Mushroom extracts help manage infections; mushrooms have moved to the forefront of medical research following their success in AIDS and cancer therapy – includes related article and information

Frank Murray

Mushroom Extracts Help Manage Infections

Shiitake (also called Black Forest) mushrooms initially appeared on Earth an estimated 100 million years ago, growing on trees in the mountainous regions of Asia. The ancient Chinese prepared a tea or extract from this mushroom to treat a variety of ailments. During the Ming Dynasty in China (1368-1644), Wu Ming, the legendary herbalist, called shiitake mushrooms the “elixir of life.”

In contrast to the typical button mushroom, shiitake has twice the protein and fiber; almost three times the minerals, with calcium, phosphorus and iron being especially abundant; and high levels of B complex vitamins and vitamin D2 (ergosterol), the form found in plants.

“Since the 1960s, Japanese medical scientists have known of a few mushroom compounds which have antiviral and anticancer properties,” reported Laurence Badgley, M.D., in Healing AIDS Naturally. “An extract from one mushroom Lentinus edodes, also called shiitake, is used widely in Japanese hospitals for cancer treatment. The extract, called lentinan, is given intravenously in Japan. In 1984, an international group of investigators in Japan showed that lentinan cleared both the virus and the antibody from an HTLV-I, as well as an HTLV-III [AIDS] patient.”

In Japanese laboratory tests, lentinan has demonstrated antitumor activity against several cancer cases, according Cancer Research.

Japanese researchers have pioneered the use of a shiitake mushroom derivative called Lentinus Edodes Mycelia extract (LEM), in the treatment of several disorders, including AIDS and B-type viral hepatitis. Researchers have reported that “LEM has demonstrated clear therapeutic results against B-type viral hepatitis and its mechanism of action, as is, can be applied in the prophylaxis and treatment of AIDS.” LEM extract now is available commercially in health food stores. In fact, many natural food stores carry shiitake mushrooms in various forms.

At the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Prof. Ken Cochran reported that purified extracts from fresh shiitake spores induced interferon activity, which is one of the front-line defenses against viruses entering the body. In animal studies, the shiitake extract has shown antiviral activity against both polio and influenza.

“One vegetable-quality food that has been specifically studied and found to protect against both heart disease and cancer is shiitake mushroom, the large edible mushroom native to the Far East and now grown in the United States, Canada and Europe,” said Michio Kushi in Diet for a Strong Heart. “In laboratory experiments, researchers discovered that shiitake mushrooms lower cholesterol levels in the blood and markedly inhibit the growth of sarcoma, a soft-tissue tumor, resulting ‘in almost complete regression of tumors … with no sign of toxicity.'”

In The Medicinal Benefits of Mushrooms William H. Lee, Ph.D., and colleagues explained that the reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) was used as the medicine for longevity and eternal life in the days before modern medicine. Today, scientists currently are investigating its use as an agent in the fight against cancer, “and may one day be able to confirm the truth of what was considered folklore.” Far Eastern research indicates that reishi extracts reduce high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, stress and depression, asthma, certain types of cancer and allergies.

At an annual meeting of the National Nutritional Foods Association several years ago, Dr. Shigeru Hayashi, Dr. Yasuo Hotta and others discussed the varied healing powers of reishi. “The active components in reishi have not yet been fully analyzed but they are polysaccharides and the complex molecules of polysaccharides and peptides,” the Japanese speakers said. “The clinical studies carried out in Japan at university hospitals and laboratories describe three areas in which reishi is important; namely, high blood pressure, diabetes and the growth of tumors, Dr. S. Arichi, at the University Medical School in Osaka, has accumulated a lot of clinical data which supports the effect reishi has on high blood pressure, which has been observed in both hospital patients and out-patients.”

Clinical studies have demonstrated that reishi’s polysaccharide activity reduces the viscosity of blood in the nervous/brain system and/or the endocrinological system. “The viscosity of blood is controlled by complex factors, including endocrine and protein system, as well as rather simple Ph and lipid content, including cholesterol and lipoprotein. Reishi has an effect which is still being studied on the lipid metabolism in the body’s cellular and tissue systems. Although the molecular mechanism is not thoroughly understood, years of human use by the people of China, Korea and Japan have demonstrated the safety of reishis’ use without side effects. Prof. T. Mizuno at Shizuoka University is currently studying mushrooms’ polysaccharides and their inhibitory effect on cancer cells.”

“I can’t say that I have seen that they extend life,” said Dr. Keith Barton of the Berkeley Holistic Center. “But it does seem to improve the quality of life. People feel better and have more energy. They’re also low-risk medicines in that they have no bad side effects.”

Because of their many active ingredients, reishi, shiitake and other mushrooms provide the best of both worlds. You can enjoy them in a variety of dishes, and you may benefit from their medical properties. Check out the various capsules, tablets, powders and extracts at your health food store.


1. Day, Harvey, Encyclopedia of Natural Health and

Healing. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Woodbridge Press

Publishing Co., 1979. 2. Badgley, Laurence, M.D. Healing AIDS Naturally

San Bruno, Calif.: Human Energy Press, 1986. 3. Chibata, I., et al. Experientia 25/12, 1237, 1969. 4. Tokita, F., et al. Journal of the Japanese Society of

Food and Nutrition. 24:92, 1971. 5. Chihara, G., et al. Cancer Research 30, 2776, 1970.

PHOTO : Shiitake mushrooms treat disease.

COPYRIGHT 1989 PRIMEDIA Intertec, a PRIMEDIA Company. All Rights Reserved.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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