Allergies and asthma are two examples of histamine-mediated allergic responses. Both conditions are increasing in frequency and are difficult to target with modern medicine. The modern approach to drug research is target-specific and does not consider the natural defense mechanisms of the body or the causative factors (the shift to a predominantly TH2 cytokine profile) underlying histamine-mediated allergic responses. Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) as immunonutrition, with its unique array of compounds working in concert, could play a major role in treatment of histamine-mediated allergic responses.
What is Immunonutrition?
The potential to modulate the activity of the immune system by intervention with specific nutrients is termed immunonutrition. This concept may be applied to any situation in which an altered supply of nutrients is used to modify inflammatory or immune responses. However, immunonutrition has become associated most closely with attempts to improve the clinical course of clinically ill and surgical patients, who often require an exogenous supply of nutrients. (1)
Major surgery is followed by a period of immune suppression that increases the risk of morbidity and mortality due to infection. Improving immune function during this period may reduce complications due to infection. Critically ill patients are at a greater risk of adverse outcomes than surgery patients. In these patients, complex variable immune and inflammatory changes occur that are only now being well defined. A biphasic response with an early hyper-inflammatory response, followed by an excessive compensatory response associated with immune suppression, is seen in many such patients. (2) Here, early treatment is aimed at decreasing the inflammatory response (reversing a TH1 to TH2 shift) rather than enhancing it, in order to stop the hyper-inflammation and prevent the resulting compensatory immune suppression. (3) In histamine-mediated allergic responses, treatment should be aimed at decreasing the inflammatory response (reversing a TH1 to TH2 shift).
Historical Use of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi)
The numerous legends surrounding the reishi mushroom provide an historical record that spans 2000 years. Traditionally, the reishi mushroom was used in China by Taoist monks to promote a centered calmness, improve meditative practices, and attain a long and healthy life. (4) Chinese royalty, seeking longevity, held the reishi mushroom in high esteem, and the mushroom became immortalized throughout Chinese culture in paintings, statues, silk tapestries, and designs on the robes of emperors. The reishi mushroom has also been revered in Japanese culture where it is considered the most important of all Japanese medical polypores (Matsumoto 1979). (5)
Variously known as the "mushroom of immortality," "ten-thousand-year mushroom," and "mushroom of spiritual potency," Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) has been used for many centuries in the traditional herbal medicine of China and Japan for its immunomodulatory and adaptogenic properties. (6) In the most comprehensive Chinese materia medica, the "Ben Cao Gang Mu," published in 1578 AD, reishi was listed as the most respected herb out of 120 superior herbs (shang pin) (Masumoto 1979, Unsehuld 1986). Superior herbs were classified as the highest category of medicines, since they were considered to prolong life, prevent aging, boost energy (qi), and...
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