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Research report: The role of medicinal mushrooms in cancer

Research report: The role of medicinal mushrooms in cancer

In many parts of the world mushrooms have been used medicinally to treat infection and other health conditions for hundreds of years.  Today medicinal mushrooms are on trend and promoted for their many health benefits and significant research is emerging to support their traditional uses.   Much of this research is focusing on their role in supporting cancer treatment, cancer recovery and cancer prevention.

For more than 30 years, medicinal mushrooms have been approved as an addition to standard cancer treatments in Japan and China. In these countries, mushrooms have been used safely for a long time, either alone or combined with radiation or chemotherapy. In Australia integrative medicine has seen the introduction of medicinal mushrooms in many of our well-respected practitioner product brands (including Metagenics, Bioceuticals and Biomedica) for a variety of applications including immune modulating and cancer treatment support.  

There are more than 100 types of mushrooms used to treat cancer in Asia alone. Some of the more common ones we see in Australia include Ganoderma lucidum (reishi), Coriolus versicolor (turkey tail), Lentinus edodes(shiitake), Grifola frondosa (maitake), Cordyceps sinensis (cordyceps) and Hericium erinaceus (lions mane).   You may have noticed one or two of these mushroom popping up at your local café or in a coffee blend. 

How the phytochemicals in mushroom work specifically is being extensively researched with much focus on how mushrooms impact the immune system, enhance current cancer treatments and even whether they can stop or slow the growth of tumours.  

It has been scientifically established since the 1980s that the polysaccharides β-glucan found in mushrooms can stimulate our immune system(5).  More recent clinical trials specific to the use of medical mushrooms in breast cancer treatment include:

  • A study published in May 2020 which investigated the anti-tumour activity of an extracts of cordyceps found it to have an inhibitory effect on breast cancer tumour growth (1)

  • A Turkish study published in May this year which examined the anti-cancer effects of lions main on human breast cancer cells and concluded it was capable of inhibiting cancer cell growth and had a strong synergism with the breast cancer drug tamoxifen(2) 

  • A 2018 research trail which showed a polysaccharide derived from reishi, when used in conjunction with the chemotherapy drug Paclitaxel, enhanced the chemotherapy by improving gut microbiome and reducing dysbiosis induced by Paclitaxel (3). 

  • A phase 1 clinical trial conducted in the US by Bastyr University which found supplementing turkey tailin conjunction with chemotherapy lead to an enhanced immune system and increased number of natural killer cells (4). 

Please note it is essential that anyone undergoing cancer treatment discuss any nutritional or natural therapy treatment, including medicinal mushroom, with their oncology doctor.  The introduction of supplements or immune modulating nutraceuticals may impact or interact with current treatment procedures and should be coordinated between your oncology doctor and a qualified natural health practitioner.  We recommend consulting a natural health practitioner with experience in cancer treatment support and knowledge of related nutraceutical products before taking any medicinal mushrooms if you are currently undertaking treatment for cancer or another chronic health condition.  

For healthy individuals, using medicinal mushrooms in a preventative manner, and for your health and wellbeing is safe and the products sold in Australian stores and by Australian practitioners are TGA approved and checked for their safety.  There can be a significant difference in the quality of these products compared to cheaper products sold overseas or available on the internet.  Some issues with non-TGA approved medicinal mushrooms include unlisted excipients or poorly manufactured products which may be contaminated with lead or toxins.  Therefore we recommend using only reputable brands and not purchasing mushroom products from overseas or via the internet.  

If you would like any further information please contact us at info@elementalhealth.net.au or call (02) 8084 0081 to book an appointment. 



(1)     https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32422358/

(2)     www.dl.begellhouse.com/journals/708ae68d64b17c52,367ee73d7a1caab0,3d4c5fa53a165c60.html

(3)     https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30619178/

(4)     www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3369477/

(5)     www.clinicalnutritionjournal.com/article/S0261-5614(20)30650-6/fulltext

(6)     www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/mushrooms-pdq#_7

Posted on 5 October 2021
Author:Jean Jarrett
Tags:Preventative medicineImmune SystemHolistic cancer support

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