For a number of years I’ve known that reishi and cordyceps mushrooms were great health aids, but didn’t know much about the specifics. It wasn’t until I started using Madre Labs CocoCeps Instant Organic Dark Cocoa Beverage (which contains organic micronized reishi and cordyceps powder) that I really wanted to know more about the benefits they offer. So I did some reading and research and here’s just some of what I found. What these funny looking fungi can do health-wise is pretty impressive, to say the least…..
Cordyceps Kill Cancer Cells and Boost Immunity
(by Karen Sanders for NaturalHealth365.com) In a development that sounds almost as far-fetched as a plot twist penned by a Hollywood screenwriter, some medical researchers are hopeful that a parasitic fungus found on Tibetan caterpillars may hold the key to ending the cancer epidemic.
Traditional Chinese Medicine reveals the true power of cordyceps
Cordyceps, scientifically known as Cordyceps sinensis, is one of the most important and revered herbal treatments in Chinese Traditional Medicine (CTM) – where it is known as semitake, aweto, yartsu gunbu and Dong Chong Xia. The first recorded use of cordyceps took place in the 15th century; it is very likely that it was being used for many centuries before that.
Usually prescribed to restore energy, boost the immune system, promote longevity, and improve quality of life, cordyceps has also been used in CTM to treat serious ailments, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney failure.
Cordyceps is produced by a strange pairing between insect and fungus. The substance grows from the mummified remains of insect larvae that are found on the heads of a subterranean caterpillar that lives at high altitudes in the Qinghi-Tibetan plateau. Unfortunately, due to the expense and difficulty of harvesting natural cordyceps, most commercial varieties have been artificially cultivated.
Major hospital recognize the anti-cancer properties of cordyceps
According to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), cordyceps has anti-tumor, radio-protective, and anti-diabetic effects. MSKCC cites a study in which cordyceps made the cancer medication cisplatin more toxic to lung cancer cells, and confirms that cordyceps can also help infection-fighting lymphocytes live longer, increase levels of T helper cells, reduce tumor cell proliferation and boost the activity of natural killer cells. Finally, the medical center reports that some studies have shown that cordyceps has caused cancer symptoms to improve, in addition to helping patients better tolerate the rigors of chemotherapy.
What exactly is in cordyceps?
Despite its bizarre provenance, cordyceps is not only non-toxic, but safe and even nutritious to consume. According to the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, the fungus contains essential amino acids, several essential B-complex vitamins and the vitamins E and K. Beneficial fatty acids – including oleic acid, the same healthful monounsaturated fatty acid found in olives – are also present.
However, cordyceps’ most significant feature may be its nucleosides. Researchers believe that nucleosides, key signaling molecules in the body, help to fight cancer; nucleoside analogues are medically used as anticancer and antiviral agents.
In addition, cordyceps contains many nucleosides, including guanidine and guanosine; the most potent – and most studied – of these seems to be 3-deoxyadenosine, which researchers have dubbed cordycepin.
Is there any proof that cordyceps kill cancer cells?
Although human studies are limited, animal and test tube research have shown time and time again that cordyceps has the capacity to destroy cancer cells, help normalize low white blood cell count occurring as a result of chemotherapy, and even make certain medications more toxic to cancer cells.
In a study published in 2008 in Experimental Biology and Medicine, researchers explored the effects of cordyceps on mice that had low counts of infection-fighting white blood cells in their bone marrow as a result of being given the chemotherapy drug Taxol. Mice given cordyceps daily – for three weeks – had their white blood cell counts restored to normal ranges; the white blood cells counts in the non-cordyceps group were dramatically lower, sometimes by as much as 50 percent.
Concluding that cordyceps enhance recovery from clinically-induced leucopenia, the team remarked that the substance achieves a positive effect on osteoblast differentiation – an essential factor in new bone formation – by acting on proteins and core binding factors that are needed to produce new bone cells.
In a cell study published in Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology in 2007, cordycepin extracted from cordyceps had an apoptopic effect on human oral cancer cells – causing them to self-destruct.
Researchers used flow cytometry and viability assays to show that the survival of cancer cells significantly decreased with the administration of cordyceps, and noted that the effects became more dramatic as the dose and duration of cordyceps increased.
