Five Therapeutic Properties of Medicinal Mushrooms

Mushrooms have recently gained popularity in culinary circles, but their far-reaching therapeutic properties should get your attention for a longer and healthier life.

Although mushrooms have been part of the healer’s toolbox since ancient times, the medicinal power of mushrooms is gaining momentum in evidence-based journals.

Medicinal mushrooms come in a wide variety and shapes such as white button, reishi, maitake, shiitake, oyster, cordyceps, cauliflower, tiger tail and lion’s mane, and most have health benefits that range from fighting cancer and boosting your immunity and memory to preventing diseases like diabetes and arthritis.

Five Therapeutic Properties of Mushrooms

1. Anticancer

Reishi (in Japanese) or lingzhi (in Chinese) mushrooms are well known in Asia for their anticancer properties. In a meta-analysis by scientists of 23 trials involving 4,246 cancer patients, reishi mushrooms enhanced longevity and quality of life in cancer patients.[i]

Therapy with white button mushrooms impacted prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels and inhibited prostate cancer by decreasing immunosuppressive factors.[ii]

Polysaccharides from Cordyceps cicadae mushrooms inhibited the growth of cancer cells and induced cancer cell deaths showing its effectiveness as a low cost and safe treatment for cervical cancer.[iii]

A peptide from the shiitake mushroom showed promising results in growth arrest, cell death and cleaning out damaged cells in a breast cancer in vitro study.[iv] In both in vitro and in vivo studies, results showed that mice with induced testicular cancer treated with the Cordyceps sinensis mushroom had significantly smaller and fewer tumors than the control group.[v]

Cordyceps cicadae mushroom treatment prevented testicular damage and tumors caused by the chemotherapy drug cisplatin via inhibition of oxidative stress and inflammation in rats.[vi]

In a lung cancer-induced study of mice, treatment with reishi mushrooms inhibited cell viability and mobility of lung cancer cells in vitro.[vii] In a cell study of reishi mushroom extract, the treatment offered high antitumor and liver protection with low toxicity on human liver cancer cells.[viii]

2. Immunomodulatory

In a meta-analysis of 20 animal disease studies, grifola frondosa, or maitake mushroom, polysaccharide showed strong immune function by enhancing T cells, natural killer cells and macrophages in mice and increasing the secretion of two important immune factors, TNF-α and INF-γ.[ix]

In a clinical study of 105 cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments, a combination of reishi mushroom extract and geraniums improved immunity and fought the cancer and secondary infections that could have compromised treatment and health.[x]

In a study of 18 patients diagnosed with low and intermediate myelodysplastic syndrome, which can lead to leukemia if not managed well, maitake mushroom extract treatment of three milligrams (mg) twice a day for 12 weeks increased immunity, positively affecting neutrophil, monocyte and free radical production.[xi]

Natural and Non-Toxic Products. Up to 50% Off – Every Day (Ad)

In a clinical study of asymptomatic children from 3 to 5 years old, treatment with beta glucans from reishi mushrooms showed increased immune system cells in the peripheral blood — signaling a strong defense against childhood infections.[xii]

Reviewing in vivo and in vitro studies on mice and human cell lines using lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) and tiger tail (Trametes versicolor) mushrooms, treatments showed immunomodulatory, anticancer, anti-inflammatory and neuroregenerative effects.[xiii]

3. Antioxidant

Polysaccharide beta glucan extracted from reishi mushroom was shown to be a powerful antioxidant in 37 high risk and 34 stable angina patients; those who were treated with 750 mg per day for three months had significantly decreased oxidative radicals and improved progression of atherosclerosis.[xiv]

In a study of 42 healthy subjects, another intervention with beta glucan from reishi mushrooms of 225 mg per day for three months demonstrated its antioxidative effects — enhanced total antioxidant capacity and enzyme activities as well as reduced mild fatty liver condition to normal by suppressing oxidative stress were observed.[xv]

4. Anti-inflammatory 

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract. Treatment with a triterpene compound from reishi mushrooms showed that the inflammatory cytokines were significantly inhibited in a study of children with Crohn’s disease.[xvi]

