The magical world of medicinal mushrooms has received a lot of attention within recent years. In case you haven’t noticed, there are supplements, teas, coffees, tinctures, and more that contain a variety of medicinal mushrooms. From their ability to improve lung diseases to their cancer fighting benefits, medicinal mushrooms can seemingly do no wrong. It’s about time that the Western health world caught on to the healing properties of fungi!
The use of medicinal mushrooms, like the reishi mushroom, is relatively new in the United States. In Asia, specifically China and Japan, these mushrooms have been added to standard cancer treatments for more than 30 years; although, the use of medicinal mushrooms in Asia dates back hundreds of years. In fact, there are more than 100 types of mushrooms with anti-cancer properties in Asia. The primary ones that people use in therapy include the Grifola frondosa (maitake), Coriolus versicolor (turkey tail), Lentinus edodes (shiitake), and the Ganoderma lucidum (reishi).
Reishi Mushrooms And The Immune System
Naturopathic doctors in Asia recommend reishi mushroom to people who require immune support. In Poland, reishi mushrooms are food supplements, which adapt to chemical imbalances in the body and corrects them. The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia recommends reishi mushroom for its ability to boost immune function. In fact, test-tube studies revealed that reishi can influence genes in white blood cells, which are crucial parts of the immune system.
According to research on cancer patients, reishi mushroom has the ability to increase the activity of natural killer cells (NK cells). NK cells work to fight cancer and other infections in the body. One study found that after ingesting reishi mushroom, the host increased NK cell activity and lymphocyte function, which also works to combat cancer and infections. While these studies proved that reishi consumption increases immune function and NK cell activity to fight cancer cells, future studies need to focus on long-term survival rates of patients after reishi supplementation.
Reishi Mushrooms For Cancer Treatment
Cancer patients want to do everything in their power to fight off the cancerous cells or tumors in the body. If possible, avoiding radiation and chemotherapy is the preferred route to travel, but seldom do alternative remedies make this possible. Rather, things like reishi mushrooms get added to the treatment to boost immune function and reduce the amount of medical treatment required. Several test-tube studies found that reishi mushroom kills cancer cells. Another study examined 4,000 breast cancer survivors, and 59% of them consumed reishi mushroom in conjunction with their treatment.
According to a systemic review and meta-analysis of 5 controlled studies, cancer patients who took reishi responded better to chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The review also found that reishi increased NK-cell activity and the percentage of CD3, CD4, and CD8-positive cells, improving overall immune response. By increasing white blood cell activity, reishi mushrooms work to both fight the infection and increase the quality of cancer patients’ lives.
As we detailed in this article, reishi mushrooms exhibited anti-cancer activity on several molecular levels. Lung, colorectal, and breast cancer patients positively responded to the addition of reishi mushrooms to their existing chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatments. We need more studies to determine whether or not reishi mushrooms alone can fight off certain cancers. The existing studies, however, prove that reishi mushrooms may help reduce the size of certain benign tumors and reduce the rapid spread of cancer cells. We can only hope for more studies that focus on this medicinal mushroom for cancer treatment.