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Medicinal Mushrooms Research -
History, Principles and Results

Medicinal Mushroom Research article consists of the following parts (click to jump):

Overview of scientific research of health benefits of medicinal mushrooms

Cancer research

Antiviral research

Safety of medicinal mushroom use

Important works and literature

Scientific Research of the Health Benefits of Medicinal Mushroom

The scientific interest in health benefits of medicinal mushrooms and their use has, naturally, arisen from their long use in traditional medicine.

Over more than 50 years, the experiences and knowledge of traditional medicine of the properties and use of medicinal mushrooms has been systematically tested by strictly scientific methods - at first this was centered at cancer research, but soon also the research of antiviral effects. Thus

have been determined. Research has been carried out on

This ensured that the approach to the research of this subject was modern, scientifically valid and complete.

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Medicinal Mushroom Research Centers

The scientific research of medicinal mushrooms started in the Far East and the majority of research was done there - especially in Japan and China. This is to be expected since traditions of using mushrooms for health are much stronger in the Far East. However, other scientists - in Russia and Europe, and especially United States are also increasingly contributing.

Most important research has been done at institutions such as the

The results have been published in eminent international magazines in the field of medicine (oncology, immunology, virology…), pharmacology, biology and biotechnology. Data on medicinal mushroom research are stored in the world's leading databases (such as Medline), as are many patent documents. From 1999, a specialized scientific magazine International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms (Begell House, New York) publishes the newest research done in laboratories worldwide.

One can easily get a glimpse of the massive scope of this field on the Internet - just google "medicinal mushrooms" or the name of an important species of medicinal mushrooms, like Ganoderma lucidum (reishi), Lentinus edodes (shiitake), Grifola frondosa (hen of the woods), etc.

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Health Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms Analyzed

As of 2011, scientific research into health benefits of medicinal mushrooms found that more than 600 mushroom species possess significant medicinal properties. This number is likely larger, since just a small fraction of medicinal mushroom species have been analyzed. The research of medicinal mushrooms can roughly be divided by effects into these more specific areas:

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The History of Medicinal Mushrooms Research - Quest for a Cancer Cure

Jump to:

Medicinal mushrooms cancer cure research history
Medicinal mushroom active compounds that cure cancer
How do mushrooms work against cancer
Human clinical trials
Publications, conferences and medicinal mushroom movement

While there is significant use of medicinal mushrooms in traditional medicine for many different diseases and conditions, scientific interest was first motivated by their anticancer (antitumor) effects.

Modern research of medicinal mushrooms started in Japan when Dr. Kisaku Mori, a Japanese pioneer in the medicinal mushroom research, established the Institute of Mushroom Research in Tokyo in 1936.

Since then, the majority of research into the anti cancer effects of mushrooms was carried out in Japan. At the Research Institute of the National Cancer Centre in Tokyo, Ikekawa et al. ("and others") carried out research into the anti cancer effects of the extracts of 7 edible mushroom species on mice with sarcoma 180 publishing their findings in 1969.

Five years later Hamuro and Chihara confirmed and expanded these findings in a joint study carried out by the Institute and the well known Japanese food company Ajinomoto. The most important results of this research follow:

For some extracted components the rate of cancer regression was 100%, with cancer regression in all cases.

Mori (father and son), Ikekawa, Hamuro, Chihara, Maeda, Taguchi, Nanba, Aoki and many others, have irrefutably proven that some medicinal mushroom cause:

Ivan Jakopovich and Tetsuro Ikekawa Medicinal mushroom researchers

Dr. Ivan Jakopovich (Myko San) and Tetsuro Ikekawa, medicinal mushroom researchers at the 3rd International Medicinal Mushroom Conference, USA 2005.

Working systematically for almost 40 years scientists in China (Xiao-Yu Li, Jia-Fang Wang, Q. Y. Yang and many others) have reached similar findings.

In fact, Q. Y. Yang has developed the first cancer cure in China from medicinal mushrooms in 1983 - the so-called polysaccharide peptide or PSP. It is classified as a medical drug and is still being used in China, Japan and Australia.

