Medicinal mushrooms are known for the many benefits they provide for both physical health and mental well-being.
But can they prevent and treat cancer?
Research seems to suggest that the answer is yes.
Let’s take a deep dive into the best apoptogenic mushrooms and how they can help you battle cancer.
What are Apoptogenic Mushrooms?
With the rise of interest in alternative cancer treatment routes, many are turning to medicinal mushrooms with apoptogenic properties for cancer prevention and treatment.
Apoptosis is a process of programmed cell death that occurs naturally in your body. For example, during early development, apoptosis of cells between your fingers is what leads to finger formation. This process occurs throughout your life, as your body works hard to rid itself of damaged cells.
Many medicinal mushrooms stimulate this process. By promoting apoptosis, these mushrooms help your body target damaged or mutated cells and kill them without damaging healthy cells in the process.
How do Apoptogenic Mushrooms Help with Cancer?
Recent cancer research suggests that targeting apoptosis in cancer therapy could be integral for the successful treatment of advanced cancer types. Unlike traditional cancer drugs and radiation therapy, a treatment that relies on the process of programmed cancer cell death preserves healthy cells while destroying cancerous ones.
Apoptogenic mushroom consumption is associated with a lower risk of cancer, as they help your body fight the disease while preserving its immune function. Thus, many alternative medicine professionals recommend that people with cancer use medicinal mushrooms in conjunction with traditional treatment options.
Functional mushrooms are often used as adjuvant therapy (therapy given after the main treatment), as well, as they lower the risk of cancer coming back during remission while strengthening the immune response of cancer patients.
Which Medicinal Mushrooms Have Apoptogenic Properties?
Research on the anticancer effects of medicinal mushrooms is still in its infancy, but some mushrooms do stand above the rest when it comes to apoptogenic properties.
The types of mushrooms with proven anticancer activity include:
- Hericium erinaceus (lion’s mane mushrooms)
- Cordyceps militaris and Cordyceps sinensis
- Trametes versicolor (turkey tail mushrooms)
- Inonotus obliquus (chaga mushrooms)
- Ganoderma lucidum (reishi mushrooms)
- Grifola frondosa (maitake mushrooms)
- Phellinus linteus (black hoof mushrooms)
Can Lion’s Mane Treat Cancer?
There’s an abundance of research on the anticancer properties of lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus). Active compounds, such as Cerebroside E, have demonstrated the ability to promote cancer apoptosis, while polysaccharides extracted from Hericium erinaceus stop the cell cycle at the S-phase, preventing further mitosis of cancer cells.
Lion’s Mane and Breast Cancer
Although the research on lion’s mane and breast cancer is still in its infancy, the results are promising.
A 2021 in vitro study examined the anti-cancer effects of this medicinal mushroom on estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) human breast cancer cells.
ER+ breast cancers grow in response to the hormone estrogen, and they make up about 80% of all breast cancers.
Results show that a Hericium erinaceus water extract could be a potent candidate for ER+ breast cancer treatment due to this mushroom’s apoptotic properties.
Lion’s Mane and Leukemia
Although more human studies are needed, cell research suggests that lion’s mane mushroom supplements could support leukemia treatment.
A human cell study examined the effects of lion’s mane on leukemia cells. The results show that Hericium erinaceus mushroom extracts have therapeutic potential against leukemia, as both an aqueous and an ethanol extract seem to induce apoptosis of cancerous leukemia cells.
Can Cordyceps Help with Cancer?
Cordyceps mushrooms have well-documented health benefits, including anti-inflammatory effects, and anti-cancer properties. While you should not use it on its own as a cure for cancer, adding cordyceps to your diet can help you face cancer head-on. Using this mushroom as a way to prevent or treat lung cancer and melanoma could be particularly beneficial.
Cordyceps and Melanoma
Cordyceps shows promising potential when it comes to melanoma treatment. According to a 2014 study, Cordyceps militaris seems to suppress the growth of human malignant melanoma cells. It does so by inhibiting angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels in the tumor, as well as encouraging apoptosis.
Cordyceps and Lung Cancer
Cordyceps could be quite beneficial for lung cancer patients. This adaptogenic mushroom has been a staple in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries as an anti-asthmatic and a cough suppressant, due to its beneficial effects on the lungs.
