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Can Mushrooms Help Treat Arthritis?

Can Mushrooms Help Treat Arthritis?

Arthritis is a common joint disorder that causes pain and joint inflammation. It is estimated that among the 20+ million people in the UK with muscle pain, joint pain, and back pain, around 9.5 million have some form of arthritis, with osteoarthritis affecting an estimated 8.5 million.

Causes of Arthritis

The main causes of arthritis include:
  • Wear and tear from overuse or overtraining
  • Age, especially when you’re over 50 years old
  • Obesity, especially in foot or knee arthritis
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Genetics
  • Muscle weakness

Symptoms

The common symptoms of arthritis include:
  • Limited range of motion
  • Clicking or popping
  • Muscle weakness around the joint area
  • Morning stiffness around one or multiple joint areas
  • Grating or scraping feeling in the knees
  • Bony growths in the fingers
Depending on the type of arthritis, it may also cause fatigue, low-grade fever, and inflammation of the mouth and eyes.

Traditional Treatments

The most common medical treatments for arthritis include steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, analgesics, and pain creams or relievers. However, most practitioners recommend combining arthritis medication with weight loss (if necessary), physical therapy or light exercise, and supplements.

Due to the inflammatory nature of arthritis, most recommend supplements with anti-inflammatory effects. This can come from antioxidants, fatty acids, some vitamins, and even plant extracts like curcumin. 
Recently, researchers have been looking at mushrooms and their potential anti-inflammatory benefits.

Mushrooms for Arthritis

When people hear the word “mushroom,” they associate it with the fungus that seems to grow anywhere there's a dead tree or the kind you mix in delectable dishes. However, some select mushrooms possess anti-inflammatory properties like cordyceps, chaga, reishi, and shiitake and could be a natural aid for those with arthritis.

Cordyceps

Cordyceps is a type of parasitic fungi that grows on insect larvae. Because of its unconventional cultivating method, cordyceps has been largely known as one of the most expensive mushrooms in the world. A lab-made version called cordyceps militaris allows mass production for supplement purposes to be more practical and affordable while possessing the same quality of medicinal properties.

For arthritis, cordyceps possesses a compound called cordycepin, which has been studied for its unique anti-inflammatory properties. In animal studies, cordycepin has been shown to reduce both pain and stop arthritis progression. [1]

Cordycepin works by blocking a special protein called CPS4 that triggers inflammation, especially in cases of osteoarthritis. Researchers notably stated it works differently from most anti-inflammation medication by attacking the same target from a different angle by blocking cps4 instead of the usual cytokines and interleukin proteins. This makes the mushroom a potential suitable complementary treatment for inflammatory conditions. [1]

Chaga 

Chaga contains over 200 bioactive compounds and molecules known to exert antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It grows on several trees, such as spruce, alder, and birch. Researchers suggest its medicinal properties are due to its terpenes, beta-glucans, chitin, and melanin content—the very substance that gives it its charcoal-like colour.

Because it contains substances that contribute to anti-inflammation, researchers propose it can assist in reducing symptoms of arthritis, especially pain and stiffness. [2]

Reishi

Reishi is known to be one of the best medicinal mushrooms for improving sleep as well as managing allergy symptoms.

The medicinal mushroom contains triterpenoids, peptidoglycans, and beta d-glucans, all of which are known to possess anti-inflammatory properties. Reishi works by suppressing inflammation that causes chrocytokines nic inflammation, the main driver of arthritis conditions. [3]

Shiitake

Shiitake is one of the most popular mushrooms thanks to its wide use in a variety of cuisines. The mushroom is low in calories, is fibre-rich, and contains plenty of B-vitamins and some minerals. This fungus species contains beta d-glucans, a compound known to reduce inflammation and reduce cholesterol absorption.

In a 2011 study, shiitake mushrooms were credited with helping lower the severity of arthritis in animal subjects. A 2018 study also noted its inherent alkalizing effect could help reduce uric acid crystals from depositing in the joints. It does this by increasing the amount of uric acid the body removes through urination. [4,5]

Safety

If you have a mushroom allergy, you should not use mushroom extracts. Caution is advised if using mushrooms along with blood-thinning medication. For precautions per individual mushrooms, please visit our individual product pages.

Arthritis is one of the most common diseases that mostly targets people who overuse their joints or those over 50 years of age. While the disease itself isn't fatal, it will adversely affect a person's quality of life, especially with symptoms that may diminish mobility or ability to carry weight.

There are many forms of prescription treatments for arthritis, but they’re not without side effects. If you’re interested in lowering your risks for arthritis or want to combine your current anti-inflammatory medication with something natural and well-tolerated, mushroom supplements may be of interest to you - especially as they come with a variety of other benefits too

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References:

1. Ashraf SA, Elkhalifa AEO, Siddiqui AJ, Patel M, Awadelkareem AM, Snoussi M, Ashraf MS, Adnan M, Hadi S. Cordycepin for Health and Wellbeing: A Potent Bioactive Metabolite of an Entomopathogenic Cordyceps Medicinal Fungus and Its Nutraceutical and Therapeutic Potential. Molecules. 2020 Jun 12;25(12):2735. doi: 10.3390/molecules25122735. PMID: 32545666; PMCID: PMC7356751.

2. Lull C, Wichers HJ, Savelkoul HF. Antiinflammatory and immunomodulating properties of fungal metabolites. Mediators Inflamm. 2005 Jun 9;2005(2):63-80. doi: 10.1155/MI.2005.63. PMID: 16030389; PMCID: PMC1160565.

3. Cai Z, Wong CK, Dong J, Jiao D, Chu M, Leung PC, Lau CBS, Lau CP, Tam LS, Lam CWK. Anti-inflammatory activities of Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi) and San-Miao-San supplements in MRL/lpr mice for the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus. Chin Med. 2016 Apr 29;11:23. doi: 10.1186/s13020-016-0093-x. PMID: 27134645; PMCID: PMC4851790.

 4. Chandra L, Alexander H, Traoré D, Lucas EA, Clarke SL, Smith BJ, Lightfoot SA, Kuvibidila S. White button and shiitake mushrooms reduce the incidence and severity of collagen-induced arthritis in dilute brown non-agouti mice. J Nutr. 2011 Jan;141(1):131-6. doi: 10.3945/jn.110.127134. Epub 2010 Nov 24. Erratum in: J Nutr. 2012 Aug;142(8):1613. PMID: 21106932.

5. Kupcova K, Stefanova I, Plavcova Z, Hosek J, Hrouzek P, Kubec R. Antimicrobial, Cytotoxic, Anti-Inflammatory, and Antioxidant Activity of Culinary Processed Shiitake Medicinal Mushroom (Lentinus edodes, Agaricomycetes) and Its Major Sulfur Sensory-Active Compound-Lenthionine. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2018;20(2):165-175. doi: 10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.2018025455. PMID: 29773008

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any changes to your healthcare plan.
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