Cancer is a worldwide leading cause of death, and despite comprehensive advances in the early diagnosis of the disease and chemotherapy, it remains a major clinical challenge.

Reishi has been studied for its anticancer and tumor reduction potential in a number of ways.

Both test tube and animal studies have indication for its chemopreventive and immunomodulatory effects (1)(2), profoundly reducing chemotherapy and radiotherapy-induced cytotoxicity and nausea (3), while enhancing the efficacy of these harsh treatments. Reishi also has the potential to increase plasma antioxidant capacity which is tied to its ability to enhance the immune responses in cancer patients. (4)

A human clinical study of 34 advanced-cancer patients were orally treated with 5.4 grams of Reishi polysaccharide extract daily for 12 weeks. The treatment resulted in a significant increase in the mean natural killer (NK) activity compared to baselines, mitotic response to phytohemagglutinin (PHA) were enhanced in most patients, a significant increase in the mean plasma concentrations of interleukin (IL-2), IL-6, and interferon (IFN)-gamma compared to baselines, whereas the levels of IL-1 and tumor necrosis factor (involved in inflammation-associated carcinogenesis) were significantly decreased. The results directly indicating that Reishi extract enhanced the immune responses in patients with advanced-stage cancer. (5)

In one study with animals suffering glioma (glioma being a type of tumor that occurs in the brain and spinal cord) were examined for Reishi's antitumor and immunomodulatory activities. The study concluded Reishi to be a useful part of the treatment regimen to regulate host immune responses and increase the anti-tumor effects of immunotherapy for glioma. (1)

Many of the polysaccharides and triterpenes, the two major groups of components in Reishi (as in all medicinal mushrooms), are what exhibit the chemopreventive and anti-tumor effects, as concluded by numerous more studies. Although long history of use has shown anticancer potential in Reishi, more evidence is needed from well-designed human trials to fully understand its effect against cancer.

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