Ivan Jakopovich, Q.Y. Yang and Neven Jakopovich medicinal mushroom researchers

Left to right: Ivan Jakopovich, Q.Y. Yang (inventor of PSP) and Neven Jakopovich at the Yang Institute, Shanghai, 2007

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Western scientific research

The first western scientific research into the anticancer effects of higher mushrooms was done by Lucas et al. at the University of Michigan (USA), in the late 1950s. They confirmed that the giant puffball (Calvatia gigantea) can be used in fighting cancer and isolated the active substance calvacin.

J. L. Hartwell composed the first extensive overview of traditional folk medications used against cancer in 1967 (Plants Used Against Cancer: A Survey). It contained plants, edible, inedible and even some poisonous mushrooms. This first precise study was the result of direct collaboration between Lucas and K. Mori.

Scientific research in the West has significantly increased since 1999 when prof. Solomon Wasser started the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms and the biennially held International Medicinal Mushroom Conferences. However, the majority of research in the medicinal mushroom field is still done by the Far Eastern scientists.

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Anticancer Compounds of Mushrooms

Chihara et al. were the first to isolate lentinan (and several other anticancer substances) from the shiitake mushroom (Lentinus edodes) in 1970. They found that this remarkable high molecular weight polysaccharide can halt sarcoma 180 with 90-100% effectiveness and lead to its complete regression. Lentinan is a registered anticancer medical drug from mushrooms in Japan.

Equally effective is PSK (trade name: Krestin) from the mushroom Trametes (old: Coriolus) versicolor. This compound was found to be extremely safe. Used from the mid 1980 in Japan it is still used as a medical drug and cancer cure from mushrooms. Its popularity is best shown by the fact that in 1987 it accounted for 25% of all anticancer drug use in Japan. This drug is remarkably similar to Chinese PSP (registered as an anticancer drug in China), and is its predecessor.

Other powerful anticancer agents have also been discovered in the mycelium of certain species of mushrooms, such as KS-2 and LEM from the shiitake mushroom.

It is important to note that every mushroom species possesses literally thousands of compounds, and that many of those have more or less powerful effects. That's the reason medicinal mushroom drugs may not be as effective as less refined supplements.

Most well-known anticancer compounds of mushrooms are high molecular weight polysaccharides that boost immune system. However, more simple compounds like triterpenes (ganoderic acids) and others are also an important factor.

Compounds that work against cancer metastasis

What is particularly significant is that some anticancer agents are effective not only on primary tumors, but also have a high rate of inhibiting the emergence and development of metastases, in some cases to the point of metastases reduction and metastatic regression. Chihara et al., from the National Cancer Centre in Tokyo, proved this is true with lentinan, while Hiroaki Nanba of the Kobe Pharmaceutical University (Japan) published a report in the annals of the New York Academy of Sciences proving the same effect in the maitake D-fraction extract of the Hen of the Woods mushroom (Grifola frondosa).

Why do mushrooms contain anticancer compounds?

Where do these anticancer components of some mushrooms originate from and why are they there? Back in the 1960s, Hungarian Nobel Prize winner Szent-Györgyi, researched substances that inhibit and improve cell growth. "Retine" - the cell growth inhibitors, a derivative of highly cytotoxic (toxic to cells) methylglyoxal with strong carcinostatic (slowing cancer growth) effects are present in mushrooms in a greater concentration than "promine", promotors of cell growth. In his experiments, "retine" demonstrated anticancer effects.

The increased concentration of these anticancer compounds in mushrooms is an adaptation to their saprotrophic nutrition. Mushrooms live on dead and decaying substances, exposing them to attack from numerous parasites and fighting for nutrients. Mushrooms use growth inhibitors to combat the growth of these parasites and secure the nutrient rich areas.