Sixty patients with moderate persistent asthma were studied and those who took the cordyceps sinensis mushroom capsule for two months had reduced airway inflammation caused by their chronic asthma.[xvii] Cordycepin from medicinal mushrooms showed strong effects on many anti-inflammatory diseases.[xviii]

In a study of 32 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis, supplementation of medicinal mushroom and Chinese herbs — reishi (4 grams) and San Miao San (2.4 grams) daily — lowered arthritic pain for patients.[xix] The data in a mice study support a model where white button mushrooms regulate immunity in vitro and protect the colon from inflammation-induced injuries in vivo.[xx]

The brain is susceptible to inflammation as well. In an Alzheimer’s disease model of rats, treatment with medicinal mushroom extracts delayed disease progression, improved learning and memory functions and stopped neural cell deaths and brain atrophy.[xxi]

Chaga mushrooms administered to mice successfully protected against Alzheimer’s disease by modulating oxidative stress, Nrf2 signaling and mitochondrial cell deaths while improving memory and cognition.[xxii] Cordycepin from the Cordyceps sinensis mushroom alleviated Parkinson’s disease motor disorder symptoms by lowering oxidative stress and inflammation in vivo and in vitro.[xxiii]

Lion’s mane mushrooms were supplemented for 12 weeks and were effective in preventing dementia and cognitive decline.[xxiv] Lion’s mane supplementation for four weeks in a study of 30 females also reduced depression and anxiety.[xxv]

5. Antidiabetic

Dyslipidemia, high blood cholesterol and triglycerides is often a harbinger of future diabetes. In a rat model, white button mushrooms and a probiotic were found to lower dyslipidemia and decrease oxidative stress.[xxvi] In a study of 89 diabetic patients, oyster mushroom consumption significantly reduced blood glucose, blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol without ill effects on the liver or kidneys.[xxvii]

Polyphenols from Phellinus igniarius, or willow bracket, mushroom extract were used in vitro and in vivo studies of induced Type 2 diabetes mice and showed improved glucose tolerance, reduced hyperglycemia and normalized insulin levels.[xxviii]

Diabetic nephropathy, kidney disease caused by Type 2 diabetes, was studied in vitro with disease-induced rats and treatment with Cordyceps cicadae resulted in improved insulin resistance and glucose tolerance, suppressed inflammation and balanced gut microbiome thus stopping the diabetes-related progression of renal disease and tumors.[xxix]

In an animal study, maitake mushroom prevented the progression of kidney fibrosis in diabetic nephropathy rats, significantly decreased fasting blood glucose levels, reduced inflammatory cytokines and lowered renal fibrosis indexes indicating its effectiveness in the treatment or prevention of nephropathy.[xxx]

In their meta-analysis of 623 articles and 33 randomized controlled experiments using cauliflower mushroom extract (S. Crispa), researchers found statistically significant differences in diabetic symptoms including decreased serum insulin levels and wound rates and an increase in nutrient intake content.[xxxi]

Mushrooms and Their Medicinal Powers

Medicinal mushrooms are widely researched and used as treatment in the prevention and progression of many diseases from cancer and asthma to diabetes and dementia. Mushrooms protect you due to their anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antidiabetic, immune boosting and antioxidant activities. To learn more, see’s database on mushrooms.


[i] Zhong L, Yan P, Lam WC, Yao L, Bian Z. Coriolus Versicolor and Ganoderma Lucidum Related Natural Products as an Adjunct Therapy for Cancers: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled TrialsFront Pharmacol. 2019 Jul 3;10:703. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2019.00703. PMID: 31333449; PMCID: PMC6616310.

[ii] Przemyslaw Twardowski, Noriko Kanaya, Paul Frankel, Timothy Synold, Christopher Ruel, Sumanta K Pal, Maribel Junqueira, Manisha Prajapati, Tina Moore, Pamela Tryon, Shiuan Chen. A phase I trial of mushroom powder in patients with biochemically recurrent prostate cancer: Roles of cytokines and myeloid-derived suppressor cells for Agaricus bisporus-induced prostate-specific antigen responsesCancer. 2015 Sep 1 ;121(17):2942-50. Epub 2015 May 18. PMID: 25989179

