearly show an association between pollution exposure and increased lung cancer rates in occupational settings, and it’s no surprise that the EPA classifies diesel exhaust as a potential carcinogen (3).

Now that’s a lot to stomach.  It can all seem so overwhelming.  I did mention something about a mushroom if you recall.  Care to know more?  Read on…

A very recent study tested a reishi mushroom extract (Ganoderma tsugae) to see what effect it had on human cells exposed to diesel exhaust (4).  As previously stated, without pre-treatment of the mushroom extract, cells exposed solely to diesel exhaust nanoparticles demonstrated significant aberrations in their functioning (oxidation, inflammation, etc.).

Enter the reishi mushroom.

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When cells in this study were pre-treated with the reishi mushroom extract, diesel exhaust particulate matter only accumulated on the surface of the cells.  No penetration into the cell was observed.  Researchers concluded that the mushroom extract can prevent transmigration of particulate matter into the bloodstream, ultimately preventing oxidative stress and inflammatory molecule release.  What’s more, the reishi mushroom extract actually increased internal antioxidant levels.

Interesting, eh?  A reishi mushroom extract has the ability to protect human cells against the damaging effects caused by air pollution, at least in the form of diesel exhaust.

Now, we can’t be so quick to make assumptions — this study used human cellular cultures… not human bodies.  Still, the results look rather promising, and numerous studies already exist showing that Ganoderma tsugae possesses powerful pharmacological activity against a host of pathogens.  Is it all hype, or is there really something special about this fungus?  All I can say is… see and try for yourself. 😉

The hemlock reishi mushroom can be found May through July (give or take a few weeks) on eastern hemlock trees.  It’s fairly common, though some years are more fruitful than others.  I’m a big fan of this mushroom… we go back many years together.  Perhaps you’ll consider befriending it as well!

To learn more about reishi mushroom identification and health benefits, check out these videos!