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  • Writer's pictureDr. Charlotte Morgan, D.Ac.

Mushrooms & Breast Cancer

It’s no secret that I am a huge advocate of anything mushroom-related (especially when it supports women). In my office, I give them to patients in tinctures, teas, formulas, mudwtr, and recipes. The adaptogenic and healing properties of these organisms is vast and incredible, and will continue to be a source of knowledge, passion, and healing in my work.

Paul Stamets, a mycologist and pioneer in the mushroom world, shared a personal story of his mother who was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer that had spread to her liver and sternum. Her oncologist told her she was too old for radiation therapy. Through supplementation with turkey tail mushrooms, she was able to completely eliminate the cancer from her body. He tells this beautiful story on his Ted talk, and also in the Netflix documentary Fantastic Fungi (which I highly recommend).

Breast Cancer + Mushrooms

Ingesting medicinal mushrooms (under professional supervision) during chemotherapy and radiation has been shown to activate and up-regulate the body’s immune defenses due to their unique protein structures. This can result in decreased side effects of the treatment, as well as an increased rate of survival for the patient.

Some mushrooms that have been researched in relation to cancer prevention and treatment are:

Reishi (Lingzhi)

  • A cancer preventative (specifically breast cancer) due to its triterpenes (chemical compounds) being cytotoxic to cancer cells.

  • These triterpenes have the ability to suppress NF-kB, which drive the boat in hormone-dependent cancers (i.e. breast and ovarian).

  • Patients reported less fatigue, anxiety, and depression during treatment.

Turkey Tail (Yun Zhi)

  • Contain polysaccharides (proteins) that inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

  • Stimulate the immune system when combined with anticancer treatments.

  • One study had participants undergoing chemotherapy and radiation while taking turkey tail mushrooms. In each participant, there were increased levels of cancer fighting cells present in the immune system.

Shiitake (Xiang Gu)

  • Beta glucan (a complex sugar compound) found in shiitake mushrooms stimulates the immune system and triggers cells to attack cancer cells.

  • In mice, lentinan (from shiitake) stopped bowel cancer cells from growing, stopped fungal cell growth, and stopped leukemia cells from dividing.

Maitake (Hui Ahu Hua)

  • Studies show that maitake mushrooms stimulate the immune system, lower blood sugar levels, and slow the growth of certain tumors.


Dudhgaonkar, S., Thyagarajan, A., & Sliva, D. (2009). Suppression of the inflammatory response by triterpenes isolated from the mushroom Ganoderma lucidum. International immunopharmacology, 9(11), 1272–1280.

Gao, Y., Zhou, S., Jiang, W., Huang, M., & Dai, X. (2003). Effects of ganopoly (a Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract) on the immune functions in advanced-stage cancer patients. Immunological investigations, 32(3), 201–215.

Iino, Y., Yokoe, T., Maemura, M., Horiguchi, J., Takei, H., Ohwada, S., & Morishita, Y. (1995). Immunochemotherapies versus chemotherapy as adjuvant treatment after curative resection of operable breast cancer. Anticancer research, 15(6B), 2907–2911.

Jin, X., Ruiz Beguerie, J., Sze, D. M., & Chan, G. C. (2012). Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for cancer treatment. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (6), CD007731.

Li, P., Deng, Y. P., Wei, X. X., & Xu, J. H. (2013). Triterpenoids from Ganoderma lucidum and their cytotoxic activities. Natural product research, 27(1), 17–22.

Matsuzaki, H., Shimizu, Y., Iwata, N., Kamiuchi, S., Suzuki, F., Iizuka, H., Hibino, Y., & Okazaki, M. (2013). Antidepressant-like effects of a water-soluble extract from the culture medium of Ganoderma lucidum mycelia in rats. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 13, 370.

Pang, X., Chen, Z., Gao, X., Liu, W., Slavin, M., Yao, W., & Yu, L. L. (2007). Potential of a novel polysaccharide preparation (GLPP) from Anhui-grown Ganoderma lucidum in tumor treatment and immunostimulation. Journal of food science, 72(6), S435–S442.

Sugimachi, K., Inokuchi, K., Matsuura, H., Ueo, H., & Kumashiro, R. (1984). Hormone conditioned cancer chemotherapy for recurrent breast cancer prolongs survival. The Japanese journal of surgery, 14(3), 217–221.

Image: @meta_visions

With Love,

Charlotte Morgan, M.S. L.Ac.

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