[iii] Jiao Xu, Zhi-Cheng Tan, Zhong-Yuan Shen, Xing-Jia Shen, Shun-Ming Tang. Cordyceps cicadae polysaccharides inhibit Human cervical cancer Hela cells proliferation via Apoptosis and Cell Cycle ArrestFood Chem Toxicol. 2021 Jan 6:111971. Epub 2021 Jan 6. PMID: 33421460

[iv] Syed Riaz Ud Din, Mintao Zhong, Muhammad Azhar Nisar, Muhammad Zubair Saleem, Akbar Hussain, Kavish H Khinsar, Shahid Alam, Gohar Ayub, Sadia Kanwal, Xingyun Li, Wei Zhang, Xiaoli Wang, Anhong Ning, Jing Cao, Min Huang. Latcripin-7A, derivative of Lentinula edodes C, reduces migration and induces apoptosis, autophagy, and cell cycle arrest at Gphase in breast cancer cellsAppl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2020 Dec ;104(23):10165-10179. Epub 2020 Oct 12. PMID: 33044599

[v] Ming-Min Chang, Siou-Ying Hong, Shang-Hsun Yang, Chia-Ching Wu, Chia-Yih Wang, Bu-Miin Huang. Anti-Cancer Effect of Cordycepin on FGF9-Induced Testicular TumorigenesisInt J Mol Sci. 2020 Nov 6 ;21(21). Epub 2020 Nov 6. PMID: 33172093

[vi] Ling Wang, Yigang He, Yudi Li, Chengbin Pei, Opeyemi Joshua Olatunji, Jian Tang, Ademola C Famurewa, Hongyan Wang, Bei Yan. Protective Effects of Nucleosides-Rich Extract from Cordyceps cicadae against Cisplatin Induced Testicular DamageChem Biodivers. 2020 Nov ;17(11):e2000671. Epub 2020 Nov 3. PMID: 33007148

[vii] Wei-Hung Hsu, Wei-Lun Qiu, Shu-Ming Tsao, Ai-Jung Tseng, Mei-Kuang Lu, Wei-Jyun Hua, Hsin-Chung Cheng, Hsien-Yeh Hsu, Tung-Yi Lin. Effects of WSG, a polysaccharide from Ganoderma lucidum, on suppressing cell growth and mobility of lung cancerInt J Biol Macromol. 2020 Oct 1. Epub 2020 Oct 1. PMID: 33011264

[viii] Liping Zhu, Min Wu, Peng Li, Yanfei Zhou, Jinyi Zhong, Zhiqiang Zhang, Ye Li, Weixi Yao, Jianhua Xu. High-Pressure Supercritical COExtracts ofFruiting Body and Their Anti-hepatoma Effect Associated With the Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK Signaling PathwayFront Pharmacol. 2020 ;11:602702. Epub 2020 Dec 14. PMID: 33381043

[ix] Zhang T, Zhao F, Wu KN, Jia Y, Liao XL, Yang FW, Zhang JH, Ma B. Meta-analysis on effect of Grifola frondosa polysaccharide in regulating in vivo immunoregulatory function on animal disease models. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2019 Dec;44(23):5174-5183. Chinese. doi: 10.19540/j.cnki.cjcmm.20190823.401. PMID: 32237355.

[x] Zhuang SR, Chen SL, Tsai JH, Huang CC, Wu TC, Liu WS, Tseng HC, Lee HS, Huang MC, Shane GT, Yang CH, Shen YC, Yan YY, Wang CK. Effect of citronellol and the Chinese medical herb complex on cellular immunity of cancer patients receiving chemotherapy/radiotherapyPhytother Res. 2009 Jun;23(6):785-90. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2623. PMID: 19145638.

[xi] Wesa KM, Cunningham-Rundles S, Klimek VM, Vertosick E, Coleton MI, Yeung KS, Lin H, Nimer S, Cassileth BR. Maitake mushroom extract in myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS): a phase II studyCancer Immunol Immunother. 2015 Feb;64(2):237-47. doi: 10.1007/s00262-014-1628-6. Epub 2014 Oct 29. PMID: 25351719; PMCID: PMC4317517

[xii] Sandra Lorena Duque Henao, Sergio A Urrego, Andrea M Cano, Edwin A Higuita. Randomized Clinical Trial for the Evaluation of Immune Modulation by Yogurt Enriched withβ-Glucans from Lingzhi or Reishi Medicinal Mushroom, Ganoderma lucidum (Agaricomycetes), in Children from Medellin, ColombiaInt J Med Mushrooms. 2018 ;20(8):705-716. PMID: 30317947