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How Medicinal Mushroom Work Against Cancer

Boosting immune system and cancer cells cytotoxicity

As previously mentioned there are many active compounds, many of which have diverse and multiple mechanisms of anticancer activity. Some of the most important and well-known modes of action are:

The most important medicinal mushroom anticancer mechanism is, undoubtedly, starting numerous immunobiological changes in the body of “host organism” (not necessarily human). This is commonly called "boosting immune system" - but it is a rather more complex function. Medicinal mushroom compounds, called biomodulators or biological response modifiers, alter the complex functioning of the immune system, strengthening both “non-specific” or general, and specific cancer immunity.

We present the immunological function modification obtained by lentinan, from shiitake mushroom, in the human body (in vivo). Thought it does not have a direct cytotoxic effect on the cancer cells lentinan acts indirectly through the host body (i.e. is “host-mediated”). Lentinan inhibits the creation of substances that weaken immune system, and strengthens the production of substances that boost immune system. Additionally, it beneficially affects the production of antibodies and increases the production of the body's own interferon proteins, activates the natural killer cells (NK cells), activates cytotoxic macrophages, speeds up the creation of interleukin-1 (IL-1) which activates lymphocytes and other interleukins, activates the classic and alternative "trajectory" of complements, and, in particular, activates cytotoxic and helper T lymphocytes...

lentinan from shiitake mushrooms chemical structure

Molecular structure of lentinan, high molecular weight polysaccharide from Lentinus edodes, shiitake mushroom
(public domain)

Similarly, PSK, schizophyllan (SPG) and other polysaccharides from mushrooms are powerful stimulants that improve the ability of defensive cells to recognize and kill various cancer cells but also, by activating many factors of humoral and cellular immunity, strengthening the function of normal cells and preventing immune system weakening.

Other medicinal mushroom compounds (specific polysaccharides, protein-bound polysaccharides, lignins, triterpenes, purines, phenolic compounds...):

Besides these, most important anticancer effects caused by a boost and modulation of immune system, active compounds from medicinal mushrooms have other beneficial effects important for cancer patients. Medicinal mushroom compounds can:

Japanese studies and clinical experience have shown that chemotherapy and cancer irradiation, in combination with certain anticancer mushroom substances, are significantly less uncomfortable and harmful, while also being much more effective. One of the most well documented effect is that the pain caused by cancer is often alleviated or entirely eliminated, cancer patient feels better, and strength and stamina are improved, as are the appetite and general health (cancer patients' general quality of life improves).

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Medicinal Mushrooms in Human Cancer Clinical Trials

Medicinal mushroom anticancer effects have been tested in humans in a number of studies, including strictly controlled human clinical trials. Unlike thousands of cancer cell culture and animal model experiments, we can shortly discuss cancer clinical trials in humans. For ethical reasons, most of those have been carried out in combination with common anticancer therapy. These human clinical trials have invariably shown that the anticancer substances from medicinal mushrooms are most effective when used in combination with surgical treatment, chemotherapy and radiotherapy – and the results are much better than standard cancer therapy alone.

Following the results obtained through these human clinical trials, this approach of combining standard treatment and medicinal mushrooms is now the usual medical approach to cancer therapy, primarily in Japan and China.

In the early 1980s, Taguchi et al. carried out a study with 275 patients who used lentinan, a compound from shiitake medicinal mushroom, against stomach cancer (advanced or recurring - phase III).

The results: Taguchi proved that lentinan, in combination with either of two selected cytostatics,

Soon thereafter, Kasamatsu conducted a study on patients using medicinal mushrooms against cervical cancer (phase III). He proved that the medicinal mushroom compound PSK significantly prolongs life in combination with radiotherapy. Over a span of 5 years,

It was also found that PSK is making cancer cells more sensitive to radiation therapy.

Published in 1990, a controlled study carried out by Mitomi et al. on 462 patients who had undergone surgery for bowel cancer (colon and rectal) showed that PSK, in combination with a single cytostatic (type of chemotherapy drug), lead to a significantly improved "no cancer recurrence survival rate" compared with chemotherapy results alone.

In China, the aforementioned Q. Y. Yang et al. carried out a controlled study on 485 patients with esophageal, stomach and lung cancer, establishing that PSP

This kind of strictly controlled clinical trial has not yet been carried out in Europe or United States. However, Myko San completed demonstrational studies (not done in a clinical setting). Myko San studies were on a randomized single-blind sample, analyzing the official medical documentation and comparing the results with the standard therapy results published in cancer registers. The addition of medicinal mushroom anticancer therapy in patients with lung, bowel (colorectal), breast cancer

much more than using standard cancer therapy alone.

