Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Lion’s Mane Mushroom

What is Lion's Mane Mushroom?

Lion’s Mane mushroom is also known by the scientific name Hericum erinaceus, and by the common names mountain-priest mushroom and bearded tooth fungus. If a cheerleader named it, it would probably be called pom-pom mushroom.  Its appearance is quite striking.  It grows on hardwoods and can be found in North America, Europe and Asia.   In the United States, they are most commonly found on beech and maple trees in late summer and early fall.  Lion’s Mane mostly feeds on dead trees, which makes it primarily a saprophyte, but it can also be a parasite on living trees, which means that in some cases it gets its nutrients as an endophyte. In Latin, its name means hedgehog, and its German name translates as “hedgehog goatee.” These mushrooms can fruit intermittently on the same dead tree for as long as 20 years.  Although it occurs naturally in the wild in Europe, it is scarce there, leading to protected status in 13 countries and it is illegal to pick or sell in the UK.

What is Lion's Mane Mushroom good for?

Lion’s Mane is a specialty mushroom sometimes used in gourmet cooking.  Its flavor has been described by some as similar to lobster. Lion’s Mane mushroom has been a staple of traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Lion’s Mane contains polysaccharides such as α-glucan and β-glucan, which can be found in other mushrooms, but also contains species specific compounds called hericenones and erinacenes.

In a broad survey of the potential clinical uses for the compounds occurring in Lion’s Mane, it was found to show activity against some antibiotic-resistant strains of Heliobacter pylori, the bacteria linked to ulcers. It’s ability to inhibit the development of new blood vessels in tumors was demonstrated.

It was shown to combat reduced blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle (ischemia).  It has been shown to reduce memory impairment and have neuroprotective properties in animal studies, and enhance nerve regeneration.  Animal studies have shown that Lion’s Mane reduced blood glucose and increased insulin.

How does Lion’s Mane Mushroom help my immune system and promote healthy sleep?

Lion's mane mushroom polysaccharides and H. erinaceus extracts have demonstrated immune-enhancing effects in test tube studies.  In other studies, immune function has been theorized to increase by Lion’s Mane activation of macrophages, which are large, specialized cells within the body that detect and destroy other cells within the body that aren’t healthy, such as bacteria, cells infected with a virus, or cells that are mutated into cancerous or pre-cancerous states.  This in turn results in an increase in the release of cytokines and interleukins, proteins that signal the immune system into increased action. It is also believed that Lion’s Mane acts to regulate the balance of healthy gut bacteria, which is also essential to the immune system.

Lion’s Mane has been shown in stress testing of mice to have anti-depressant effects by decreasing levels of neurotransmitters, thus reducing stress. It also resulted in decreased wakefulness in a study of behavioral rhythms in mice.

Who should not take Lion's Mane Mushroom?

Lion’s Mane is a fungus, and that means that people with mushroom or mold allergies should not use it as a dietary supplement. Although Lion’s Mane mushroom is generally well-tolerated, there are no human studies examining its safety or correct dosage.

Tree of Life Botanicals Products with Lion's Mane:

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1 Chemistry, nutrition, and health-promoting properties of Hericium erinaceus (lion's mane) mushroom fruiting bodies and mycelia and their bioactive compounds; J Agric Food Chem. 2015;63(32):7108-7123.26244378, M. Friedman.

2 Immunomodulatory effects of hydroxyethylated Hericium erinaceus polysaccharide on macrophages RAW264.7. Int J Biol Macromol. 2017;105 (pt 1):879-885.28729219, Z Ren, T Qin, F Qiu, et al.

3 Immunomodulatory activities of a fungal protein extracted from Hericium erinaceus through regulating the gut microbiota; Front Immunol. 2017;8:666.28713364,  C Diling, Z Chaoqun, Y Jian, et al.

4  Immunomodulatory Activities of a Fungal Protein Extracted from Hericium erinaceus through Regulating the Gut Microbiota; Front Immunol 2017 Jun 12;8:666, Chen Diling, Zheng Chaoqun, Yang Jian, Li Jian, Su Jiyan, Xie Yizhen, Lai Guoxiao.

5 Erinacine A-enriched Hericium erinaceus Mycelium produces antidepressant-like effects through modulating BDNF/PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β signaling in mice; Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(2).29364170, CH Chiu, CC Chyau, CC Chen, et al.

6  Hericium erinaceus extracts alter behavioral rhythm in mice; Biomed Res. 2016;37(4):227-232.27544998, S Furuta, R Kuwahara, E Hiraki, K Ohnuki, S Yasuo, K Shimizu.

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Chaga Mushroom

Chaga Mushroom

What is Chaga Mushroom?

Okay, the humble Chaga mushroom is not quite as visually stunning as turkey tail. In fact, it’s downright homely -- but let’s not judge this mushroom by its appearance. Known by the scientific name Inonotus obliquus, this fungus grows on the bark of birch trees in cold climates. It can be found in Alaska, Northern Canada, Northern Europe, Russia, Siberia, and Korea. It is also called black mass, cinder conk, and birch canker.

