Medicinal Mushroom Supplements for Arthritis

Medicinal Mushroom Supplements for Arthritis

By Silvana Jakupovic — BSc and 4th Year Student of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM-Boucher)


To some, this word poses no threat. To many, the word immediately brings about thoughts with negative connotations. In moderate amounts and at appropriate times, acute inflammation helps us to defend our bodies against foreign pathogens, and is crucial to our healing processes.

When inflammation becomes persistent and chronic, it can lead to a lengthy list of health conditions; namely, atherosclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, just to name a few. This level of inflammation is multi-factorial; it can result from our own abnormal immune reactions, from lifestyle factors, or even from the environment around us through exposure to excessive pollution and industrial chemicals. Many people are looking for ways to reduce inflammation before it results in chronic diseases.

Lion's Mane for Arthritis

Medicinal mushrooms have been highly regarded as having anti-inflammatory properties 

Many anti-inflammatory compounds have been isolated from various mushrooms and shown to down-regulate the activity of inflammatory mediators such as nitric oxide, cytokines, and prostaglandins [1]. With these actions, mushrooms are able to decrease inflammation and the symptoms associated with it, one of those symptoms being pain. The reduction of pain is one of the most studied clinical outcomes, and the use of pharmaceuticals that can achieve this outcome is increasing by the minute.

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as ibuprofen, are used daily by a large proportion of the population with apparent disregard of the potential for significant side effects. Excessive NSAID use can lead to harmful effects, especially on the gastrointestinal tract; a risk for mucosal lesions, bleeding, and peptic ulcers exists with each use [1]. When we experience our knees aching or our hands beginning to cramp up, it’s easy to just turn to our old friend, ibuprofen, but there are options that can assist in targeting our inflammation, pain, and even over well-being and those options lie in medicinal mushrooms and medicinal mushroom supplements.

Does Lion’s Mane Work for Osteoarthritis? 

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a long term degenerative disease that progresses naturally as we age. It is also one of the most common causes of disability in adults. However, many decisions we make in our lives, such as healthy diet and exercise, can slow this progression. OA is a complex disease, but there is a relation between its development and pro-inflammatory mediators [2]. The inflammation associated with OA is accompanied by connective tissue, cartilage, and bone destruction, all of which can lead to pain and swelling.

One study found that a herbal combination including Lion’s Mane illustrated chondroprotective effects though the regulation of MMPs, which are molecules that play a role in cartilage degeneration [2]. The study also found that molecules that make up the extracellular matrix of cartilage were improved after treatment, namely aggrecans and collagen type-II [2]. One of the most important results of this study is that this formulation with Lion’s Mane decreased PGE3, a prostaglandin that is responsible for the redness, swelling, and pain seen in osteoarthritis [2]. This means that in addition to all the benefits that Lion’s Mane can already provide to our mental and cognitive health, like depression and anxiety, it also has the potential to decrease joint pain associated with inflammation.  

Reishi for Arthritis 

Another medicinal powerhouse lies in the fruiting body of Ganoderma lucidum, more commonly known as Reishi. What is reishi mushroom good for other than sleep? Multiple studies have found it to provide analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects in arthritis [3,4]. Reishi has the ability to significantly down-regulate the expression of COX-2 proteins, as well as inhibit production of nitric oxide [3]. COX-2 is an enzyme that leads to the production of prostaglandins that cause pain and swelling during inflammation. You may have previously heard of COX-2 inhibitors, a type of NSAID, as being commonly used in treating osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis by providing pain relief.

Studies are now showing that Reishi has the potential to provide a similar sense of pain relief through the above-mentioned process and its anti-inflammatory actions. Another study compared the use of Reishi as an intraperitoneal injection to its oral use and found that both methods reduced cartilage degradation and overexpression of inflammatory mediators to a similar extent [4].  


Reishi Mushroom for Arthritis

Benefits of Cordyceps  

Last, but definitely not least, Cordyceps sinensis, or just Cordyceps, is a mushroom commonly used for exercise and muscle recovery because of its ability to improve lung capacity and enhance blood flow. It’s been known to improve energy and endurance, making it the perfect addition to anyone’s workout routine. However, much like our other medicinal mushroom favourites, it is also capable of holding an important role in the treatment of arthritis, namely rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In one study, RASFs (RA synovial fibroblasts) were isolated from patients suffering from RA and cultured [5].

Cordycepin, a bioactive compound of Cordyceps, was found to inhibit IL-1b-induced chemokine production and MMP expression in these RASFs [5]. What this means is that Cordyceps illustrated the ability to inhibit multiple key mediators of the inflammatory response in RA. Recent research is predicting that Cordyceps and its constituents hold potential to be the next new class of anti-inflammatory agents [6].  

With all we already know about the benefits of medicinal mushrooms, it’s mind-blowing how much more lays beneath the surface of these unique and powerful fungi. With each consecutive research paper that is published, we are uncovering a whole new area of medicine growing right in our own backyards.  Along with an anti inflammatory diet like the Mediterranean diet, medicinal mushrooms are one more way to add high levels of natural compounds to support our immune system, and prevent inflammatory diseases.

By Silvana Jakupovic — BSc and 4th Year Student of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM-Boucher)


[1] Elsayed EA, El Enshasy H, Wadaan MA, Aziz R. Mushrooms: a potential natural source of anti-inflammatory compounds for medical applications. Mediators Inflamm. 2014;2014:805841. doi: 10.1155/2014/805841. Epub 2014 Nov 23. PMID: 25505823; PMCID: PMC4258329. 

[2] Rahman MM, Kim H-K, Kim S-E, Kim M-J, Kim D-H, Lee HS. Chondroprotective Effects of a Standardized Extract (KBH-JP-040) from Kalopanax pictus, Hericium erinaceus, and Astragalus membranaceus in Experimentally Induced In Vitro and In Vivo Osteoarthritis Models. Nutrients. 2018; 10(3):356.

[3] Feng X, Wang Y. Anti-inflammatory, anti-nociceptive and sedative-hypnotic activities of lucidone D extracted from Ganoderma lucidum. Cell Mol Biol (Noisy-le-grand). 2019 Apr 30;65(4):37-42. PMID: 31078150. 

[4] Lam FF, Ko IW, Ng ES, Tam LS, Leung PC, Li EK. Analgesic and anti-arthritic effects of Lingzhi and San Miao San supplementation in a rat model of arthritis induced by Freund's complete adjuvant. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008 Oct 30;120(1):44-50. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2008.07.028. Epub 2008 Jul 30. PMID: 18708134. 

[5] Noh EM, Kim JS, Hur H, Park BH, Song EK, Han MK, Kwon KB, Yoo WH, Shim IK, Lee SJ, Youn HJ, Lee YR. Cordycepin inhibits IL-1beta-induced MMP-1 and MMP-3 expression in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2009 Jan;48(1):45-8. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/ken417. PMID: 19056796. 

[6] Tan L, Song X, Ren Y, Wang M, Guo C, Guo D, Gu Y, Li Y, Cao Z, Deng Y. Anti-inflammatory effects of cordycepin: A review. Phytother Res. 2020 Oct 8. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6890. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33090621. 

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