More studies have been performed, mainly in Japan and China – but, so far, only single extracted compound from just three species - Lentinus edodes, Trametes versicolor and Schyzophyllum commune – have been tested in human clinical trials. The most famous Ganoderma lucidum mushroom was even not tested.

In all cases only low, less potent dosages were used, and in almost all the therapy duration was shorter than optimal. The trials where mushrooms were used for a longer period showed the best results. However, the results of clinical studies with medicinal mushroom anticancer effects on humans are convincing, especially when compared with the results of standard chemotherapy and radiotherapy results against cancer. In most solid cancers, chemotherapy improves survival only slightly (See more: The contribution of cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adult malignancies); about 2%. However, relative statistics are often used for marketing purposes (when they go into 30-50%).

It has been established that, both in human clinical trials and in our studies, the effect of using medicinal mushrooms (mycotherapy) for a longer period of time has resulted in stronger improvements.

Furthermore, over 20 years of Myko San’s experience and tens of thousands of patients have assured us that better results are obtained by combining many active compounds (not single compound as in all human clinical trials) from a larger number of medicinal mushroom species – the so-called shotgun approach to mycotherapy. The careful, statistical analysis in our studies has strongly confirmed it. (read more about the approach in Myko San medicinal mushroom cancer cure in comparison with other supplements)

Finally, we found that the effects are obviously strongly dose-dependent (higher dosages lead to greatly improved effects) – and Myko San has used significantly larger doses than those used in the clinical trials. This relationship is one of the most strong proofs of actual medicinal mushroom effectiveness.

In Myko San studies,

led to greatly improved survival in lung cancer (both small and non-small lung carcinoma), bowel cancer (colon cancer and rectal cancer) and in breast cancer. Follow link for more info on Myko San cancer survival research using medicinal mushrooms.

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Publications, Conferences and Medicinal Mushroom Movement

In August 1993, a strategic international conference on mushroom biology, production and mushroom products (First International Conference On Mushroom Biology and Mushroom Products) was hosted by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Department of Biology at the Chinese University in Hong Kong. The event is clearly telling of the current significance and perspectives of medicinal mushroom field. This conference brought together most of the world's leading mycologists. One of the five theme sessions was entitled “The Nutritional and Medicinal Properties of Mushrooms”.

In 2001 Professor Solomon P. Wasser and Shu-Ting Chang, two of the most famous contemporary scientists in the medicinal mushroom field, started the International Medicinal Mushroom Conferences – worldwide scientific conferences presenting the latest findings in the fields of medicinal properties of mushrooms and their use as medicinal agents. The 1st International Medicinal Mushroom conference was held in Kiev, Ukraine (2001); followed by Pattaya, Thailand (2003); Port Townsend, USA (2005); Ljubljana, Slovenia (2007) and Nantong, China (2009). Myko San was the host and organizer of the 6th International Medicinal Mushroom Conference in Zagreb, Croatia (2011).

Solomon P. Wasser and Ivan Jakopovich medicinal mushroom researchers, at the opening of the 6th International Medicinal Mushroom Conference IMMC6

Solomon P. Wasser and Ivan Jakopovich at the opening of the 6th International Medicinal Mushroom Conference in Zagreb, 2011, hosted by Myko San.

Shu-Ting Chang and Ivan Jakopovich at the 5th International Medicinal Mushroom Conference (Exhibition of Medicinal Mushroom Products)

Shu-Ting Chang and Ivan Jakopovich at the 5th International Medicinal Mushroom Conference (Product Exhibition) in Nantong (China, 2009)

Read more about the contribution of Myko San in research of medicinal mushrooms and medicinal mushroom products against cancer (malignant tumor).

