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Beta Glucan

Veterinarian Reviewed on January 9, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Uncategorized

Beta Glucan


Beta glucan is a sugar or polysaccharide that is generally found in the cell walls of yeasts, bacteria, fungi, lichens, algae, barley and in oat fiber, as well as in several medicinal mushrooms such as Shiitake, Reish, and Maitake.

Yeast and mushrooms contain a combination of Beta glucan 1, 3 and Beta glucan 1.6., while barley and oats contain a combination of Beta glucan 1, 3 and Beta glucan 1, 4.

History and Origin

A research study done by Dr. Louis Pillemer in the 1940s came up with a substance that possessed an immune activating property called Zymosan. However, if this crude composition was able to stimulate a nonspecific immune response, it was not known which particular element was responsible in stimulating non-specific immunity.
Zymosan was able to activate the immune response whether what type of pathogen or invader was attacking that included bacteria, viruses, parasites, tumors, and fungi. It was only during the further research of Dr. Nicholas DiLuzio at Tulane University that was able to pinpoint the substance as Beta-1, 3-D glucan. The active part, glucan, was isolated from the cell walls of baker’s yeast.
It was in 1970s that experiments with Beta glucan in humans first started. In 1975, a report published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed the great advancement in the role of Beta glucan in immune system activation when positive results were achieved in patients with malignant skin cancer after Dr. Peter Mansell and colleagues’ injected Beta glucan in the said patients.

Ancient Uses

It was only in 1940 when the use of Beta glucan in its crude form was discovered. Although ancient people recognized the medicinal benefits of some mushrooms, which are one of the sources of Beta glucan; they don’t know yet that Beta glucan was the specific substance that enhanced immunity.

Beta glucan activates neutrophils and macrophages which are the oldest and most primitive of the immune system compositions and provide one of the first lines of defense against different infectious organisms.

Modern Uses

Beta glucan is more commonly used today as an ingredient in medicines that effectively treat diabetes, high cholesterol, HIV/AIDS, and cancer. It is also used to enhance the immune system of people who have weak body defenses due to chronic fatigue syndrome, emotional and physical stress, and those who are being treated by chemotherapy and radiation.

Beta glucan is used and helpful in the treatment of the common cold, HINI flu, influenza, hepatitis, allergies, asthma, Lyme disease, aging, ear infections, ulcerative colitis, and fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Beta glucan is also applied on the skin for eczema, dermatitis, bedsores, wrinkles, burns, diabetic ulcers, wounds, and radiation burns.

Beta glucan is used in manufacturing as food additive in salad dressings, sour cream, cheese spreads, and frozen desserts.

Side Effects

Research has shown that Beta glucan functions by stimulating the immune system and is not itself toxic to the cells. Therefore, damage to healthy tissues is minimized by strengthening the natural defenses of the body to recognize targets in contrast to the introduction of toxic compounds, which kill both healthy and sick cells.

However, even if side-effects for Beta glucan are rare, there are reports of occasional allergic reactions. It is generally recognized as safe by the FDA.

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Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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