4 Medicinal Mushrooms that Fight Cancer

medicinal mushrooms fight cancer

Research proves that medicinal mushrooms fight cancer.

Over three decades of laboratory and clinical research have established that a number of medicinal mushrooms work in a myriad of ways to help our bodies naturally fight cancer.

The science shows that medicinal mushrooms are not all alike. They each work a little differently. Nonetheless, the research does find that most of these medicinal mushrooms help boost the body’s own immunity, along with working to kill or weaken cancer cells.

Adjunctive therapy

We should note that due to their care for patients, medical researchers are reluctant to test cancer patients by only treating them with mushroom extracts. Most of the research has therefore treated patients with mushroom therapy alongside conventional chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy (radiation).

This is logical, since chemotherapy and radiotherapy have received intensive research focus and have been dramatically improved over the past two decades. Survival rates have therefore increased for these therapies.

At the same time, these therapies are also still wrought with side effects. They also tend to severely depress the immune system. Both of these provide a segue for the use of mushroom therapy in cancer treatment alongside conventional therapy.

This is called adjunctive therapy.

Mushroom cancer research has come a long way

At the same time, we should appreciate that mushroom therapy has come a long way over the past three decades. Not so long ago, treating cancer patients with mushroom extracts was unheard of by Western researchers. That left all the research on mushrooms mostly in the territory of laboratory research on human cancer cells or animals.

This preliminary research has yielded significant success. But as some of the research has moved to humans, it has been found that there is a definite place for mushroom therapy in cancer treatment.

But this is only the beginning of this human research. So much more is necessary. It behooves us to encourage medical researchers to put more focus on medicinal mushrooms and their extracts. Yes, it is difficult to patent a natural compound. But we’re talking about helping people here, right? Isn’t that the goal of medical science? Or at least, shouldn’t it be?

For this reason, what you’ll find in the research below is a mix of adjunctive clinical research and a summary of some of the laboratory research. Note that in most cases, this follows tens of previous laboratory studies on any of these mushrooms and their extracts.

My focus is to present you the current progress of the science of anticancer mushroom therapy research.

Please note that I will be adding additional species of mushrooms to this article in the weeks ahead. Therefore you might consider returning to this post to read about more anticancer mushrooms. (The tip-off will be the count on the title.)

Here is a summary of the latest medical research on medicinal mushrooms.

Split-gill Mushroom (Schizophyllum commune)

The Split-gill mushroom has been tested clinically and in the laboratory for decades. One of its main anti-cancer compounds is Hydrophobin SC3. In 2013, researchers from The Netherlands injected this compound into growing tumors in the laboratory. The researchers found that after 12 days of daily injections, the compound suppressed the growth of the tumors. This was facilitated by the boosting of natural interleukin-10 and TNF-alpha levels, which naturally fight tumor growth.

Another anti-cancer compound from Split-gill is Schizophyllan. In a 2015 study, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences tested Schizophyllan against human breast cancer cells. They found the compound fights tumor growth for breast cancer.

Split-gill mushrooms have also been tested clinically. In a 1991 study, Tokyo’s Cancer Institute Hospital tested 40 patients, with 15 cervical cancer patients with benign tumors. Prior to surgery, they administered 20 milligrams of sizofiran, also called SPG – a schizophyllum glucan. After 8 days of injections, the researchers found the patients who received the injections had boosted immune markers such as helper-T cells and IL-2.

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In a 1995 study from Japan’s Kumamoto University School of Medicine, 312 patients with cervical cancer were tested. In 90 patients given the SPG compound along with radiotherapy, their 5-year survival rates were significantly longer than those of a group of 82 patients treated with radiotherapy alone.

Furthermore, another 60 cervical cancer patients given the sizofiran along with chemotherapy had significantly better 5-year survival rates than those who had chemotherapy alone. And 244 cancer patients who were given the sizofiran compound showed boosted natural anticancer immunity such as CD8+ and CD4+ T-cells.

Huaier (Trametes robiniophila)

The Huaier mushroom has been used in Chinese Medicine for almost two thousand years. The mushroom has been found to help treat liver cancer, breast cancer, stomach cancer, ovarian cancer and others in laboratory research. Studies have shown it helps kill cancer cells, helps prevent tumors, helps inhibit tumor growth, reduces chemo side effects, and activates the immune system.

In a 2018 study, researchers found that a water extract of Huaier inhibited human prostate cancer cell growth. In a 2017 study, researchers found Huaier significantly inhibited cancer growth on human stomach cancer cells. The researchers found it reduced MMP expression while boosting immune markers.

