Scientific Nutrition Update 21: Reishi Mushrooms

This one was weird for me.  I am immensely skeptical of any alternative treatments or medications, but there is some really interesting evidence that reishi mushrooms could help prevent cancer, and that they may help your immune system.  Also if you want to purchase some FourSigmatic mushroom products and support this website, use this link. You’ll get 10% off and I get a very small commision which helps me support this website.


For today’s episode we are going to talk about reishi mushrooms.  These traditional medicinal mushrooms have recently come into the forefront of focus on the work of companies like Four Sigmatic who have popularized them.  It’s latin name is Ganoderma Lucidum and it has some truly fascinating health effects.  First things first it is important to remember that these have been used for medicinal purposes for hundreds and hundreds of years, and they are starting to be verified for much of their effect.


This one in specific has been indicated as a potential anti cancer agent.  Cancer obviously holds an immense emotional weight for many people and so many compounds are marketed as things that can help with this disease.  Often with little evidence. However, some of the evidence for this compound is actually truly fascinating for me. There was a study done that tested the extracts of several different mushrooms on cancer cell lines, and this specific mushroom was the most effective against them.  It showed a significant cytotoxic effect on cancer cell lines at less than 20 micrograms per milliliter.


There was another study done on mice which analyzed the effects of extracts of a couple of polypeptides from these mushrooms.  What they found was that these extracts had significant inhibition of tumor growth, and significant anti-angiogenesis effect. Now anti-angiogenesis is the inhibition of growth of new blood vessels.  This is important because tumor cells need a huge supply of new fresh blood vessels to feed them, so inhibiting that formation can be useful for limiting tumor growth. This would again seem to suggest that it could be a potent and useful anti-cancer component.


So you’re probably starting to think Reishi mushrooms sound pretty good, and the evidence seems to get even better.  There was a study done that showed again significant anti-angiogenesic effect this time on chick embryos. Further strengthening our belief this could be useful for preventing cancer growth.


There have also been links made that suggest antioxidants can help prevent cancer, so if Reishi mushrooms were an effective antioxidant effect we would be further strengthened in our belief that they are useful for cancer.  There was an extraction done to extract certain glycopeptides from the mushroom and what was observed was significant antioxidant activity, suggesting that compounds in these mushrooms can be significant contributors to antioxidant activity.


Listen, I know this is getting kinda hard to believe.  Trust me I am immensely skeptical of any alternative medicine, I normally take great pleasure in busting it and proving it wrong, but that does not seem to be what is happening with these mushrooms.  There was another study done that also showed it suppressed cell migration and cell adhesion for prostate and breast cancer. Which suggests to me that it could also be a useful tool in helping to prevent metastasis.

So we can see pretty convincingly in this study that these compounds may have anti-cancer effects.  However, that is not even the end of our analysis here, there also seem to be some compelling immuno effects for us to consider.  We’re gonna start with a mouse study, now we all know I’m very cautious with mouse studies but we have to start somewhere. In this study we can see significant immuno-potentiating effects, suggesting it could be useful in that context.  However, again I don’t trust mouse studies as far as I can throw them.


So I read a couple more mouse studies, and I started to see a mechanism that made sense involving the Toll Like Receptor 4 in the spleen, but I’m still not completely satisfied without human studies.  I still have not found any studies that show how works in full grown humans, if you can please send it to me, but I did finally find a study that did suggest that a similar mechanism does work in human cells.  As such I feel somewhat confident, especially with millenia of medicinal usage, to say that reishi mushrooms likely promote immune function also.


Before I go I need to make several warnings, one it is possible to overdose on herbal medications.  Two do not start or stop any medical treatments without consulting with a qualified medical professional.  Three I am not a doctor. I’m a guy who loves studies. Four, remember cell line tests and animal tests do not always apply to humans.  However, these mushrooms intrigue me and I think I’m gonna buy some.


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3 thoughts on “Scientific Nutrition Update 21: Reishi Mushrooms

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