2 Medicinal Mushrooms: Western Research and Traditional use with a focus on immunity and anti-cancer properties


*Reishi image credit in ref section


Part: fruiting body, mycelium, spores

Taste: bitter, bland

Energy:  warming

Latin name: Ganodema lucidum

Western medicine/research: constituents (not an exhaustive list); terpenoids, glycoproteins, phenols, nucleotides, steroids, polysaccharides, all the essential amino acids, lysine and leucine, etc.

Actions:  immune-boosting, anti-carcinogenic, anti-allergy, anti-microbial, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, sedative, tonic

“G. lucidum could be administered as an alternative adjunct to conventional treatment in consideration of its potential of enhancing tumour response and stimulating host immunity.” (Jin, Xingzhong, et al. 2012)

“meta‐analysis results showed that patients who had been given G. lucidum alongside with chemo/radiotherapy were more likely to respond positively compared to chemo/radiotherapy alone” (Jin, Xingzhong, et al. 2012)

“results for host immune function indicators suggested that G. lucidum simultaneously increases the percentage of CD3, CD4 and CD8… In addition, leukocyte, NK‐cell activity and CD4/CD8 ratio were marginally elevated” (Jin, Xingzhong, et al. 2012)

“Based on the evidence to date, using Ganoderma lucidum for cancer treatment may increase the chance of better response to treatment, but this is uncertain. It may improve the body’s immune response, in particular, on T-cells, but the effect on natural killer cells (NK activity) is uncertain.” (Santesso, Nancy, and L. Susan Wieland, 2016)

“effectiveness of Reishi has been attributed to either the polysaccharide fraction, which is responsible for the stimulation of the immune system, or to the triterpenes, which demonstrate cytotoxic activity against a variety of cancer cells” (Suarez-Arroyo, Ivette J., et al. 2013)

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) study, in vivo: “tumor volume was significantly (>50%) reduced (P<0.02) in the Reishi treated mice compared with mice gavaged daily with vehicle treatment” (Suarez-Arroyo, Ivette J., et al. 2013)

Traditional Chinese Medicine:

Chinese name: Ling zhi

Organs:  Heart, Spleen, Liver, Lung, Kidney

Traditional use:  said to be the mushroom of ‘longevity’ & ‘Immortality’, long used in China for insomnia/anxiety related to ‘Calming the Shen’ (Calming the Spirit of the Heart), tonifying properties (increasing functionality of organ/energy systems in order to boost immunity), reduce toxicity (anti-inflammatory, reduction of cancerous cells within the body), and protect the spirit/emotions/body of the user (relax cells and allow for healing, rest boosts immunity)

“Ben Cao Gang Mu by Li Shin-Zhen, which is considered to be the first pharmacopoeia in China (1590 AD; Ming dynasty), the mushroom was attributed with therapeutic properties, such as tonifying effects, enhancing vital energy, strengthening cardiac function, increasing memory, and antiaging effects” (Wachtel-Galor, Sissi, et al. 2011)

Cautions: No toxicity found, some studies outlined some nausea and sleep disturbances

Preparation/dosage: there was a lot of conflicting evidence to say what works and what did not.  No one study/site/book referenced a primary preparation or dosage for cancer support or immunity.  Due to the variety of medicinal constituents within the Reishi mushroom, it is recommended by most platforms to do a dual-extraction method (decoct in water, then tincture in ethanol), this allows the extraction of the highest amounts of ‘medicinal constituents’ which are the polysaccharides (beta-glucans) and triterpenes. From my experience using Reishi 1:4 dual-extracted tincture, effects on insomnia and general well-being after use have been supported, but these effects have been observed when Reishi is combined in a synergistic formula with other herbs.

