Mushroom supplements and extracts health benefit, side effects, dosage, usage and research
Feb 19 2014 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Mushrooms can be divided into those that are edible, medicinal mushroom, psychedelic, and toxic. Psychedelic mushrooms are also called psilocybin, magic mushrooms or hallucinogenic.

Types of common edible and medicinal mushroom
Agaricus is a mushroom that has several well known varieties including meadow mushroom and a medicinal mushroom known as agaricus blazei. Agaricus is available as a supplement.
Basidiomycete mushroom - Active hexose correlated compound AHCC is a mixture of polysaccharides, amino acids, lipids and minerals derived from cocultured mycelia of several species of Basidiomycete mushrooms.
Chaga mushroom is a parasitic fungus
Chanterelle or chantrelle mushroom
Cordyceps mushroom is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine and Cordyceps extracts are available as supplements. See the latest studies with Cordyceps Extract including human, animal, and in vitro experiments.
Hericium erinaceus mushroom also known as Lion's mane
Kombucha mushroom was popular a few years ago.
Meshima - I recently learned of a mushroom called meshima for prevention of breast cancer. Was wondering if you might know something of the research and safety of this mushroom. The product is called Mushroom wisdom by Maitake.
    I am not familiar with this product.
Maitake mushroom is popular. One supplement product has a 10 percent D-fraction concentration. Another Maitake supplement has a 6 mg beta glucan fraction.
Oyster mushroom
Phellinus linteus -- called song gen in Chinese medicine, sang-hwang in Korean and meshimakobu in Japanese.
Portabella mushroom - also sometimes spelled portabella - portobello - portabello. A variety of agaricus mushroom, called agaricus bisporus, falls under this category.
Reishi mushroom is one of the most popular mushroom supplements. See Reishi  mushroom supplement to purchase.
Shiitake mushroom has high antioxidant ability.

Hericium erinaceus: an edible mushroom with medicinal values. J Complement Integr Med. 2013.
5Progress on understanding the anticancer mechanisms of medicinal mushroom: inonotus obliquus. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2013.

Benefit of Mushrooms
Mushrooms contain numerous substances including glyconutrients, glycoproteins, lectins, etc. Mushroom ingestion or a mushroom extract supplement can certainly influence the immune system and have an influence on cancer prevention or treatment. Women who eat a few ounces of mushroom a day can lower their risk for breast cancer.

Mushrooms and breast cancer
Eating a few ounces of mushrooms every day could help prevent breast cancer. Dr. Shiuan Chen of the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope in Duarte, California, and colleagues tested seven vegetable extracts for their aromatase -blocking activity, and found that white button mushroom had the strongest effect. The researchers evaluated 10 other types of mushrooms, and found stuffing mushrooms, portobello, crimini, shiitake and baby button mushrooms also inhibited aromatase activity. Extracts of the fungi interfere with the action of aromatase, an enzyme that helps the body make estrogen. Because white button mushrooms are the most commonly eaten type, the researchers tested extracts of the mushrooms in a series of laboratory and animal experiments. The extract reduced the proliferation of breast cancer cells in a lab dish, while feeding the extract to mice implanted with breast cancer cells suppressed tumor growth. Based on the amount of extract used in the experiments in mice, about 100 grams of mushrooms daily would be enough to prevent breast cancer growth, and it is possible that eating even less every day could be effective. Cancer Research, December 15, 2006.

Cellular and physiological effects of Ganoderma lucidum.
Mini Rev Med Chem. 2004.
In Asia, a variety of dietary products have been used for centuries as popular remedies to prevent or treat different diseases. A large number of herbs and extracts from medicinal mushrooms are used for the treatment of diseases. Mushrooms such as Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi), Lentinus edodes (Shiitake), Grifola frondosa (Maitake), Hericium erinaceum (Yamabushitake), and Inonotus obliquus (Chaga) have been collected and consumed in China, Korea, and Japan for centuries. Until recently, these mushrooms were largely unknown in the West and were considered 'fungi' without any nutritional value. However, most mushrooms are rich in vitamins, fiber, and amino acids and low in fat, cholesterol, and calories. These mushrooms contain a large variety of biologically active polysaccharides with immunostimulatory properties, which contribute to their anticancer effects. Furthermore, other bioactive substances, including triterpenes, proteins, lipids, cerebrosides, and phenols, have been identified and characterized in medicinal mushrooms.
    
