Mushrooms and Cancer
Updated: Jun 17
I get that you might be looking at this post with a squinty eye thinking “are they really talking about mushrooms right now?” But stay with me and I promise, you will see these little powerhouses in a new light! Plus, as a bonus for sticking with us, we will answer the age-old question “What the heck is a mushroom log??”
History of Mushrooms in Medicine
Medicinal mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for thousands of years (estimates vary from 3-7,000 years). The oldest official list of 365 medicinal substances, Shennong Bencao Jing, contains the materia medica of TCM, dating from the 29th century BC. The list contains several mushroom species used for medicinal purposes
A woodcut image of Shen Nong from the Tang dynasty (618-907). Shen Nong was a legendary Chinese emperor from the 29th century B.C.E., who supposedly invented agriculture, herbal medicine (by trying hundreds of different herbs himself), the Chinese calendar, acupuncture and moxibustion.
Most recent research has been done in the Far East and contemporary research still mostly comes from Japan and China. However, scientists all around the world are now increasingly contributing.
The research progressed from early in vitro (on human and animal cell cultures) experiments, to in vivo (on test animals), and finally to human clinical trials. It found many active ingredients of medicinal mushrooms, analyzed their chemical composition and pharmacological activity.
As recent as 2013, medicinal mushroom researchers have published more than 50,000 papers and 400 clinical studies. We now know of more than 850 mushroom species with defined healing activity!
Reishi Mushroom – used for at least 2,000 years for cancer, viral and bacterial infections, cardiovascular diseases (including high cholesterol and blood pressure), diabetes, to slow ageing and improve general well-being.
Mushrooms and Cancer
Medicinal mushrooms have been approved alongside standard cancer treatments in Japan and China for more than 30 years and have an extensive clinical history of safe use as single agents or combined with radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
There are increasing studies and results coming from all around the world (including the US) that shows the powerful effect that some mushrooms (like Turkey Tail for example) have on the immune system and cancer.
“Studies have examined the effects of mushrooms on immune response pathways and on direct antitumor mechanisms. The immune effects are mediated through the mushroom’s stimulation of innate immune cells, such as monocytes, natural killer cells, and dendritic cells. The activity is generally considered to be caused by the presence of high-molecular-weight polysaccharides in the mushrooms, although other constituents may also be involved. “ https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/mushrooms-pdq
The complex anticancer potential of medicinal mushrooms are not only through inhibition of certain cancer-specific processes or targeted activation of tumor-specific apoptosis, but also through indirect actions such as modulation or enhancement of the immune system.
I might have lost you there for a second, but this is SO EXCITING! Because remember: Cancer is fighting against your immune system, so anything you can do to level-up your immune system is beneficial in your overall fight strategy.
If you’re wanting to learn more, here is a recent conversation we had with one of our doctors about the science behind Mushrooms as a therapy against cancer!
Ways to get Mushrooms in your diet
At this point, if you’ve seen the evidence presented above, you are likely wondering if your best option is to saute any mushrooms you can get your hands on in butter three times a day. And the answer is…sure. If that’s what you want, go for it. But there is hope for those of us that DON’T want that much fried mushroom goodness.
Here are a few options:
1. You can drink your mushrooms!
Yes, you heard me right. There are a number of companies that make AMAZINGLY tasty teas and coffees that don’t taste a bit like mushrooms…but still allow you to get all the goodness from these friendly fungi.
Foursigmatic is a great brand that you can find in most health stores or on Amazon, we will also be including samples in your Cancer Box!
2. You can take them as a supplement
For those of us who don’t want to eat and drink mushrooms three times a day, taking it in pill form can be a great solution. This lets you get all the great benefits at much higher doses than you could get otherwise.
There are only a few companies that we would consider top-of-class when it comes to organic, safely produced and processed mushroom supplements. Host Defense has a great line of extracts that meet this standard. Of course, this will be part of the foundation of the Cancer Box as well!
3. Finally, you can grow your own
If this is what you’ve been waiting for, you’ve now arrived at the answer to the age-old question: What is a mushroom log??
As we were preparing for this post, one of the things we considered is whether we could grow our own mushrooms in an organic and safe way. We decided to look into it and be the guinea pigs for everyone else (you’re welcome).
The answer we came to is a mail-order service that we were able to order a ready-to-go mushroom log for us to grow our own Lion’s Mane and Brown Oyster mushrooms. We ordered the organic logs blindly and recorded our unboxing experience below! Check it out, let us know if you have any questions about anything we’ve talked about, and follow along on Facebook and Instagram as we watch our mushrooms grow!!
What is a Mushroom Log??
References: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6044372/#!po=10.0000 https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/mushrooms-pdq https://mykosan.com/history-of-medicinal-mushroom-research/