It grows into a woody mass about one foot across, with a very dark outward appearance similar to a clump of burnt coal. Inside is a soft, vibrant orange core.

What is Chaga Mushroom good for?

Animal studies have linked Chaga mushroom to reduced blood sugar levels. A study in obese, diabetic mice showed that Chaga mushroom extract both reduced blood sugar and insulin resistance compared to a control group that did not receive the supplement.1

Chaga extract may also help to reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, which in turn reduces the risk of heart disease. The results of animal studies showed that in addition to reducing LDL cholesterol, Chaga increases “good” HDL cholesterol, reduces total cholesterol and triglycerides, and increases antioxidant levels.2

How does Chaga Mushroom help my immune system and promote healthy sleep?

In the short term, inflammation is a natural response of an active immune system. Long-term or chronic inflammation is linked to heart disease, arthritis, IBS, and other digestive tract illnesses, which in turn adversely affect overall health. Animal studies suggest that Chaga mushroom improve the immune system by reducing chronic inflammation and fighting harmful bacteria and viruses.

The way this works is that Chaga compounds promote the formation of specialized proteins called cytokines which regulate the immune system. This stimulates the production of white blood cells. These white blood cells fight viruses and harmful bacteria.3 The upshot is that Chaga mushroom could help fight infections ranging from the common cold to serious illnesses caused by bacteria or viruses.

There may be another pathway for Chaga to help the immune system, in that in addition to promoting the production of good cytokines, Chaga may also inhibit the production of harmful cytokines, the ones that trigger inflammation and are associated with disease.4

Regarding the beneficial effect of Chaga mushroom on sleep, animal studies suggest that Chaga improves sleep by increasing the amount of slow-wave during a sleep cycle.5 Slow-wave sleep is the deepest stage of sleep and is essential for physical recovery and repair. These studies also show that participants show less anxiety-related behavior after taking the Chaga extract.6

Who should not take Chaga Mushroom?

Chaga is a fungus, and that means that people with mushroom or mold allergies should not use it as a dietary supplement. Because Chaga also contains a protein that can prevent blood clotting, if you are on blood-thinning medications, have a bleeding disorder or are preparing for surgery, consult with your doctor before taking Chaga.

Chaga’s impact on blood sugar should be considered as a risk for those taking insulin or those with diabetes. Because there is no research on the safety of chaga for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, the safest option for those women is to avoid use.

Tree of Life Botanicals Products with Chaga:

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1 Antihyperglycemic and antilipidperoxidative effects of dry matter of culture broth of Inonotus obliquus in submerged culture on normal and alloxan-diabetes mice; J Ethnopharmacol. 2008 Jun 19;118(1):7-13. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2008.02.030.

2 Effect of the Inonotus Obliquus Polysaccharides on Blood Lipid Metabolism and Oxidative Stress of Rats Fed High-Fat Diet In Vivo; Liya Liang; Zesheng Zhang; Wei Sun; Yuben Wang; Published in: 2009 2nd International Conference on Biomedical Engineering and Informatics

3 Immunomodulatory Activity of the Water Extract from Medicinal Mushroom Inonotus obliquus; Mycobiology. 2005 Sep; 33(3): 158–162. Yeon-Ran Kim.

4 Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Inonotus obliquus in Colitis Induced by Dextran Sodium Sulfate; BioMed Research International, Volume 2010 | Article ID 943516, Se Young Choi, Sun Jin Hur, Chi Sun An, Yun Hui Jeon, Young Jun Jeoung, Jong Phil Bak, and Beong Ou Lim.

5 Baik, H. M., Kim, K. H., & Joh, E. H. (2018). The effect of Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) extract on sleep, anxiety-related behaviors, and memory in rats. Journal of medicinal food, 21(11), 1000-10014.

6 Kimura, Y., Inatomi, S., & Liu, J. H. (2009). Chloroform extract of Inonotus obliquus improves sleep quality in rats. Biological & pharmaceutical bulletin, 32(12), 225-229.

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What is Melatonin?

You may have noticed that instead of a photograph of a fungus, we have a diagram of the anatomy of the human brain here.  A photo might have been a bit too much.   Melatonin doesn’t come from a fungus, it’s a hormone, and it is produced naturally in the human body by a tiny, pea-sized gland just above the middle of the brain called the pineal gland.  Fortunately, it can also be found in plants and synthesized outside the human body.  It can be found in tart cherries, bananas, plums, grapes, rice, cereals, herbs, and olive oil.

Legally, it is an uncontrolled substance, and is freely available to be purchased as a dietary supplement with no restrictions of any kind, and no need for a prescription.

The function of melatonin in the human body is to regulate sleep.  Normally, our bodies make more melatonin at night, with levels increasing after sunset.  Levels drop in the morning after sunrise.  The amount of light you get each day helps to set your “body clock”, and this determines how much melatonin your body makes.

