Search This Blog

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Mushroom Medicine

“Food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” said Hippocrates. Well known as the father of medicine, this ancient Greek doctor gave good advice. Mushrooms have been revered as both food and medicine for thousands of years in Asian countries. As powerful modulators of the immune system, they play an important role in protecting the body against pathogenic microbes and abnormal cells.

Decades of research in China and Japan support the medicinal use of mushrooms, but scientists in the United States have only recently begun to take note. Studies in vitro and in vivo, as well as human clinical trials, have yielded positive results and scientists are seeing the great potential for mushroom medicine that traditional healers have recognized for centuries.

Shiitake

Shiitake mushrooms have been used traditionally in Japan and China to cure the common cold, increase energy and eliminate intestinal worms. Preliminary trials suggest that they may be useful in the treatment of hepatitis B, HIV infection and pancreatic and stomach cancers, especially when combined with chemotherapy.

One trial investigated the use of the shiitake extract lentinan in treatment of genital warts caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Two groups of men and women underwent laser surgery, and one group also took lentinan post-operatively for two months. The group who supplemented with the shiitake extract had fewer recurrences than the group who were treated only with surgery.

Reishi

Reishi mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine as tonics for fatigue, weakness, asthma, insomnia and cough. In vitro, researchers have isolated reishi constituents that inhibit cholesterol production, tumor growth and cancer metastasis.

Preliminary human trials have suggested that the mushrooms may be useful for altitude sickness, chronic hepatitis B, Epstein-Barr infection, herpes zoster infection, diabetes mellitus, leukemia, and cancer of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.

Clinical trials have also found that reishi mushrooms can lower high blood pressure significantly in comparison to both placebo and controls.

Maitake

Maitake mushrooms have been used traditionally in Asia to promote vitality and wellness. Modern medicine is investigating their potential for the prevention and treatment of cancer, and treatment of HIV infection. Polysaccharides found in maitake are some of the most powerful compounds studied in medicinal mushrooms so far.

Human trials studying MD-Fraction, a maitake extract containing the polysaccharide beta-D-glucan, demonstrated cancer regression and symptom improvement in patients with cancers of the liver, breast and lung. Researchers believe that the anti-cancer effects are due to the ability of MD-Fraction to activate special immune cells, including natural killer cells, macrophages and helper T-cells.

Animal studies also suggest that maitake mushrooms may lower cholesterol.

Coriolus Versicolor

The coriolus versicolor mushroom is widely prescribed for the prevention and treatment of infections and cancer in China and Japan. Researchers attribute its anti-cancer activity to the mushroom’s selective ability to induce cell death in cancer cells but not in normal cells.

Coriolus versicolor contains two proteoglycans that have been extensively researched: Polysaccharide K (PSK) and Polysaccharide Peptide (PSP). In vitro, in vivo and human studies have demonstrated that PSK and PSP can increase production of immune cells, ameliorate side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and make it easier for immune cells to invade tumors.

Studies in Japan have found PSK to extend five-year survival in cancers of the lung, nasopharynx, esophagus, stomach, colon and rectum, as well as a specific type of breast cancer. It has also been shown to increase levels of immune cytokines such as interferon, interleukins and tumor necrosis factor. These substances act to increase activity of certain white blood cells.

Double blind clinical trials have concluded that PSP relieved pain, increased quality of life and boosted immunity in patients with cancers of the lung, esophagus, stomach, ovary and cervix.

Cordyceps

Cordyceps mushrooms were once prized as a cultural treasure and eaten only by emperors. In ancient China they were used to strengthen the body after exhaustion or illness, and as a common treatment for backache, impotence and opium addiction.

In vitro experiments have demonstrated that cordyceps increase immune surveillance of tumor cells, stimulate activity of natural killer cells, inhibit tumor growth, induce apoptosis and prevent angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels necessary for the growth of tumors.

Animal studies have suggested that the antioxidant activity of cordyceps may be useful in protecting against memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease.

Human clinical trials support the use of Cordyceps for treatment of liver, kidney and immune problems.

Use of Medicinal Mushrooms

Incorporating medicinal mushrooms into your diet can have many positive health benefits. However, allergic reactions are possible, side effects have been reported at high doses for some species and misidentifying wild mushrooms can have dangerous consequences. Talk to your doctor before consuming large amounts of medicinal mushrooms or concentrated mushroom extracts.

