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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