Edible Mushrooms: Nature's Most Researched Anti-Cancer Agent

The power of medicinal mushrooms to heal, including actively combat cancer, is supported by a solid body of human clinical research. How is it that they possess such immense therapeutic activity? And why have they been ignored by the conventional medical system? 

Over the course of the past few years, we have uncovered a remarkable body of research on the medicinal properties of mushrooms. Some of these studies we have reported on in greater depth in previous writings, focusing on how they: 

These examples, while impressive, are only the tip of the iceberg. We have identified over 200 conditions that may benefit from them, as well as over 100 different beneficial effects they can induce through the modulation of various physiological systems and pathways within the body, e.g. immunomodulatory, anti-proliferative, anti-inflammatory. 

You can search through the primary literature we have gathered on the topic on our Medicinal Mushroom research portal: 

While many already know that edible mushrooms have significant nutritional value, few are yet aware of just how powerful they can be in mitigating serious health conditions. In fact, when it comes to natural cancer research, no other category has been the subject of more human clinical research than AHCC and Lentinan, both unique preparations of shiitake mushroom.  

AHCC stands for active hexose correlated compound, and is classified as a functional food made from hybridized mycelia of shiitake (and sometimes other mushrooms) in rice bran. It contains both alpha- and beta-glucan polysaccharides, well-known modulators of host immunity.  Lentinan, also from shiitake (Lentinula edodes), is comprised exclusively beta-glucan. What is so unique about these compounds is that they are "host-mediated" anti-cancer agents, helping the cancer-afflicted body combat cancer by boosting immune function. This is a radically different approach versus conventional chemotherapy and radiation, which causes DNA damage in rapidly dividing cells, indiscriminately, damaging, mutating, and/or killing both cancer and immune cells (among other healthy cell types). Also, conventional treatment enriches cancer stem cells, which inevitably leads to cancer recurrence and the development of more lethal cancer phenotypes. 

Why Do "Medicinal Mushrooms" Heal? 

How can edible mushrooms like shiitake protect us against cancer, perhaps the most widely feared disease that presently afflicts our species? One explanation is that we co-evolved with fungi, and the essential polysaccharides (including their bio-informational content) they contain were present in our diet for so long that the genetic/epigenetic infrastructure of our bodies now depends on them. Beta-glucan, after all, is found widely distributed in whole grains, nutritional yeast, as well as fungi. The friendly microbes, in and outside of our gut, produce the beta-glucan fraction through the biotransformative processes of digestive fermentation and, in the case of food, culturing. Could it be that, failing to consume (or produce) adequate quantities, our body fails in its cancer immunosurveillance? This is also observable in the well-established role that vitamin D deficiency has in maintaining proper immune function, and therefore reducing cancer risk. So why would it not also be true for compounds that have existed in the human diet since time immemorial?  

Perhaps there is another reason why fungi keep us alive and well, even when faced with the most terrible of health challenges: we share a common, unique evolutionary origin, and our destinies therefore may still be intimately interwoven.

The microbiologist Mitchell Sogin was interviewed back in 2004 on the topic:

"Animals and sponges share a common evolutionary history from fungi...

 ...we thought fungi were related to plants or somehow were just colorless plants. Plants had seeds, fungi had spores, and so on. Scientists used to publish fungi articles in plant journals. But the work does not support that. We've shown that fungi and plants are very different from each other, and fungi are actually more closely related to animals."

When asked the question: "Does all this mean humans are just highly evolved mushrooms?" Sogrin answered: "I'd say we share a common, unique evolutionary history with fungi.  There was a single ancestral group of organisms, and some split off to become fungi and some split off to become animals."

Could medicinal/edible mushrooms "lend us their power"? In certain traditions of herbalism, there is an acknowledgment of the sacred bonds that exist between humankind and herbs, where plants lend us their power, making them "plant allies." Beyond nutritional and caloric content, biochemical make-up, pharmacology, etc., certain fungi may embody the biological equivalent of compassion, and exude an abundance or superfluity of life energy that we may harness to correct imbalances within ourselves. First, we must be willing to acknowledge that power in a source outside of ourselves, which is difficult for egocentric, anthropocentric humans to do.  Second, we must consider ourselves worthy of the miracle of being healed, of life regenerating itself through us.

To learn more about the sacred bond between fungi and humanity, as well as how "mushrooms may save the world," please watch Paul Stamet's amazing video on the topic below.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

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