2 Medicinal Mushrooms: Western Research and Traditional use with a focus on immunity and anti-cancer properties

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*Reishi image credit in ref section

Part: fruiting body, mycelium, spores
Taste: bitter, bland
Energy:  warming
Latin name: Ganodema lucidum
Western medicine/research: constituents (not an exhaustive list); terpenoids, glycoproteins, phenols, nucleotides, steroids, polysaccharides, all the essential amino acids, lysine and leucine, etc.
Actions:  immune-boosting, anti-carcinogenic, anti-allergy, anti-microbial, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, sedative, tonic
“G. lucidum could be administered as an alternative adjunct to conventional treatment in consideration of its potential of enhancing tumour response and stimulating host immunity.” (Jin, Xingzhong, et al. 2012)
“meta‐analysis results showed that patients who had been given G. lucidum alongside with chemo/radiotherapy were more likely to respond positively compared to chemo/radiotherapy alone” (Jin, Xingzhong, et al. 2012)
“results for host immune function indicators suggested that G. lucidum simultaneously increases the percentage of CD3, CD4 and CD8… In addition, leukocyte, NK‐cell activity and CD4/CD8 ratio were marginally elevated” (Jin, Xingzhong, et al. 2012)
“Based on the evidence to date, using Ganoderma lucidum for cancer treatment may increase the chance of better response to treatment, but this is uncertain. It may improve the body’s immune response, in particular, on T-cells, but the effect on natural killer cells (NK activity) is uncertain.” (Santesso, Nancy, and L. Susan Wieland, 2016)
“effectiveness of Reishi has been attributed to either the polysaccharide fraction, which is responsible for the stimulation of the immune system, or to the triterpenes, which demonstrate cytotoxic activity against a variety of cancer cells” (Suarez-Arroyo, Ivette J., et al. 2013)
Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) study, in vivo: “tumor volume was significantly (>50%) reduced (P<0.02) in the Reishi treated mice compared with mice gavaged daily with vehicle treatment” (Suarez-Arroyo, Ivette J., et al. 2013)
Traditional Chinese Medicine:
Chinese name: Ling zhi
Organs:  Heart, Spleen, Liver, Lung, Kidney
Traditional use:  said to be the mushroom of ‘longevity’ & ‘Immortality’, long used in China for insomnia/anxiety related to ‘Calming the Shen’ (Calming the Spirit of the Heart), tonifying properties (increasing functionality of organ/energy systems in order to boost immunity), reduce toxicity (anti-inflammatory, reduction of cancerous cells within the body), and protect the spirit/emotions/body of the user (relax cells and allow for healing, rest boosts immunity)
“Ben Cao Gang Mu by Li Shin-Zhen, which is considered to be the first pharmacopoeia in China (1590 AD; Ming dynasty), the mushroom was attributed with therapeutic properties, such as tonifying effects, enhancing vital energy, strengthening cardiac function, increasing memory, and antiaging effects” (Wachtel-Galor, Sissi, et al. 2011)
Cautions: No toxicity found, some studies outlined some nausea and sleep disturbances
Preparation/dosage: there was a lot of conflicting evidence to say what works and what did not.  No one study/site/book referenced a primary preparation or dosage for cancer support or immunity.  Due to the variety of medicinal constituents within the Reishi mushroom, it is recommended by most platforms to do a dual-extraction method (decoct in water, then tincture in ethanol), this allows the extraction of the highest amounts of ‘medicinal constituents’ which are the polysaccharides (beta-glucans) and triterpenes. From my experience using Reishi 1:4 dual-extracted tincture, effects on insomnia and general well-being after use have been supported, but these effects have been observed when Reishi is combined in a synergistic formula with other herbs.

Picture: Local Sunshine Coast Turkey Tail mushrooms collected by me for dual-extracted tincture 😊