A recent study examined the effects of Cordyceps militaris on non-small cell lung cancer. The methanolic extract of cordyceps fruiting bodies seems to have reduced lung cancer growth by increasing the levels of several tumor-suppressing proteins.
Does Turkey Tail Cure Cancer?
Turkey tail mushrooms, also known as Trametes versicolor and Coriolus versicolor, are known for their antitumor activities. According to a 2010 study, an active compound isolated from turkey tail appears to induce apoptosis of liver cancer cells and inhibit cell growth of mutated cells.
Turkey tail can also be quite beneficial to take during chemotherapy to promote overall immune function. Immunomodulators, commonly used for cancer treatment, come with quite a few side effects, including abdominal pain, weakness, diarrhea, and body aches.
According to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Integrative Medicine and Complementary and Alternative Therapies, using turkey tail as a complementary therapy with immunomodulators could lessen side effects of the drug, especially nausea, neuropathies, and organ damage.
Is Chaga Good for Cancer?
Chaga mushrooms (Inonotus obliquus) are one of the healthiest mushrooms you can consume to prevent or treat cancer.
This mushroom’s cancer benefits are so striking that chaga is mentioned by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center as one of the most beneficial dietary supplements for cancer patients.
There’s an abundance of human and animal studies on chaga and various types of cancer. However, its effects on digestive tract cancers and liver cancer stand out and warrant further discussion.
Chaga and Digestive System Cancers
Chaga extract seems to provide anticancer effects for various digestive cancer types, with research on the effects of chaga on gastric cancer, colon cancer, and colorectal cancer being particularly promising.
Inonotus obliquus extract provides antiproliferative effects on cancerous digestive system cells, preventing the further spread of cancer. Chaga is also a potent apoptogenic, as it helps your body attack the cancer cell live without harming healthy cells.
Chaga and Liver Cancer
Liver cells regenerate and grow our whole life, so if one mutates, the cancer can spread to the rest of the liver very quickly.
According to a 2008 study, chaga mushrooms slow down this process, making these medicinal mushrooms potential anticancer agents in hepatoma treatment.
Inonotus obliquus appears to induce apoptosis of hepatoma HepG2 cells (cancerous cells found in the liver) and induce cell arrest, preventing the hepatocellular carcinoma from spreading further.
Do Reishi Mushrooms Treat Cancer?
Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) show great potential in ovarian cancer treatment. A 2011 study examined the effects of a reishi mushroom extract on ovarian cancer cells.
Results show that Ganoderma lucidum provides an antitumor effect by inducing cell cycle arrest (which stops cancer cells from spreading and apoptosis (killing existing cancer cells).
This study also confirmed that reishi mushrooms enhance the sensitivity of ovarian cells to cisplatin, a chemotherapy medication commonly used for ovarian cancer.
Are Maitake Mushrooms Good for Cancer?
Maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa) seem to be particularly beneficial for bladder cancer.
A 2009 bladder cancer study published in the International Journal of General Medicine investigated the effects of the maitake mushroom on an 87-year-old white man with bladder cancer.
After two years, at the time the study was published, the man seemed to be in good condition. His once advanced cancer was in remission, despite his only cancer therapy being an oral maitake mushroom extract.
Although you should refrain from making any generalized conclusions from a single-person study, there are no drawbacks to including this mushroom in your cancer care regimen. Of course, you should use maitake mushrooms and other alternative medicine only as complementary treatments for cancer.
Interested in Taking Medicinal Mushrooms for Cancer?
While you shouldn’t rely on mushrooms alone to treat cancer, many of them show substantial promise in the realm of cancer prevention and treatment.
If you’re looking for an easy way to include medicinal mushrooms in your life, our superfood granola could be the perfect choice for you.
In a delicious bowl of granola, you get your daily dose of hyperconcentrated cordyceps, lion’s mane, and chaga mushroom extracts.
The granola is gluten-free, vegan, and full of nutrients. You can choose from three delicious flavors, or get a bundle with all three if you like to start your mornings with some variety.
This article was written strictly for informational purposes and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease. The statements contained herein are not evaluated by a healthcare professional or the FDA advisory board and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment information.