The Most Anti-Inflammatory Mushroom

Image Credit: böhringer friedrich / Wikimedia Commons. This image has been modified.

The Most Anti-Inflammatory Mushroom

Atherosclerotic plaques may be more aptly described as pimples. These inflamed pockets of pus building up in the lining of our arteries can rupture, cut off our hearts’ blood supply, and kill us. In my 2-min. video Arterial Acne, I profile a New England Journal of Medicine review that describes the process.

Death from heart disease starts with cholesterol infiltrating the lining of the coronary arteries crowning our heart. This triggers an inflammatory response. The inner lining of our artery produces adhesion molecules to snag white blood cells, called monocytes, that zoom past in the blood stream to try to repair some of the havoc cholesterol had wreaked inside the artery wall. Other inflammatory cells are called into action, more pus builds up, and it can end up like a big whitehead sticking out into the blood flow inside the artery. The blood pulsating past can rip off the cap and clot off the entire width of the artery, which can result in a fatal heart attack.

The best way to stop this life-threatening cascade is to prevent it in the first place.  As I describe in my 2-min. video Blocking the First Step of Heart Disease, we can block the buildup of cholesterol by increasing our intake of fiber-containing plant foods and decreasing our intake of trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol found in junk food and animal products.

Cholesterol-induced zits in the lining of our coronary arteries can also occur in other blood vessels. In our head they can cause a stroke (which I cover in my Uprooting video), in our back they can cause degenerative disk disease (Cholesterol and Lower Back Pain), in our abdomen they can cause an aneurysm (Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms: Ticking Time Balloons), and in our pelvis they can cause sexual dysfunction in both men (Atkins Diet: Trouble Keeping It Up) and women (Cholesterol and Female Sexual Dysfunction). Thankfully, Avoiding Cholesterol Is A No Brainer. It’s Purely a Question Of Diet. Trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol should be kept to a minimum.

What about blocking the inflammation stage that follows the buildup of cholesterol? Researchers at Arizona State studied the ability of various mushrooms to do just that. They took the lining of a human artery, soaked it overnight with either nothing—the control group—or shitake mushrooms, crimini mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, maitake mushrooms, or plain white button mushrooms. Which mushroom worked best to decrease the expression of adhesion molecules? As I show in my 2-min. video Making Our Arteries Less Sticky the answer is that plain white mushrooms worked the best! The cheapest, most convenient to find mushroom appeared to suppress inflammation the best.

For more magic from mushrooms, see Vegetables Versus Breast Cancer and Breast Cancer Prevention: Which Mushroom is Best? Just make sure to cook them (Toxins in Raw Mushrooms?). In terms of anti-inflammatory foods in general, check out Anti-Inflammatory AntioxidantsGarden Variety Anti-InflammationAspirin Levels in Plant Foods, and Dried Apples Versus Cholesterol. In terms of pro-inflammatory foods, see the 4-part series Improving Mood Through DietInflammatory Remarks About Arachidonic AcidChicken, Eggs, and Inflammation, and Chicken’s Fate is Sealed.

Some plants may be too anti-inflammatory to be used during pregnancy though. For the same reason aspirin should be avoided by pregnant women, chamomile may have such powerful anti-inflammatory properties that regular consumption may result in a serious fetal heart problem, premature constriction of the fetal ductus arteriosus (which allows the fetus to “breathe” in the womb). More in my recent 2-min. video Chamomile Tea May Not Be Safe During Pregnancy.

Michael Greger, M.D.


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

15 responses to “The Most Anti-Inflammatory Mushroom

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  1. Is there information on the safety of other anti-inflammatory herbs, spices, or foods during pregnancy? It’s after all one of my favorite aspects of the plant-based diet!

    1. Yes bOOmer, there is information offering a warning on herbs used during pregnancy. See:
      The use of botanicals during pregnancy and lactation

      I think that the key is to discuss your finding with your physician, mid-wife, or nurse prior to using the botanical, because even if it does not affect you, it can affect your baby or fetus.

