The healing properties of mushrooms have been known for centuries. Traditional Chinese medicine, for instance, has long recommended the consumption of certain edible mushrooms to treat serious conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Likewise, European civilizations have treasured the continent’s native mushrooms for their impressive rejuvenating capacities.
Despite their time-honored reputations as medicinal polymaths, however, edible mushrooms remain best-loved for their anti-cancer benefits. Indeed, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t contain at least some cancer-fighting properties. That said, not all mushrooms are created equal, and some are more efficient at tackling cancer than others. Below is a list of three mushrooms which, according to ongoing research, are unusually effective at inhibiting cancerous growths.
The shiitake is an edible brown mushroom that thrives in the woodlands of East Asia. It is regarded as a symbol of longevity in Japan, and it’s not difficult to understand why: Aside from being extremely rich in trace nutrients such as copper, magnesium, and B-vitamins, shiitake are also bursting with cancer-fighting antioxidants like selenium. Moreover, according to the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, shiitake contain lentinan, a beta glucan that stimulates the immune system, thus activating certain proteins and cells (such as macrophanges and T-cells) that fight cancer.
The maitake is a brown mushroom that grows at the bases of oak trees in Japan and North America. Unlike the diminutive shiitake, maitake can grow to more than 50 pounds, a feat that has earned them the title of “King of Mushrooms.”
According to ongoing research with human cancer patients, a part of the maitake known as the “MD-fraction” has the ability to suppress tumor growths. One Japanese report on the MD-fraction entitled “Can Maitake MD-Fraction Aid Cancer Patients?” found that patients suffering from liver, breast and lung cancer experienced between 58.3-68.8 percent improvements in their conditions after being fed maitake extracts over an extended trial period, while stomach and brain cancer patients experienced between 10-20 percent improvements. The report concluded that maitake deserve their reputation as cancer-fighting mushrooms.
Having been used in ancient Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years, reishi mushrooms are one of the oldest mushrooms cultivated for medicinal usage, and their anti-cancer abilities are legendary. Indeed, dried reishi powder was used as a popular cancer chemotherapy agent as far back as ancient China, and contemporary pharmaceutical companies continue to add reishi extracts to certain anti-tumor drugs such as MC-S.
Studies show that long-term consumption of reishi prevents tumor proliferation and growth by increasing the level of antioxidants in an individual’s blood plasma while boosting the immunity of those suffering from advanced stage cancer. In one study by the Cancer Research Laboratory at the Methodist Research Institute in Indianapolis, reishi mushrooms were shown to suppress the migration of invasive prostate and breasts cancer cells in cancer patients. The authors concluded that reishi “clearly demonstrates anticancer activity in experiments with cancer cells and has possible therapeutic potential as a dietary supplement for an alternative therapy for breast and prostate cancer.”
Please note that unlike shiitake and maitake, which are easily digested when cooked, reishi have a hardened “woody” texture and are notoriously difficult for our stomachs to process. Therefore, reishi is best consumed in extract form for optimum assimilation.