Scientists continue to identify and isolate new beneficial constituents of cordyceps.
In yet another test tube study published in 2009 in Cell Proliferation, scientists isolated two new anticancer constituents from cordyceps, and named them gliocladicillins A and B. These inhibited growth of tumor cells, causing cell self-destruction through extrinsic and intrinsic pathways. Calling the gliocladicillins “effective anti-tumor agents,” the team called for more study to explore the pair’s use in treating cancer in humans.
What is the best way to consume cordyceps?
Cordyceps is currently marketed as a health food supplement and nutraceutical, and can be found in health food stores or online. Most practitioners recommend taking between 2 to 3 grams a day, with food.
Cordyceps is generally considered safe. Of course, you should consult your doctor before taking it, especially if you take blood thinners or medication for diabetes. Don’t use cordyceps to treat cancer unless under the guidance of a well-trained physician. And, finally, make sure you obtain cordyceps from a reputable supplier – as some samples have been found to be contaminated with lead.
Although a parasitic fungus may seem an unlikely ally in the road to recover from a cancer diagnosis, cordyceps could turn out to be a very important – and even a lifesaving player. Once again, Mother Nature has supplied a beneficial substance well worth attention and further study.
More on cordyceps:
Wow, I was impressed with the info about cordyceps I was finding, but reishi might be considered even more of a powerhouse in some ways…..
(NaturalNews) Reishi mushrooms, also called lingzhi mushrooms, are a species of medicinal mushroom characterized by their kidney-shaped cap and tough texture. Though widely appreciated throughout the countries of their native Asia, reishi are especially venerated in China. In fact, practitioners of ancient Chinese medicine have been prescribing reishi for a host of medical conditions such as high blood pressure and fatigue for at least 2,000 years. Even today, reishi are held in high regard by the Chinese, and have retained their traditional nickname, the “Mushrooms of Immortality.” Below are some of the health benefits attributed to reishi:
Boost immunity and prevent cancer
Reishi muhsrooms are rich in beta-glucans and hetero-beta-glucans, which are biologically-active polysaccharides found in the cell walls of certain plants and fungi. Many studies, such as the Lithuanian study published in the Medicina journal in 2007, have proven that these substances increase our immunity by enhancing macrophages and activating natural killer cell function (“killer cells” being the white blood cells that destroy infected or cancerous cells). This led the researchers to conclude that reishi could inhibit tumor growth.
Reishi mushrooms’ anti-cancer abilities were confirmed by a later study conducted by two scientists at Bellarmine University in Kentucky, who found that the polysaccharides and saponins present in the fungi could decrease cell proliferation in cancerous lungs by instigating apoptosis (cell death). The scientists claimed that “detailed biochemical characterization of this ancient herbal remedy could hold tremendous promise for the treatment of lung cancer.”
PERSONAL NOTE: Here’s a little more I found about how reishi works against cancer:
Reishi beats cancer at its own ‘cell-squeezing’ game. Cancer cells, through the protein-destroying enzyme, matrix metalloproteinase squeeze their way into healthy cells and destroy surrounding tissue. They can also enter the bloodstream to metastasize. Reishi has been shown to block the enzyme and prevent cancer from penetrating where it does not belong. Remember, not all Reishi supplements are created equal. To access the benefits that have been obtained in studies it is essential to use standardized Reishi extracts containing assayed levels of Ganoderma Lucidum, the active therapeutic agent. See more at:
Slow the aging process
Reishi mushrooms contain an important antioxidant, ganoderic acid, which can inhibit oxidation by neutralizing free radicals. Though unchecked free radical activity is usually associated with degenerative diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s, it also accelerates the aging process. In fact, this phenomenon has its own term: the free radical theory of aging (FRTA). Therefore, eating more antioxidant-rich foods like reishi can contribute towards healthier hair, clearer skin, brighter eyes and fewer wrinkles.
Treat cardiovascular conditions & diabetes
According to Phyllis Bach, author of the book, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, reishi mushrooms have been used to treat numerous cardiovascular conditions (including serious conditions like heart disease) for centuries in their native China. One condition that reishi particularly excels at treating, however, is diabetes.