In a 2016 study, researchers tested Huaier against human liver cancer cells. They found the extract inhibited tumor growth potential in this laboratory study.

Similarly, a 2016 study on human breast cancer cells found Huaier extract inhibited tumor growth.

Yunzhi (Coriolus versicolor)

C. versicolor has been tested for more than three decades. Lab and clinical testing finds it boosts the body’s natural immunity (including cytokines IL-1, IL-2, IL-6, IL-8, TNF-α, and TNF). It improves cancer survival.

In a 2017 study from the National Cancer Center in Sinapore, researchers tested 15 acute liver cancer patients who were unable to receive other treatment. Those given the C. versicolor extract did not appear to reduce the disease progression of the patients. But it did significantly increase the quality of live for those patients. Those given the mushroom extract had reduced pain and less appetite loss as a result of the mushrooms. The researchers stated:

“Coriolus versicolor subjects generally had better Quality of LIfe on treatment compared to placebo subjects. The utility of this supplement in patients whose primary treatment goal is palliation should be further explored.”

Other clinical studies have shown even better results. A 2003 study tested 34 patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Part of the group took a PSP extract from Coriolus versicolor for 28 days. The researchers found the extract improved symptoms and improved immune cell counts, along with boosted IgG and IgM. The mushroom extract patients also showed reduced symptoms of disease progression.

A 2005 clinical study tested C. versicolor with 82 breast cancer patients for six months, following their conventional cancer treatment. The researchers found the PSP extract boosted anticancer immunity markers (such as CD4+, CD8_ and B-lymphocytes. They also decreased pro-cancer markers.

A 2013 clinical study on breast cancer patients found that the PSP extract significantly boosted anticancer immune cells. It also downgraded tumor-boosting mechanisms among the cancer patients.

A 1997 study from Japan’s Kyushu University tested 224 patients with stomach cancer after they received surgery to remove the cancer. The patients were split into two groups and one group received the PSP extract for a year.

The research found the PSP group had longer survival rates and decreased recurrence rates. They also had lower recurrence rates compared to those who didn’t receive the PSP extract.

Maitake (Grifola frondosa)

This ancient medicinal mushroom has been used for thousands of years and has undergone a tremendous amount of cancer research. It has been shown to stimulate anticancer macrophages, and boost the body’s immunity against cancer. These include boosting leukocytes, IL-1, IL-6, and IL-8.

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In a 2015 clinical study from New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, researchers tested 21 patients with MDS (Myelodysplastic syndromes). MDS are a group of bone marrow-related cancers.

The researchers found that the Maitake extract boosted basal neutrophils and improved monocyte function. The researchers found the treatment to be beneficial in this relatively short study.

In a 2010 study, researchers tested 72 patients with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). They gave the patients either a Maitake extract called MSX with or without chemo or the chemo therapy alone. The researchers found the mushroom extract boosted ovulation in a majority of the patients (77 percent and 93 percent), while the chemotherapy rates were much lower.

A 2008 study from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center tested 34 breast cancer patients in a safety and tolerance study. They were given Maitake liquid extract for three weeks. The researchers found the mushroom extract boosted immune function among the patients. Increasing doses increased some function while depressing other immune function. The researchers noted further testing was required to better understand the extract’s effects.

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A 1999 clinical study tested 313 patients after being treated with bladder cancer. They were given either mitomycin treatment, Maitake extract, thiotepa chemo or served as controls. The patients were followed for up to 15 years. The researchers found that the control group had a 65 percent recurrence of the bladder cancer. This was compared to only 34.9 percent in the Maitake group. Those in the mitomycin group had a slightly higher recurrence rate, while the thiotepa chemo group had a 42 percent recurrence rate. The Maitake recurrence rate was the lowest, and nearly half of the control group.

A similar study from 1994 tested 146 bladder cancer patients, and found that tumor recurrence rates were 33.3 percent in the Maitake group, 34.3 percent in the conventional group and 65 percent in the control group.

Reishi mushroom also fights cancer according to other research. White mushrooms help PSA in prostate cancer as well.



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  • Case Adams, PhD

    Ph.D. in Natural Health Sciences, Doctorate in Integrative Health Sciences, Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner, California Naturopath. Diplomas in Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling, Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Colon Hydrotherapy, certificates in Pain Management and Case Management/Contact Tracing. Has authored more than 30 books and hundreds of periodical articles on natural medicine. Recreational activities include surfing, sailing, running, biking, swimming, SUPing, hiking. Contact: case(at)caseadams(dot)com.

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