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Do Medicinal Mushrooms Help Treat Cancer?

Do Medicinal Mushrooms Help Treat Cancer?

I used medicinal mushrooms when I was being treated for aggressive breast cancer 3 years ago. I did it on a leap of faith during a desperate time, but I never knew if it helped. Surprisingly, this month the National Cancer Institute addressed medicinal mushrooms in one of their PDQs (Physician Data Query documents). They concluded some mushrooms may appear to benefit patients in their fight to survive cancer! I wanted to share this with you in case you or someone you know is undergoing cancer treatment.

Mushrooms from Asia

The National Cancer Institute is a branch of the National Institute of Health. They have a helpful website that cancer patients should know about. The info on their website is strongly science based. In their review of mushrooms, they say they have been used in many countries (mostly Asia) to treat cancer and infections for hundreds of years. Mushrooms have been part of standard cancer treatment in Japan and China, either alone or with chemo! Research is ongoing to determine if and how they help, and if components of mushrooms are killing cancer or boosting the body’s immune response against cancer. The NCI PDQ reviewed clinical trials using one type of mushroom called turkey tail, one of the more popular medicinal mushrooms in Asia. It can be taken as a tea or capsule (I used the capsule in an organic powder that also had other mushrooms called Trimyco-Gen powder produced by Gourmet Mushrooms). Studies showed patients with stomach cancer getting a mushroom compound along with chemo lived longer than those getting only chemo. It also helped colorectal and lung cancer patients getting chemo and radiation as well.

Do They Help?

The US FDA has not approved the use of mushrooms as a treatment of cancer or any other medical condition. They are available though. My oncologist felt they would not hurt, and many complementary medical sources I read suggested they might help. I took the powder in capsule form with meals in the days between chemo treatments. I did not take them the day before chemo or the 3 days after chemo. Since I had no real science-based guidelines, I had to think through what might be best. I figured that while the chemo was supposed to be killing rapidly dividing cells (like the ferociously aggressive cancer cells growing in my breasts), I would let it. With the chemo I was given, the drugs killed dividing cells for about 4 days. I could tell based on the timing of high blood levels and pharmacokinetics of how the drugs leave the body. Once the chemo level in my body was lower, I started on the powder again, as well as a diet with no sugar or simple carbohydrates. Then, right before chemo, I would stop the powders, enjoy sugar and carbs (to get the cancer cells dividing with wild abandon) and then get them and me perfused with chemo. It was a strange time. I don’t know if what I did helped. My oncology team, my body, and enumerable blessings and prayers appear to have won the battle so far. Maybe the little mushrooms helped too. If you or a loved one is fighting cancer, click here to read the mushroom PDQ from the NIH. They also have other interesting information about complementary medicine and cancer. Reference PDQ® Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies Editorial Board. PDQ Medicinal Mushrooms. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute.