Medicinal Mushrooms

Mushrooms are becoming recognized as a valuable health food. They are low in calories, high in vegetable proteins, chitin, iron, zinc, fiber, essential amino acids, vitamins & minerals and have a long history of use in Chinese medicine. Their legendary effects on promoting good health and vitality and increasing your body’s adaptive abilities have been supported by many scientific studies. These studies suggest that mushrooms help your body strengthen itself and fight off illness by restoring your bodies balance and natural resistance to disease. The compounds they contain have immune system enhancement properties. In Japan, Russia, China, and the U.S. several different polysaccharide antitumor agents have been developed from the fruiting body, mycelia, and culture medium of various medicinal mushrooms.

Many scientific studies performed in universities and medical facilities have produced volumes of studies on the medicinal effects of mushrooms on many different ailments affecting humans. A medicinal mushroom blend will usually contain Shitake (Lentinus edodes), Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Maitake (Grifola frondosa), and/or Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinesis) as well as many other possible, but less well known candidates. Another popular mushroom is Coriolus versicolor. The 3 mushrooms which have the broadest range of action are Shitake, Reishi and Maitake.

Reishi has been called an “immune potentiator” and can increase the production of Interleukin-1 and 2. It has been reported that Reishi extracts “exerted an inhibition effect on tumor growth”. Studies have also indicated that Reishi has a number of other effects: analgesic, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-HIV activity, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, improves mucous flow and reduces coughing, lowers blood pressure and serum cholesterol, protects the liver and protects against ionizing radiation.

The lentinan found in Shiitake has been licensed as a anti-cancer drug by the Japanese FDA. Lentinan has shown some effect on bowel cancer, liver cancer, stomach cancer, ovarian cancer and lung cancer. Lentinan stimulates the production of T-lymphocytes and natural killer cells and can potentiate the effect of AZT in the anti-viral treatment of AIDS. Shiitake and maitake mushrooms have some of the same actions as Reishi, strengthening your immune system’s ability to fight bacterial and viral infection.

Human clinical studies indicate that cordyceps can be effective for treatment of high cholesterol, poor libido/impotence, arrhythmia, lung cancer, and chronic kidney failure. It is also reported that cordyceps causes smooth muscle relaxation. This can make it especially helpful for treating bronchitis and asthma.

PSK is the popular Japanese extract made from Coriolus versicolor. As clinically and anecdotally reported, the mushroom extract works well against colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and liver cancer. There was significant prolongation of disease-free periods for patients with colorectal cancer who took PSK compared with controls. Immunotherapy[/glossary] 31: pp.261-268, 1990


PSK acts directly against tumor cells as well as indirectly in the host to boost cellular immunity by increasing white cell activity and increasing natural killer cell function. The list of cancers for which it is known to be useful in animals includes adenosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, mastocytoma, plasmacytoma, melanoma, sarcoma, carcinoma, mammary cancer, colon cancer, and lung cancer.

Advanced or difficult cases may require higher doses, such as 4 capsules tid for periods of a month or longer. Because of the many favorable responses reported, patients with chronic and debilitating problems are encouraged to take these higher doses for at least a month to determine whether there will be any benefit. As mushroom extracts tend to be expensive, you should use a product manufactured by a reputable company.


Medicinal Mushrooms can help with the following

Drug Side Effects  

Chemotherapy Side-Effects/Risks

The mushroom Coriolus versicolor contains an immune-stimulating substance called polysaccharide krestin, or PSK. PSK has been shown in several studies to help cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. One study involved women with estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer. PSK combined with chemotherapy significantly prolonged survival time compared with chemotherapy alone. [Cancer 1992;70: pp.2475–83] Another study followed women with breast cancer who were given chemotherapy with or without PSK. The PSK-plus-chemotherapy group had a 25% better chance of survival after ten years compared with those taking chemotherapy without PSK.[Anticancer Res 1995;15: pp.2907–12] Another study looked at people who had surgically removed colon cancer. They were given chemotherapy with or without PSK. Those given PSK had a longer disease-free period and longer survival time. PSK has also been reported to prevent the toxic effects of some chemotherapy agents (vincristine, cyclophosphamide, and Adriamycin) on blood cells in patients with breast cancer. [Dis Colon Rectum 1992;35: pp.123–30] Three grams of PSK were taken orally each day in these studies.

Although PSK is available without prescription in the United States, it is usually not found in health food stores. Through special suppliers to the medical profession, however, PSK can be obtained from doctors of natural medicine. Most but not all Coriolus versicolor extracts contain less than the high level of active ingredient (at least 30% protein-bound polysaccharides) found in PSK.

The Immune System  


Chronic Fatigue / Fibromyalgia Syndrome

Many CFIDS patients feel more energetic after taking mushroom formulas. Medicinal mushrooms may have anti-viral effects as well.


Lyme Disease

Because of many mushroom’s ability to build energy, stamina and endurance it has been recommended for use by those who suffer from Lyme disease.



Anticoagulant Use

As it may increase bleeding time, reishi is not recommended for those taking anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medications.