Mushrooms and the Immune System
During the height of cold and flu season, Americans are seeking ways to ward off the sniffles. Certain foods can boost the immune system and help alleviate cold and flu symptoms. Some researchers recommend eating more mushrooms, particularly the Oriental varieties such as shiitake. Mushrooms contain special compounds that have been found to bolster the immune system. Mushroom soup would be an excellent choice, because it is not only a hot liquid (which warms the throat and impairs viral replication) but one with the ability to boost a body's immune response.
  The major immune influencing effects of active substances derived from mushrooms include mitogenicity and activation of immune effector cells, such as lymphocytes, macrophages, and natural killer cells, resulting in the production of cytokines, including interleukins (ILs), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF)-alpha, and interferon gamma (INF)-gamma. In particular, mushroom extracts could modulate the differentiation capacity of CD4(+) T cells to mature into T(H)1 and/or T(H)2 subsets. As a consequence these extracts have profound effects in particular diseases, like chronic autoimmune T(H)1-mediated or allergic T(H)2-mediated diseases. Immunosuppressive effects by mushroom components have also been observed. The therapeutic effects of mushrooms, such as anticancer activity, suppression of autoimmune diseases, and allergy have been associated with their immune influencing effects.

Mushroom study in mice, 2009
Dr. Keith Martin of Arizona State University in Mesa believes mushrooms could give the immune system a boost in attacking foreign invaders. His research shows the common white button mushroom had stronger immune-boosting effects than more exotic fungi. Mushrooms have long been used in traditional medicine, and mushroom extracts are popular as dietary supplements. Dr. Keith Martin tested crimini, maitake, oyster, shiitake, and white button mushrooms added to the diets of mice. Rodents that consumed a diet consisting of 2% white button mushrooms for four weeks showed no changes in their immune system, and no signs of toxicity. However, when the researchers fed the animals a chemical that triggers colon inflammation and can promote the growth of colon tumors, the rodents that had mushrooms in their diet were protected from weight loss and colon injury. To get the equivalent amount of mushrooms consumed by the mice in the study, Martin added, a person would need to eat about 100 grams or 3.5 ounces of raw mushrooms daily. BMC Immunology, online February 20, 2009.

The immune system is very very complicated with countless cells and chemical substances, it is not easy to give a simple answer and few human studies are available with these mushrooms for us to know their specific influences. Much also depends on dosages and the type of extract that is used, different companies have different types of extracts, it becomes very difficult to predict the effects in any one person.

Medicinal uses review
Higher fungi in traditional and modern medicine
Med Monatsschr Pharm. 2010; Lindequist U, Rausch R, Füssel A, Hanssen HP. Institut für Pharmazie, Ernst Moritz Arndt Universität Greifswald, Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Strasse 17, 17487 Greifswald.
The medicinal use of mushrooms, so-called higher fungi, has a very long tradition in the Asian countries, whereas their use in the Western hemisphere has been slightly increasing only since the last decades. The paper gives an overview about the most important medicinal mushrooms and summarizes the actual knowledge about chemistry and pharmacology of Lentinula edo-des (Shiitake, Golden Oak Mushroom), Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi, Ling Zhi), Agaricus brasiliensis (Royal sun agaricus), Grifola frondosa (Maitake, Hen-of-the-Woods) and Hericium erinaceus (Yamabushitake, Lion's Man, Monkey's Head).

Toxic Mushrooms
Amanita Mushroom - Amanita is the most recognizable toxic mushroom. Amanita phalloides mushrooms, commonly known as "death caps," can easily be confused with other common species such as parasols. Eating them can cause severe damage to the liver and kidneys, followed by death within five to 10 days.
Gyromitra mushroom or false morrel (monomethylhydrazine) poisoning may be partly treated with pyridoxine.

Different varieties of Agaricus Mushroom include:
Agaricus bisporus mushroom is a common, edible, cultivated mushroom also known as white mushroom. The lectin from the common mushroom Agaricus bisporus, the most popular edible species in Western countries, has potent antiproliferative effects on human epithelial cancer cells, without any apparent cytotoxicity. This property confers to it an important therapeutic potential as an antineoplastic agent. Agaricus campestris - also known as meadow mushroom

Agaricus blazei is an edible and medicinal mushroom. Agaricus blazei is also known as the Brazilian sun mushroom or himematsutake.
     Agaricus subrufescens Peck was cultivated first in the late 1800s in eastern North America. Once a popular market mushroom, this agaricus species faded from commerce in the early 20th century. More recently, a mushroom species growing wild in Brazil has been introduced into cultivation in Brazil, Japan and elsewhere. This Brazilian mushroom has been referred to by various names, most commonly as Agaricus blazei Murrill (sensu Heinemann) and most recently as A. brasiliensis Wasser et al.

Agaricus macrosporus mushroom
Agaricus xanthodermus is not edible
Agaricus californicus is a North-American species.

Commercial Mushroom growing
Mushrooms grow in compost. It starts with horse manure and straw, the correct balance of moisture and air is critical. Mushroom farmers have to turn the pile frequently to air it out and they water it daily for about a week. Biological activity occurs with the formation of ammonia while microorganisms grow and reproduce releasing heat. Good compost require a nitrogen content of about 2 percent so farmers add a nitrogen supplement in the form of chicken manure. They also add gypsum, a mineral that neutralizes the acidity and improves the structure of the compost. At the week or two week mark, depending on how the compost is progressing, it goes into the composter which waters, aerates and blends it. The compost comes out smelling like ammonia in the color of chocolate brown. Next, it is pasteurized to kill insects or insect eggs. The compost is heated to 136 degrees for about 8 hours then at 113 degrees for 5 days. Over the next few days the compost is cooled to 77 degrees as the microorganisms turn the nitrogen into a nitrogen protein, a mushroom nutrient. At this stage the compost is finally done. The mushroom farmer sows grains of wheat inoculated with mycelia, fine threads of fungi that act as the mushroom roots. A layer of soil and peat moss goes on top of the compost. The mycelium draws water from the soil and nutrients from the compost. After about 2 weeks, tiny mushrooms begin to develop. The mushrooms grow fast, doubling in size every 24 hours, mostly in darkness. Mushrooms don't need sunlight, but need air. Mushrooms breathe in oxygen and put out carbon dioxide, opposite of photosynthetic plants. Mushroom pickers are careful not to pull out the roots since the roots left intact can produce additional mushrooms every few days. Harvested mushrooms are placed in a refrigerator, just above freezing temperature for a half hour to stop the growing process. It takes about 12 weeks from the start of composting to the supermarket shelf.

Hallucinogenic Mushrooms
The group of hallucinogenic psilocybin-containing mushrooms  include the species of the genera Conocybe, Gymnopilus, Panaeolus, Pluteus, Psilocybe, and Stropharia. These "magic", psychoactive fungi have the serotonergic hallucinogen psilocybin. Toxicity of these mushrooms is possible because of the popularity of hallucinogens. Psilocybin and its active metabolite psilocin are similar to lysergic acid diethylamide. These hallucinogens affect the central nervous system rapidly (usually within 20 minutes to an hour after ingestion), producing ataxia, the urge to move, and hallucinations. Psilocybin is one of a class of serotonin receptors compounds (similar to the chemical used in many antidepressants) whose effects include changes in perception and cognition.
      In one of the few controlled human studies of a known illegal hallucinogen, the active ingredient in "sacred mushrooms" created what researchers are describing as deep mystical experiences that left many of the study participants with a long lasting sense of well-being. The controversial study, conducted by Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, looked at whether a pill containing psilocybin, derived from the psilocybe mushroom, would induce mystical experiences among 36 healthy adult study participants. All had religious backgrounds, and all were also given the active drug ingredient in the attention-deficit disorder drug, Ritalin, at a separate time as a comparison. Sixty percent of the psilocybin group elicited behaviors consistent with a "full mystical experience." Two months later, 80 percent of the mushroom group reported "moderately to greatly increased" well-being or life satisfaction. "Many of the volunteers in our study reported, in one way or another, a direct, personal experience of the 'Beyond,' " said study leader Roland Griffiths, a professor with Hopkins' departments of Neuroscience and Psychiatry and Behavioral Biology.

