The best complementary cancer treatment or prevention regimen is one that includes the healthy foods you consume every day! Whenever there is a cancer diagnosis, your diet, along with your emotional outlook, should be the first “life changes” to promote a speedy recovery.

Foods high in antioxidants such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, and lycopene are foods commonly included within an anti-cancer diet. Cruciferous and dark green vegetables such as kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage are considered important toxin eliminators. Carrots, garlic, red and yellow peppers, legumes, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are other antioxidant-rich plant-based foods that can help reduce your cancer risk.


But what if I told you that there is an effective food for cancer treatment that is not technically a vegetable at all? You will often find this ingredient in soup or as a side dish to your steak dinner. I’m talking about mushrooms. These tiny fungus foods have been an integral part of ancient cultural medicine for centuries. There is good reason that the ancient Romans described mushrooms as “foods of the Gods.”

You may cook with popular fungi such as Portobello or porcini mushrooms; however, traditional Chinese medicine recognizes about 50 other mushrooms that can help you treat and avoid cancer. Here are a few fungi that can help you prevent deadly tumors or complement a healthy cancer recovery:

1. Shiitake

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Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) have been a delicacy within Asian cooking for many years. The anti-tumor properties of lentinan, found within shiitake mushrooms, are known to prevent lung cancer and fight gastric cancer. The anti-tumor abilities of lentinan within shiitake mushrooms were researched in a 2002 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. The study observed the effect of lentinan extracted from shiitake in mice with lymphoma from human colon-carcinoma cells. The tumors noticeably reduced after the month-long study. Thepolysaccharides in shiitake mushrooms are also known to boost the immune system, which can help inhibit tumor growth. Shiitake mushrooms also contain active hexose correlated compound (AHCC)—a rich nutritional supplement known to promote immune support for cancer patients.

2. Reishi


The reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) or the “mushroom of immortality,” as traditional Chinese medicine practitioners often call them, is considered an anti-cancer treatment that helps build a strong immunity system. In a study that evaluated xenograft mouse models of inflammatory breast cancer, researchers discovered that reishi mushrooms reduced protein synthesis and tumor growth after 13 weeks. The ganoderic acid within the reishi mushroom is also considered useful for lung cancer treatments. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy patients are known to have improved symptoms when a reishi mushroom treatment is also used. For example, the reishi mushroom can help combat negative chemotherapy side effects, such as kidney damage and nausea.

3. Chaga

Chaga is a rather ironic anti-cancer mushroom. It appears to look similar to a dark black tumor-like fungus on a birch tree. The mushroom is known for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-tumor properties that are essential for cancer treatment and prevention. Many studies document chaga for its abilities to fight liver, breast, uterine, and gastric cancers. Some of the mushroom’s anti-tumor properties include the betulinic acid precursor, betalin, which basically has powerful antiretroviral and anti-inflammatory properties. Some harvest this medicinal mushroom themselves, but it is readily available in supplement form.

4. Cordyceps sinensis


The most common anti-cancer tonic within Chinese medicine is cordyceps sinensis, which is the fungus from dead caterpillars. Cordyceps sinensis are known to help build endurance, energy, and stamina. The fungi first made headlines when Chinese female long-distance runners used Cordyceps sinensis to break world records during the 1993 World Championships in Germany. The mushroom is also popular as a complementary cancer treatment. It is known to enhance the immune system and to slow tumor growth of certain cancers. Research from the journal Anticancer Research in 2010 found that Cordyceps sinensis water extract could reduce tumor invasiveness in the melanoma cells of mice. You will find it primarily in supplement form or herbal preparations rather than in the mushroom section of the produce aisle.

Other Medicinal Mushrooms

There are other mushrooms that work as effective cancer treatments. Other anti-cancer mushrooms include maitake, agaricus blazei, pleurotusostreatus, phellinus, psilocybin, flammulina velutipes, calvatia utriformis, theanine, polyozellus multiplex, and turkey tail (coriolus versicolor). To avoid potential mushroom poisoning, herbalists will also advise you to steer away from mushrooms found in nature, such as amanita pantherina, amanita muscaria, cortinarius rubellus, C. orellanus, and amanita phalloides.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Ng, M.L., “Inhibition of human colon carcinoma development by lentinan from shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes),” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2002; 8(5): 581-589.
Suarez-Arroyo, I.J., et al., “Anti-tumor effects of Ganoderma lucidum (reishi) in inflammatory breast cancer in in vivo and in vitro models,” PLOS ONE, 2013; 8(2): e57431.
“Inonotus Obliquus, The Chaga Mushroom,” Medicinal Mushrooms web site;, last accessed October 8, 2015.
Lemieszek, M.K., et al., “Anticancer effects of fraction isolated from fruiting bodies of Chaga medicinal mushroom, inonotus obliquus (Pers.:Fr.) Pilat (Aphyllophoromycetideae): in vitro studies,” International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 2011; 13(2): 131-43.
Chilkov, N., “Six Cancer-Fighting Medicinal Mushrooms,” Huffington Post web site, January 12, 2012;
Kubo, E., et al. “Inhibitory effect of Cordyceps sinensis on experimental hepatic metastasis of melanoma by suppressing tumor cell invasion,” Anticancer Research, 2010; 30(9): 3429-3433.
“Shiitake, Lentinula Edodes,” Medicinal Mushrooms web site;, last accessed October 8, 2015.
Patel, S., et al., “Recent developments in mushrooms as anti-cancer therapeutics: a review,” 3 Biotech, 2012; 2(1): 1-15.

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