Reishi Mushroom Extract: Ancient remedy for modern times 03/13/09

article-03_clip_image002General Features
Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is called “the mushroom of immortality” in China and has been used in Oriental Medicine for over 2,000 years. In recent years its active ingredients have been the subject of intensive research regarding their apparent ability to help prevent or treat certain types of cancer, aid in the treatment of liver disease, HIV infection, acute or recurrent herpetic infections, high blood pressure, chronic bronchitis, allergies and asthma, and favorably regulate immune function. The Reishi Mushroom grows wild on decaying logs and tree stumps in the coastal provinces of China. The fruiting body of the mushroom is used medicinally.

The organic healing elements found in Reishi Mushroom:

  • Specific Polysaccharides, which occur in the form of Beta-D-glucans bound to amino acids. These agents are shown to possess immune-regulating and anti-cancer properties.
  • Triterpene compounds known as ganoderic acids: which have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce platelet stickiness and may decrease LDL-cholesterol.
  • Other major active ingredients, including sterols, coumarin and mannitol

Dr. Meschino’s Note:

The research studies on reishi mushroom extract suggest that it should be considered in the good complementary management of a number of important health conditions, when used in conjunction with proper medical management. For general health optimization I suggest you consider taking an immune strengthening supplement that contains reishi mushroom extract and astragalus (as part of a supplement that also boosts detoxification function – milk thistle and indole-3-carbinol), especially if you are over the age of 50. A weakening of the immune and detoxification systems commonly occurs after 50, increasing our risk of cancer and decreasing our ability to fight infections. This is why pneumonia is such a life-threatening condition when we are older, but not as big a concern when we are younger.

How Does it Work? Reishi Mushroom Extract is used clinically as an anti-cancer agent, to optimize the immune system, enhance cardiovascular health and to protect the liver. Here’s how it works in these 4 major clinical applications:

Anti-Cancer Agent

Cancer studies in animals have shown that connective tissue cancer tumors shrink by 50% with Reishi Mushroom Extract treatment. Reishi Mushroom Extract is used by some cancer surgeons in Japan to treat cancer patients, and significant effects with regard to fighting tumors and stimulating the immune system have been noted in many of these cases.
Cancer studies in animals have shown that connective tissue cancer tumors shrink by 50% with Reishi Mushroom Extract treatment. Reishi Mushroom Extract is used by some cancer surgeons in Japan to treat cancer patients, and significant effects with regard to fighting tumors and stimulating the immune system have been noted in many of these cases. Polysaccharides from reishi mushrooms and from other types of folk-medicinal fungi are patented in Japan to either suppress or stimulate the immune system in the treatment of cancer. They are combined with chemo- and radiotherapy and have demonstrated an ability to reduce side effects, increase the effectiveness of treatments, and to accelerate recovery from disease.

Studies from China have shown that Reishi Mushroom Extract heightens the capacity of macrophages and T-cells (two types of immune cells) to destroy tumors. Reishi Mushroom Extract is known to have other immune regulating effects and antioxidant properties.

Animal studies also show that the polysaccharide fraction of reishi mushrooms can cause programmed death of cancer cells in leukemic cells and promote healthy cellular growth and development in 40-45% of leukemic cells treated with reishi polysaccharides. This demonstrates significant cancer treatment potential. These effects were primarily due to the increased secretion of anti-tumor cytokines (signaling agents) brought about by Reishi Mushroom polysaccharides. These two cytokines acted together to hinder leukemic-cell growth. In a related experiment, a Reishi Mushroom polysaccharide (beta-D glucan polysaccharide) dramatically reduced tumor size in a mice sarcoma study. In many animals, complete tumor regression occurred in the group injected with this polysaccharide within a 5-week period. One study reported tumor inhibition rates of 90% and tumor regression in 75% of afflicted animals.

Immune System Enhancement
(Bronchitis, Asthma, Allergies, Herpetic Conditions and HIV Infection)

As noted above, Reishi Mushroom Extract regulates many components of the immunoimmune system which, in part, account for its apparent anti-tumor properties. Chronic bronchitis in the elderly responded favorably to treatment using a concentrated Reishi Mushroom product in a trial involving 2,000 cases in China. This study demonstrated a better than 60% success rate. After several months of treatment there was a noted rise in the levels of immunoglobulin A in the sputum. Immunoglobulin A is the main immunoglobulin found in the respiratory tract. A deficiency of this is common in allergies, systemic lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Reishi Mushroom Extract supplementation has helped improve cases of asthma and allergies. Two ingredients of Reishi Mushroom Extract, oleic acid and cyclooctasulfur, were shown to inhibit the release of histamine, which is likely how it benefits asthmatic and allergic patients.