What is Melatonin good for?

Supplementing the melatonin your body makes is useful for trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.  If you have a job that disrupts normal day/night sleep schedules, or otherwise have difficulty going to sleep at a time that would allow you to get a full sleep cycle, melatonin can be useful.  Melatonin is also helpful if travel to different time zones interferes with your “body clock,” in other words jet lag.

How does Melatonin promote healthy sleep?

Chemically, melatonin is also known as N-Acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine.

Our eyes are the pathway for light, and when we see sunlight, the electrical signals travel through the optic nerves and signal the pineal gland within the brain to stop producing melatonin.  When the eyes do not receive light, melatonin is produced by the pineal gland, and we become sleepy.  This is one of the reasons that eye masks are also an effective sleep aid – in addition to blocking out visual stimuli, they have a physiological effect on the pineal gland.

The physical effects of melatonin, as subjectively reported by those taking it, typically include sedation and very mild muscle relaxation.   Cognitively, users report sleepiness, reduced anxiety, and dream potentiation, meaning that they experiencing experience more dreams, longer dreams, and more vivid dreams.

A systematic review of the medical literature on the effectiveness of melatonin for in promoting healthy sleep was conducted in 2014.  The result of this survey was the observation that although the study quality was generally high in terms of the rigor of the scientific method applied, these studies generally resulted in what the reviewers deemed weak recommendations were for using melatonin in preventing sleep phase shifts from jet lag, for improving insomnia in both healthy volunteers and individuals with a history of insomnia, and for initiating sleep and/or improving sleep efficacy.

Of note, melatonin is also being studied to see if it is helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), and sleep problems in children with autism disorders.

Who should not take Melatonin?

There has been a lack of research on the safety of melatonin supplements in pregnant or breastfeeding women, so the safest option for those women is to avoid use..  The American Academy of Sleep Sciences recommended against the use of melatonin by people with dementia.  Melatonin may stay active in the body longer in older people and cause daytime drowsiness.

For children, the National Institutes of Health have stated that melatonin supplements at normal doses appear to be safe, but notes that there aren’t many studies on children and melatonin.

Tree of Life Botanicals Products with Melatonin:

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1 Salehi B (5 July 2019). "Melatonin in Medicinal and Food Plants" (PDF). Cells. 681.

2 Evidence for the efficacy of melatonin in the treatment of primary adult sleep disorders; Sleep Medicine Reviews. 2017;34:10-22, Auld F, Maschauer EL, Morrison I, et al.

3 The effectiveness of melatonin for promoting healthy sleep: a rapid evidence assessment of the literature; Nutr J. 2014; 13: 106, Rebecca B Costello, Cynthia V Lentino, Courtney C Boyd, Meghan L O’Connell, Cindy C Crawford, Meredith L Sprengel, and Patricia.

4 Melatonin: What You Need To Know; NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health; D. Craig Hopp, Ph.D., and David Shurtleff, Ph.D., NCCIH, reviewers.

5 Pharmacologic treatments for sleep disorders in children: a systematic review; Journal of Child Neurology. 2019;34(5):237-247, McDonagh MS, Holmes R, Hsu F.

6 Clinical practice guideline for the treatment of intrinsic circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders: advanced sleep-wake phase disorder (ASWPD), delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWPD), non-24-hour sleep-wake rhythm disorder (N24SWD), and irregular sleep-wake rhythm disorder (ISWRD). An update for 2015; Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2015;11(10):1199-1236, Auger RR, Burgess HJ, Emens JS, et al
7 Potential safety issues in the use of the hormone melatonin in pediatrics; Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. 2015;51(6):584-589, Kennaway D.

8 Melatonin in Patients with Reduced REM Sleep Duration: Two Randomized Controlled Trials.

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Cordyceps Mushroom

Cordyceps Mushroom

What is Coryceps Mushroom?

Cordyceps is a genus of about 600 species of fungus.  Most Cordyceps species are parasites that grow inside insects and other arthropods.  Although prized in ancient Chinese medicine, these insect-dwelling species, such as Cordyceps sinensis, are prohibitively expensive to produce and process, costing as much as $20,000 per kilogram.

Fortunately, some species of Cordyceps, including Cordyceps militaris, are parasitic on other fungi.  These are the Cordyceps found in commercially available supplements, and they contain as much as 90 times the amount of the beneficial compound cordycepin (3’-deoxyadenosine) when compared to Cordyceps sinensis.

Of note, as of 2007, Cordyceps sinensis (also called the caterpillar fungus) was found to be unrelated to most of the rest of the members of the genus, and was renamed Ophiocordyceps sinensis.

Cordyceps are found worldwide, and the largest number of species are concentrated in Asia, notably Nepal, China, Japan, Korea, Viet Nam, and Thailand.  These mushrooms thrive in humid temperate and tropical jungles.

What is Cordyceps Mushroom good for?