A Chinese study published in the December 2006 issue of the Journal of Asian Natural Products Research, for example, found that diabetic subjects who were fed reishi extracts over an eight-week period exhibited lowered triglyceride and blood sugar levels, as well as reduced markers of kidney stress, compared to the control group. This research was reinforced by another Chinese study published in 2009 for the journal Phytomedicine, which found that reishi extracts lowered the blood glucose levels of mice within a single week, leading the researchers to believe that the mushrooms inhibit an enzyme used by the liver to manufacture glucose.
Rich in nutrients
Reishi mushrooms have become so well-known for their disease-preventing abilities that people often forget that they make good nutrient supplements in their own right. One ground up reishi mushroom, for instance, supplies our bodies with a large number of important nutrients, including fiber, amino acids, protein, steroids, triterpenes, lipids, alkaloids, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and ascorbic acid. Like their fellow medicinal mushrooms, shiitake and maitake, reishi are also a good source of copper, a trace mineral with antioxidant and enzyme-supporting properties.
Note: Unlike other medicinal mushrooms, reishi are difficult for our stomachs to digest even after they’ve been cooked, and are best consumed in extract form. Reishi powders and tinctures are a good choice, though a lot of people also swear by reishi tea. Additionally, stick to organic reishi products cultivated in the United States and Europe, since Chinese reishi are likely to be polluted.
About the author:
Michael Ravensthorpe, creator of the website Spiritfoods, is an independent writer whose research interests include nutrition, alternative medicine, and bushcraft.
Of course there are other mushrooms that offer many health benefits, too. Here are three more that Ravensthorpe mentioned in another article that are proven to be especially effective at treating certain conditions….
Turkey tail: cancer
Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) is a bracket fungi whose beautiful colors and patterns resemble the tail feathers of a turkey. It grows worldwide, and — being a beneficial decomposer of dead wood — often forms in huge colonies on the wounds of living and dead trees.
Turkey tail is best-known for its cancer-fighting properties. One study published in ISRN Oncology in 2012, for instance, found that taking up to 9 grams of turkey tail extract per day could improve the immune status of patients with breast cancer. Another study, published one year later in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine, discovered that turkey tail—when combined with reishi—could induce apoptosis in leukemia cells.
Lion’s mane: cognitive dysfunction
Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a globular-shaped fungus that is easily identified by its cascading teeth-like spines, from which white spores emerge. In fact, the mushroom is also called the “pom-pom blanc” since it resembles the white poms-poms used by cheerleaders.
Lion’s mane’s positive effects on brain function are well-recorded. For example, a study published in Biomedical Research in August 2010 found that subjects who took a lion’s mane supplement for four weeks demonstrated reduced depression and anxiety compared to the placebo group. A review published in Critical Reviews in Biotechnology in March 2014 also listed lion’s mane as one of the mushrooms that can prevent age-related neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Chaga: metabolic disorders
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a hard and woody fungus that thrives in the coldest parts of Europe, especially Russia. Despite looking like a cracked piece of charcoal, chaga is a mushroom of considerable medicinal value, and it enjoys a long and rich association with European folklore.
While extremely versatile as a disease fighter, chaga seems to specialize in treating metabolic disorders, such as diabetes, due to its high concentrations of secondary metabolites (intermediates and products of metabolism). One study published in Phytotherapy Research in February 2014, for instance, found that a melanin complex of chaga “exerts anti-hyperglycemic and beneficial lipid-metabolic effects, making it a candidate for promising anti-diabetic agent.” Research featured in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in June 2008 also showed that chaga could lower glucose levels and prevent the oxidative degradation of lipids in diabetic mice.
Want more on “shrooms?” Here’s a short, but interesting article about how mushrooms are more like animals than plants, an eight-part slide show about Paul Stamets and his Fungi Perfecti business, how mushrooms provide Vitamin D, and some absolutely amazing things mushrooms can do to help save the planet:
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Disclaimer: Please note that any information here is provided as a guideline only, and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your physician, nutritionist, trained healthcare practitioner, and/or inner guidance system. Always consult a professional before undertaking any change to your normal health routine