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Medicinal Mushroom Antiviral Research

Jump to:

Health benefits of medicinal mushrooms - Antiviral effects research history
HIV cure and human clinical trials
Mechanisms of medicinal mushroom compounds against viral infections
Other viral infections. Medicinal mushrooms herpes cure research
Medicinal mushroom research of a hepatitis cure

Although the vast majority of research on the health benefits of medicinal mushroom was done on cancer, other medical conditions were also evaluated. Antiviral effects of medicinal mushrooms, being used in official traditional medicine against viral infections, was an obvious candidate for a more scientific consideration. As we'll see, there is a significant overlap of antiviral and anticancer activity, and that is because both respond to the modification and boost of our immune system medicinal mushrooms provide.

History of Mushroom Antiviral Benefits Research

Back in the 1950s Cochran and Lucas first began investigating the antiviral benefits medicinal mushrooms offer. They found that the giant puffball (C. gigantea) and the meadow mushroom (Agaricus campestris) provide protection from the poliomyelitis virus in mice.

In 1966, Cochran et al. discovered that the king bolete or porcini mushroom (Boletus edulis), the giant puffball, the Slippery Jack (Suillus luteus), shiitake mushroom (Lentinus edodes), and the birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) are effective against the flu causing influenza viruses.

In the mid 1970s, Yamamura and Cochran isolated the compound AC2P from shiitake mushroom that inhibits orthomyxoviridae (which include the influenza viruses). K. Mori and his son found particles in the shiitake mushroom that boost immune system through increased secretion of human interferons, as the body reacts to them as if they were of viral origin. F. Suzuki et al. further discovered that RNA from shiitake mushroom spores stimulate interferon production. Furthermore, extract from shiitake mushroom mycelia contains KS-2 compound, which provides prophylactic and therapeutic protection from the flu.

The focus on the flu and the value of these discoveries is clear when we think about the magnitude of the problem caused by seasonal flu epidemics around the world.

However, since the discovery of the deadly HIV/AIDS virus in 1981 medicinal mushroom antiviral research changed focus from the flu and most antiviral research done thereafter went into searching for an HIV cure.

According to a 1983 report by Dr. Tadao Aoki of the Shinrakuen Hospital, a 57 year old HIV-positive woman was treated with shiitake mushroom compound lentinan for the first time. She was a breast cancer patient who probably contracted HIV through blood transfusion during the surgery. At the time, shiitake mushroom active compound lentinan was already used for cancer. After a 5-month treatment period, she became HIV negative, the number of T helper lymphocyte cells (CD4 T cells) greatly improved, while the activity of natural killer (NK) cells increased from 36% to 80.8%. Three years later she was still healthy and needed no further medical treatment. Dr. Aoki described the anti-HIV (also general antiviral) activity of lentinan, a polysaccharide from the shiitake mushroom (L. edodes) in 1984 and presented the experience of the above described HIV cure at the Third International Conference on Immunopharmacology in Florence, Italy in 1985.

By late 1980s Tochikura, Nakashima and Yamamoto from the University of Yamaguchi found effective agents against four strains of HIV-1 and one strain of HIV-2. They found that lentinan sulphate blocks HIV cell to cell infection 85.9% - 96.9% in all but one strain. The extract of shiitake mycelium (LEM) inhibits cell to cell infection at virtually identical rate, in all tested strains of HIV, and so does PSK from the medicinal mushroom Turkey Tail (T. versicolor).

While it was not a 100% HIV cure, in comparison the AZT - the first official antiretroviral drug used against HIV and AIDS - was virtually ineffective against cell to cell infection (with inhibition rate of just 2.8 – 10.2%). Tochikura, Nakashima and Yamamoto published these results in 1989 in the Journal of AIDS (JAIDS) (Wolters Kluwer, New York).

The best HIV cure results from combining lentinan with antiviral drugs. For example, Kaneko et al. found that lentinan and AZT used together inhibit HIV 5 to 24 times more effectively than AZT alone.

It had also been established that PSK (from Trametes versicolor) inhibits HIV infection by modifying viral receptors, preventing the adhesion of the virus to lymphocytes, and that it has a general antiviral effect by stimulating interferon production and secretion.

