Medicinal Mushrooms and Fungi


Dr. Paul E. Stamets, renowned mycologist, with Fomitopsis officinalis



Medicinal mushrooms and mushroom extracts are used worldwide to fight cancer and enhance and modulate 1) ___ response. Lentinula edodes (shiitake), Grifola frondosa (maitake), Ganoderma lucidum (mannentake), and Cordyceps have a history of medicinal use for millennia in parts of Asia. Research has indicated mushrooms have possible anti-cancer, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and liver protective activities. Following, are some of the most well-researched anti-cancer mushrooms rich in polysaccharides and beta glucans, the primary active immune-enhancing constituents.


Medicinal mushrooms are mushrooms used or studied as possible treatments for disease. Research indicates mushrooms have potential antiviral, antimicrobial, anticancer, antihyperglycemic, cardioprotective, and anti-inflammatory activities. The mushroom isolate pleuromutilin was used to create the antibiotic retapamulin. The Turkey tail mushroom isolates lentinan, PSK, and PSP, are licensed pharmaceuticals in certain countries. 2) ___ that do not produce mushrooms, are currently being used to manufacture paclitaxel, and were the original source of the first beta-lactam antibiotics, statins, immunosuppressants like ciclosporin, and antifungals like griseofulvin.


Mushroom extracts have antimicrobial, antiviral, and nematicidal, activities in vitro. Antibiotics retapamulin, tiamulin, and valnemulin, are derivatives of the mushroom isolate pleuromutilin. The immunosuppressants ciclosporin, mycophenolic acid, etc, the antibiotics penicillin, cephalosporins, fusafungine, etc and the antifungals griseofulvin, echinocandins, strobilurin, etc, were discovered in fungi that do not produce mushrooms. The fungal isolate codinaeopsin, has activity against malaria protozoa with an IC50 of 2.3µg/mL.


Red yeast rice is made by fermenting normal white rice with the mold Monascus purpureus


Cholesterol biosynthesis inhibitors: Several Pleurotus species create the statin lovastatin. A recent study found an unidentified statin in Agaricus bisporus. The pravastatin precursor mevastatin, was discovered in a Penicillium mold. The red yeast rice fungus Monascus purpureus creates lovastatin, mevastatin, and the simvastatin precursor, monacolin J.


Anticancer activities: Lentinan, PSK, and PSP, are registered anticancer immunologic adjuvants in certain countries, Japan in particular. Irofulven and acylfulvene are anticancer compounds derived from the mushroom isolate illudin S. Clavariadelphus truncatus creates the FTI clavaric acid.


BMS manufactures paclitaxel using Penicillium raistrickii and plant cell fermentation (PCF). Endophytic fungi can synthesize podophyllotoxin and camptothecin, precursors to etoposide, teniposide, topotecan, and irinotecan.


Reishi mushroom is a 3) ___ that some people describe as “tough” and “woody” with a bitter taste. The fruiting body (above-ground part) and mycelium (filaments connecting a group of mushrooms) are used as medicine.


Reishi mushroom is used for 4) ___ the immune system; viral infections such as the flu (influenza), swine flu, and avian flu; lung conditions including asthma and bronchitis; heart disease and contributing conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol; kidney disease; cancer; and liver disease. It is also used for HIV/AIDS, altitude sickness, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), trouble sleeping (insomnia), stomach ulcers, poisoning, and herpes pain. Other uses include reducing stress and preventing fatigue.


In combination with other herbs, reishi mushroom is used to treat prostate 5) ___. Reishi mushroom contains chemicals that seem to have a variety of potentially beneficial effects, including activity against tumors (cancer) and beneficial effects on the immune system. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.


Dr. Paul E. Stamets has been a dedicated 6) ___ for over thirty years. His newest book is Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save The World. Dr. Stamets sees the ancient Old Growth forests of the Pacific Northwest as a resource of incalculable value, especially in terms of its fungal genome. The mushroom genome is becoming increasingly threatened, by climate change and lack of human care in preserving these irreplaceable areas. At the current rates of extinctions, this last refuge of the mushroom 7) ___ should be at the top of the list of priorities for mycologists, environmentalists and government.


