Medicinal Mushrooms

Mushroom Pic 6I love finding mushrooms in my garden. Each one is beautiful and unique. It is said that if you find mushrooms growing in a circle it is a Faerie Ring. Just don’t step into the circle, the Faeries will be angry ūüôā The problem with mushrooms is that many of them are poisonous & difficult to identify. Here in the Northwest mushroom season starts in October. There are tours, festivals & mushroom walks with professionals. I choose to buy mine in the grocery store! I like to be cautious.

Mushroom 9


Mushrooms are a fungus. They typically grow up on a stalk with a cap on top. If you look on the underside of the cap you will usually find gills. Mushrooms vary in size, color, texture & shape. There are more than 10,000 types of mushrooms in North America. More than 1 million mushroom species in the world. A small percentage are poisonous. If you are interested in pursuing this subject here is a link to the North American Mycological Association. It has a list of mushroom clubs &/or societies in your area.

My Mushroom (2)

Mushrooms are a fantastic health food. They are low in calories, high in protein, iron, zinc, fiber, vitamins ~high in anti-oxidants~ minerals & essential amino acids. Mushrooms have been used for their medicinal properties for thousands of years by various cultures all over the world to prevent & treat many diseases including cancer.

Herbal & Medicinal Mushrooms by Rosalee de la Floret: “People have used mushrooms medicinally and as food for thousands of years. The oldest written reference to people using mushrooms medicinally is from an Ayurvedic source from 5000 BP.¬†The Chinese have one of the most sophisticated uses of herbal and medicinal mushrooms and have a written history of using them that dates back several thousand years as well. Many medicinal mushrooms like cordyceps and reishi were so highly prized (and so very rare) that only the emperor was allowed to consume them. Now these mushrooms are cultivated and are often times affordable.¬†The Greeks and Romans ate mushrooms frequently. The Greeks said mushrooms were the ‚Äúfood of the gods.‚ÄĚ

I am going to list the most common & easily found mushrooms that are shown to have medicinal properties for cancer patients. These you can obtain at your grocery or natural foods store either fresh, dried or as an extract, both liquid & in capsules. Most mushroom studies are done by first extracting the active ingredient and placing it into a liquid base. These extracts are far more concentrated than the whole mushroom itself.

  • Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum): This is the most researched of all mushrooms. It has been used for over 2000 years in a health & longevity tonic in China, Japan & other Asian countries. It is also used as an extract or tincture. These are just a few healing properties that are attributed to the Reishi mushroom: immune enhancer, anti-tumor, anti-viral, cholesterol lowering & anti-fatiguing. This mushroom is taken in a tea or liquid extract only.

¬†Dr. Weil has written:¬†“Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) are too bitter to eat as food but are widely available in tea bags, capsules and liquid extracts. Animal studies have shown that reishi improves immune function and inhibits the growth of some malignant tumors; it is also a natural anti-inflammatory agent.”

  • Shitaki (lentinula edodes): ¬†These mushrooms, fresh & dried, are used in cooking. Eating them as a food in your diet will still give you the benefits of: immune enhancing, anti-tumor & anti-cancer properties.

An article in the Huffington Post: Six Cancer-Fighting Medicinal Mushrooms¬†states: This is a tender and tasty mushroom found in many Asian cuisines. It is considered both a delicacy and a medicinal mushroom. Shitake contains a glucan called AHCC (Active Hexose Correlated Compound) and is widely used in alternative and complementary treatment of cancer in Japan due to its immune-enhancing functions. Lentinan, a compound found in Shitake, is used as an intravenous anti-cancer drug with antitumor properties. Clinical studies have associated lentinan with a higher survival rate, higher quality of life and lower recurrence of cancer.”

  • Maitaki (grifola frondosa):¬† Maitake mushrooms have immune enhancing, anti-tumor & anti-cancer properties. These can be bought either fresh, dried or in an extract. Like the Shitaki , Maitaki mushrooms can be cooked & eaten for their anti-cancer benefits.

Maitaki Mushrooms & Maitaki Extracts¬†: Cancer Research UK: “Japanese studies using an injectable type of maitake-D have found that it boosted the immune system and slowed or stopped the spread of breast and liver cancer in animal studies. A phase 1 study is currently being carried out in the USA to see whether beta glucan can help a biological therapy calledrituximab to work better. It is for young patients with lymphoma or leukemia that has come back after previous treatment. Another trial is looking at whether maitake extract affects breast cancer.” ¬†I couldn’t find the results of the trial looking at maitake extract & breast cancer. The conclusions of other trials I did read said that more research needed to be done. But they all do confirm that maitaki extract is immune enhancing.

  • Chaga (inonotus obliquus): Chaga is immune enhancing, an anti-oxidant, anti-tumor & may stall the progression of cancer cells.¬† It is well known for its use against a wide range of cancers: breast, lip, skin and colon to name a few. Chaga is taken as a liquid extract or in capsules only.