[xiii] Mateusz Winder, Weronika Bulska-Będkowska, Jerzy Chudek. The use of Hericium erinaceus and Trametes versicolor extracts in supportive treatment in oncologyActa Pharm. 2021 Mar 1 ;71(1):1-16. PMID: 32697746

[xiv] Djanggan Sargowo, Nadia Ovianti, Eliana Susilowati, Nizamuddin Ubaidillah, Adriyawan Widya Nugraha, Vitriyaturrida, Kartika Siwi Proboretno, Mirza Failasufi, Fadhli Ramadhan, Hesti Wulandari, Yoga Waranugraha, Dinarsari Hayuning Putri. The role of polysaccharide peptide of Ganoderma lucidum as a potent antioxidant against atherosclerosis in high risk and stable angina patients. Indian Heart J. 2018 Sep – Oct;70(5):608-614. Epub 2017 Dec 14. PMID: 30392496

[xv] Hui-Fang Chiu, Hui-Yu Fu, Yan-Ying Lu, Yi-Chun Han, You-Cheng Shen, Kamesh Venkatakrishnan, Oksana Golovinskaia, Chin-Kun Wang. Triterpenoids and polysaccharide peptides-enriched Ganoderma lucidum: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study of its antioxidation and hepatoprotective efficacy in healthy volunteersPharm Biol. 2017 Dec ;55(1):1041-1046. PMID: 28183232

[xvi] Changda Liu, David Dunkin, Joanne Lai, Ying Song, Clare Ceballos, Keith Benkov, Xiu-Min Li. Anti-inflammatory Effects of Ganoderma lucidum Triterpenoid in Human Crohn’s Disease Associated with Downregulation of NF-κB SignalingInflamm Bowel Dis. 2015 May 19. Epub 2015 May 19. PMID: 25993687

[xvii] Ning-qun Wang, Liang-duo Jiang, Xiao-mei Zhang, Zong-xin Li. Effect of dongchong xiacao capsule on airway inflammation of asthmatic patientsJ Hypertens. 2005 Sep;23(9):1699-706. PMID: 17972591

[xviii] Tan L, Song X, Ren Y, Wang M, Guo C, Guo D, Gu Y, Li Y, Cao Z, Deng Y. Anti-inflammatory effects of cordycepin: A review. Phytother Res. 2020 Oct 8. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6890. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33090621.

[xix] Edmund K Li, Lai-Shan Tam, Chun Kwok Wong, Wai Ching Li, Christopher W K Lam, Sissi Wachtel-Galor, Iris F Benzie, Yi Xi Bao, Ping Chung Leung, Brian Tomlinson. Safety and efficacy of Ganoderma lucidum (lingzhi) and San Miao San supplementation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot trial. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2010 Feb;50(2):208-11. PMID: 17907228

[xx] Sanhong Yu, Veronika Weaver, Keith Martin, Margherita T Cantorna. The effects of whole mushrooms during inflammation. BMC Immunol. 2009;10:12. Epub 2009 Feb 20. PMID: 19232107

[xxi] Guoxiao Lai, Yinrui Guo, Diling Chen, Xiaocui Tang, Ou Shuai, Tianqiao Yong, Dongdong Wang, Chun Xiao, Gailian Zhou, Yizhen Xie, Burton B Yang, Qingping Wu. Alcohol Extracts FromDelay the Progress of Alzheimer’s Disease by Regulating DNA Methylation in Rodents. Front Pharmacol. 2019 ;10:272. Epub 2019 Mar 26. PMID: 30971923

[xxii] Yanqiu Han, Shanji Nan, Jia Fan, Qiuhui Chen, Yizhi Zhang. Inonotus obliquus polysaccharides protect against Alzheimer’s disease by regulating Nrf2 signaling and exerting antioxidative and antiapoptotic effects. Int J Biol Macromol. 2019 Mar 13 ;131:769-778. Epub 2019 Mar 13. PMID: 30878614