George Hudler, a professor in Cornell University’s Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, thinks there’s a lot of potential for mushrooms’ healing properties. “In the next 10 years, we’ll just see an incredible expansion of our awareness of chemicals in mushrooms, hopefully even their use in conventional 8) ___,” says Hudler. In Hudler’s view, Shiitake mushrooms have the longest track record of research in health benefits. Chemicals in them may stimulate the immune system and lower 9) ___. White button mushrooms found in salad are also high in vitamin B complex, and the antioxidant properties of mushrooms could protect against heart disease and cancer.


Last year (2012) the Medical School at the University of Minnesota, conducted a Phase 1 Clinical Trial of Trametes versicolor (Tv) in Women with Breast Cancer, which was published in the ISRN Oncology Journal. The study showed that Turkey tail mushrooms can augment conventional therapies for treating 10) ___ cancer by increasing NK and CD8+T cell activity. The authors concluded: The phase I data suggest that Tv is a safe immunotherapy for breast cancer patients that may correct radiotherapy-related immune defects. Based on these findings, Tv mushroom therapy orally administered in the postradiotherapy setting may enhance lymphocyte numbers and NK cell tumoricidal activity.


Turkey Tail Mushroom


Due to its long history of therapeutic use, however, turkey tail prepared and packaged as an immune therapy drug is unlikely to be patentable, deterring big pharmas from conducting costly 11) ___ studies. Typically, the longer the historical use of natural medicines for treating an ailment, the less likely derivatized drugs from these natural products will be patentable. To fill this research gap, the NIH established The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (, which funded and oversaw this study. NIH’s interest is not surprising — more than 70% of new drugs are estimated to originate from natural sources.


The natural killer cells promoted by ingesting Turkey tails also target virally-infected cells. Moreover, Turkey tail mycelium excretes strong antiviral compounds, specifically active against Human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer, and hepatitis C virus (HEP-C), which causes 12) ___ cancer. Viruses that induce cancer are called “oncoviruses.” The virus-to-cancer connection is where medicinal mushrooms offer unique opportunities for medical research. The current thinking amongst many researchers is that Turkey tails and other medicinal mushrooms lessen the odds of getting cancer by reducing causal co-factors such as oncoviruses.


Turkey tail is renowned in Asia as a source for cancer therapy. The Japanese company Kureha first screened many polypore mushrooms and found that Turkey tails produced a profound immune 13) ___, a discovery confirmed by many other subsequent studies. The extraction method led to marketing “PSK” (polysaccharide Krestin®) and later “PSP,” both protein-bound polysaccharides. PSK became recognized as a cancer drug in Japan and approved under somewhat controversial conditions.


Since this Turkey tail mycelium is presented in its unaltered form, it qualifies as a FDA approved “nutraceutical” ingredient. In this form, it can be advertised in the United States and Canada as a supplement to “support the immune system.” Getting this 14) ___ on the shelves of health food stores lets physicians and patients access another tool to battle cancer. Enhancing the population and activity of NK cells and other lymphocytes and ensuring antioxidant effects against free radicals can both limit damage to healthy cells and reduce inflammation. These are some of the distinct advantages to using mushrooms in cancer therapy. Nature is a numbers game, and Turkey tail helps tilt the balance in the complex battle to overcome cancer.


Always consult your doctor before using mushrooms for health (strengthening the immune system) or medical purposes


ANSWERS: 1) immune; 2) Fungi; 3) fungus; 4) boosting; 5) cancer; 6) mycologist; 7) genome; 8) medicine; 9) cholesterol; 10) breast; 11) clinical; 12) liver; 13) response; 14) nutraceutical

Paul Stamets On Mushrooms


Paul Stamets Gives TEDMED Talk


Paul Stamets Q & A at TEDMED


Paul Stamets Mushrooms Can Help Save the World


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.