Cordyceps is thought to increase the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule essential for delivering nutrition to muscles.  The net effect is that Cordyceps may improve the way your body uses oxygen, especially during exercise, thus boosting exercise performance.

Historically, in Asian herbal medicine Cordyceps has been used by elderly patients to reduce fatigue, and boost strength and sex drive.  It has been considered an anti-aging supplement.  Several animal studies have found that Cordyceps increases antioxidants in aging mice, helping to improve memory and sexual function.

Cordyceps has shown the potential to slow tumor growth in animal studies, and in test-tube studies involving many types of human cancer cells, including human NSC lung cancer, colorectal cancer, and liver cancer.  Researchers believe that these anti-tumor effects may occur in several different ways.

In animal studies Cordyceps has been observed to have an effect that resembles the action of insulin, leading to decreased blood sugar levels.

The effects of Cordyceps on heart health are becoming more evident as research emerges.  Cordyceps is already approved in China for treatment of arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat.  An animal study showed that Cordyceps significantly reduced heart injuries in rats with chronic kidney disease.  This effect was attributed to the heart-protective properties of the adenosine found in Cordyceps.

How does Cordyceps Mushroom help my immune system and promote healthy sleep?

Cordyceps may also reverse the side effects of many forms of traditional cancer therapy, including leukopenia, a condition in which the number of white blood cells decreases, lowering the body’s immune defenses and increasing the risk of infection.

Fighting inflammation is another area where Cordyceps has been shown to be beneficial.  It is believed that Cordyceps acts as an immunomodulator – a compound that modifies the functioning of the immune system – by suppressing special proteins that increase inflammation.

As a sleep aid, Cordyceps acts through its signature compound, Cordycepin, also known as 3’-deoxyadenosine.  Cordycepin is one of the most bioactive components found in Cordyceps.  It has been shown in animal studies to enhance sleep by increasing non-REM sleep by acting through the adenosine receptors in the central nervous system.

Who should not take Cordyceps?

Cordyceps is a fungus, and that means that people with mushroom or mold allergies should not use it as a dietary supplement.  Because there is no research on the safety of chaga for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, the safest option for those women is to avoid use.

Always ask a doctor before taking any supplements.  Supplements can have harmful side effects or interactions with other medications.     Cordyceps mushroom may be a promising natural treatment in conjunction with other therapies, and confirming its benefits will require further human research.

Tree of Life Botanicals Products with Cordyceps:

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1 Effect of Polysaccharide from Cordyceps militaris (Ascomycetes) on Physical Fatigue Induced by Forced Swimming; Int J Med Mushrooms 2016;18(12):1083-1092. Yan-Feng Xu

2 Antiaging effect of Cordyceps sinensis extract; Phytother Res. 2009 Jan;23(1):116-22, Deng-Bo Ji, Jia Ye, Chang-Ling Li, Yu-Hua Wang, Jiong Zhao, Shao-Qing Cai.

3 Hypoglycemic Activity through a Novel Combination of Fruiting Body and Mycelia of Cordyceps militaris in High-Fat Diet-Induced Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Mice; J Diabetes Res. 2015; 2015: 723190, Sung-Hsun Yu, Szu-Yu Tina Chen, Wei-Shan Li, Navneet Kumar Dubey, Wei-Hong Chen, Jiunn-Jye Chuu, Sy-Jye Leu, and Win-Ping Deng.

4 Cardiovascular protection and antioxidant activity of the extracts from the mycelia of Cordyceps sinensis act partially via adenosine receptors; Phytother Res
. 2013 Nov;27(11):1597-604, Xiao-Feng Yan, Zhong-Miao Zhang, Hong-Yi Yao, Yan Guan, Jian-Ping Zhu, Lin-Hui Zhang, Yong-Liang Jia, Ru-Wei Wang.

5 Cordyceps sinensis Health Supplement Enhances Recovery from Taxol-Induced Leukopenia; Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2008 Apr; 233(4): 447–455, Wei-Chung Liu, Wei-Ling Chuang, Min-Lung Tsai, Ji-Hong Hong, William H. McBride, and Chi-Shiun Chiang.

6 Cordyceps sinensis as an immunomodulatory agent; Am J Chin Med. 1996;24(2):111-25, Y C Kuo, W J Tsai, M S Shiao, C F Chen, C Y Lin.

7 Anti-inflammatory effects of Cordyceps mycelium (Paecilomyces hepiali, CBG-CS-2) in Raw264.7 murine macrophages; Orient Pharm Exp Med. 2015; 15(1): 7–12, Seong-Yeol Park,1 Su-Jin Jung,2 Ki-Chan Ha,3 Hong-Sig Sin,4 Seung-Hwan Jang,4 Han-Jung Chae,5 and Soo-Wan Chae.
8 Cordycepin Increases Nonrapid Eye Movement Sleep via Adenosine Receptors in Rats; Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 840134, Zhenzhen Hu, Chung-Il Lee, Vikash Kumar Shah, Eun-Hye Oh, Jin-Yi Han, Jae-Ryong Bae, Kinam Lee, Myong-Soo Chong, Jin Tae Hong, and Ki-Wan Oh.
9 Bidirectional regulatory effects of Cordyceps on arrhythmia: Clinical evaluations and network pharmacology.