Cancer / Risk - General Measures

Antitumor and anticancer properties have been studied in mushrooms. Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) and reishi (Ganoderma ludidum) have been found to have general anticancer and immune-stimulating activity. [Gan To Kagaku Ryoho 1982;9(8): pp.1474-81] Maitake (Grifolia frondosa) also contains immune-stimulating polysaccharides. In a study by Hiroaki Namba, Ph.D., of Japan, mice were fed either a control diet, a diet that included 20% maitake powder or a control diet plus injections of maitake D-fraction extract at a rate of 1mg/kg of body weight. Results showed that maitake inhibited metastasis by 81% in the maitake-fed group and by 91% in the D-fraction injection group.

There are an increasing number of combination mushroom products on the market to help prevent and provide a supportive role in the treatment of cancer.

However, a six month trial of a Shitake extract produced no noticeable benefit in prostate cancer sufferers. [Urology 2002;60(4): pp.640-4]

Thirty-four patients, with no significant difference in their baseline demographic, clinical or tumor characteristics, or previous treatment regimes (P>0.05), were recruited into each of the PSP and control arms. After 28-day treatment, there was a significant improvement in blood leukocyte and neutrophil counts, serum IgG and IgM, and percent of body fat among the PSP, but not the control, patients (P<0.05). Although the evaluable PSP patients did not improve in NSCLC-related symptoms, there were significantly less PSP patients withdrawn due to disease progression, than their control counterparts (5.9 and 23.5%, respectively; P=0.04; OR 4.00). There was no reported adverse reaction attributable to the trial medications.Conclusion : PSP treatment appears to be associated with slower deterioration in patients with advanced NSCLC. [Respiratory Medicine Volume 97, Issue 6, June 2003, Pages 618-624 ]

In testing with a smaller molecule from Coriolus versicolor (SPVC), there is promise of anticancer effects which are better than that found with the PSP extract from Coriolus versicolor. It does not appear that this product is currently available for consumer use.

A small polypeptide was isolated from the crude extraction of polysaccharide peptide of Coriolus versicolor (Cov-1) by HPLC and CIEF. It has a smaller molecular weight (10K) compared with that of PSP (100K) and was named small peptide of Coriolus versicolor, SPCV. It was found that SPCV possesses potent cytotoxic effect on human tumor cell lines of HL-60, LS174-T, SMMU-7721, and SCG-7901. The IC50 of SPCV on HL-60 was 30 µg/ml. The inhibition rates of leukemia cells and SCG-7901 were significantly higher in SPCV treated group than that in PSP and PSK groups. SPCV also has immunopotentiating effect as it increased WBC and IgG levels. Pretreatment of SPCV for two weeks decreased the incidence of tumor mass in nude mice inoculated with tumor cells. [ American Journal of Chinese Medicine (AJCM) Volume: 20, Issues: 3-4 (1992) pp. 221-232]

Tumors, Malignant  

Lung Cancer

Thirty-four patients, with no significant difference in their baseline demographic, clinical or tumor characteristics, or previous treatment regimes (P>0.05), were recruited into each of the PSP and control arms. After 28-day treatment, there was a significant improvement in blood leukocyte and neutrophil counts, serum IgG and IgM, and percent of body fat among the PSP, but not the control, patients (P<0.05). Although the evaluable PSP patients did not improve in NSCLC-related symptoms, there were significantly less PSP patients withdrawn due to disease progression, than their control counterparts (5.9 and 23.5%, respectively; P=0.04; OR 4.00). There was no reported adverse reaction attributable to the trial medications.Conclusion : PSP treatment appears to be associated with slower deterioration in patients with advanced NSCLC. [Respiratory Medicine Volume 97, Issue 6, June 2003, Pages 618-624 ]


Likely to help
Highly recommended
May have adverse consequences



Compounds composed of hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen present in the body and in foods that form complex combinations of amino acids. Protein is essential for life and is used for growth and repair. Foods that supply the body with protein include animal products, grains, legumes, and vegetables. Proteins from animal sources contain the essential amino acids. Proteins are changed to amino acids in the body.


An essential mineral. Prevents anemia: as a constituent of hemoglobin, transports oxygen throughout the body. Virtually all of the oxygen used by cells in the life process are brought to the cells by the hemoglobin of red blood cells. Iron is a small but most vital, component of the hemoglobin in 20,000 billion red blood cells, of which 115 million are formed every minute. Heme iron (from meat) is absorbed 10 times more readily than the ferrous or ferric form.


An essential trace mineral. The functions of zinc are enzymatic. There are over 70 metalloenzymes known to require zinc for their functions. The main biochemicals in which zinc has been found to be necessary include: enzymes and enzymatic function, protein synthesis and carbohydrate metabolism. Zinc is a constituent of insulin and male reproductive fluid. Zinc is necessary for the proper metabolism of alcohol, to get rid of the lactic acid that builds up in working muscles and to transfer it to the lungs. Zinc is involved in the health of the immune system, assists vitamin A utilization and is involved in the formation of bone and teeth.