Picture: Local Sunshine Coast Turkey Tail mushrooms collected by me for dual-extracted tincture 😊

  Turkey Tail

Part: fruiting body, mycelium, spores

Taste: bland, sweet

Energy: neutral

Latin name: Trametes versicolor or Coriolus versicolor

Western medicine/research: constituents (not an exhaustive list); polysaccharides; “beta-glucans, arabinoxylane, glucose, xylose, galactose, mannose, glycoproteins, ergosterols, triterpenoids” (Stamets, Paul, 2012), phenolic & protein components, sterols, triterpene derivatives, hydroquinone-derived aromatic compounds, cerebroside, triglyceride derivative, etc. (Habibi, Emran, et al. 2015)

Actions:  anti-tumor, antioxidant, immune modulating, anti-microbial, hepatoprotective

“results thus indicate that CVPs (water-soluble Coriolus versicolor polysaccharide) can be a potential candidate to ameliorate toxic effects when used in cancer therapy.” (Cai, Xinzhong, et al. 2010)

“T versicolor preparation is safe and tolerable in women with breast cancer who had undergone chemotherapy. Perhaps the most intriguing part of this study was the finding that 6 g of T versicolor appeared to lead to faster immune recovery after radiotherapy” (Stamets, Paul, 2012)

“dietary supplement prepared from extracts ofT. versicolor reduces the growth of hormone responsive prostate cancer” (Patel, Seema, and Arun Goyal. 2012)

“polysaccharide of this mushroom has been demonstrated to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells in vitro and in vivo, examined on the human hepatoma cancer” (Patel, Seema, and Arun Goyal. 2012)

“The strain is excellent in platelet aggregation inhibitory effect, chemokine gene expression inhibitory effect, antimutagenic effect, antitumor effect, antihypertensive effect, and immunomodulatory effect” (Eguchi, Fumio, Ryo Sumi, and Nobuo Mori, 2010)

Traditional Chinese Medicine:

Chinese name: Yun Zhi or ‘cloud mushroom’

Organs:  Liver, Spleen, and Lung

Traditional use:  used traditionally for tonification of the Spleen (digestion and production of nourishing Blood), increasing energy and vitality (circulation of Blood), also said to reduce ‘Dampness’ (tumors, lumps, cancer) whilst clearing Heat and toxicity (inflammation)

Cautions: studies did not indicate any toxicity, safe to use in conjunction with conventional cancer therapies

Preparation: wide variety of preparations, including; in food/drink, pharmaceutical formulations, dual-extracted tinctures, freeze-dried mycelium capsules, etc.

Dosage: (4-9g) “4 g twice daily… capsules consist of activated, freeze-dried, organic mushroom mycelium, containing polysaccharides”…“up to 9 g/day tolerable in women with breast cancer who had undergone chemotherapy.”  (Stamets, Paul, 2012)


Table 7

Summary of Potential Clinical Applications

Type of Cancer Indicated Mushroom
Nonsmall-cell lung cancer Cordyceps
Lung cancer Reishi
Gastric cancer PSK (turkey tail)
Hepatocellular carcinoma Agaricus, reishi
Leukemia Agaricus, reishi
Lymphoma Cordyceps
Breast cancer Reishi, maitake, turkey tail
Colon cancer Maitake, reishi, turkey tail
Prostate cancer Reishi
Sarcoma Reishi

(Guggenheim, Alena G., Kirsten M. Wright, and Heather L. Zwickey, 2014)

**Always consult a qualified health professional before using herbal medicine, especially in conjunction with pharmaceuticals, or book an appointment with me!

Book an appointment today with Shannon Hobson

Certified East West Herbalist

Consultations now over the phone or Skype

Text or call 604-993-0169

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Image: Reishi mushroom (© 1997-2020 Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, Inc.)

