Medicinal Mushrooms: Fungi That Fight Cancer Cells

medicinal mushrooms
Photo courtesy of stock.xchng and Rybson

Medicinal mushrooms are nothing new – the Chinese have been using them for thousands of years.  Recent research indicates that (among other things) these funky fungi have the ability to kill cancer cells.

There was a very interesting article earlier this year in the Huffington Post and it reminded me of my own experience with a natural supplement given to me by my Australian naturopath.  I was given some freeze-dried granules that contained some of the mushrooms listed below to boost my immune system and white blood cell count prior to undergoing 6 months of chemotherapy.  I took it the entire time of my chemotherapy regime and I truly believed it helped me a lot.  My white blood cell counts were usually within acceptable ranges so that I was able to continue with the chemo treatments.

Unfortunately, the product is not available here in the U.S. (I checked) but go to any health food store and you will find any number of supplements based on these amazing fungi. Don’t be afraid to eat them fresh too – put them in soups, stews, salads!

Here Are The 7 Best Medicinal Mushrooms:

  1. Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum and Ganoderma tsugae) – Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors have long used this variety as a tonic, it improves vitality, strength and stamina and prolongs life. It is important in cancer treatment because it enhances immune response, alleviates chemotherapy side effects such as nausea and kidney damage, and protects cellular DNA by raising antioxidant capacity.  Its name means “supernatural mushroom”!
  2. Shiitake Mushroom (Lentinula edodes) – this mushroom is found in many Asian cuisines. It is considered both a delicacy and a medicinal mushroom. Shiitake is widely used in alternative and complementary treatment of cancer in Japan due to its immune-enhancing functions. Lentinan, a compound found in Shiitake, is used as an intravenous anti-cancer drug with anti-tumor properties. Clinical studies have associated lentinan with a higher survival rate, higher quality of life and lower recurrence of cancer.
  3. Coriolus Versicolor (also known as Trametes versicolor and Polyporus versicolor, or Turkey Tail) – found in many parts of the world, it is one of the most studied medicinal mushrooms.  It  has been used in Chinese Medicine as a tonic for centuries.  Studies indicate that it improves survival rates and acts as an immune modulator with immune stimulating and anti-tumor properties. Some studies show that it can enhance the effects of chemotherapy and reduce the side effects of radiation treatments.
  4. Cordyceps Sinensis (also known as Ophiocordyceps sinensis or Chinese Caterpillar fungus) – this little delight acts as an immune stimulant by increasing T-Cells and Natural Killer Cells (useful for both cancer and AIDS patients).  It also prolongs the life of white blood cells, important for healing infections. It has anti-tumor effects and also protects the kidneys from the side effects of chemotherapy.  It is one of the most widely used tonics in anti-cancer formulas in Chinese Medicine.
  5. Maitake Mushroom (Grifola frondosa) – another immune stimulator, it is widely used in Japanese cooking. Studies have shown that it is a powerful immune stimulant.  Maitake also protects cells with its antioxidant properties and decreases the inflammatory factor COX2 enzyme which is common in cancer physiology. Studies have also shown that Maitake has potential anti-metastatic properties inhibiting the proliferation and spread of cancer.
  6. Chaga Mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) – used as a medicinal mushroom in Russian and Eastern European traditional medicine. Chaga has been studied as a potential anti-cancer agent, it contains betulin, a precursor to betulinic acid, which has been shown to inhibit cancer-promoting enzymes. It also promotes apoptosis, or the natural progression of programmed cell death.
  7. Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) – a potent antioxidant, oyster mushrooms also have antibacterial and immune boosting abilities.

For more information on some specific tips on taking medicinal mushrooms, see my newer article.

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11 thoughts on “Medicinal Mushrooms: Fungi That Fight Cancer Cells

  1. I have extremely rare head/neck cancer and lymph nodes. Br. cancer-double mastectomy.
    I am taking 3200 mg Coriolus PSP daily. I now have eleveated ANA Titer levels, Immunity level alike Lupus, etc. also Hair Loss. What do you know about this experience?
    I cannot locate naturopath in our area PA and only ones at CTCA hosptials and they woun’t tkae me as they did not treat Acinic Cell. Few know anything about Chincese mushrooms. THANK YOU, Barbara Adele

    1. Barbara, I’m going to send you an email to respond – I believe Bastyr University (where many naturopaths are trained here in the US) would be able to help you locate someone. I’ll send their contact info. Hugs! Marnie

  2. My daughter has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and in her limpnodes one Dr. is saying to check for a certain jean or something and if she has that he says she needs to have her overies removed too. Are they getting a little Radical now? or is it just me?

    1. Hi, thanks for your question – it’s a good one. You haven’t told me your daughter’s age, but because one of her doctors is recommending the removal of ovaries, I can make the assumption that she is pre-menopausal and that her tumor growth is driven by hormones. You could be forgiven for thinking that ovary removal is radical, however, some doctors recommend this for younger women with breast cancer that is estrogen receptor positive because in pre-menopausal women, the ovaries are the main production unit for estrogen and some doctors feel that this is the best way of decreasing her chance of the cancer returning. Here’s a good article on the subject: The gene they will be looking for is the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Please let me know if I can help you in any way. It’s a scary time for your daughter (and you) and I commend you for looking into this a bit more deeply.

  3. Good morning Marnie. In episode 3 of The Truth about Cancer one of the doctors said mushrooms were high in glutamine which promotes cancer growth. Now I’m confused as I thought mushrooms were anti- cancer immune building supplements. My naturopath has me taking Maitake mushroom supplements. I found that episode of TTAC contradictory as one doctor said mushrooms should be avoided and another Russian doctor was promoting the Chaga mushroom for anti-cancer properties. What’s your opinion?

    1. Hi Gail,
      Thanks for your comment. First of all, good for you for paying such close attention. Well done. Secondly, this is simply one man’s opinion. I have not stopped taking or recommending medicinal mushrooms, I think the value that they offer us (in anti-cancer benefits) far outweighs any possible risk.​ I will continue to monitor the situation and if I find anything that indicates we should stop taking medicinal mushrooms, I will let you know.
      Best regards,

  4. How are mushrooms taken? Are they most effective raw, cooked, or powder? I have a great resource for Chinese herbs in powder form. I researched the lab that makes the herbs and powders seems to be made in a clean way with organic products.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Elaine,
      Medicinal mushrooms can be eaten all 3 ways – raw, cooked or powder and they also come in a liquid tincture. To my knowledge, I’m aware of no studies which tell us which is the most effective way. On one hand, raw mushrooms are the most natural form but are often difficult to obtain. Cooked may destroy some of the phytochemicals for which they’re being taken but will still provide some therapeutic potential. Dried and liquid tinctures are the easiest way to obtain medicinal mushrooms and that’s the way I take them. Go ahead and get in contact with your resource for Chinese herbs. I think the best way to take them is via a blend of mushrooms because they seem to work synergistically that way. Here are two formulations that I’m very impressed with:
      Host Defense My Community – contains 17 medicinal mushroom species
      Host Defense Stamets 7 – contains the best 7 medicinal mushrooms
      I have taken both of these myself and can attest to their therapeutic value!
      I hope that helps.
      Warmest regards,
      Marnie Clark

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