We’ve written about mushrooms many times because of their astonishing ability to boost the immune system.
And there’s a lot to love about mushrooms. They’re nutritious. They have an abundance of proteins, vitamins, and fatty acids. They’re known to support weight loss efforts and lower cholesterol. They can even help control diabetes.
But reishi mushrooms are particularly worth noticing, especially if you’re being treated for cancer with mainstream methods like chemotherapy and radiation. Aside from their own power to fight cancer, they bring blessed relief from chemo’s ugly side effects. Read on for the full story. . .
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The life-generating mushroom
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) grows wild in China, usually on decaying logs and tree stumps. It can be found in six different colors, but the red strain is the one that’s best known and most commonly cultivated. Reishi mushrooms are edible and have a tough, wood-like texture and a kidney-shaped cap.
Reishi has long held a revered place in Chinese traditional medicine, where it’s seen more than 4,000 years of use for a variety of disorders, including high blood pressure, arthritis, liver disorders, and immune system stimulation. Reishi is also said to reduce high cholesterol and offers a blood-thinning benefit, which could prove useful in heart disease prevention.
With a resumé like that, no wonder it’s called “the mushroom of immortality”.
Among the Chinese, reishi is believed to promote longevity and boost qi (pronounced “chee”) – the very essence of the life force. The mushroom is also said to help improve intellectual capacity and memory. On top of that, it’s reputed to calm and nourish the “shen,” or the emotional center of the body.
Perhaps more down to earth and helpful, modern scientific studies show reishi mushrooms excel at treating diabetes and cancer.
The many cancer-fighting properties of reishi
In numerous studies, reishi mushrooms have shown an ability to decrease cancer cell proliferation and prompt natural cell death (which cancer cells try to dodge). Researchers believe its cancer-fighting benefits are partly due to the pairing of active compounds like saponins and polysaccharides.
Beta-glucan polysaccharides and triterpenes are two of the active constituents in reishi mushrooms. The triterpene compounds are believed to halt tumor invasion by limiting attachment to endothelial cells, among other things. Reishi also ramps up natural killer cell cytotoxicity against different cancer cell lines – one of the many ways it helps improve immune response.
Clinical studies show reishi is also effective at curbing chemotherapy-induced nausea, that it enhances the effects of radiotherapy, and that it offers general chemopreventive benefits. Importantly, reishi has been shown to enhance immune response against advanced-stage cancer. And for those enduring conventional treatments like chemotherapy, reishi appears to provide a protective effect for healthy cells.
On the chemopreventive front, reishi has been known to decrease chemotherapy’s negative side effects by 90 to 95 percent. That means less pain and nausea, less hair loss, and less of a decrease in red and white blood cell counts. One study in Japan showed that chemo patients using reishi reported noticeable quality of life improvements.
It’s hard for me to imagine a person undergoing the misery of chemo wouldn’t at least consider trying this harmless food that may go such a long way toward reducing the horrible side effects – which are so bad many people refuse to endure another round, even when their doctors tell them death will follow quickly. The mushroom in no way compromises chemo’s effect on cancer cells.
Reishi mushrooms also appear to lower blood sugar levels, as indicated by animal studies at the Institute of Vascular Medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Diabetic mice that received reishi showed lower blood glucose levels within a single week. Researchers believe reishi is able to prevent the liver from making glucose by inhibiting a key enzyme.
In the December 2006 issue of the Journal of Asian Natural Products Research, researchers at the Department of Pharmacology of Peking University in Beijing noticed reishi mushrooms were able to curb diabetic kidney complications while also lowering triglyceride and blood sugar levels.
Sugar, of course, is a known fuel for cancer cells, so the ability to lower glucose levels may be another reason reishi can help so much with recovery from cancer.
More to the mushroom than meets the eye
Adverse reactions for reishi are minimal and seem to be restricted to people who took powdered reishi mushroom for an extended period of time. Chronic diarrhea resulted in one case while liver damage was found in two other cases. Reishi mushrooms are used effectively and safely throughout China. They’re so popular, you’ll even find them on the shelves of Chinese convenience stores.
Of course, it’s not the only healing mushroom out there. Plenty of other mushrooms are known to prevent or treat cancer. Shiitake extract prevents tumors and lowers the risk of relapse. In Japan, a supplement called AHCC is a popular blend of organic medicinal mushrooms. It’s reportedly used by over 7,000 hospitals and healing clinics. You can get it on the Internet.
Then there’s the ABM mushroom – Agaricus Blazei Murill – which has been reported as effective at wiping out breast, lung, liver, colon, and ovarian cancer, and is also effective against solid cancers. We covered ABM in detail in Issue #5. You can read about the healing power of another mushroom, maitake, in Issue #220.
The U.S. currently regulates reishi as a dietary supplement. Unlike other mushrooms, the tough texture of reishi makes it difficult to digest. So you’ll want to get it in extract form.
The biggest challenge if you plan to make reishi part of your health regimen is to find a biologically potent source. My recommendation is to find a supplement made with pure Ganoderma (reishi) extract, as opposed to a supplement made from ground Ganoderma and mixed with other ingredients.
One of our readers wrote to advise me, “This mushroom does more for cancer than any other mushroom. It is the key to my recovery from pancreatic, liver, and kidney cancer. You can only get [reishi] from a Chinese doctor, and you are wasting your money buying these mushrooms from a vitamin shop. They just don’t have the punch of the wild mushrooms grown at high altitude.” He strongly urges people not to take a chance on the OTC products.
I have to be agnostic on the subject as there are a couple of mushroom supplement suppliers – Mushroom Wisdom and Myco Essentials – in which I have high confidence. But I don’t have the means to guarantee whether any given product is effective or not.
In our last issue we wrote about a cancer cure you’d never take every day as a food, but if you have the disease, it could be a ticket out. If you missed it, scroll down and read it now.
Lee Euler, Publisher