The True Threat Behind the Cytokine Storm

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Everyday, news about the pandemic gets worse—from skyrocketing case numbers, to new findings about long-term outcomes, and an increase in deaths. This virus has affected the very foundation of our lives, our economy, our social structures…even how we think about health. 

And part of these far-reaching impacts come from something called the cytokine storm.[1]

Cytokine storms are what get people admitted into the ICU… put on ventilators… Ultimately, it’s the cytokine storm that ends up costing lives.  

The storms begin when a virus, bacteria or other pathogen triggers the production of a rogue protein in the body called galectin-3—which spurs a cascade of inflammatory cytokine signals that can end up causing a life-threatening over-active immune response.[2]

However, research suggests that inhibiting galectin-3 activity—with proven galectin-3 blockers—may offer dual protective benefits against aggressive viral infections: 

  • Reigning in the damaging cytokine storm 
  • Potentially blocking viral entry into cells 

How Viruses Attack

One of the ways aggressive viral infections become so dangerous, is by waking up galectin-3. This protein sits at the headwaters of the inflammation cascade, and serves as an alarm signal for activating the immune system. 

But when galectin-3 doesn’t quiet down, and the alarm stays on so to speak— because of ongoing stress, inflammation, aggressive infection, or other alarm triggers— it can spur a life-threatening immune overreaction. Galectin-3 also fuels inflammation and fibrosis (uncontrolled scarring and hardening of organs and tissues) that can severely impact vital organs. Essentially, overactive galectin-3 drives the entire inflammatory cascade that can lead to cytokine storms, sepsis, and major organ failure.

Before any of that can happen, a virus (or other pathogen) has to infect host cells. In the case of viral infections, once the virus breaks into the cell, it begins reproducing (making copies of itself), leading to an infection.

But to get into a cell, the virus needs to be able to pick the lock, so to speak. It does this with something called a viral spike protein, which the virus uses to latch onto specific receptors on a cell membrane, and gain entry into the cell.  

And in the case of our current global threat, the viral spike protein is shown to have the exact shape as the galectin-3 binding domain.

Researchers behind this discovery suggest that galectin-3 blockers may thus also block replication of the virus… AND help to reign in the cytokine storm, if it gets to that stage. 

Cytokine Storm Dangers

Cytokines are special immune proteins that play important roles in cellular communication. Among other actions, they help direct your immune system on when and where to attack, and when to retreat. 

Specific cytokines include:

  • TNF-α (tumor necrosis factor alpha)
  • IL-1β (interleukin-1-beta)
  • IL-6 (interleukin-6)
  • IL-8 (interleukin-8)
  • IL-18 (interleukin-18)
  • CRP (C-reactive protein)
  • Fibrinogen

When your body releases a surge of cytokines that increase inflammatory immune activity, it can be hard to reverse their course. Overactive immune cells can attack normal healthy tissue, spurring a cytokine storm,[3] and resulting in numerous damaging effects, such as:

  • high fever
  • uncontrolled inflammation
  • sudden drop in blood pressure
  • blood clots 
  • fluid in the lungs
  • multiple organ failure
  • death

Cytokine storms are what can transform a mild cold-like virus into a deadly condition requiring intensive care.[4] The virus triggers galectin-3, which starts the release of cytokines, too often leading to the cytokine storm. But research suggests these processes can be managed when we control galectin-3 expression, using a proven natural galectin-3 inhibitor. 

Blocking Galectin-3 Tames Viral Infections

Some viruses and other pathogens are particularly aggressive. But without galectin-3 triggering an inflammatory cytokine storm, these germs may act more like a bad cold. 

That’s why blocking galectin-3 offers an important strategy for helping to defeat aggressive viral infections… for three important reasons.

  1. Blocking galectin-3 may help keep this aggressive virus out of your cells, by binding and deactivating its viral spike protein.

