Medicinal Mushrooms & Cancer

May 27, 2023

In this video, Tammy Ballard, and Sumit Mehrotra from Wellkasa, talk to Donald Abrams, MD, Integrative Oncologist, to learn about the uses, benefits, and risks of medicinal mushrooms. See this informative 13-minute video to learn about medicinal mushroom types, benefits, and risks for people with cancer.  

What are medicinal mushrooms?

Medicinal mushrooms are fungi (closer related to animals than plants) that have origins of human medicinal use for centuries. They are a source of fiber, protein, selenium, potassium, vitamins (B, C, D and E) and other bioactive components.

Medicinal mushrooms have been used and studied for various therapeutic benefits including immune support, nerve regeneration and energizing properties. While western medicine adopts a cautionary stance on medicinal mushrooms, these   versatile fungi are widely used in Asia in conjunction with modern medicine. All parts or stages of the mushroom– the fruiting body, spores (reproductive cells) and the mycelia (underground network of single celled strands)- may have medicinal value.  

Benefits of Mushrooms for People with Cancer or Seeking Prevention

According to Dr. Abrams, “the way mushrooms work in the body is that the cell wall of the mushroom resembles the cell wall of a bacterium, so when we ingest a mushroom, our body thinks that we are being invaded by bacterium and it mounts a non-specific immune response.” In Asia, mushrooms are used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation to strengthen the body’s ability to fight cancer. Most of the research evidence on mushrooms comes from Asia. Early observational evidence of anti-cancer benefits from mushrooms came from Japan, where farmers who grew enokitake mushrooms had a lower incidence of cancer as compared to their neighbors.

You may find more information and research on mushrooms through the following links:

Medicinal Mushrooms for Cancer

Turkey Tail or Trametes Versicolor or Coriolus Versicolor contains polysaccharide peptide (PSP) and polysaccharide krestin (PSK). 2 different meta-analyses covering 27 clinical trials in Asia, show that Turkey tail as an adjunct to standard cancer therapy may improve response rates and survival in some patients with cancer (See details here.) Turkey tail is not an easily edible mushroom and is best taken as capsules, tinctures, or powders.

According to Dr. Abrams, the body doesn’t like to see the same mushroom for a long time. He recommends switching the mushroom regimen after 4-6 weeks, which is the average period for a mushroom to reach its peak therapeutic benefit before losing it. In the Anti-Cancer wellness plans developed by Dr. Abrams for Breast, Colorectal and Prostate cancers, he recommends swapping Turkey tail with a 7-Mushroom blend (Stamets 7) every 4-6 weeks. Within this 7-Mushroom blend are Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus), Cordyceps and Maitake mushrooms which Dr. Abrams also discusses in this video.

Risks of Medicinal Mushroom Use

You should avoid taking medicinal mushrooms if you have:

  • An enhanced immune system such as may be the case In patients with Lymphoma, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia or

  • Multiple Myeloma.

  • Immunotherapy as a part of your treatment regimen

While the mushrooms recommended by Dr. Abrams are generally safe, in some cases, people may experience upset stomach or nausea. If you are using medicinal mushrooms and are experiencing these or any other symptoms, please consult your healthcare professional.  

See the entire chat in the video below.