In the late 1980s Dharmananda and B. K. Kim raised the attention to the fact that G. lucidum polysaccharides that boost immune system are useful to people infected with HIV.

Concurrently, several American physicians reported an improvement in the status of patients with Kaposi's sarcoma and other AIDS related symptoms after using Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa) extract.

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Antiviral effects of medicinal mushrooms - Human clinical trials

In 1986 the Japanese government approved the use of lentinan in a national anti-AIDS research program. First in the study were HIV positive hemophiliacs, of which a part almost normalized lymphocyte levels in less than three months. An open test of lentinan effects on HIV followed at 16 medical schools and hospitals. Today a growing number of medical experts worldwide know that lentinan is particularly effective in stimulating and the recovery of helper T lymphocyte cells. Lentinan is the first immune system medication that improves the killer ability of natural killer T lymphocyte cells and regenerates the function of helper T lymphocyte cells whose signals activate this crucial immunological process.

Clinical testing of the use of lentinan in fighting AIDS was launched in the USA in 1989. The results of a pilot study showed a 30% increase in the number of helper T4 lymphocytes in patients.

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Protective antiviral mechanisms

While most of the recent research was done on HIV (virus causing AIDS), the protective mechanisms, i.e. boosting immune system response, are influenced by the active compounds found in medicinal mushrooms, and equally useful in other viral diseases. And they can greatly influence and even determine the progress and the outcome of various viral diseases.

A series of studies have proven that the active substances of some mushroom species can prevent the proliferation of viruses and the development of viral infections, either directly (specific response) or through various factors of humoral and cellular immunity.

Tests on animals, cell cultures and humans with HIV/AIDS and AIDS-related diseases gave us insight into the protective antiviral mechanisms of medicinal mushrooms. Lentinan, PSK and other mushroom substances

Indirectly, but more completely, active medicinal mushroom compounds work through modification and boosting of our immune system in many complex ways. Some compounds

The importance of the increase in T4 lymphocytes, although their number remains an indicator of the progression or regression of the disease, was reduced by the discovery that HIV, which attacks macrophages and dendritic cells in lymph nodes and the skin, blocks the mechanism that informs the immune system that enough T lymphocytes have to be produced to effectively oppose viruses. Unlike T lymphocytes, macrophages continue to live when infected by HIV, and the multiplication of HIV is reduced when they are treated with immunostimulants (substances boosting immune system). Macrophage stimulation is yet another mechanism lentinan activates.

Especially important was the research of shiitake mushroom mycelium extract (LEM). We have mentioned the research carried out by Tochikura et al., which demonstrated that this shiitake mushroom extract has a very high rate of blocking cell to cell infection by various strains of HIV. Their study also demonstrated that, among other tested substances, it is equally effective in blocking extracellular HIV infections (through body fluids). By blocking both main routes of HIV infection from the start, LEM is superior to AZT, which is not only expensive, but is also very toxic to bone marrow, causing a number of dangerous side effects. Over time AZT is also increasingly less effective, and life expectancy is not extended, even if used very early on. Contrary to this, LEM is as non-toxic as normal human food, and much cheaper.

Perhaps most importantly, as established back in the late 1980s by H. Suzuki et al. of the University of Tokyo, some components of LEM, beside activating macrophages, cause the regeneration of bone marrow cells, the "birthplace" of many of our defensive immune system cells. This is caused by a derivative of lignin EP3, which also, by a rate of 90%, inhibits the creation of enzymes HIV uses to replicate in attacked cells. Even more, it also completely prevented HIV damage to very sensitive T lymphocytes.

EP3 acetyl lignin is the most effective component of LEM that simultaneously acts as a booster of immune system and antiviral agent. Based on the described Japanese success, Sharon reports that HIV-positive and AIDS patients that still do not have major symptoms of the disease take 2 g of LEM every day until the symptoms disappear without recurrence (this is assumed to take from 6 to 12 months), and then change to 650 mg per day for maintenance.