2011 - Scientists working with the hallucinogen psilocybin -- the active ingredient found in "magic mushrooms" -- have found that a single dose of the drug prompted a positive personality change in almost 60% of patients. Tests involving a small group of patients in a strictly controlled and monitored clinical setting revealed that, more often than not, one round of psilocybin exposure successfully boosted an individual's sense of "openness." What's more, the apparent shift in what is deemed to be a key aspect of personality did not dissipate after exposure, lasting at least a year and sometimes longer.

The experience
Many users report having profound spiritual and mystical experiences that make them more open and honest, less judgmental, and closer to family and friends, and some rate it as the most personally meaningful experience of their lives. But some experience transient periods of overwhelming fear and anxiety. When a lesser dose of psilocybin is used, most people still have the transformative mystical experience, with far less fear and anxiety.
   Many report that the hallucinogenic experience facilitated lasting positive changes leading to better marriages, friendships, and family relationships along with taking better care of themselves and enjoying life more.

Mushroom and Cancer
Extracts from a mushroom used for centuries in Eastern Asian medicine may be able to boost the power of a leading chemotherapy drug for prostate cancer. When the mushroom called Phellinus linteus is added to the drug doxorubicin in the laboratory it improved its ability to kill cancerous cells. Researchers added the mushroom extract to doses of the drug that would have otherwise been too small to have any effect. They found that the combination was just as effective in killing cancerous cells as larger doses of the drug alone, but without harming healthy cells. Professor Sung-Hoon Kim of Kyung Hee University in South Korea provided the researchers with the extract of the mushroom, which is known as "sang-hwang" in Korean, "mesimakobu" in Japanese and "song gen" in Chinese.

I had ductal carcinoma in situ in 2000 and now have invasive ductal carcinoma (same breast as before). I refused traditional treatment before and am doing so again, opting for natural/nutritional / supplemental therapy instead. This course of treatment worked for me for years until recently when life stressors just became overwhelming and my immune system became compromised. While AHCC came highly recommended to me, it is expensive for me at this time. I noticed a similar product called "The Original 7 Mushroom Blend" which is enhanced with Larix. This Eclectic Institute (Sandy, Oregon) product lists the following ingredients: Fresh Freeze-dried Mycelia of:Royal Sun Agaricus (Agaricus blazei)Cordyceps (Cordyceps synensis) Lion's Mane (Hericium erinaceus) Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) Maitake (Grifola frondosa) Zhu Ling (Polyporus umbellatus) Air-dried Fruiting Body of: Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) Maitake (Grifola frondosa) Larix (Larix occidentalis) 75 mg Total Weight Per Capsule - 650 mg. If I take the above-mentioned mushroom blend supplement (which costs less than AHCC), will it have the same effect as having taken AHCC specifically? (Would the benefits be the same? Better? Worse?
   It is not possible to know for sure without thorough comparison studies done on humans for several years.

Questions
Q. I take a mushroom product called Host Defense by New Chapter. Host Defense by New Chapter is a synergistic blend of 16 medicinal mushrooms. I've been reading up on the web about AHCC. It is more expensive then any other medicinal mushroom product. I can't understand why AHCC costs more when products like Host Defense, Source Natural Mushroom Defense, etc. has a blend of many mushrooms. Is AHCC mushroom that much better? It seems that a synergistic blend of many medicinal mushrooms would be more potent.
   A. AHCC is expensive partly because the extraction process is complicated and many studies have been done with it and it costs a lot of money to do a study. There could be many other mushrooms or mushroom extracts that are as effective for cancer or other conditions, or perhaps even more effective, but since the studies are not available as much, we don't know about them as well as AHCC. AHCC appears to be helpful for cancer, but then again there could be countless other mushrooms or mushroom extracts that could well be as good or better. We are not aware of any studies with the mushroom combination found in Host Defense by New Chapter.