  • Guggenheim, Alena G., Kirsten M. Wright, and Heather L. Zwickey. “Immune modulation from five major mushrooms: application to integrative oncology.” Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal 13.1 (2014): 32.
  • Jin, Xingzhong, et al. “Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for cancer treatment.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 6 (2012).
  • Santesso, Nancy, and L. Susan Wieland. “A Summary of a Cochrane Review: Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for the treatment of cancer.” European journal of integrative medicine 8.5 (2016): 619.
  • Suarez-Arroyo, Ivette J., et al. “Anti-tumor effects of Ganoderma lucidum (reishi) in inflammatory breast cancer in in vivo and in vitro models.” PloS one 8.2 (2013).
  • Wachtel-Galor, Sissi, et al. “Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi).” Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, 2011.
  • Habibi, Emran, et al. “Mycochemical investigation of the turkey tail medicinal mushroom Trametes versicolor (higher basidiomycetes): A potential application of the isolated compounds in documented pharmacological studies.” International journal of medicinal mushrooms 17.3 (2015).
  • Cai, Xinzhong, et al. “Hepatoma cell growth inhibition by inducing apoptosis with polysaccharide isolated from Turkey tail medicinal mushroom, Trametes versicolor (L.: Fr.) Lloyd (Aphyllophoromycetideae).” International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms 12.3 (2010).
  • Stamets, Paul. “Trametes versicolor (turkey tail mushrooms) and the treatment of breast Cancer.” Global advances in health and medicine 1.5 (2012): 20.
  • Patel, Seema, and Arun Goyal. “Recent developments in mushrooms as anti-cancer therapeutics: a review.” 3 Biotech 2.1 (2012): 1-15.
  • Eguchi, Fumio, Ryo Sumi, and Nobuo Mori. “Strain of turkey tail mushroom, extract from the same, and use of the same.” U.S. Patent No. 7,790,175. 7 Sep. 2010.

Some Antiviral and Immunity Herbs

*image credit to learningherbs.com

 PDF download:  Some Antiviral and Immunity Herbs Blog

**Always consult a qualified health professional before using herbal medicine, especially in conjunction with pharmaceuticals, or book an appointment with me!

Book an appointment today with Shannon Hobson

Certified East West Herbalist

Consultations now over the phone or Skype

Text or call 604-993-0169

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My ‘Elderberry Syrup Blend’ for purchase: *Elderberry, *Elderflower, *Echinacea, *ginger, *raw sugar (vegan) or *honey, water  (*organic ingredients)

Tinctures available for purchase:  All antivirals/immunity herbs outlined, except Isatis leaf

Antiviral tincture for purchase: Elderberry, Elderflower, Forsythia, Isatis root, Echinacea, Honeysuckle, Astragalus blend


Ashwagandha, ‘the rejuvenation herb’

      *image credit in reference section


Solonaceae family (nightshade family)

Part: root

Energy: warm and bitter

Taste: sweet

Latin name: Withania somnifera

Western medicine/research: constituents include (*not an exhaustive list); withanolides (withanolideA, withanolide D, withaferin A), alkaloids, sitoindosides, saponins, tropine, pseudotropine isopelletrine, anaferine, etc.

Actions: adaptogenic, hypnotic or induces sleep (leaves more so), “anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-stress, neuroprotective, cardioprotective, and anti-diabetic” (Dar, Nawab John, Abid Hamid, and Muzamil Ahmad, 2015), sexual tonic (especially for men)

“management of various disease conditions like bronchial asthma, chronic fever, cold, cough, malaria, dysentery, convulsions, diabetes, diarrhea, arthritis, emetic syndrome, skin diseases, insect bite etc. and in treatment of gastric, hepatic, cardiovascular & immunological disorders” (Verma, Sitansu Kumar, and Ajay Kumar, 2011)

“a viable therapeutic agent for addressing anxiety, cancer, microbial infection, immunomodulation, and neurodegenerative disorders.” (A Dar, Parvaiz, et al. 2016)

Ashwagandha root “has been demonstrated to reduce anxiety and stress, allowing the body to settle down and prepare for sleep” (Deshpande, Abhijit, Nushafreen Irani, and Rathna Balakrishnan, 2018)

“root extract of the plant was found to possess strong antibacterial activity against MRSA as revealed by in -vitro tests” and “Our study suggests that the bioactive fractions separated from aqueous extract of W. somnifera is a potential source of antibacterial compounds with antioxidant property.” (Mehrotra, Vidhi, et al. 2011)

“withanolides have been found cytotoxic to cancer cells, immunomodulatory, and neuroprotective in function” (Rai, Mahendra, et al. 2016)

“Moreover, the toxicological studies revealed that the reasonable doses of W. somnifera are non-toxic and safe” (Rai, Mahendra, et al. 2016)

