Dr. Donald Abrams, as a cancer specialist trained in integrative medicine and alternative and complementary therapies, has a great respect for mushrooms used for healing. He believes that there is much for us to learn from eastern medicine.
Dr. Abrams notes that our culture is by and large ignorant of the potential benefits of a variety of mushrooms like Reishi, Cordyceps, enokitake, shiitake and maitake. These mushrooms may enhance the immune system and combat cancer.
(Transcribed from video interview)
In the West, we are a culture that fears mushrooms for some reason. I think it’s deeply enculturated in past folklore. In the East, in China, in Japan and in Korea, mushrooms are prized for their gourmet qualities, as well as for medicinal benefits. And, there was an observation made in the 1960s that a group of people living in a certain prefecture in Japan who were harvesting enokitake mushrooms, had much, much less cancer than their neighbors in the same area, and it was felt that maybe because they were consuming more mushrooms they were having less cancer. And that was the first, sort of, introduction of this concept into the West, but, you know, once we became able to look at mushrooms chemically and break them down to their different compounds, then more interest evolved in the West as to the possible benefits of mushrooms in the fight against cancer.
And what we now appreciate is that many of the sugars, the complicated sugars linked to proteins that are present in mushrooms, stimulate the body’s immune system in a way that it might augment the immune system’s fight against cancer, particularly in conjunction with standard chemotherapy or radiation.
So there are a number of mushrooms out there that are sold either as specific fractions in the mushroom that may have some activity against cancer, extracts of the mushroom or, some people eat the mushrooms themselves in hopes that they can benefit against cancer.
Probably one of the largest selling mushrooms in the world is Ganoderma lucidum, the Reishi mushroom known as Ling Zhi in China. It’s the mushroom of the immortality.