  1. Blocking galectin-3 can help prevent a cytokine storm. 

  1. Blocking galectin-3 allows your body to create a healthy, balanced immune response. You want your immune system to be able to quickly eradicate invading pathogens. You just don’t want an overactive immune response that ends up damaging vital organs. 

Modified Citrus Pectin: Most-Researched Galectin-3 Inhibitor

Derived from citrus peels and enzymatically modified for absorption and bioactivity,[5]  modified citrus pectin (MCP) is shown in a fast-growing number of published studies to bind to galectin-3 and stop it in its tracks. 

By halting the activity of galectin-3, MCP is shown to stop deadly inflammation, fibrosis and organ failure.[6]  At the same time, MCP reduces the expression of inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-α, IL-1β and IL-18,[7] thus helping to avoid or halt a cytokine storm.

Botanically-Enhanced Medicinal Mushrooms Train the Immune System 

For thousands of years, practitioners have revered medicinal mushrooms for their remarkable array of healing and protective properties. Medicinal mushrooms are rich in therapeutic compounds that help to train your immune system to better fight invaders, reduce inflammation responses and protect organs and tissues. Currently, researchers around the world are searching for ways to use medicinal mushrooms in the fight against emerging global pathogens.[8] 

Many species of mushroom boast an exhaustive list of benefits—for immunity and beyond. Top medicinal varieties include:

  • Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor): Rich in potent antioxidant compounds, this mushroom provides significant immune system support, while controlling inflammation[9]
  • Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum): Supports optimal immune response[10] and calms overactive inflammation[11]

  • Agaricus (Agaricus blazei): Reduces inflammatory cytokines,[12] has potent antioxidant activity, helps control blood sugar[13]
  • Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis): Adaptogenic support to promote healthy stress responses, helps balance immune responses to prevent overreaction, enhances respiratory health and tissue oxygenation, reduces inflammation, supports antioxidant activity[14]
  • Umbellatus (Polyporus umbellatus): Supports a healthy immune response, reduces inflammation, protects liver function[15] 
  • Maitake (Grifola frondosa): Supports immunity against infections,[16] helps balance blood sugar,[17] helps fight cancer[18]

Medicinal mushrooms offer powerful balancing support to optimize your immune system responses. And when they’re specially cultivated with immune-supporting herbs, it significantly increases their healing potential. This type of rich, nourishing growing medium allows the mushrooms to incorporate the benefits of the herbs and nutrients for enhanced immune support.

When you combine the immune modulation support of botanically-enhanced medicinal mushrooms, together with the galectin-3 blocking powers of MCP, you give your immune system the advanced support it needs to help defend you against an increasing number of health threats. Not only that, but these powerhouse nutraceutical agents actively work through unique mechanisms to enhance health all the way down to the cellular level—helping you achieve greater vitality and longevity, naturally.


  1. Chen L, Liu HG, Liu W, Liu J, Liu K, Shang J, Deng Y, Wei S. [Analysis of clinical features of 29 patients with 2019 novel coronavirus pneumonia]. Zhonghua Jie He He Hu Xi Za Zhi. 2020 Feb 6;43(0):E005. Chinese. doi: 10.3760/cma.j.issn.1001-0939.2020.0005. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32026671.

  2.  Nita-Lazar M, Banerjee A, Feng C, Vasta GR. Galectins regulate the inflammatory response in airway epithelial cells exposed to microbial neuraminidase by modulating the expression of SOCS1 and RIG1. Mol Immunol. 2015;68(2 Pt A):194-202. 

  3.  Tisoncik JR, Korth MJ, Simmons CP, Farrar J, Martin TR, Katze MG. Into the eye of the cytokine storm. Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2012;76(1):16-32. 