Q. I am researching the vitamin by Natures Way called ALIVE! and I am doing the research (as best I can ) on the Myco Defense Mushroom Blend. I have been looking under the Cordyceps Mushroom. I appreciate the statement about alternating these with other vitamin from time to time. For what it's worth I wanted to tell u that when I started to take these I had weird headaches in the back/base of my skull. "Why didn't I quit taking them?" Well it was in August (when allergy season is at it's peak and I couldn't be sure what was really happening and I was very busy with work and I did notice they did give me more energy. Not like caffiene does, but a more natural energy. I went for a couple weeks and didn't take the Myco Defense Mushroom Blend and noticed a drop in energy so as u can guess I have been taking them every since.

There is a website called MushroomScience dot com that says "Only Hot Water Extracts Are 100% Used in Traditional Herbalism. 100% Used in The Clinical Research. Proven Effective for Therapeutic Use. There are thousands of studies proving the effectiveness of hot water extracts (liquid and dehydrated). At the date of this latest revision, our research has not located any independent studies verifying the effectiveness of mycelium bio-mass, un-extracted mushrooms, or alcohol tinctures (hydro-alcohol "extracts"). Which product would you bet your health on?"  Why a Hot Water Extract? Dr. Mark Stengler N.D., in his recent book "The Health Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms," made the observation that all of the independent scientific studies on medicinal mushrooms are based on the use of hot water extracts. All of the references from Traditional Chinese Medicine also recommend hot water extraction when preparing medicinal mushrooms. We have absolute consensus on this issue from two distinctly different healing traditions. Why do they recommend hot water extraction? The answer is simple and is based on two factors. BIOAVAILABILITY – The immune supporting polysaccharides common to all medicinal mushrooms and mushroom mycelium are found inside of the cell walls. However, the cell walls of the mushrooms and mushroom mycelium are made from an indigestible fiber called "chitin," the same material a lobster shell is made of. Hot water extraction is the only clinically validated method for breaking these polysaccharides out of the indigestible cell walls. Even soft mushrooms like Shiitake are prepared as a hot water extract or a tea when used medicinally. CONCENTRATION – The immune supporting polysaccharides found in the cell walls of mushrooms and mushroom mycelium comprise only 0.5-2% of the total mass by dry weight (depending on the mushroom), not enough to have effect even if they were bioavailable. Most hot water mushroom / mycelium extracts are at least a 20:1 concentration. Hot water extraction dissolves the indigestible fiber (chitin), allowing the fiber to be removed from the extract when the water is removed. This process concentrates the polysaccharides to the effective levels identified in the published research." Here are my questions. Are the above statements true?
Are mushrooms and myceliums only effective if hot water is used to extract them? Does chitin really prevent the absorption of the medicinal components of mushrooms? Based on your research are there any studies using un-extracted mushrooms and/or mycelium that show they have the same effect as hot water extracts (or any effect)? Do you recommend that people only use mushroom supplements that are extracted with hot water or do you believe there is evidence that mushrooms / mycelum are helpful even if un-extracted? I'm asking because I notice a lot of mushroom / mycelium supplements on the market are un-extracted, if what mushroom science claims is true then those supplements on the market that aren't extracted may be a waste of money or is this could just be a clever way to promote there product over competitors.
    The whole field of mushroom supplements and their role in clinical medicine, prevention, and treatment is very complicated and simple answers or statements do not do justice to this complicated field. There are a number of factors involved such as how the mushroom is grown, when it is processed, how it is processed, the matter in which it is extracted and concentrated, the dosage in each capsules, the amount used, the individual response of the user, the number of days, weeks, and months the supplement is taken, interactions with other supplements and medications, etc, etc. Plus, each type of mushroom may be different in terms of the best way to use it or extract it, some my be more effective as an extract whereas others may be better used as is. The only certain way to know how a particular mushroom supplement product works or is effective is to do testing with it, whether water extracted or otherwise, in different dosages for various amounts of time in various groups of patients who have different medical conditions. There is very little of this type of research since it is expensive to do and takes a lot years.

Yeast versus mushrooms: I bought a supplement product that claims it does not have yeast yet the ingredient list said it has reishi mushrooms in it. How can they say there is no yeast in the pills when mushrooms are yeast?
    Yeasts are single cell organisms whereas mushrooms are multi-cell organisms. We are not botanists but as far as we know mushroom are not classified as yeasts and you could review that on wikipedia.