Medicinal Mushrooms and Cancer
Mushrooms are not just a tasty addition to a salad or casserole. They are much, much more. Most, of an estimated 38,000 species of mushrooms, provide a wealth of protein, fiber, B vitamins, and vitamin C, as well as calcium and other minerals. At least three of these species have demonstrated phenomenal healing potential: maitake, shiitake, and reishi. These medicinal mushrooms have been shown to lower the risk of cancer; promote immune function; ward off viruses, bacteria, and fungi; boost heart health; reduce inflammation; combat allergies; help balance blood sugar levels; and support the body’s detoxification mechanisms.
Medicinal mushrooms have several overlapping properties: all support cardiovascular health, all boost immune function, and all show promise in lowering the risk of, or treating, cancer. Maitake is specifically recommended for stomach and intestines, as well as blood sugar levels; shiitake helps with nutritional deficiencies and liver ailments, while reishi promotes respiratory health and spirituality.
Many of the medicinal mushrooms, including chaga mushroom, maitake mushroom, ganoderma (also known as gano) mushroom, and cordyceps mushroom, contain cancer-preventive and cancer-fighting actions. Along with research on polysaccharides with beta 1,3 glucan linkages, other mushroom extracts have been shown to have clinical effectiveness against human cancers, these being D-fraction extracted from the Maitake mushroom, and extracts from the split gill, turkey tail and Reishi mushrooms.
Medicinal mushrooms are sources of antitumor and immunity-modulating polysaccharides (a type of carbohydrate) that have been extensively researched. Cancer patients may also wish to investigate medicinal mushrooms (such types as reishi, shiitake, cordyceps, maitake, agaracus, and coriolus) as immune-boosting companions to chemotherapy.
Shiitake, as with many of the medicinal mushrooms, has been shown to be of benefit as an adjuvant cancer therapy. It has been shown to improve specific immune markers (including natural killer cells, tumor necrosis factor, T-helper cells, and a variety of interleukins), and patient outcomes.
Reishi can be used to treat cancer patients due to its ability to activate NK cells, macrophages, T-lymphocytes, and cytokines, all important immune system components. Kee Chang Huang reports that reishi “exerts a synergistic effect with other anticancer chemothera-peutic agents or radiotherapy, to augment the clinical therapeutic effect in the treatment of cancer patients.”