      Most physicians have asked me if I take herbal supplements before they prescribe medication and I’m not pregnant. When I was in 1972, there were not enough studies on the side effects of herbs. Fortunately, at that time, I had very few allergies, so the outcome may have been different than it would be today.

      However, there still have not been enough studies done on the fetus of the pregnant woman who ingests herbal remedies or in what form the remedies are taken. But, the good news is that more and more studies are done all the time. The bad news is that the biotechnology industry wants to get in there and alter the DNA of safe herbs, just as they have done with food or pharms, which can create new side effects that were unknown previously.

  2. I am wondering if it is possible to overconsume anti-inflammatory foods to the point that the normal healing process of the body (i.e. acute inflammation) is compromised?

    1. I’m wondering this too. Because I think literally every food in my diet is anti-inflammatory/anti-oxidant rich. However, the science does seem to show that there is virtually no upper limit.

  3. I was so relieved to find out that “regular” mushrooms are so nutrient dense because it was harder (and more expensive) to buy the others.

    Question –
    A guest (doctor or researcher) on NPR’s People’s Pharmacy (show #868 aired Aug. 11,
    2012) mentioned the anti-inflammatory benefits of curcumin which you
    have discussed before. He said the research was done on curcumin
    “BCM-95”, a very potent form, which eliminated diabetes in the test
    subjects. Do you know anything about this? I saw that it is for sale on
    the internet, but I would not buy it until you found this information to be true.

    Thanks for all you do!!


  4. It’s good to know since we eat primarily button mushrooms.

    Dr. Greger,

    Question – a guest on NPR’s People’s Pharmacy
    (show #868 aired Aug. 11, 2012) mentioned the anti-inflammatory benefits
    of curcumin which you have discussed before. He said the research was
    done on curcumin “BCM-95”, a very potent form, which eliminated diabetes
    in the test subjects. Do you know anything about this?

    Thank you for what you do,


    1.  The recent study in diabetes care showed that ingestion of curcumin decreased the progression from prediabetes to diabetes for a 9 month period. BCM-95 is 7-10 times as potent and is made by a patented process. It has not been shown eliminate diabetes. I am very leery of “miracle” cures especially when commercial interests are involved. See Dr. Greger’s two videos on preventing and on diabetes which seems to be a glucose processing problem caused by fats, both plant and animal, in the diet. Given all the evidence I would say that eating a low fat plant based diet will not only prevent progression of prediabetes to diabetes but reverse the prediabetes as well.

    2. Ingrid,

      Curcumin is the principal curcuminoid of the popular Indian spice turmeric, which is a member of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae).

      I don’t have diabetes. Therefore, it is not my prime interest. But, I do have had significant inflammation in my legs and feet since having a total knee replacement due to injury. And, despite following an anti-inflammation diet, nothing seemed to work until I tried both making a tea with fresh tumeric root, fresh ginger root, and a few cloves of garlic. The roots were peeled and diced or smashed before dropping into boiling water and steeping.

      I consumed this though out the day, and the next morning, I feet shrank from my size 10 gardening shoe, to my normal size 8 shoe. Amazing!

      The side effects experienced from prescribed diuretics did nothing to reduce the inflammation in my feet and legs, and made my skin extremely dry and itchy. But, the tumeric, ginger, and garlic worked!.

      I now add these three roots of my calcium rich-vegetables whenever inflammation of any sort is a problem for me. Not only does it flavor my food, but the inflammation in my fingers and hands also subsides.

  5. The research study soaked the artery with various mushrooms.  But if we eat mushrooms does the white mushroom have the same protective effect as if the arteries were soaked?

  6. “Death from heart disease starts with cholesterol infiltrating the lining of the coronary arteries crowning our heart. This triggers an inflammatory response.”*

    I have read that this is incorrect… cholesterol (LDL) coats the lining of arteries BECAUSE of inflammation, not as a CAUSE of inflammation.

    *The above misinformation is a big reason that Big Pharma was successful in promoting their statin drugs.

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