Could These Medicinal Mushrooms Help Fight Cancer?

Some medicinal mushrooms have been found to have natural cancer-fighting properties. Here are 4 with promise…

Mushrooms may be pretty tasty on a pizza, and they can also provide a rich, umami flavor to vegetarian broths and soups – but did you know that some mushrooms may have potent medicinal properties? Indeed, medicinal mushrooms have been used by humans for thousands of years to treat and prevent various ailments and illnesses.

Modern science has found that there is good reason for mushrooms’ long history of medicinal use. Indeed, evidence shows that mushrooms are actually one of the most powerful foods for helping to prevent and fight serious diseases such as cancer! Even better, the cancer-fighting compounds found in medicinal mushrooms are not only effective, but also quite safe, with few if any side-effects for most people. (Just to be safe, be sure to consult a qualified herbalist or healthcare provider who is knowledgeable about medicinal mushrooms before consuming. Only purchase medicinal mushrooms from a qualified provider. Never consume mushrooms found growing wild as some can be quite toxic!)

Keep in mind that only certain types of mushrooms contain these beneficial compounds, so just eating a bunch of portobello mushrooms on your pizza won’t help. 🙂

Below are 4 specific medicinal mushroom varieties that have been found to exhibit cancer-fighting properties:

#1. Reishi Mushroom: The Mushroom of Immortality

Used for over 2000 years by sages and shamans and known in China as the “spirit plant” – also known as Mannentake, Ling Zhi or Ling Chi – Reishi relaxes and fortifies both mind and body. This fungus holds a very important place in the traditional medical systems of China, Japan, and Korea.

Ganoderma lucidum, or better known by its common name, reishi, it is one of the most well-known medicinal mushroom in Asian healing arts. The mushroom’s bioactive molecules and polysaccharides have been shown to better activate natural killer (NK) cells reducing cancer metastasis. NK cells are lymphocytes that perform immunosurveillance within the body, constantly on the lookout for “immuno-alerters” signaling tumor presence.

Reishi also has been shown to assist in slowing the growth (angiogenesis) of tumors as well as triggering programmed cell death in malignant cells. Currently, there is data to support the potential use of reishi as, at the very least, an adjunct therapy for colorectal cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer.

Studies have shown that Reishi helps to:

  • Counter free radicals and fight inflammation. Reishi has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, Reishi compares very favorably to the synthetic anti-inflammatory drug prednisone, without the side effects. Also, Reishi may be able to counter our susceptibility to many aging-associated diseases, thanks to its powerful ability to fight free radicals and reduce cellular damage associated with oxidative stress.
  • Enhance immune system activity. Reishi enhances multiple aspects of the immune system in advanced stage cancer patients and lung cancer patients.
  • Fight cancer. Reishi ingredients are toxic to multiple cancer cell lines in culture – including leukemia, breast, ovarian, cervical, and lung cancer cells, among others. Evidence suggests Ganoderic acid is a potential anti-metastatic agent. Metastasis is the migration of cancer cells from their place of origin to other areas of the body.

#2. Maitake Mushroom: The Dancing Mushroom

Maitake, like the reishi mushroom, also contains a broad-spectrum array of bioactive molecules. In studies, maitake has shown similar results as the reishi mushroom in stimulating NK cell activity in cancer patients. The mushroom also shows promise in blocking tumor growth and activating malignant cell death through its specific immune-enhancing methods. Maitake has clinically shown promise for individuals with breast cancer, lung cancer, and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS).

#3. Agaricus Blazei Murill: Tokyo’s Cancer Secret

This mushroom made perhaps the biggest splash when a study jointly conducted by the Medical Department of Tokyo University, The National Cancer Center Laboratory, and Tokyo College of Pharmacy showed a complete recovery in 90% of guinea pigs injected with cancer cells (180 sarcoma).

The pattern of other mushrooms was seen again as agaricus blazei murill activated macrophage and interferon immune activity leading to tumor shrinkage, a halt in metastasis, and reduction of future cancer occurrences. As an adjunct, agaricus blazei murill was shown to lessen the side effects in individuals undergoing chemotherapy for endometrial, cervical, and ovarian cancers.

#4. Chaga: “The Mushroom of Immortality”

Chaga mushrooms are fungi that grow on the bark of various trees, such as birch. These mushrooms thrive in moderate climates and are often found in countries like Russia, Canada, Siberia, the northeastern USA, and Korea. Long used in folk medicine, Chaga contains massive amounts of the pigment melanin, which causes the exterior of the mushroom to turn a deep black when exposed to the sun.

In test tube studies, chaga extract has been shown to suppress the progression of cancer, including liver, lung, colon, prostate, and breast.  In a study published in the journal of Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, researchers observed that obese and diabetic mice treated with chaga extract exhibited reduced insulin resistance as well as lower blood sugar levels.

Chaga is known by many names around the world. Most interestingly, it is called ‘kreftkjuke’ in Norway, which literally translates to “cancer fungus” due to its purported health properties.

Learn more about chaga here.

Read more about these medicinal mushrooms and others at



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