Mushrooms for Cardiovascular Support - Birch Boys, Inc.

Mushrooms for Cardiovascular Support

Jan 31, 2024Kaitlin Lawless

With Valentine’s Day approaching, we’ve got heart health on the mind! Today we’ll explore the compelling research that investigates mushrooms for cardiovascular/circulatory support and libido. What more could you want from a Birch Boys Valentine’s Blog?

Maitake Mushroom

Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa) is an excellent mushroom that may promote cardiovascular and circulatory health. Cell culture and animal model research on extracts of maitake has delved into their impact on crucial factors such as cholesterol, insulin levels, glucose tolerance, blood sugar, nitric oxide, and more. The key players behind these effects are polysaccharides, like fungal beta-glucan and mycosterols, compounds found in maitake mushrooms. For these reasons, maitake is not only a potential choice for those looking to encourage a healthy cardiovascular system, but is also an underrated mushroom in the myco-world.

Maitake Mushroom Infographic, red theme. Maitake supports healthy cholesterol, healthy blood sugar, and healthy nitric oxide levels.
Maitake Mushroom Tincture in a winter forest

Maitake and Blood Sugar

Intriguing studies have been conducted probing maitake’s effects on rodent blood glucose metabolisms. One study focused on a water-soluble extract from maitake, and its positive impact on mice with type 2 diabetes. The results revealed improvements in the mice body weight, blood sugar levels, and insulin sensitivity. An additional two studies, one conducted on mice with insulin resistance and the other conducted on rats with high blood pressure, explored extracts from maitake’s effects on insulin sensitivity. Both studies found that the maitake extracts performed comparably to the positive controls at lowering the rodent’s blood glucose levels significantly, via an insulin-sensitizing effect. With these findings in mammals, it’s clear that maitake is an interesting subject of research that should be delved into more thoroughly in the Western World.

Learn more about Maitake Mushroom

Maitake and Cholesterol

Several rodent studies have investigated maitake’s potential effects on cholesterol. In 2007, researchers conducted a study to investigate the impact of various fungi on mice predisposed to atherosclerosis. The findings revealed that the consumption of maitake (as well as shiitake) mushroom powder led to a notable reduction in atherosclerotic lesions compared to the control group. Subsequently, another study involving rats demonstrated that the intake of maitake fiber over a four-week period not only lowered serum total cholesterol but also increased the excretion of cholesterol through feces. A more recent study in 2018 focused on a 95% ethanol extract of maitake, showcasing significant reductions in both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in rats subjected to a high-fat diet. Additionally, this study highlighted an increase in caecum bile acid, which aids in cholesterol removal, as well as a rise in Butyricimonas, a beneficial gut bacteria species which has been studied for its positive effects on metabolic disorders. Talk about synergistic effects!

Maitake's Potential Effects on Nitric Oxide

Nitric oxide plays a crucial role in the cardiovascular system, contributing to blood vessel health and regulating libido. The researchers found that when mice were given maitake extracts, it increased the synthesis of nitric oxide by immune cells over time. This is significant because nitric oxide is known to be involved in maintaining healthy blood vessels and supporting aspects of sexual health, such as libido. The study suggests that water-soluble extracts from maitake mushrooms may harbor benefits for cardiovascular health and sexual well-being, and certainly warrants increased interest in performing clinical studies on maitake in the US.

Maitake and Overall Cardiovascular Health

While the exact biological processes involved in maitake’s ability to support cardiovascular health still arouse many questions, there has been an interesting finding regarding extracts of maitake and a molecule called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor δ (PPARδ), which plays a crucial role in regulating various functions in the heart related to energy supply, in both mice and humans. Researchers found that lipid (fat) soluble extracts from G. frondosa activate PPARδ, leading to positive effects on cholesterol levels and glucose tolerance in obese mice. The mushroom extracts seem to have potential in supporting health by activating PPARδ and other insulin signaling pathways in mice. Perhaps the stimulation of this molecule is one of the secrets behind maitake’s heart healthy qualities. Regardless of the mechanism of action, these diverse findings collectively suggest that maitake mushrooms may hold the key to optimizing cardiovascular health.

Artist's Conk Mushroom

Artist’s Conk (sometimes referred to as ‘White Reishi’) is a mushroom in the Ganoderma family of fungi, which are known for contributing to a healthy response to non-disease related inflammation. Artist’s conk also offers additional routes to cardiovascular support, several studies have shown compounds from artist’s conk to have positive effects on factors that influence the cardiovascular system. Artist’s conk is high in several wellness boosting compounds such as polysaccharides, polyphenols, ganoderic acids A, D, and G as well as ganoderenic acids B, C and D which contribute to the Ganoderma family’s beneficial effects.

Artist's Conk mushroom infographic. Artist's Conk supports healthy nitric oxide, healthy body weight and healthy uric acid.
Artist's Conk White Reishi Mushroom Tincture in a winter forest

Artist's Conk and Nitric Oxide

An in vitro study conducted in 2005 delved into the Ganoderma applanatum’s ability to influence nitric oxide, a pivotal player in both cardiovascular well-being and libido regulation in men and women. Artist's conk, in its various extracts – crude, water, and ethanolic (or alcohol) – showcased a noteworthy performance, all of them surpassing the positive control used in the experiment. The ethanolic extracts in particular exhibited a significantly greater impact in vitro, shedding light on the potential of this fungus to influence nitric oxide production. These findings show the merit in further studying artist’s conk’s potential aphrodisiac and libido-stimulating properties.