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Turkey Tail Mushroom

Turkey Tail Mushroom

What is Turkey Tail Mushroom?

First, it is hard to ignore just how strikingly beautiful Turkey Tail mushrooms are.  The common name derives from the banded appearance of a wild turkey’s tail when fanned out in full display.  The species is known by several scientific names, including Coriolus versicolor, Trametes versicolor, and Polyporus versicolor.

These mushrooms grow in tiled layers or in groups or rows on fallen logs and stumps of deciduous trees in heavily wooded areas.  The mushroom is all fruiting body, there is no stalk.  They are plentiful in various parts of the world, including the United States.

As a raw mushroom, Turkey Tail is considered inedible due to its leathery, chewy texture, which makes it virtually impossible to chew and swallow. In addition, Turkey Tail has a strong, earthy flavor.  It is typically consumed as a powder, tea, or extract.

In ancient Japanese culture Turkey Tail was called the “cloud mushroom” and its use is said to date back to the Han Dynasty in 200 B.C.  In Chinese herbal medicine Turkey Tail mushroom has long been used to fight infections and support immune function.

What is Turkey Tail mushroom good for?

Turkey Tail mushrooms really pack a punch in the arena of nutritional benefits.  They are loaded with antioxidants which reduce what is known as “oxidative stress.”  Oxidative stress is a cause of cell damage and chronic inflammation, which can lead to cancer and heart disease.  Eating foods rich in antioxidants, like Turkey Tail, can decrease your chance of illness.

The compounds found in Turkey Tail are also known to promote gut health.  Having a healthy colony of bacteria in the gut is vital to overall health.  Turkey Tail mushroom may help keep the right balance of gut bacteria.  The compounds and fiber found in Turkey Tail have prebiotic abilities that help the gut regulate that balance.  Prebiotics are a specific type of fiber that act as a food source for healthy bacteria in the gut.

A healthy gut means that the body can more readily absorb key nutrients such as vitamin B12 and vitamin D, reducing the risk and severity of digestive illnesses such as IBS, colitis, and Crohn's disease. In addition, gut health helps to increase overall energy, moderate glucose metabolism, and promote healthy weight loss, all of which can help prevent or reduce the severity of diabetes.

There is limited research suggesting a compound found in Turkey Tail mushrooms called Protein-bound Beta-Glucan (PBG) can help prevent obesity.  PBG has been found to help prevent weight gain in mice that ate a high fat diet.

How does Turkey Tail Mushroom help my immune system?

Turkey tail mushroom contains two beneficial compounds called Polysaccharide-K, also known as PSK or krestin, and Polysaccharopeptide, also known as PSP.  In Japan, PSK is considered safe and approved for clinical use as an adjuvant therapy for cancer.  That means it is given in addition to primary or initial cancer therapy to maximize its effectiveness.

PSP and PSK have been studied in clinical research in people with various cancers and immune deficiencies

These compounds appear to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, and some evidence suggests that PSP may also have the ability to stimulate the immune system, especially when combined with other cancer treatments.  In summary, medical research of the effects of PSP has been focused on cytokine release, especially on the potential of PSP to activate natural killer (NK) cells.

Who should not take Turkey Tail mushroom?

Turkey Tail is a fungus, meaning people with mushroom or mold allergies should not use it as a dietary supplement.  Although research has not identified other severe side effects associated with turkey tail, milder side effects could include heartburn, constipation, nausea, chest pain, or symptoms that are similar to having a cold or the flu.

Although Turkey Tail mushroom extracts have been studied and found useful alongside traditional cancer therapy, Turkey Tail mushroom is not a cancer treatment by itself, or an approved cancer medicine in the United States. Because there is no research on the safety of Turkey Tail for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, the safest option for those women is to avoid use.

Tree of Life Botanicals Products with Turkey Tail:

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1 "Turkey tail and polysaccharide-K. In: Medicinal Mushrooms". National Cancer Institute, US National Institutes of Health. 5 October 2020. Retrieved 10 February 2021.

Huaiqian Dou; others (2019). Glycans and glycosaminoglycans as clinical biomarkers and therapeutics - Part B. In: Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science, Trametes versicolor - an overview : Ed.: Lijuan Zhang. Vol. 163. Elsevier Inc. pp. 1–533. Retrieved 10 February 2021.

"Turkey tail". 21 October 2020. Retrieved 10 February 2021.

"Coriolus versicolor". Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY. 2021. Retrieved 8 February 2021.

Habtemariam, S (25 May 2020). "Trametes versicolor (Synn. Coriolus versicolor). Polysaccharides in cancer therapy: targets and efficacy". Biomedicines. 8 (5): 135. doi:10.3390/biomedicines8050135. ISSN 2227-9059. PMC 7277906. PMID 32466253.

