Coriolus versicolor is the most widely studied mushroom with hundreds of research trials demonstrating its profound benefits, particularly in fighting cancer. Common to other mushrooms is its ability to stimulate certain parts of the immune system. Drug companies from Japan and China have utilized extracts of coriolus to formulate cancer-fighting drugs. It not only fights cancer directly, but also when used with chemotherapy and radiation it helps patients tolerate the conventional therapies.
These are just a few examples of some of the better-known mushrooms. The beneficial compounds in mushrooms are called “beta-glucans,” which are very long chemical chains with unique structural shapes that stimulate the cells of the immune system, much like a specific key for a lock. The delicate beta-glucans must be removed from the protective outer shell of the fungus cell, called “chitin,” before they can be absorbed.
When considering a mushroom supplement for health benefits there are several important things to consider. First and foremost is to be sure the product is manufactured using a special hot-water extraction process. This is called a tea or decoction. Grinding or chemical preparation of the extract does not preserve the precious shape of the beta-glucans and is not a recommended technique, plus most all the published research is based on hot-water extraction products.
The second thing to consider when supplementing mushrooms is which particular mushrooms have the best data to support use for a particular medical condition. I make recommendations for patients but if pursuing this on your own I suggest doing your research and seeking a knowledgeable practitioner. Many acupuncturists and natural medicine doctors are also certified herbal medicine experts and can give good advice on mushroom supplements.
Mushroom extracts are generally regarded as extremely safe and non-toxic, but they should be used with caution or avoided in transplant patients taking immunosuppressive drugs. Dosing is dependent on the type of mushroom and formulation, but in general look for 10-20 percent concentrations of the beta-glucan portion, and they are usually dosed twice daily on an empty stomach.
Backed by a few thousand years of experience in the clinics of Asian health practitioners, modern science is now recognizing the amazing health benefits of medicinal mushrooms. In your quest for good health consider integrating the powerful mushroom into your healthcare regimen.
Free Press health columnist Scott Rollins, M.D., is board certified with the American Board of Family Practice and the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. He specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement, thyroid and adrenal disorders, fibromyalgia and other complex medical conditions.