Reishi mushrooms are a healing food that occasionally gets some front-page coverage in health news pubs. That’s mostly due to the fact that reishi mushrooms have been found to exert some beneficial effects on the immune system. The kidney-shaped mushrooms are originally from Southeast Asia, but now grow wherever the climate is warm enough. They’re harvested and—for medicinal purposes—dried, or made into a tea or extract.
Reishi, in all of its forms, has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as an immune system booster. The mushroom contains some potent compounds that can significantly help increase your immune system’s ability to fight off bacteria and other foreign invaders. Other compounds play a role in helping to boost production of antibodies that target infection, thereby stopping its spread to other cells.
Along with positive immune effects, reishi is also getting noticed for its ability to help protect against cancer. A recent trial at the University of Sydney in Australia confirmed this health benefit. There, researchers evaluated the clinical effects of reishi mushrooms on long-term survival, tumor response, immune function, and quality of life in cancer patients, as well as adverse events associated with its use.
The trial was a large-scale review. The researchers searched an extensive set of databases for randomized controlled trials, comparing the efficacy of reishi medications to a placebo control in patients with cancer. All types and stages of cancer were eligible for inclusion.
Five clinical trials met the inclusion criteria. The research team found evidence that patients given reishi extract, along with chemo/radiotherapy, were more likely to respond positively compared to chemo/radiotherapy alone. Conversely, reishi treatment alone did not demonstrate the same tumor regression rate as that seen in combined therapy. Four studies showed that patients in the reishi group had relatively improved quality of life in comparison to controls. Only one of the studies recorded minimal side effects, including nausea and insomnia.
While the study authors concluded that they didn’t find sufficient evidence to justify the use of reishi mushroom as a first-line treatment for cancer, they do recommend that the extract could be administered as an alternative complement to conventional treatment.
As always, before you take any alternative treatment, be sure to get your doctor’s advice.
Sources for Today’s Articles:
This Mushroom Improves Cancer Outcomes
Jin, X. et al., “Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for cancer treatment,” Cochrane Database Syst Rev. June 13, 2012; 6: CD007731.