Reishi, scientifically referred to as Ganoderma lucidum, is a species of medicinal mushroom that has been historically valued throughout Asia for its immune boosting properties.
Reishi has also been the subject of growing scientific interest around its potential anti-cancer effects– with use as complimentary supplements in cancer patients seeming to increase in recent years.
But in a family of conditions as complex and diverse as cancer, is there really a tangible benefit to be observed through the use of this supplement?
The goal of today’s piece, brought to you in collaboration with local medicinal mushroom brand Cleansa Organics, is to attempt to answer that question using the best available evidence.
Let’s see what it has to say.
Reishi Mushrooms For Cancer Patients
The gravity of cancer as a subject matter is not lost on me, and as such speaking honestly and accurately about the state of science is an absolute priority.
Fortunately, the highly reputable and scientifically robust Cochrane Library has published a meta-analysis of human controlled trials looking at Reishi use in cancer patients.
Their findings will inform today’s content, so let’s take a closer look.
Evidence Summary – 3 Takeaways
#1 – Reishi May Enhance Immunity In Cancer Patients
Chemo and radiation therapy commonly used during cancer treatments often carry undesirable immune system suppressing effects.
The complimentary use of Reishi mushroom during the treatment process has been demonstrated to boost the presence of T-cells, a type of white blood cell that plays an integral role in the immune response.
While this appears to be a promising finding, it’s hard to say what long-term benefits this effect may provide to cancer patients.
#2 – Reishi Is Complimentary, Not A Standalone Treatment
Reishi mushroom is not a stand alone treatment strategy for cancer patients, but the current evidence does suggests positive results when Reishi supplementation is used in combination with chemo or radiation therapy.
For lung cancer patients only, the Cochrane review found some potential for Reishi to enhance the short-term response of tumours to standard cancer treatment – although it is hard to say if there are positive long-term health implications related to these findings.
Speak to your healthcare team for a better understanding of what this may mean for you.
#3 – Reishi May Improve The Quality Of Life Of Cancer Patients
Cancer patients who utilized Reishi in conjunction with their treatment experienced quality of life improvements compared to those who did not – including a relative increase in their Karnosfky score.
Side effects of Reishi use were infrequent and generally related to minor nausea or sleep disturbances.
As an evidence-based professional I’ve referred on numerous occasions to work published within the Cochrane Database and have always known them to be very diligent in their assessments of scientific evidence and very conservative about their optimism in the interpretation of positive scientific results.
In this particular review they make it clear that Reishi is not a stand-alone cancer treatment, that the quality of evidence is not the best and that there is some uncertainty as to whether or not Reishi can meaningfully impact long-term health outcomes in cancer patients.
With all of that being said, the authors of this review do appear positive about its complimentary implementation alongside standard cancer treatment and suggest its use could be considered by those for whom personal preferences and cost-benefit considerations align.
I am in this instance a messenger, rather than subject matter expert, and would in turn encourage those intrigued by today’s content to explore the topic further with their healthcare team.
Reishi Mushroom Extract
A special thank you to Toronto-based Cleansa Organics for sponsoring today’s review of the best available science in this area.
Cleansa Organics offer a variety of medicinal mushroom-based extracts including Reishi [pictured below].