In the UK, 44% of adults suffer from an allergy. Around half of sufferers have multiple allergies, which accounts for approximately 10 million people . One of the most common is hay fever, clinically known as allergic rhinitis. Characterised by cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, sneezing and sinus pressure, effective hay fever treatment and prevention is still struggling to cope for clinicians.
Before going further, it is useful to outline the nature of allergies. Essentially, an allergy is an unnatural immune response. The reaction occurs when the presence of foreign peptides in the mucous membranes triggers a Th2 dominant pro-inflammatory state. In the case of hay fever, these foreign peptides could be pollen, dust mites, or particles of skin or saliva shed by pets.
In either context, hay fever is primarily an immunological issue. Therefore, hay fever treatment – and ultimately prevention – should be addressed via immunomodulation. This is what makes medicinal mushroom nutraceuticals such an interesting proposition, which we will explore here.
The Benefits of Agaricus blazei Murill for Hay Fever Sufferers
Agaricus blazei Murill (AbM), or Royal Sun Agaricus, is an edible, medicinal mushroom originating in Brazil. Traditionally, it was used against a range of diseases, including cancer and hepatitis. However, AbM researchers have recently discovered its powerful immunomodulatory properties, which has led to increasing interest .
Studies have shown that AbM brings the Th1 and Th2 response into balance, which in regard to hay fever treatment, acts as an anti-histaminic remedy. Achieving this equilibrium due to the specific bio components that inhibit histamine release by mast cells and reduce IgE specific allergy antibodies. The health benefits that arise are both in preventative and therapeutic applications .
For instance, a clinical study in 2019 showed that, alongside common medical treatment, AbM supplementation yielded a significant reduction of general allergy and asthma symptoms in birch pollen allergic participants .
Anti-allergic activities of other Medicinal Mushrooms
Ganoderma lucidum, or Reishi mushroom, also has been shown to have immune-modulating and immune-potentiating capabilities . Reishi extract contains triterpenes, which generate antioxidant, antihistamine and significant anti-inflammatory activity. In fact, it’s suggested that Ganoderma lucidum has an anti-inflammatory action comparable to hydrocortisone without the negative side effects.
Moreover, in regard to a holistic approach to hay fever treatment, medicinal mushrooms have many benefits. For example, the polysaccharide content of both mushroom species mentioned precipitates a substantial prebiotic effect, which is beneficial for immune function .
A Holistic Approach to Hay Fever Treatment
A holistic, well-being oriented approach to managing hay fever addresses the issue at its root. By supplementing common medical treatments with lifestyle changes, clinicians can seek to prevent allergies as well as treat the symptoms. This could include changes in diet, such as the introduction of therapeutic whole foods like nettles, cleavers, and elderflowers. Equally, onions and apples contain quercetin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
However, research is increasingly showing that mushroom nutraceuticals could be one of the most effective lifestyle changes for hay fever treatment. By modulating the immune response and histamine levels, we can address both long-term functional support and current symptoms. Ideally, healthcare professionals should recommend high quality concentrated extracts, preferably organic and standardized in its bioactive compounds. Regarding dosage, it is advisable to adjust it depending on the patient’s evaluation and symptomatology.
- Hetland G, Johnson E, Lyberg T, Bernardshaw S, Tryggestad AM, Grinde B. Effects of the medicinal mushroom Agaricus blazei Murill on immunity, infection and cancer. Scand J Immunol. 2008 Oct;68(4):363-70.
- Ellertsen LK, Hetland G. An extract of the medicinal mushroom Agaricus blazei Murill can protect against allergy. Clin Mol Allergy. 2009;7:6. Published 2009 May 5.
- Mahmood F, Hetland G, Nentwich I, Mirlashari MR, Ghiasvand R, Nissen-Meyer LSH. Agaricus blazei-Based Mushroom Extract Supplementation to Birch Allergic Blood Donors: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Nutrients. 2019 Oct 2;11(10):2339.
- Bhardwaj N, Katyal P, Sharma AK. Suppression of inflammatory and allergic responses by pharmacologically potent fungus Ganoderma lucidum. Recent Pat Inflamm Allergy Drug Discov. 2014;8(2):104-17.
- Wu, H. J., & Wu, E. (2012). The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity. Gut microbes, 3(1), 4–14.