The polysaccharides and triterpenes, two of the categories of active substances in reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) have been widely studied for their immunity boosting effects and adaptogenic (supporting homeostasis, the body's mechanism to maintain balance in its vital functions) properties.
During the last decade, academic studies on reishi as a potential cancer treatment, used alone or as an adjunct therapy alongside chemo/radiotherapy show progressively more information about the complex mechanism of action of this fungus. Let's take a look on what current research shows about reishi's anti-cancer potential.
- Studies conducted in cancer patients, examining reishi extracts in combination with chemo/radiotherapy, showed statistically significant results in patients health. More specifically, reishi boosts natural killer cells which then in turn eliminate cancerous cells.
- Also, there is a decrease in expression of certain genes (BCL-2, TERT, PDGFB) that are responsible for cancer cell survival and proliferation and a significant decrease in gene MMP-9 which supports metastasis (spreading of the tumour to other, healthy tissues of the body).
- A very important effect is the inhibition of the transcription factors NF-κB and ΑP-1.
- NF-κB is a very promising target for cancer research. Its role is to aid the expression of certain genes that cause adhesion of cancer cells to tissue membranes, their migration into other tissues and the invasion of those healthy tissues. Since reishi reduces the effects of those factors, it reduces the ability of the tumour to invade other organs.
- In a study conducted in females with breast cancer, reishi showed some interesting results, since it inhibited the growth of the tumour cells and boosted apoptosis (programmed cell death, a normal mechanism to eliminated damaged cells from the body) specifically in cancerous cells, leaving normal, healthy mammary cells intact. That specific, selective action of reishi occurs in other conditions as well and is of great importance, because it does not compromise the function of regular healthy cells, unlike immuno-suppressive drugs.
- When compared to placebo in a study of men with prostate cancer, the reishi-treated group show significant improvement in symptoms, while the rest of the factors remained fairly unchanged. However, since the reduction of symptoms occurred, patients reported an overall improvement in daily life.
- Last but not least, the majority of the studies show no adverse effects, with the exception of rare cases of nausea (however patients receiving other medications at the same time as reishi, reported the feeling of nausea existed sporadically even before the use of reishi). Reishi shows no haemotoxic (toxicity towards the blood) or hepatotoxic (toxicity towards the liver) effects, making it a safe option for treating certain forms of cancer, especially as an adjunct to pharmacological treatment.
Asian J Androl. Et al, Randomized clinical trial of an ethanol extract of Ganoderma lucidum in men with lower urinary tract symptoms. 2008 Sep;10(5):777-85. Epub 2007 Dec 20
DICLAIMER: I AM NOT A MEDICAL DOCTOR NOR DO I ACT AS ONE. THE STATEMENTS ABOVE REPRESENT THE AUTHOR'S OBSERVATIONS BASED ON THE REFERENCED STUDIES AND DO NOT SUGGEST THAT REISHI CAN TREAT OR CURE CANCER. ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR MEDICAL DOCTOR OR PHYSICIAN BEFORE IMPLEMENT ANY CHANGES TO YOUR DIET AND/OR MEDICATION AND DO NOT ALTER YOUR MEDICATION WITHOUT PRIOR CONSULTATION.