The predominant medical belief still holds that when a person becomes HIV positive, there is no return. However, as early as the mid 1980s, Jones achieved an HIV cure of a carrier (HIV positive, but showing no signs of disease) in the USA treating with LEM for just 2 months. The results showed that the viral antigen was no longer present: the patient had become HIV negative.

Ever since it was found that, in seropositive people, HIV is concealed for a long time in the lymphatic tissues before significantly damaging the defensive system, some scientists working on AIDS felt that there is no need to wait for the number of T lymphocytes to start declining, but the use of life-prolonging agents should begin immediately. That would improve the patient's chances, as a result of sufficiently early treatment with boosters of immune system and antiviral substances, of never developing AIDS symptoms.

It is, of course, imperative these medications do not devastate the organism if taken for many years, possibly decades, and perhaps on a life-long basis. Research indicates that any such HIV cure would likely have to incorporate several agents. The harmless products of shiitake and other medicinal mushrooms, along with other effective natural products that are being tested, are certainly among the first candidates for regular use in treating HIV and AIDS. However, these products have been much ignored and underestimated by the dominant combinatorial chemisty drug designing practice in Western medicine.

At the 11th World AIDS Conference, held in Vancouver, Canada in 1996, Italian immunologist M. Clerici reported on the results of a broad European AIDS study his team conducted. He estimated that as many as 30 to 50% of the people who come into contact with HIV do not become seropositive. More recent research found that, depending on the exposure route, this risk is even smaller. The reason for this is the strength of their immune system. That is another strong argument that we should, in the effort to avoid HIV infection and contracting AIDS (besides avoiding high-risk activities), reach for a harmless boost of immune system from medicinal mushrooms. This is another way to maximally reduce the risk. As we'll see in the next part, this is not limited to HIV and AIDS (although the effectiveness is variable).

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Most of the mechanisms detailed above are of great benefit in fighting other viral infections. This includes directly antiviral compounds, but especially the boost of non-specific immune system response with medicinal mushrooms.

If taken prior to contact with a virus, medicinal mushrooms can provide strong preventive protection from viral infections. and assist the body in inhibiting and overcoming an existing viral infection, speeding up recovery. Medicinal mushrooms can either prevent or help the immune system better fight parainfluenza and rhinoviruses (the common cold) and prevent or cure flu (influenza), herpes simplex and herpes zoster, infectious mononucleosis (the "kissing disease" caused by Epstein-Barr virus), cytomegalovirus, various hepatitis viruses and other viral infections. The outcome depends on the natural defensive power of the body and timely use of medicinal mushrooms and their products.

So, by activating humoral and cell immunity, lentinan from shiitake mushrooms improves overall resistance and acts directly against HIV and many other viruses, including the flu, and viral infections of the upper and lower respiratory tract. LEM and its component EP3 completely prevented damage to cells infected with herpes simplex viruses (both HSV-1 and HSV-2 type). They also prevented damage to cells infected by the equine encephalitis virus and partially inhibited the mumps virus, measles and the polio virus.

In support of his application for a US patent in the 1980s, Japanese pioneer in the production and study of LEM benefits C. Iizuka showed the effects of polysaccharide components of LEM mixed with the plant growth factor zeatin. Without the mixture, only 10% of mice infected with herpes survived, but when the mice received the preparation two days after lethal doses of herpes, 75% survived. When they received the preparation two days before being infected, there was a 90% survival rate.

In the early 1990s, Koga et al. isolated LEM fraction, JLS-18, a promising herpes cure. They proved that JLS-18 fraction, when applied either locally or orally, prevents the multiplication of herpes viruses in the body effectively preventing herpes recurrence in herpes patients. Jones treated a group of people with genital herpes with LEM for three months. Genital herpes is possibly the most widespread of all sexually transmitted diseases. In his three month study, 30% genital herpes patients experienced major improvement, 30% experience moderate improvement, and genital herpes was stabilized in 10% of patients. There was no worsening of the condition in any patient. Orthodox medicine has yet to offer a suitable cure for genital herpes, an increasingly widespread type of herpes infecting millions of people worldwide.