  4.  Ruan Q, Yang K, Wang W, Jiang L, Song J. Clinical predictors of mortality due to COVID-19 based on an analysis of data of 150 patients from Wuhan, China [published correction appears in Intensive Care Med. 2020 Apr 6;:]. Intensive Care Med. 2020;46(5):846-848. doi:10.1007/s00134-020-05991-x

  5.  Eliaz I. Letter to the Editor: Not all modified citrus pectins are the same: size does matter. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2019 May 1;316(5):H1232-H1233. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00118.2019. PMID: 31070458; PMCID: PMC6580396.

  6.  Eliaz I, Raz A. Pleiotropic Effects of Modified Citrus Pectin. Nutrients. 2019 Nov 1;11(11):2619. doi: 10.3390/nu11112619. PMID: 31683865; PMCID: PMC6893732.

  7.  Merheb R, Abdel-Massih RM, Karam MC. Immunomodulatory effect of natural and modified Citrus pectin on cytokine levels in the spleen of BALB/c mice. Int J Biol Macromol. 2019 Jan;121:1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2018.09.189. Epub 2018 Oct 3. PMID: 30292091.

  8.  Hetland G, Johnson E, Bernardshaw SV, Grinde B. Can medicinal mushrooms have prophylactic or therapeutic effect against COVID-19 and its pneumonic superinfection and complicating inflammation? [published online ahead of print, 2020 Jul 13]. Scand J Immunol. 2020;e12937. doi:10.1111/sji.12937

  9.  Habtemariam S. Trametes versicolor (Synn. Coriolus versicolor) Polysaccharides in Cancer Therapy: Targets and Efficacy. Biomedicines. 2020;8(5):135. Published 2020 May 25. doi:10.3390/biomedicines8050135

  10.  Wachtel-Galor S, Yuen J, Buswell JA, Benzie IFF. Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi): A Medicinal Mushroom. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd ed. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 9. PMID: 22593926.

  11.  Dudhgaonkar S, Thyagarajan A, Sliva D. Suppression of the inflammatory response by triterpenes isolated from the mushroom Ganoderma lucidum. Int Immunopharmacol. 2009 Oct;9(11):1272-80. doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2009.07.011. Epub 2009 Aug 3. PMID: 19651243.

  12.  Val CH, Brant F, Miranda AS, et al. Effect of mushroom Agaricus blazei on immune response and development of experimental cerebral malaria. Malar J. 2015;14:311. Published 2015 Aug 11. doi:10.1186/s12936-015-0832-y.

  13.  Wei Q, Zhan Y, Chen B, et al. Assessment of antioxidant and antidiabetic properties of Agaricus blazei Murill extracts. Food Sci Nutr. 2019;8(1):332-339. Published 2019 Dec 5. doi:10.1002/fsn3.1310

  14.  Shashidhar MG, Giridhar P, Udaya Sankar K, Manohar B. Bioactive principles from Cordyceps sinensis: A potent food supplement – A review. J Funct Foods. 2013;5(3):1013-1030. doi:10.1016/j.jff.2013.04.018

  15.  Guo Z, Zang Y, Zhang L. The efficacy of Polyporus Umbellatus polysaccharide in treating hepatitis B in China. Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2019;163:329-360. doi: 10.1016/bs.pmbts.2019.03.012. Epub 2019 Apr 9. PMID: 31030753.

  16.  Vetvicka V, Vetvickova J. Immune-enhancing effects of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) extracts. Ann Transl Med. 2014;2(2):14. doi:10.3978/j.issn.2305-5839.2014.01.05.

  17.  Hong L, Xun M, Wutong W. Anti-diabetic effect of an alpha-glucan from fruit body of maitake (Grifola frondosa) on KK-Ay mice. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2007 Apr;59(4):575-82. doi: 10.1211/jpp.59.4.0013. PMID: 17430642.

  18.  Masuda Y, Nakayama Y, Tanaka A, Naito K, Konishi M. Antitumor activity of orally administered maitake α-glucan by stimulating antitumor immune response in murine tumor. PLoS One. 2017;12(3):e0173621. Published 2017 Mar 9. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0173621.

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