REFERENCES

Adachi K, Nanba H, Otsuka M, Kuroda H. Blood pressure lowering activity present in the fruit body of Grifola frondosa (maitake). Chem Pharm Bull 1988;36:1000–6.

Chu KK et al. Coriolus versicolor: a medicinal mushroom with promising immunotherapeutic values. J of Clin Pharm. 2002 Sep;42(9):976-84.

Cui J and Chisti Y. Polysaccharopeptides of Coriolus versicolor: physiological activity, uses, and production. Biotech Adv 2003 Apr;21(2):109-22.

Fisher M and Yang LX. Anticancer effects and mechanisms of polysaccharide-K (PSK): implications of cancer immunotherapy. Anticancer Res 2002 May-Jun;22(3):1737-54.

Hobbs C. Medicinal Mushrooms. Santa Cruz, CA: Botanica Press, 1995, 125–8.
Guangwen Y, Jianbin Y, Dongqin L, et al. Immunomodulatory and therapeutic effects of lentinan in treating condyloma acuminata. CJIM 1999;5:190–2.

Jin H, Zhang G, Cao X, et al. Treatment of hypertension by ling zhi combined with hypotensor and its effects on arterial, arteriolar and capillary pressure and microcirculation. In: Nimmi H, Xiu RJ, Sawada T, Zheng C. (eds). Microcirculatory Approach to Asian Traditional Medicine. New York: Elsevier Science, 1996, 131–8.

Jones K. Reishi mushroom: Ancient medicine in modern times. Alt Compl Ther 1998;4:256–66.

Jones K. Shiitake: A major medicinal mushroom. Alt Compl Ther 1998;4:53–9.

Kammatsuse K et al. Studies on Ganoderma lucidum: I. Efficacy against hypertension and side effects. Yakugaku Zasshi 1985;105:531–3.

Kidd PM. The use of mushroom glucans and proteoglycans in cancer treatment. Alternative Medicine Review 2000 Feb;5(1):4-27.

Kubo K, Nanba H. Anti-hyperliposis effect of maitake fruit body (Grifola frondosa). I. Biol Pharm Bull 1997;20:781–5.

Lui JL, Lui RY. Enhancement of cordyceps tail polysaccharide on cellular immunological function in vitro. Chin Pharm J China 2001;36:738–41 [in Chinese].

Matsuoka H et al. Lentinan potentiates immunity and prolongs survival time of some patients. Anticancer Res 1997;17:2751–6.

Monro JA. Treatment of cancer with mushroom products. Arch of Environmental Health 2003 Aug, 58(8):533-7.

Nakamura K, Yamaguchi Y, Kagota S, et al. Activation of in vivo Kupffer cell function by oral administration of Cordyceps sinensis in rats. Jpn J Pharmacol 1999;79:505–8.

Nakamura K, Yamaguchi Y, Kagota S, et al. Inhibitory effect of Cordyceps sinensis on spontaneous liver metastasis of Lewis lung carcinoma and B16 melanoma cells in syngenic mice. Jpn J Pharmacol 1999;79:335–41.

Nanba H et al. The chemical structure of an antitumor polysaccharide in fruit bodies of Grifola frondosa (maitake). Chem Pharm Bull 1987;35:1162–8.

Nanba H. Immunostimulant activity in vivo and anti-HIV activity in vitro of 3 branched b-1–6-glucans extracted from maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa). VIII International Conference on AIDS, Amsterdam, 1992.

Shin KH, Lim SS, Lee SH, et al. Antioxidant and immunostimulating activities of the fruiting bodies of Paecilomyces japonica, a new type of Cordyceps sp. Ann NY Acad Sci 2001;928:261–73.

Shu HY. Oriental Materia Medica: A Concise Guide. Palos Verdes, CA: Oriental Healing Arts Press, 1986, 640–1.

Taguchi I. Clinical efficacy of lentinan on patients with stomach cancer: End point results of a four-year follow-up survey. Cancer Detect Prevent Suppl 1987;1:333–49.

Yamada Y et al. Antitumor effect of orally administered extracts from fruit body of Grifola frondosa (maitake). Chemotherapy 1990;38:790–6.

Yamaguchi Y, Kagota S, Nakamura K, et al. Antioxidant activity of the extracts from fruiting bodies of cultured Cordyceps sinensis. Phytother Res 2000;14:647–9.