A specific polysaccharide component of Reishi Mushroom Extract, known as GLhw-02, possesses potent anti-viral properties against herpes simplex virus type 1 and type-2 under experimental conditions. A small human trial demonstrated that Reishi Mushroom Extract reduced pain dramatically in two patients with post-herpetic nerve pain and in two other patients with severe pain due to shingles (herpes zoster infection caused by a herpes virus).

Two human-controlled studies revealed that Reishi Mushroom Extract can reduce high blood pressure to a significant degree (systolic and diastolic), even in patients who had previously failed to respond to established anti-hypertensive medications.

Under experimental conditions, various ganoderic acids in Reishi Mushroom Extract have been active anti-HIV agents, showing an ability to reduce viral replication by 50% at conservative doses Combined with other Oriental herbs, reishi is currently used in treatment of AIDS-related complex, AIDS, and alone or in combination formulas to treat chronic fatigue syndrome.

Finally, studies on male mice reveal that Reishi Mushroom Extract was effective in enhancing the ability of cells to develop an immune response after gamma-ray irradiation. Reishi Mushroom supplementation significantly increased white blood cell count (leukocytes) and other aspects of immune function in these animals, in a fashion similar to the herb astragalus, in patients treated with chemo- or radiation therapy.

Cardiovascular Health
(High Blood Pressure and Reduced Platelet Clumping)

Two human-controlled studies revealed that Reishi Mushroom Extract can reduce high blood pressure to a significant degree (systolic and diastolic), even in patients who had previously failed to respond to established anti-hypertensive medications. Animal studies reveal that Reishi Mushroom Extract reduces blood pressure by suppressing sympathetic nerve activity in the central nervous system. It does not slow heart rate or cause a sedative effect in general, which are symptoms that would normally be associated with this effect. Under experimental conditions, Reishi Mushroom Extract has a mild to moderate effect on reducing platelet clumping, which may further help to decrease risk of cardiovascular disease. It also increases endurance, blood flow to the brain and improves oxygenation of cells. As such, it aids energy production on a cellular level, which may improve cardiovascular health, is used to boost memory and intellectual capacity in some cultures, and has shown success in a study of Alzheimer’s patients.

Liver Protective Effects

Reishi is prescribed in China for the treatment of chronic and acute hepatitis. Various ganoderic acids in reishi mushrooms have strong properties that protect the liver. Under experimental conditions these have protected liver cells from chemically-induced injury, including protection from the highly toxic and lethal substance, carbon tetrachloride.

Dosage and Standardized Grade

General Wellness: (immune, cardiovascular, liver support, etc.,) Consider 30-120 mg per day (standardized to 10-12.5% polysaccharide content).
Therapeutic Applications: Typically 250 mg, one to four times per day is used if taken as a single agent (standardized to 10-12.5% polysaccharide content).40
It is recommended that Reishi Mushroom Extract be taken with food or it may cause stomach upset and/or loose stools.

What about side effects?

Side effects from Reishi Mushroom Extract supplementation are infrequent and include dizziness, dryness of the mouth, throat and nasal areas, stomach upset and loose stools. Reishi Mushroom contains substances that may be allergins to some patients, although allergic reactions are rare. Note that there is no cross–sensitivity to the Reishi Mushroom if a person is allergic to the Button Mushroom or the commonly eaten white mushroom that is found in most grocery stores. In general, Reishi Mushroom are very non-toxic in animal toxicity studies and in humans, even when used at high therapeutic doses.

Will Reishi Mushroom Extract interfere with any medication I’m currently taking?

When used at high therapeutic doses, Reishi Mushroom Extract has the potential to enhance the effects of the following types of medication:

  • Antihypertensive medications
  • Hypoglycemic medications
  • Anticoagulant medications (e.g. warfarin, coumadin)

As a result, use of Reishi Mushroom Extract should be monitored by your physician if you are on any of the above medications.

Pregnancy and Lactation

During pregnancy and lactation, the only supplements that are considered safe include standard prenatal vitamin and mineral supplements. All other supplements or dose alterations may pose a threat to the developing fetus and there is generally insufficient evidence at this time to determine an absolute level of safety for most dietary supplements other than a prenatal supplement. Any supplementation practices beyond a prenatal supplement should involve the cooperation of the attending physician (e.g., magnesium and the treatment of preeclampsia.)

References: Pregnancy and Lactation

  1. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. Murray M. Prima Publishing 1998.
  2. Reavley NM. The New Encyclopedia of Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements, and Herbs. Evans and Company Inc. 1998.
  3. The Healing Power of Herbs (2nd edition). Murray M. Prima Publishing 1995.
  4. Boon H and Smith M. Health Care Professional Training Program in Complementary Medicine. Institute of Applied Complementary Medicine Inc. 1997.

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