Learn more about Artist's Conk

Artist's Conk and Weight Management

Shifting the focus to weight management, which plays a significant role in cardiovascular health, artist's conk reveals another facet of its potential. Artist’s conk alcohol extracts may curtail the development of fat cells in vitro, emerging as a possible future avenue for those navigating weight-related concerns. The compounds responsible for this effect are lanostane triterpenes, 5 of which outperformed the positive control in anti-adipogenic effects in vitro, and two of which also showed an ability to reduce lipid accumulation in vitro.

Learn more about Mushrooms for Weight Loss

Artist's Conk Mushroom and Uric Acid

Elevated uric acid has the potential to exacerbate cardiovascular issues, and an interesting mouse study from 2018 explores the effects of extracts from artist’s conk on uric acid. The study involved extracting components from artist's conk using both ethanol and water, and administering these extracts to mice with chemically-induced elevated uric acid levels. The results were promising, with both extracts showing significant reductions in serum uric acid levels in the mice, without renal toxicity, which could not be said of the positive control. Additionally, it also assisted in the elimination of the uric acid via the mice urine. The study suggested that artist's conk could potentially regulate uric acid levels by influencing certain proteins in the kidneys and gastrointestinal tract. These findings open doors for further investigation into the compounds responsible for these effects and their potential therapeutic use.

Hemlock Reishi

Did you know that stress can have a big impact on your cardiovascular system? There is compelling data showing that not only distress (negative stress, like going through a divorce, money problems or having anxiety at work) but also eustress (positive stress, like going on vacation or getting overly excited) can have a negative impact on your cardiovascular system. All healing mushrooms are adaptogens, meaning they have the capacity to aid the body in having a healthy response to stressors. Mushrooms in the reishi family are particularly renowned for their adaptogenic prowess, ability to balance the mood and their ability to alleviate non-disease-related inflammation. We'll be taking a look at Ganoderma tsugae (also known as North American Red Reishi) and it's potential cardioprotective properties.

Learn More about Hemlock Reishi

Reishi Mushrooms Suppors stress management, contains cardioprotective antioxidants, supports endothelial cells
Reishi Mushroom Tincture in a winter forest

Hemlock Reishi and Myocardial Stress

In 2013, researchers hypothesized that the antioxidative effects of hemlock reishi would provide a cardio-protective effect in mice. To quantify this hypothesis, the researchers used a chemical called isoproterenol to induce myocardial injury in mice. Remarkably, the extract of reishi was able to protect the mice from stress induced cardiac injury. These effects were studied and attributed to alcohol-soluble ganoderic acids, which are also found in abundance in artist’s conk as well as many other members of the Ganoderma genus.

Hemlock Reishi and Endothelial Cells

Endothelial cells are a crucial part of the vascular system. They are responsible for the creation of new blood vessels and the regulation of exchanges between the bloodstream and surrounding tissues. Even in vitro, endothelial cells will readily create tubelike vascular structures, which is what makes them such an important facet of modern vascular research. There are two interesting in vitro studies that delve into hemlock reishi and endothelial cells. Let’s take a look!

Endothelial Cells and Oxidative Stress - In 2009, researchers studied the in vitro benefits of a peptidoglycan-like substance derived from the reishi mushroom (Ganoderma tsugae). This substance (known as F5-2 in the study) was found to be rich in protective enzymes, particularly those that defend cells against oxidative stress. When tested on endothelial cells, F5-2 was observed to boost the production of antioxidant enzymes, helping the cells resist damage from harmful substances. Overall, this study suggests that the peptidoglycan-like compound from the reishi mushroom has the potential to safeguard and support the endothelial cells in vitro, and may be a worthwhile subject of further in vivo, human research.

Hemlock Reishi, Endothelial Cells and Pollution - An in vitro study from 2016 observed the effects of an extract of Hemlock reishi on cells exposed to very small particulate matter from diesel exhaust. Diesel exhaust contains fine particulate matter that is less than 2.5 microns in size (PM2.5) and is small enough to reach deep into the lungs, absorbing into the bloodstream and potentially causing significant oxidative stress. An increased amount of exposure to PM2.5 is correlated with an increase in heart attacks. The astonishing result of the study showed that rather than allow the PM2.5 particles to permeate the endothelial cells, the addition of hemlock reishi extract caused the endothelial cells to become non-permeable to the PM2.5 particles, preventing the diesel exhaust particulate from wreaking havoc in vitro.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, mushrooms and fungi may offer ideal pathways to support cardiovascular and libido health – they certainly warrant increased study and exploration. Happy Valentine’s Day and if you’re interested in trying these fungi out for yourself, check out our double extract (both hot water and alcohol) extracts of Maitake, Artist’s Conk, and Hemlock Reishi below.

BONUS COUPON CODE - Feb 1-16 (2024) only, use code HEART for 25% off 4oz Maitake, Artist’s Conk, and Reishi tinctures.

Kaitlin Lawless holding a conk of wild chaga

About The Author

Born and raised amidst the breathtaking landscapes of the Adirondack Mountains, Kaitlin Lawless developed a profound appreciation for the natural world from an early age. She is passionate about ecological preservation and permaculture, employing such practices on her homestead. Since childhood, she has studied and been taught about herbalism by the wise women in her life, field guides, and accredited scientific literature. Her expertise in the field of mycology stems from her invaluable training under the tutelage of Garrett Kopp, a licensed NYS mushroom identification expert. Kaitlin is an integral part of the Birch Boys team, as the Assistant to the President, she manages Birch Boys' marketing, customer service, and more. This role has afforded her a deep and expansive knowledge of the effects and applications of healing mushrooms. With her broad expertise, Kaitlin has become a trusted source of information for those seeking to harness the power of nature's medicinal offerings.

Recommended Reading

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