2 Immunomodulatory Properties of Coriolus versicolor: The Role of Polysaccharopeptide Mohammad H. Saleh,1,2,† Iran Rashedi,2 and Armand Keating1,2,*

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Shiitake Mushroom

Shiitake Mushroom

What is Shiitake Mushroom?

This wonderful fungus is native to East Asia but is now grown and consumed around the world.  Its current binomial (genus and species) taxonomic designation is Lentinula edodes. An interesting bit of trivia is that it went through 12 different scientific names between 1878 and 1941.  The Japanese name, Shiitake, comes from “shii”, for the tree that provides the dead logs it is typically grown on in Japan, and “take”, which is mushroom in Japanese.  The Latin species name, edodes, means edible.

It also commonly known as black forest mushroom, golden oak mushroom, or oakwood mushroom.  Shiitake grows in groups on deciduous trees like oak, chestnut, maple, beech, poplar, and mulberry, which is one of the reasons why it can be successfully cultivated worldwide.  Its worldwide distribution, however, is a relatively new development, beginning with a 1982 article in a forest products journal.

Shiitake now account for fully 25% of the mushrooms cultivated worldwide.

What is it good for, and can Shiitake Mushroom help my immune system?

Shiitake mushroom has been studied to see if it improves human immune function.  One study determined that consuming Shiitake for four weeks increased the proliferation of killer T-cells, improved gut immunity, decreased inflammation, and increased interleukin and tumor necrosis factor levels.

In an animal study, researchers found that Shiitake mushroom rejuvenated the immunity and gut microbiomes in aging mice.  This effect was thought to be the result of the polysaccharides found in Shiitake reversing the age-altered composition of the bacteria within the gut by increasing cytokine levels in the bloodstream.

Shiitake mushrooms are also thought to improve heart health.  They contain eritadenine, sterols, and beta glucans, all of which have a direct effect on cholesterol, lowering it by either inhibiting its production in the body, or blocking its absorption in the gut.

The polysaccharides in Shiitake mushrooms are also believed to have anti-cancer effects.   The polysaccharides isolated from Shiitake have been described as “the most potent antitumor and immunomodulating substance” in this species.  Specifically, the polysaccharide lentinan, extracted from Shiitake, has been shown to inhibit the spread of leukemia cells.   In China and Japan, refined lentinan is used alongside chemotherapy to improve immune function in cancer patients.

Scientists have also noted that several compounds found in Shiitake fight bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. In addition to improving immune function, these compounds also have antimicrobial properties, attacking and suppressing these pathogens directly.

Who should not take Shiitake?

Shiitake is a fungus, and that means that people with mushroom or mold allergies should not use it as a dietary supplement. Because there is no research on the safety of Shiitake for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, the safest option for those women is to avoid use.

Tree of Life Botanicals Products with Shiitake:

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1 Cultivation of shiitake, the Japanese forest mushroom, on logs: a potential industry for the United States; Forest Products Journal. 32 (8): 29–35, Leatham, GF.

2 Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults; J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(6):478-87, Xiaoshuang Dai, Joy M Stanilka, Cheryl A Rowe, Elizabethe A Esteves, Carmelo Nieves Jr, Samuel J Spaiser, Mary C Christman, Bobbi Langkamp-Henken, Susan S Percival.

3 Lentinula edodes-derived polysaccharide rejuvenates mice in terms of immune responses and gut microbiota; Food Funct. 2015 Aug;6(8):2653-63, Xiaofei Xu, Jiguo Yang, Zhengxiang Ning, Xuewu Zhang

4 Vitamin D and sterol composition of 10 types of mushrooms from retail suppliers in the United States; J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Jul 27;59(14):7841-53; Katherine M Phillips, David M Ruggio, Ronald L Horst, Bart Minor, Ryan R Simon, Mary Jo Feeney, William C Byrdwell, David B Haytowitz

5 Determination of Glucan Contents in the Fruiting Bodies and Mycelia of Lentinula edodes Cultivars; Mycobiology. 2014 Sep;42(3):301-4, Won Chull Bak, Ji Heon Park, Young Ae Park, Kang Hyeon Ka

6 Edible mushrooms: Role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases; Fitoterapia Volume 81, Issue 7, October 2010, Pages 715-72, Eva Guillamón, Ana García-Lafuente, Miguel Lozano, Matilde D´Arrigo, Mauricio A. Rostagno, Ana Villares, José Alfredo Martínez

7 Polysaccharides in Lentinus edodes: isolation, structure, immunomodulating activity and future prospective; Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014;54(4):474-87, Xiaofei Xu, Huidan Yan, Jian Tang, Jian Chen, Xuewu Zhang

8 Recent developments in mushrooms as anti-cancer therapeutics: a review; 3 Biotech. 2012 Mar; 2(1): 1–15, Seema Patel and Arun Goyal

9 The Pharmacological Potential of Mushrooms; Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2005 Sep; 2(3): 285–299, Ulrike Lindequist, Timo H. J. Niedermeyer, and Wolf-Dieter Jülich

10 Mutated Shiitake extracts inhibit melanin-producing neural crest-derived cells in zebrafish embryo.

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Reishi Mushroom

Reishi Mushroom

What is Reishi Mushroom?

