Chemotherapy is proven to be a highly effective treatment for various forms of cancer. However, as an aggressive form of treatment, chemotherapy can also have side effects of its own, from hair loss and nausea to depression and fatigue. Managing the side effects of chemotherapy is an important part of a holistic approach to ensuring quality of life for the cancer patient.
The benefits of medicinal mushrooms and their unique bioactive compounds are rapidly gaining attention as a solution to various mental and physical ailments. Research into the concept of “mycomedicine”, which leverages the medicinal benefits of extracts within these mushrooms proves the efficacy of natural treatments for various conditions, including chemotherapy side effects.
Studies demonstrate the beneficial impact of medicinal mushroom extracts used either synergistically with radiation and chemotherapy, or as single agents.
Reducing Chemotherapy Side Effects with Medicinal Mushrooms
The concept of Mycomedicine and the use of medicinal mushrooms in a patient treatment dates back to almost the beginning of healthcare practice. Compounds from the unique components of medicinal mushrooms are already approved as a safe, clinical treatment within China and Japan.
Many clinical trials in cancer patients, included for example in a prestigious Cochrane review, demonstrate that medicinal mushrooms like Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) are well tolerated when used alongside other cancer treatments. This medicinal mushroom is particularly effective at stimulating the immune system, and supporting the recovery of the body, through beta-glucans, triterpenes, ergosterol and other key bioactive molecules.
According to studies, the administration of Ganoderma lucidum extract alongside radiation or chemotherapy can improve tumour response by up to 1.27 times, while improving patient immune response. The bioactive compounds of these mushrooms such as beta-D-glucans or ganoderic acids also assist with improving quality of life and immune function
Besides Reishi, the use of Maitake, or Grifola frondosa, as an adjuvant to chemotherapy has been shown to reduce the side effects associated with cancer treatment like leukopenia, pain, vomiting or need of erythropheresis having also e a synergistic effect on tumour regression in several types of cancer.
It is also important to highlight that for more than 40 years, Polysaccharide-K (PSK) products derived from another medicinal mushroom called Coriolus versicolor, have demonstrated non-interaction with chemotherapy drugs, ensuring safe combined treatments. At the same time, these substances lead to a better overall quality of treatment, and better outcomes than chemotherapy alone.
As adaptogens, medicinal mushroom extracts can safely complement oncological treatments (chemo, radiotherapy, immunotherapy) by preserving the performance of the immune system, while counteracting side-effects like nausea, anaemia, and low resistance to viral infection. The anti-cancer compounds in medicinal mushrooms play a crucial role as mitotic kinase inhibitors, reactive oxygen species inducers, topoisomerase inhibitors, and angiogenesis inhibitors, leading to apoptosis.
The Impact of Medicinal Mushrooms on Cancer Treatment
The bioactive compounds in medicinal mushrooms have the capacity to improve the performance of the standard treatments used for cancer patients, while simultaneously improving quality of life by reducing common conditions like nausea and even lost bone density.
In particular, these bioactive molecules are beta-glucans, other polysaccharides, terpenoids like triterpenes, proteoglycans, vitamins and minerals among others, which contribute to an immunomodulatory healthy state that benefits cancer treatment. Bioactive molecules in mushrooms are also described in literature as antitumour, antiangiogenic, antimetastatic and cytotoxic for cancer cells. Studies further reveal some anticancer compounds from mushrooms in combination with commercial anti-cancer drugs can even improve the treatment of drug-resistant cancers.
Medicinal mushroom supplemented patients can also benefit from significant reductions to chemotherapy side-effects, improving quality of life during treatments. The administration of medicinal mushroom extracts can effectively counteract issues like loss of appetite, emotional instability, alopecia, and general weakness.
The administration of Cordyceps sinensis as an adjuvant treatment with conventional chemotherapy and similar treatments also proves to be promising for the reduction of serum creatinine. This extract is effective at increasing creatinine clearance, reducing proteinuria, and alleviating complexities associated with chronic nephropathy.
Cordyceps sinensis is also proven to be an effective treatment for the management of fatigue and energy distribution in the human body. As general weakness, muscle aches, and fatigue are common problems associated with chemotherapy and cancer treatments; this substance could be a valuable supplemental treatment to enhance quality of life.
Used correctly, the anti-cancer compounds within medicinal mushrooms can provide additional relief from side effects commonly associated with chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, by helping to rebalance homeostasis, supporting the immune system, and managing pain responses.
Medical Mushrooms to Improve Chemotherapy
While chemotherapy is still regarded as the best treatment for cancer, it has various limitations when it comes to preserving quality of life for patients. Medicinal mushrooms are rapidly proving to be some of the best counteractive measures for those suffering from chemotherapy side effects, ranging from alopecia, to poor immunity and fatigue.
Safe for use synergistically with traditional treatments, medicinal mushrooms provide a safe and effective solution for integrative oncology. However, professionals must commit to seeking high-quality products to achieve the most effective outcomes. The best results from medicinal mushrooms are obtained from the synergy of powerful organic extracts with standardized bioactive molecules.
Quality medicinal mushroom treatments will become more common in the future of cancer management as studies continue to prove the safety and potential of this therapy.