Six Cancer-Fighting Medicinal Mushrooms¬†¬†Huffington Post:¬†“This has been used as a medicinal mushroom in Russian and Eastern European Traditional Medicine. Chaga has been studied as a potential anti-cancer agent. Chaga contains betulin, a precursor to betulinic acid, which has been shown to inhibit the cancer-promoting enzyme topoisomerase. Betulinic acid has been found to be active against skin, brain, ovarian and head and neck cancers by promoting apoptosis, or the natural progression of programmed cell death. Cancer cells do not go through this natural life cycle and become immortalized and do not die.”

  • Turkey Tail (trametes versicolor):¬†Turkey Tail is a well-researched medicinal mushroom. It has been used in Chinese Medicine as a tonic for centuries. It is an immune enhancer and has anti-tumor properties. Studies have shown that it can enhance the effects of chemotherapy. Taken as a liquid extract or in capsules.

Bastyr Univeristy:¬†FDA Approves Bastyr Turkey Tail Trial for Cancer Patients¬†¬†“It’s been brewed for thousands of years as a Chinese medicinal tea. Now Bastyr University researchers are closer to discovering whether the turkey tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) can help cancer patients boost their immune systems during chemotherapy.”¬†

Turkey Tail Mushrooms Help Immune System Fight Cancer:¬†“A promising clinical study shows that the turkey tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) improves the immune systems of breast cancer patients. The multiyear study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), tracked whether or not turkey tails could positively affect the immune system of patients rebound after they ended their radiation therapy.”¬†This article is by the well known mycologist,¬†Paul Stamets,¬†Founder of Fungi Perfecti; Advisor for the Program of Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona Medical School, Tucson

  • Lions Mane (hericium erinaceus): Medicinal properties include: anti-cancer, immune enhancer, & it is anti-microbial. It has also been studied for nerve growth regeneration. It is being studied specifically for Parkinson’s disease. Lion’s Mane is an edible mushroom. It is cultivated in Vietnam, China & Japan.

Lion’s Mane: A Mushroom That Improves Your Memory and Mood? This is a great article about Lion’s Mane by Paul Stamets.¬†“Mushrooms provide a vast array of potential medicinal compounds. Many mushrooms — such as portobello, oyster, reishi and maitake — are well-known for these properties, but the lion’s mane mushroom, in particular, has drawn the attention of researchers for its notable nerve-regenerative properties.” ¬†

Due to the nerve-regenertion property of Lion’s Mane, it is being studied for use in peripheral neuropathy. Because it is edible, and safe, I encourage you to give it a try.¬†

  • Oyster Mushroom (pleurotus ostreatus): Oyster mushrooms have been studied for their medicinal properties: anti-tumor, immune enhancer, cholesterol lowering & anti-fungal. These mushrooms are used in gourmet dishes. Eat up!

This is the only study I could find on breast cancer & colon cancer & Oyster Mushrooms:  Pleurotus ostreatus inhibits proliferation of human breast and colon cancer cells through p53-dependent as well as p53-independent


Medicinal mushrooms are a difficult subject to research. As Dr. Abrams noted in the video,¬†Mushrooms, can they help prevent cancer?¬†;¬†westerners have a fear of mushrooms. Oncologists would rather you just didn’t take them. I admit that even after doing the research for today’s post & having previously given a talk about medicinal mushrooms, I am still confused as to how to take or consume them for their medicinal properties. Dosage & mushroom to be used medicinally depends on what type of cancer you have & where you are in your treatment. Some can be consumed as a food & some are too bitter or tough & must be taken in extracts.

Some of you are aware of Kriss Carr’s website,¬†Crazy Sexy Wellness. She has a unique, & funny outlook on cancer as a survivor. She posted a short but informative article by Dr. Joel Fuhrman called ¬†Anti-Cancer Effects of Onions and Mushrooms: ¬†“Mushrooms have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and immune-supporting properties. Mushrooms contain polysaccharides that are thought to inhibit tumor growth and viral infection by stimulating immune cells.¬†Compounds in shiitake mushrooms have been shown to trigger programmed cell death in breast cancer cells.¬†In case control studies, consuming mushrooms regularly has been associated with decreased risk of breast cancer in both pre- and postmenopausal women. Frequent consumption of mushrooms decreased the risk of breast cancer by up to 60-70%.¬†Similar associations were observed in studies on stomach and colorectal cancers.¬†¬†Check out this article. He has footnotes to the studies. Very well written.

My recommendation is that you cook any mushroom that is edible & add it to your diet. Mushroom 10Cook up a medley of mushrooms & eat a serving every day. You will get the medicinal benefits of each one. If you want to take an extract then I suggest that you work with an Oncologist, an oncology trained Chinese herbalist, or a Naturopath with oncology experience.

Most of you know Kim Taylor: Acupuncturist, Chinese Medicine, Pacific College of Orient Medicine Oncology Instructor and Clinical Supervisor, 760- 291-7025  She is a great resource for Chinese Medicine & medicinal mushrooms. Email or call her for an appointment. 

No matter how you take medicinal mushrooms, you must do it¬†consistently. You¬†will not get the benefits from “trying” them once. Because they are a whole food they will take time to work no matter what form you use them in. Give them 3 weeks at least. I hope this has helped.

See you here next week!

Mushroom Pic 7 All photos by Don & Mary Hollander

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