The scientific name for Reishi mushroom is Ganoderma lingzhi, and it is also known as Lingzhi.  Reishi, from the Japanese pronunciation, is a polypore fungus native to East Asia belonging to the genus Ganoderma. When we say ‘polypore’, whether in botany or mycology, that means that the fungus forms large fruiting bodies with pores or tubes on the underside.  As an analogy, a strawberry is a botanical polypore.   Reishi fruiting bodies appear as reddish-brown, kidney-shaped caps with bands. The stem, extending from a point along the edge, gives it a distinct fan-like appearance. When fresh, Reishi is soft and somewhat cork-like.

Reishi grows at the base and stumps of deciduous trees.  Its favorite host is the maple tree, but it is relatively rare in the wild. It is cultivated for commercial purposes on hardwood logs, woodchips, and even in sawdust.  Reishi is found in East Asia, and it has two close relatives in North America.  Because of its bitter taste, it is usually dried and taken in capsule form, although historically it has been used in Asia as a tea, still quite bitter, but beneficial.  As Mary Poppins might say, a spoon full of sugar helps this medicine go down.

What is Reishi good for, and how does it help my immune system?

First and foremost, Reishi has been shown to boost the immune system.   Studies show that the polysaccharides in Reishi modulate immune function extensively, in several different metabolic pathways, including altering inflammation in white blood cells and increasing natural killer cells.

Reishi has also been shown to improve lymphocyte function in athletes under stress.

Historically, and currently, Reishi is consumed for its anti-cancer properties. It has been a popular herbal cancer chemotherapy agent in traditional Chinese medicine.  Current studies show that the benefits of Reishi included increasing the activity of the body’s white blood cells, which help fight cancer, and improving quality of life in cancer patients.  Nonetheless, researchers concluded that Reishi should be administered in combination with traditional treatment rather than replacing it.

Reishi has also been studied for the reduction of fatigue and depression.  Researchers observed that participants were less fatigued and more well rested and had an enhanced feeling of well-being after taking Reishi supplements for 8 weeks.

Will Reishi mushroom promote healthy sleep?

Yes, in a roundabout but significant way:

Rather than making you drowsy, Reishi influences sleep by measurably reducing stress and increasing calmness.  A study found that three days of Reishi mushroom use “significantly increased total sleep time and non-rapid eye movement sleep” in animal test subjects. Researchers observed an increase in levels of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a), a key substance in sleep regulation.

Another animal sleep study detailed findings that Reishi extract decreased sleep latency, and increased sleeping time, noting that the test subjects fell asleep faster and slept longer after three days of use. The test subjects also displayed a decreased amount of spontaneous activity, like fidgeting or anxious behaviors.

Who should not take Reishi?

Reishi is a fungus, and that means that people with mushroom or mold allergies should not use it as a dietary supplement.  Because there is no research on the safety of Reishi for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, the safest option for those women is to avoid use.

Tree of Life Botanicals Products with Reishi:

TOLB Immunity

TOLB Sleep


1 Cellular and molecular mechanisms of immuno-modulation by Ganoderma lucidum; J Pharmacol Sci. 2005 Oct;99(2):144-53, Zhi-Bin Lin

2 The effects of two different ganoderma species (Lingzhi) on gene expression in human monocytic THP-1 cells; Nutr Cancer. 2010;62(5):648-58, Chun-Huai Cheng, Albert Y Leung, Chin-Fu Chen

3 Effects of ganopoly (a Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract) on the immune functions in advanced-stage cancer patients; Immunol Invest. 2003 Aug;32(3):201-15, Yihuai Gao, Shufeng Zhou, Wenqi Jiang, Min Huang, Xihu Dai

4 Effect of Ganoderma lucidum capsules on T lymphocyte subsets in football players on "living high-training low"; Br J Sports Med. 2008 Oct;42(10):819-22, Y Zhang, Z Lin, Y Hu, F Wang

5 Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) in cancer treatment; Integr Cancer Ther. 2003 Dec;2(4):358-64, Daniel Sliva

6 Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for cancer treatment; Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Apr 5;4(4), Xingzhong Jin, Julieta Ruiz Beguerie, Daniel Man-Yeun Sze, Godfrey C F Chan

7 A randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study of a Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract in neurasthenia; J Med Food. 2005 Spring;8(1):53-8, Wenbo Tang, Yihuai Gao, Guoliang Chen, He Gao, Xihu Dai, Jinxian Ye, Eli Chan, Min Huang, Shufeng Zhou