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Both Chinese and Japanese researchers have dedicated a great deal of attention to medicinal mushroom substances that protect the liver (hepatoprotective effect). Lentinan has demonstrated protective effects on the liver of animals, and LEM improved the function of the liver and the creation of antibodies in hepatitis B patients. In combination with polysaccharides from G. lucidum and C. versicolor, lentinan improved or entirely normalized liver enzymes in mice with toxic hepatitis.

Hepatitis is the most widespread viral disease, causing more than two million deaths worldwide every year, and more than 300 million people are infected. Over 30% of hepatitis patients acquire chronic hepatitis, which can cause liver cancer, cirrhosis and liver failure. Alpha interferon injections, used since 1992, lead to sustained improvements in about 40% of cases. The tests with LEM mentioned above completed at 16 Japanese clinics have shown the creation of antibodies in cases of chronic hepatitis B.

In one pilot study, a four-month treatment using LEM led to inactivation of the virus in 36.8% of chronic hepatitis patients, while in other studies LEM achieved a complete chronic hepatitis cure, with serious epidemic forms of the disease, in less than three months.

Based on the mechanism of boosting immune system, through stimulating the secretion of the body's own interferons, the creation of antibodies and the various modes of antiviral activity of medicinal mushrooms, it is logical to expect good results in fighting hepatitis C viruses and other hepatitis viruses.

Our experience has shown that proper medicinal mushroom extracts greatly speed up the recovery from certain viral infections – we have had successful herpes cures (herpes zoster and herpes simplex), limiting and preventing flu viruses, parainfluenza and rhinovirus viruses – the causes of the common cold. Especially promising are the major improvements after several months of hepatitis treatment, particularly in the case of hepatitis C (including the cases of complete hepatitis cures).

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Safety of Medicinal Mushroom Use

Scientific research has conclusively proven the safety of using certain mushrooms and extracted compounds from them.

Important Works and Literature

  1. Adachi, K., Nanba, H., Otsuka, M., and Kuroda, H. 1988. Blood Pressure Lowering Activity Present in the Fruit Body of Grifola frondosa (Maitake), Chem. Phann. Bull. 36:1000-1006.
  2. Adachi, K., Nanba, H., and Kuroda, H. 1987. Potentiation of Host-Mediated Antitumor Activity in Mice by Beta-glucan Obtained from Grifola frondosa (Maitake), Chem. Pharm. Bull. 35;262-270.
  3. Akiyama, Y. et al. 1981. Immunological characteristics of anti-tumor polysaccharides lentinan and its analogues, as immune adjuvants. In Manipulation of Host Defense Mechanisms, Aoki, T. et al. (eds.). Amsterdam: Excerpta Medica (International Congress Series 576).
  4. Amagase H. et al. 1984. L.E.M. May be Effective Against Treating Hepatitis B Cases. Abstr. 197 Gastroenterology World Congress, Lisbon
  5. Antoniou L.D., et al. 1977. Reversal of Uraemic Impotence by Zinc. Lancet 2:895-98
  6. Aoki T. Et al. 1984. Antibodies to HTLV-1 and HTLV-3 in Sera from Two Japanese Patients:One with possible Pre-A.I.D.S. Lancet 2:936
  7. Aoki T, 1987. Low natural killer syndrome: clinical and immunologic features. Nat Immun Cell Growth Regul 6(3), 116-128
  8. Arinaga S, 1992. Enhanced induction of lymphokine-activated killer activity after lentinan administration in patients with gastric carcinoma. Int J Immunopharmacol 14(4), 535-53
  9. Arinaga S, 1992. Enhanced production of interleukin 1 and tumor necrosis factor by peripheral monocytes after lentinan administration in patients with gastric carcinoma. Int J Immunopharmacol 14(1), 43-47
  10. Balon TW, Jasman AP, Zhu JS. A fermentation product of Cordyceps sinensis increases whole-body insulin sensitivity in rats. J Altern Complement Med. 2002 Jun;8(3):315-23.
  11. Bao X, Fang J, Li X. Structural characterization and immunomodulating activity of a complex glucan from spores of Ganoderma lucidum. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2001 Nov;65(11):2384-91.
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