“All five studies concluded that WS intervention resulted in greater score improvements (significantly in most cases) than placebo in outcomes on anxiety or stress scales.” (Pratte, Morgan A., et al. 2014)

675mg 3 times per day dose of Ashwagandha root extract: “There was a 167% increase in sperm count, 53% increase in semen volume, and 57% increase in sperm motility on day 90 from baseline.” (Ambiye, Vijay R., et al. 2013)

“Treatment with Withania somnifera extract (100 mg/Kg/day p.o.) for 15 days significantly reduced ulcer-index as compared to control group. Extract also significantly reduced volume of gastric secretion, free acidity and total acidity” (Bhatnagar, M., C. P. Jain, and S. S. Sisodia. 2005)

Traditional Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine: (Indian ginseng) Considered the primary tonic herb in India (the ‘rejuvenator’)

  • Ashwagandha means ‘smelling like a horse’
  • Rasayana herb (‘path of essence’ herb), used ‘to expand lifespan and longevity’
  • Specific for Vata constitutions (nervous/anxious types)
  • Increases Ama (toxic phlegm) in excess type people (lymphatic conditions, colds/flus with congestion, general sinus congestion and allergies, etc.)
  • Used for nervous exhaustion and anxiety
  • Sexual tonic for females when combined with Shatavari root
  • The “grounding” herb, helps stabilize metabolism, immune system, and mood

(KPS. Khalsa & M. Tierra, 2008)

Cautions: not for excess constitutions with high phlegm disorders or ailments, avoid when pregnant, may interact with blood pressure and thyroid medications, caution with individuals with nightshade family intolerances

Preparation and dosage: 1-10 grams (KPS. Khalsa & M. Tierra, 2008)

Traditional use: 1-10g decocted or cooked over a long period in milk (for acute conditions, specific for inducing sleep), 1 gram for lifelong use (specifically for male infertility)

*Always consult a qualified health professional before using herbal medicine, especially in conjunction with pharmaceuticals, or book an appointment with me

Book an appointment today with Shannon Hobson

Certified East West Herbalist

Consulting out of Howe Sound Pharmacy, Gibsons

Text or call 604-993-0169

Click to Email

IG: natural_knowhow

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Image:  © 2004-2020 Healthline Media UK Ltd, Brighton, UK, a Red Ventures Company

  • Dar, Nawab John, Abid Hamid, and Muzamil Ahmad. “Pharmacologic overview of Withania somnifera, the Indian ginseng.” Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 72.23 (2015): 4445-4460.
  • Verma, Sitansu Kumar, and Ajay Kumar. “Therapeutic uses of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha) with a note on withanolides and its pharmacological actions.” Asian J Pharm Clin Res 4.1 (2011): 1-4.
  • A Dar, Parvaiz, et al. “Unique medicinal properties of Withania somnifera: Phytochemical constituents and protein component.” Current pharmaceutical design 22.5 (2016): 535-540.
  • Deshpande, Abhijit, Nushafreen Irani, and Rathna Balakrishnan. “Study protocol and rationale for a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study to evaluate the effects of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract on nonrestorative sleep.” Medicine 97.26 (2018).
  • Mehrotra, Vidhi, et al. “Antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of aqueous extract of Withania somnifera against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.” J Microbiol Biotechnol Res 1.1 (2011): 40-5.
  • Rai, Mahendra, et al. “Anticancer activities of Withania somnifera: Current research, formulations, and future perspectives.” Pharmaceutical biology 54.2 (2016): 189-197.
  • Pratte, Morgan A., et al. “An alternative treatment for anxiety: a systematic review of human trial results reported for the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha (Withania somnifera).” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 20.12 (2014): 901-908.
  • Ambiye, Vijay R., et al. “Clinical evaluation of the spermatogenic activity of the root extract of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in oligospermic males: a pilot study.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013 (2013).
  • Bhatnagar, M., C. P. Jain, and S. S. Sisodia. “Anti-ulcer activity of Withania somnifera in stress plus pyloric ligation induced gastric ulcer in rats.” J Cell Tissue Res 5.1 (2005): 287-292.
  • Khalsa & M. Tierra, “The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs”, p.97, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes WI, 2008.