8 Extract of Ganoderma lucidum prolongs sleep time in rats; J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Feb 15;139(3):796-800, Xiang-Yu Cui, Su-Ying Cui, Juan Zhang, Zi-Jun Wang, Bin Yu, Zhao-Fu Sheng, Xue-Qiong Zhang, Yong-He Zhang

9 Extract of Ganoderma lucidum potentiates pentobarbital-induced sleep via a GABAergic mechanism; Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2007 Apr;86(4):693-8, Qing-Ping Chu, Li-En Wang, Xiang-Yu Cui, Hong-Zheng Fu, Zhi-Bin Lin, Shu-Qian Lin, Yong-He Zhang

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What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is a mineral, like copper or zinc.  Our bodies need a full array of vitamins and minerals to function optimally.  The role of magnesium in the body is to help regulate blood pressure, transmit signals through our nerves, and control our moods.  It also helps us sleep.  Because magnesium is a part of so many different metabolic processes, a deficiency can result in a wide array of disorders.  Magnesium is found naturally in many of the foods we eat, such as leafy green vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seeds and nuts.  Because many of us are faced with menu choices that aren’t composed of whole foods, we find ourselves having to supplement our diets, and fortunately, magnesium is an easy mineral to add to your daily routine.

What is Magnesium good for?

It’s important to note that elemental magnesium is difficult to absorb into the body.  The best way to maximize the absorption of magnesium is to “chelate” it by binding it to an amino acid.  Magnesium can be successfully bound to lysine, citrine, taurine, glycine, or threonine to allow it to be absorbed in the digestive tract.

One of the benefits of chelated magnesium is to relieve constipation.  The mechanism for this is as a muscle relaxant, allowing the digestive system to stop constricting.  Many find that relief occurs overnight while they sleep.  The muscle relaxation effect of magnesium is also how magnesium helps with sleep itself.  Magnesium benefits the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps relieve anxiety and stress, resulting in an easier time falling asleep.

How does Magnesium promote healthy sleep?

Studies have resulted in encouraging findings on the role of magnesium supplements in the treatment of insomnia.  Researchers found that magnesium supplementation helped subjects fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, reduced nighttime awakenings, and increased their levels of naturally circulating melatonin.  Other studies showing promising results have focused on combining magnesium with other supplements such as melatonin and vitamins.

Another area of study related to sleep has been the use of supplemental magnesium to treat Restless Legs Syndrome.  Restless Leg syndrome Syndrome involves an involuntary urge to move the legs, and the resulting involuntary motion interferes with sleep.  While it is not clear exactly what causes this disorder, some researchers have suggested that magnesium deficiency may play a role in the development of the condition during pregnancy or while receiving dialysis.

Who should not take Magnesium?

In most cases, magnesium supplements are safe. A dangerously high level of magnesium is rare in otherwise healthy people unless they take a very high dose of magnesium.  Symptoms of excessive magnesium range from mild to extreme and include nausea, headache, low blood pressure, muscle paralysis and cardiac arrest.  The risk for toxicity is higher for people who have impaired kidney function, and those who have colitis, gastritis, or gastric ulcer disease.

As a dietary supplement, it may be a useful addition to a medical treatment plan, taken under a doctor’s supervision and with their approval.

Tree of Life Botanicals Products with Magnesium:

TOLB Immunity

TOLB Sleep


1 Oral magnesium supplementation for insomnia in older adults: A systematic review & meta-analysis; BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, 21(1), 1-11, Mah, J., & Pitre, T. (2021).

2 The effects of magnesium–melatonin-vit B complex supplementation in treatment of insomnia; Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences, 7(18), 3101, Djokic, G., Vojvodić, P., Korcok, D., Agic, A., Rankovic, A., Djordjevic, V., Vojvodic A.,Vlaskovic-Jovicevic, T., Peric-Hajzler, Z.,Matovic, D., Vojvodic, J., Sijan, G., Wollina, W., Van Thuong, N., Fioranelli, M., & Lotti, T. (2019)

3 Zinc and magnesium levels of pregnant women with restless leg syndrome and their relationship with anxiety: A case-control study; Biological Trace Element Research, 199(5), 1674-1685, Yıldırım, E., & Apaydın, H. (2021)

4 Association between predialysis hypermagnesaemia and morbidity of uraemic restless legs syndrome in maintenance haemodialysis patients: A retrospective observational study in Zhejiang, China; BMJ open, 9(7), e027970, Yang, Y., Ye, H., He, Q., Zhang, X., Yu, B., Yang, J., & Chen, J. (2019)

5 Baik, H. M., Kim, K. H., & Joh, E. H. (2018). The effect of Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) extract on sleep, anxiety-related behaviors, and memory in rats. Journal of medicinal food, 21(11), 1000-10014.

6  Hypermagnesemia: Causes, symptoms, and treatment. In M. Emmett & R. H. Sterns (Eds.); Yu, A. S. (2022, May 19)

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