Studies have shown that medicinal mushrooms can help prevent cancer due to anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory properties by induction of apoptosis accompanying modulated cell cycle progression. The best approach with mushrooms is to use the ones best suited for your targeted weaknesses and genetic susceptibilities. If you are using them during and after cancer treatment, you will need to take a higher dose to get the effects found in many of the following studies.
Medicinal Mushrooms for Immunity and Cancer Prevention
Many medicinal mushrooms can help prevent cancer, and in this case, Cordyceps are especially useful for lung and skin cancer. One of the most powerful protective compounds against radiation are found in Cordyceps. Cordyceps belongs to the family of numerous mushrooms, which are parasitic organisms growing wildly on the caterpillars in the high plateaus of China, Nepal, and Tibet. In one study, an orally administered hot-water extract from Cordyceps Sinensis (CS), protected mice from bone marrow and intestinal injuries after total-body irradiation (TBI). According to WebMD, “Cordyceps might improve immunity by stimulating cells and specific chemicals in the immune system. It may also have activity against cancer cells and may shrink tumor size, particularly with lung or skin cancers.”
Studies have found that Cordyceps helps the following:
- Athletic performance
- Auto-Immune Disorders
- Erectile dysfunction
- Fatty Liver
- Liver Damage
Other medicinal mushrooms can help prevent cancer, and Reishi is no exception. Reishi is a medicinal mushroom found to prevent cancer growth. Reishi is considered one of the most revered herbs in traditional Japanese and Chinese medicine and one of the most highly regarded medicinal mushrooms. It is an adaptogen, and benefits immune health, liver function, and cardiovascular health. The various types of polysaccharides in reishi mushrooms have demonstrated immune-enhancing properties. In one placebo-controlled study, 48 patients with advanced tumors were given reishi extract for 30 days. Researchers found a marked immune-modulating effect as seen by an increase in T lymphocytes and decreased CD8 counts. Patients also reported reduced side effects due to radiation and chemotherapy. It has also been found in vivo and in vitro to do the following (studies in Medicinal Mushrooms by Hobbs):
- Anti-allergy activity
- Bronchitis-preventative effect, inducing regeneration of bronchial epithelium
- Antibacterial against Staphloccoci, Streptococci and Baccillus pneumoniae
- Lowers blood pressure
- Enhances bone marrow nucleated cell proliferation
- Cardiotonic action, lowering serum cholesterol levels with no effect on triglycerides, enhancing myocardial metabolism and improving the coronary arteries
- Central depressant and perpheral anticholinergic actions on the automatic nervous system reduce the effects of caffeine and relax muscles
- Enhanced natural killer cells in mice
- Expectorant and antitussive properties in mice
- Anti-HIV activity
- Improved adrenocortical function
- Increased production of Interleukin-1 and Interleukin-2
- Liver-protective and detoxifying effects
- Protection against ionizing radiation
- Slight anti-ulcer activity
- Increase white blood cells and hematoglobin
Certain medicinal mushrooms can help prevent cancer of the breast and colon, with Coriolus or “Turkey Tail” being a standout star. It has over 600 studies and 24 human clinical trials and appears in herbal texts dating back to the 16th century. The beta-glucans in this mushroom activate many components of the immune system. Receptors for the beta-glucans have been found in neutrophils, monocytes/macrophages, natural killer cells, and also T and B lymphocytes. It is widely used in Japan (25% of cancer care costs go to Turkey Tail cancer therapy) and China as immune support for those undergoing chemo and radiation. Recent American research has shown noticeable immuno-modulating activity.
Multiple studies have shown that PSK (Coriolus polysaccharides) is associated with higher survival rates after chemotherapy and/or radiation compared to groups who only did chemo/radiation and did not take PSK. A seven-year, $2 million NIH funded clinical study jointly conducted by Bastyr University and the University of Minnesota, shows that freeze-dried Turkey Tail mushroom mycelium supports immune function when administered to women with stage I-III breast cancer.“I have long recommended Turkey Tail and other medicinal mushrooms to persons with cancer. They are non-toxic, do not interfere with conventional therapies, and strengthen the body’s defenses,” affirmed Andrew Weil, MD.
A 10-year randomized double-blind trial was performed by administering PSK to 56 patients and a placebo to another group of 55 patients after a surgical operation for colorectal cancer. The rate of patients in remission was MORE THAN DOUBLED in the Coriolus group as compared to the placebo group. White blood cell activity was also “remarkably enhanced” in the Turkey Tail group.
Turkey Tail has been found to protect the immune system’s activity from being suppressed by prolonged use of chemotherapy drugs and the drain from cancer itself. One ten year study of 185 patients with lung cancer showed that combining PSK with radiation therapy produced satisfactory tumor shrinkage and better survival rates for patients with Stage 1 cancer (39 percent) and Stage II cancer (22 percent) compared against those patients with Stage 1 cancer (16 percent) and Stage II cancer (5 percent) who did not take PSK.
4. Agaricus blazei
Other medicinal mushrooms can help prevent cancer that you may have never heard of, like Agaricus blazei. Agaricus contains a unique beta-glucan complex that appears to activate many components of the immune system including T lympocytes, granulocytes, and C3 complement. Research has also shown that Agaricus blazei contains more beta glucans than any of the other medicinal mushrooms tested so far. Animal studies have demonstrated anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties, as well as one in which A. blazei induced self-destruction of malignant cells.
5. Maitake Gold
Medicinal mushrooms can help prevent cancer like maitake, especially for prostate health. One study found that the bioactive beta-glucan from Maitake mushroom has a cytotoxic effect on prostatic cancer cells in vitro, leading to apoptosis. The authors concluded that the unique polysaccharide may have great potential as an alternative therapeutic modality for prostate cancer.
Maitake has been found to have hepatoprotective effects and was found to be the most active of the medicinal mushrooms tested. It lowers blood glucose levels, enhances macrophages, N-Killer cells, and cytotoxic T-cells and induced an 86% tumor growth inhibition compared with those of non-treated tumor-bearing mice (studies in Medicinal Mushrooms by Hobbs).
6. Wild Chaga
Wild medicinal mushrooms can help prevent cancer, and chaga may be more of the most potent examples. Since the sixteenth century, Chaga has been used as a folk medicine in Russia and western Siberia. Chaga mushroom has shown various biological activities, including anti-bacterial, hepato-protective, and anti-tumor effects. Chaga grows on wild birch trees in the extremely cold, inhospitable environments of Siberia, Canada and parts of northern America. The incredible compounds of Chaga are mostly due to the nutrients of the wild birch trees that are transferred to the mushroom.
Chaga contains a multitude of minerals and is one of the highest sources of superoxide dismutase (SOD) known, responsible for blocking the toxicity of free radicals. In one study, the researchers concluded that Chaga mushroom extracts might represent a valuable source of biologically active compounds with potential for protecting cellular DNA from oxidative damage in vitro, while another study concluded that Chaga extract induced the growth inhibition, G0/G1-phase arrest, and apoptosis in human hepatoma HepG2 cells, proving Chaga to be a potential anticancer agent in the treatment of hepatoma. In other studies, the long-term administration of Chaga significantly improved the general condition and objective state of patients with incurable stage III – IV cancer, irrespective of the tumor location.
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