Plays a vital role in regulating many body functions. They act as catalysts in nerve response, muscle contraction and the metabolism of nutrients in foods. They regulate electrolyte balance and hormonal production, and they strengthen skeletal structures.

Immune System

A complex that protects the body from disease organisms and other foreign bodies. The system includes the humoral immune response and the cell-mediated response. The immune system also protects the body from invasion by making local barriers and inflammation.


Agent which relieves pain without causing loss of consciousness.


Any of a number of herbs, drugs or agents capable of destroying viruses or inhibiting their growth or multiplication until the body is capable of destroying the virus itself. Most antiviral agents are members of the antimetabolite family.


Reducing inflammation by acting on body mechanisms, without directly acting on the cause of inflammation, e.g., glucocorticoids, aspirin.


A chemical compound that slows or prevents oxygen from reacting with other compounds. Some antioxidants have been shown to have cancer-protecting potential because they neutralize free radicals. Examples include vitamins C and E, alpha lipoic acid, beta carotene, the minerals selenium, zinc, and germanium, superoxide dismutase (SOD), coenzyme Q10, catalase, and some amino acids, like cystiene. Other nutrient sources include grape seed extract, curcumin, gingko, green tea, olive leaf, policosanol and pycnogenol.


The cell-free fluid of the bloodstream. It appears in a test tube after the blood clots and is often used in expressions relating to the levels of certain compounds in the blood stream.


A waxy, fat-like substance manufactured in the liver and found in all tissues, it facilitates the transport and absorption of fatty acids. In foods, only animal products contain cholesterol. An excess of cholesterol in the bloodstream can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis.


The (American) Food and Drug Administration. It is the official government agency that is responsible for ensuring that what we put into our bodies - particularly food and drugs - is safe and effective.


Refers to the various types of malignant neoplasms that contain cells growing out of control and invading adjacent tissues, which may metastasize to distant tissues.


A hollow, muscular, J-shaped pouch located in the upper part of the abdomen to the left of the midline. The upper end (fundus) is large and dome-shaped; the area just below the fundus is called the body of the stomach. The fundus and the body are often referred to as the cardiac portion of the stomach. The lower (pyloric) portion curves downward and to the right and includes the antrum and the pylorus. The function of the stomach is to begin digestion by physically breaking down food received from the esophagus. The tissues of the stomach wall are composed of three types of muscle fibers: circular, longitudinal and oblique. These fibers create structural elasticity and contractibility, both of which are needed for digestion. The stomach mucosa contains cells which secrete hydrochloric acid and this in turn activates the other gastric enzymes pepsin and rennin. To protect itself from being destroyed by its own enzymes, the stomach’s mucous lining must constantly regenerate itself.


Long-lived mononuclear white blood cell having the property of destroying target cells and responsible for cell-mediated immunity.


A condition caused by variation in the regular rhythm of the heartbeat. Arrhythmias may cause serious conditions such as shock and congestive heart failure, or even death.


Usually Chronic illness: Illness extending over a long period of time.

Chronic Renal Failure

(CRF) Irreversible, progressive impaired kidney function. The early stage, when the kidneys no longer function properly but do not yet require dialysis, is known as Chronic Renal Insufficiency (CRI). CRI can be difficult to diagnose, as symptoms are not usually apparent until kidney disease has progressed significantly. Common symptoms include a frequent need to urinate and swelling, as well as possible anemia, fatigue, weakness, headaches and loss of appetite. As the disease progresses, other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, bad breath and itchy skin may develop as toxic metabolites, normally filtered out of the blood by the kidneys, build up to harmful levels. Over time (up to 10 or 20 years), CRF generally progresses from CRI to End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD, also known as Kidney Failure). Patients with ESRD no longer have kidney function adequate to sustain life and require dialysis or kidney transplantation. Without proper treatment, ESRD is fatal.


Inflammation of the mucous membrane of the bronchial tubes, frequently accompanied by cough, hypersecretion of mucus, and expectoration of sputum. Acute bronchitis is usually caused by an infectious agent and of short duration. Chronic bronchitis, generally the result of smoking, may also be known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or Emphysema.


A lung disorder marked by attacks of breathing difficulty, wheezing, coughing, and thick mucus coming from the lungs. The episodes may be triggered by breathing foreign substances (allergens) or pollutants, infection, vigorous exercise, or emotional stress.

Colorectal Cancer

A cancerous tumor of the large intestine. It is marked by dark, sticky stools containing blood and a change in bowel habits.


The prostate gland in men that surrounds the neck of the bladder and the urethra and produces a secretion that liquefies coagulated semen.

Cellular immunity

A branch of the immune system which involves direct attack by immune cells often called "T" cells. Antibodies play less of a role.


A life-threatening type of skin cancer that occurs in the cells (melanocytes) that produce melanin, the pigment found in skin, hair, and the iris of the eyes.


Malignant growth of epithelial cells tending to infiltrate the surrounding tissue and giving rise to metastasis.


The part of the large intestine that extends to the rectum. The colon takes the contents of the small intestine, moving them to the rectum by contracting.


Three times a day.

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