[xxiii] Chunyan Cheng, Xiaoying Zhu. Cordycepin mitigates MPTP-induced Parkinson’s disease through inhibiting TLR/NF-κB signaling pathwayLife Sci. 2019 Feb 18. Epub 2019 Feb 18. PMID: 30790609

[xxiv] Yuusuke Saitsu, Akemi Nishide, Kenji Kikushima, Kuniyoshi Shimizu, Koichiro Ohnuki. Improvement of cognitive functions by oral intake of Hericium erinaceusBiomed Res. 2019 ;40(4):125-131. PMID: 31413233

[xxv] Nagano M, Shimizu K, Kondo R, Hayashi C, Sato D, Kitagawa K, Ohnuki K. Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake. Biomed Res. 2010 Aug;31(4):231-7. doi: 10.2220/biomedres.31.231. PMID: 20834180.

[xxvi] Farhan Asad, Haseeb Anwar, Hadi M Yassine, Muhammad Irfan Ullah, Aziz Rahman, Zahid Kamran, Muhammad Umar Sohail. White Button Mushroom, Agaricus bisporus (Agaricomycetes), and a Probiotics Mixture Supplementation Correct Dyslipidemia without Influencing the Colon Microbiome Profile in Hypercholesterolemic Rats. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2020 ;22(3):235-244. PMID: 32479018

K Khatun, H Mahtab, P A Khanam, M A Sayeed, K A Khan. Oyster mushroom reduced blood glucose and cholesterol in diabetic subjects. Mymensingh Med J. 2007 Jan;16(1):94-9. PMID: 17344789

[xxvii] K Khatun, H Mahtab, P A Khanam, M A Sayeed, K A Khan. Oyster mushroom reduced blood glucose and cholesterol in diabetic subjectsMymensingh Med J. 2007 Jan;16(1):94-9. PMID: 17344789

[xxviii] Sijian Zheng, Shihao Deng, Yun Huang, Mi Huang, Ping Zhao, Xinhua Ma, Yanzhang Wen, Qiang Wang, Xinzhou Yang. Anti-diabetic activity of a polyphenol-rich extract from Phellinus igniarius in KK-Ay mice with spontaneous type 2 diabetes mellitusFood Funct. 2018 Jan 24 ;9(1):614-623. PMID: 29271444

[xxix] Junling Yang, Huibin Dong, Ya Wang, Yun Jiang, Wenna Zhang, Yongming Lu, Yan Chen, Lei Chen. Cordyceps cicadae polysaccharides ameliorated renal interstitial fibrosis in diabetic nephropathy rats by repressing inflammation and modulating gut microbiota dysbiosisInt J Biol Macromol. 2020 Nov 15 ;163:442-456. Epub 2020 Jun 24. PMID: 32592781

[xxx] Tao Jiang, Liang Wang, Angjie Ma, Yi Wu, Qiwen Wu, Qiulin Wu, Jianwei Lu, Tian Zhong. The hypoglycemic and renal protective effects of Grifola frondosa polysaccharides in early diabetic nephropathyJ Food Biochem. 2020 Oct 11:e13515. Epub 2020 Oct 11. PMID: 33043487

[xxxi] Thi Nhu Ngoc L, Oh YK, Lee YJ, Lee YC. Effects of Sparassis crispa in Medical Therapeutics: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 May 16;19(5):1487. doi: 10.3390/ijms19051487. PMID: 29772715; PMCID: PMC5983641.

Dr. Diane Fulton is Emeritus Professor at Clayton State University. She holds Ph.D./MBA in Business (University of Tennessee – Knoxville) and B.S. with Math/Secondary Education majors (University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee). During her 45-year career as administrator/professor teaching research and business, she authored 10 books, over 50 articles, and is now writing children’s books about the body, mindfulness and cross-cultural awareness. Her passion is to share her knowledge to integrate a healthy body, mind and soul. To reach her: Clayton University’s Emeritus Professors  Diane Fulton LINKED IN or Diane Fulton FACEBOOK.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

Source: GreenMedInfo

This article is copyrighted by GreenMedInfo LLC, 2021
Visit our Re-post guidelines

What do you think?

Written by Joseph

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

5 Best Wine Country Tours from Napa

What It's Like to Bikepack and Packraft Across the Rugged Southwest