Immune Booster

The facts at a glance


Abundant Antioxidants
Mushrooms are one of the highest antioxidant foods on the market.


Boosted immune system
Studies in both humans and animals indicate that mushrooms stimulate the immune system.


Unique Antioxidants
Mushrooms contain one unique antioxidant called ergothioneine, which is believed to very important to human health.


Serve up Selenium
A serve of mushrooms provides about a quarter of an adult’s requirements of selenium, an antioxidant mineral.


Immune system

The 2014 CSIRO Mushrooms and Health report includes many types of mushrooms, however studies show that white button mushrooms play their role by enhancing the action of Natural Killer Cells and other immune responses in mice (Wu 2007; Xu 2013). Other reports have shown that mushroom extracts given to mice decreased inflammation, assist gut bacteria to resolve infection, and increased the anti-cancer immune response (Yu 2009; Kuvibidila 2010, Varshney 2013).

Since then researchers at the University of Western Sydney have shown that mushrooms increase the production of salivary IgA in healthy humans, an indicator of IgA levels at other mucosal sites such as the intestinal and respiratory tract (Jeong 2012a). In a follow-up study they identified two mushroom polysaccharides that inhibit breast cancer cell growth, possibly through enhanced macrophage function (Jeong 2012b). See our fact sheet on cancer for more details.

Antioxidants in mushrooms

For a long time, scientists have appreciated the antioxidant effect of fresh produce such as vegetables and fruit. Eating plenty of high anti-oxidant foods seems to protect you from future disease. Mushrooms are a rich source of antioxidants, as confirmed by laboratory analysis. In one study of 30 common vegetables, mushrooms were placed in the top 5 highest antioxidant levels when compared to vegetables (Pellegrini 2003; Savoie 2008).



Mushrooms are also very high in the powerful antioxidant ergothioneine, in amounts similar to that found in animal foods (Ey 2007). Ergothioneine is found in very few vegetables or fruit. Ergothioneine appears to protect blood cells, especially monocytes and red blood cells that transport nutrients and oxygen to body cells (Martin 2010). It also protects your artery lining from atherosclerosis (fatty deposits).

Ergothioneine is not produced by the body. It can only be obtained through your diet. With low levels of ergothioneine, the oxidation (damage) of DNA and proteins can begin. It has been suggested that ergothioneine should be classified as a vitamin because it is so important to human health (Paul 2010). Ergothioneine levels do not decrease with cooking, so you get your ergothioneine through both raw and cooked mushrooms.

In 2005, scientists were surprised to find an ergothioneine transporter protein in the blood (Gründemann 2005; Gründemann 2012).

Transporter proteins only exist in the blood if they have a specific role. For example, haemoglobin is a transporter protein for carrying oxygen to cells. To find one for ergothioneine again suggests that it is an essential compound for our health and that humans have long evolved as mushroom eaters.

Antioxidants are natural compounds in food that help neutralise the free radicals produced by the body. Free radicals are also quite natural, although they tend to cause damage to all parts of the body over time, hence speeding up the ageing process. For example, free radicals can damage the DNA found in the nuclei of body cells. When DNA becomes damaged, then antioxidants within the body work to correct the damage before it becomes a cancerous cell.

The evidence is strongly in favour that regularly dining on mushrooms is good for your health and immunity.


  • Ey J, Schömig E, Taubert D. Dietary sources and antioxidant effects of ergothioneine. J Agricultural & Food Chemistry 2007; 55: 6466-6474
  • Gründemann D, Harlfinger S, Golz S, Geerts A, Lazar A, Berkels R, Jung N, Rubbert A, Schömig E. Discovery of the ergothioneine transporter. Proc National Academy of Sciences 2005; 102: 5256-5261
  • Gründemann D. The erogothioneine transporter controls and indicates ergothioneine activity – a review. Preventive Medicine 2012; 54: S71-S74
  • Jeong SC, Koyyalamudi SR, Pang G. Dietary intake of Agaricus bisporus white button mushroom accelerates salivary immunoglobulin A secretion in healthy volunteers. Nutrition 2012; 28 (5): 527-531
  • Jeong SC, Koyyalamudi SR, Jeong YT, Song CH, Pang G. Macrophage immunomodulating and antitumor activities of polysaccharides isolated from Agaricus bisporus white button mushrooms. Journal of Medicinal Food 2012; 15 (1): 58-65
  • Kuvibidila S, Korlagunta K. Extracts from culinary-medicinal mushrooms increase intracellular ?-defensins 1-3 concentration in HL60 cells. Int J Medicinal Mushrooms 2010; 12(1): 33-42
  • Martin KR. The bioactive agent ergothioneine, a key component of dietary mushrooms, inhibits monocyte binding to endothelial cells characteristic of early cardiovascular disease. Journal of Medicinal Food 2010; 13 (6): 1340-1346
  • Paul BD, Snyder SH. The unusual amino acid L-ergothioneine is a physiologic cytoprotectant. Cell Death & Differentiation 2010; 17: 1134-1140
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  • Savoie JM, Minvielle N, Largeteau ML. Radical-scavenging properties of extracts from the white button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus. J of the Science of Food & Agriculture 2008; 88: 970-975
  • Varshney J, Ooi JH, Jayarao BM, Albert I, Fisher J, Smith RI, Patterson AD, Cantorna MD. White button mushrooms increase microbial diversity and accelerate the resolution of Citrobacter rodentium infection in mice. Journal of Nutrition 2013; 143: 526-532
  • Wu D, Pae M, Ren Z, Guo Z, Smith D, Meydani SN. Dietary supplementation with white button mushroom enhances Natural Killer Cell activity in C57BL/6 mice. Journal of Nutrition 2007; 137: 1472-1477
  • Xu Y, Na L, Ren Z, Xu J, Sun C, Smith D, Meydani SN, Wu D. Effect of dietary supplementation with white button mushrooms on host resistance to influenza infection and immune function in mice. British Journal of Nutrition 2013; 109 (6): 1052-1061
  • Yu S, Weaver V, Martin K, Cantorna MT. The effects of whole mushrooms during inflammation. BMC Immunology 2009; 10: 12 doi:10.1186/1471-2172-10-12