\"\"  Turkey Tail
Part: fruiting body, mycelium, spores
Taste: bland, sweet
Energy: neutral
Latin name: Trametes versicolor or Coriolus versicolor
Western medicine/research: constituents (not an exhaustive list); polysaccharides; “beta-glucans, arabinoxylane, glucose, xylose, galactose, mannose, glycoproteins, ergosterols, triterpenoids” (Stamets, Paul, 2012), phenolic & protein components, sterols, triterpene derivatives, hydroquinone-derived aromatic compounds, cerebroside, triglyceride derivative, etc. (Habibi, Emran, et al. 2015)
Actions:  anti-tumor, antioxidant, immune modulating, anti-microbial, hepatoprotective
“results thus indicate that CVPs (water-soluble Coriolus versicolor polysaccharide) can be a potential candidate to ameliorate toxic effects when used in cancer therapy.” (Cai, Xinzhong, et al. 2010)
“T versicolor preparation is safe and tolerable in women with breast cancer who had undergone chemotherapy. Perhaps the most intriguing part of this study was the finding that 6 g of T versicolor appeared to lead to faster immune recovery after radiotherapy” (Stamets, Paul, 2012)
“dietary supplement prepared from extracts ofT. versicolor reduces the growth of hormone responsive prostate cancer” (Patel, Seema, and Arun Goyal. 2012)
“polysaccharide of this mushroom has been demonstrated to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells in vitro and in vivo, examined on the human hepatoma cancer” (Patel, Seema, and Arun Goyal. 2012)
“The strain is excellent in platelet aggregation inhibitory effect, chemokine gene expression inhibitory effect, antimutagenic effect, antitumor effect, antihypertensive effect, and immunomodulatory effect” (Eguchi, Fumio, Ryo Sumi, and Nobuo Mori, 2010)
Traditional Chinese Medicine:
Chinese name: Yun Zhi or ‘cloud mushroom’
Organs:  Liver, Spleen, and Lung
Traditional use:  used traditionally for tonification of the Spleen (digestion and production of nourishing Blood), increasing energy and vitality (circulation of Blood), also said to reduce ‘Dampness’ (tumors, lumps, cancer) whilst clearing Heat and toxicity (inflammation)
Cautions: studies did not indicate any toxicity, safe to use in conjunction with conventional cancer therapies
Preparation: wide variety of preparations, including; in food/drink, pharmaceutical formulations, dual-extracted tinctures, freeze-dried mycelium capsules, etc.
Dosage: (4-9g) “4 g twice daily… capsules consist of activated, freeze-dried, organic mushroom mycelium, containing polysaccharides”…“up to 9 g/day tolerable in women with breast cancer who had undergone chemotherapy.”  (Stamets, Paul, 2012)
Table 7
Summary of Potential Clinical Applications

Type of CancerIndicated Mushroom
Nonsmall-cell lung cancerCordyceps
Lung cancerReishi
Gastric cancerPSK (turkey tail)
Hepatocellular carcinomaAgaricus, reishi
LeukemiaAgaricus, reishi
Breast cancerReishi, maitake, turkey tail
Colon cancerMaitake, reishi, turkey tail
Prostate cancerReishi

(Guggenheim, Alena G., Kirsten M. Wright, and Heather L. Zwickey, 2014)
**Always consult a qualified health professional before using herbal medicine, especially in conjunction with pharmaceuticals, or book an appointment with me!

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Image: Reishi mushroom (© 1997-2020 Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, Inc.)

  • Guggenheim, Alena G., Kirsten M. Wright, and Heather L. Zwickey. \”Immune modulation from five major mushrooms: application to integrative oncology.\” Integrative Medicine: A Clinician\’s Journal 13.1 (2014): 32.
  • Jin, Xingzhong, et al. \”Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for cancer treatment.\” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 6 (2012).
  • Santesso, Nancy, and L. Susan Wieland. \”A Summary of a Cochrane Review: Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for the treatment of cancer.\” European journal of integrative medicine 8.5 (2016): 619.
  • Suarez-Arroyo, Ivette J., et al. \”Anti-tumor effects of Ganoderma lucidum (reishi) in inflammatory breast cancer in in vivo and in vitro models.\” PloS one 8.2 (2013).
  • Wachtel-Galor, Sissi, et al. \”Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi).\” Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, 2011.
  • Habibi, Emran, et al. \”Mycochemical investigation of the turkey tail medicinal mushroom Trametes versicolor (higher basidiomycetes): A potential application of the isolated compounds in documented pharmacological studies.\” International journal of medicinal mushrooms 17.3 (2015).
  • Cai, Xinzhong, et al. \”Hepatoma cell growth inhibition by inducing apoptosis with polysaccharide isolated from Turkey tail medicinal mushroom, Trametes versicolor (L.: Fr.) Lloyd (Aphyllophoromycetideae).\” International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms 12.3 (2010).
  • Stamets, Paul. \”Trametes versicolor (turkey tail mushrooms) and the treatment of breast Cancer.\” Global advances in health and medicine 1.5 (2012): 20.
  • Patel, Seema, and Arun Goyal. \”Recent developments in mushrooms as anti-cancer therapeutics: a review.\” 3 Biotech 2.1 (2012): 1-15.
  • Eguchi, Fumio, Ryo Sumi, and Nobuo Mori. \”Strain of turkey tail mushroom, extract from the same, and use of the same.\” U.S. Patent No. 7,790,175. 7 Sep. 2010.

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