Many veterinarian offices are including various aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine in their practices, whether it is the use of herbs and natural remedies, acupuncture, or recommending diets based on TCM beliefs. One highly endorsed treatment is the use of Medicinal Mushrooms. These are not your kitchen variety of mushrooms but specific strains that are carefully cultivated for use in healing. They have been used for thousands of years in China, Korea and Japan and are making a big impact in the treatment of cancer here in the US.
Mushrooms are recommended for a variety of issues for both dogs and cats and help prevent and fight ailments from allergies, influenza, viral and bacterial infections to cancer. Medicinal mushrooms are:
* Anti-toxin to support liver and kidney function, and facilitate disease recovery.
* Adaptogenic to help the body systems cope environmental stress.
* Immunomodulating, they have been found to enhance conventional anti-cancer therapy, counter neutropenia and enhance survival rates.
There is a great deal of science supporting the use of MM as powerful immune system stimulants. They energize the body’s natural defense mechanisms to help prevent the onset of common ailments such as colds and influenza as well as a range of more serious illnesses. Research is ongoing to discover many more properties of their use but they are well accepted as adjuncts to chemo-therapy or effective in reducing or offsetting the effects of cancer and cancer treatments, aiding the body to normalize.
Because of MM ability to bolster and stabilize the immune system, they are effective in reducing the effects of allergies or in boosting the system after the use of steroids or other invasive medications u
sed to treat various conditions. They help detox the liver. Cordycep mushrooms affect the lungs and airways and are often used for small animal respitory disorders.
Many mushrooms are considered to be what is known in Chinese medicine as tonic herbs, meaning they can be consumed in large and regular quantities without causing adverse side effects, much like food. But Medicinal mushrooms are not all the same and are not casual use supplements and because they are so effective in treating various conditions, you should discuss their use with your vet as they should not be combined with some prescription drugs. Obtain advice on which formulations to use as various mushrooms have various effects. See the table below.
NEVER EVER ALLOW YOUR DOG TO EAT MUSHROOMS FOUND IN THE WILD. It is very easy to mistake a toxic mushroom for a healthy mushroom and this year there were several canine deaths in California from dogs eating mushrooms found growing wild.
Reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum) - The ‘Mushroom of Immortality.’ It is often advised to take reishi mushroom for long periods of time to allow it to take its full effect. Reishi falls into the category of adaptogenic herbs due to its ability to help the body adapt to stressors like anxiety, fatigue, trauma and emotional distress. Reishi’s medicinal qualities are known for battling tumors, modulating the immune system, anti-viral, blood pressure-lowering, anti-bacterial and anti-allergic properties. It is known for reducing LDL, bad cholesterol, aiding in digestion to help modulate weight gain and to support mood elevation and good sleep.
Chaga (Inonotus Obliquus) -- Chaga earned the title “Gift from God” in ancient Siberia. Researchers in South Korea have concluded that water extracts of chaga mushroom exhibited anti-cancer potentials and it’s ability to protect DNA. According to references at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Chaga is helpful in reducing the formation of blood clots. Chaga is known for aiding the body in using many essential minerals, has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties and helps repair damaged cells. Chaga contains melanin, an anti-oxidant that protects the skin against age spots, deep wrinkles and sun damage. Chaga's antioxidants also lower bad LDL cholesterol levels in the blood, which in turn reduces blood pressure and helps stave off cardiovascular disease.
Turkey Tail (Trametes Versicolor) - Turkey tail, earns its name due to its resemblance to a turkey’s rear feathers and grows throughout North American forests. Turkey Tail is rich in healing polysaccharides and can aid the fight against cancer, as well as attack viruses that lay at the roots of many different types of cancers. Studies have supported it’s aiding the survival of gastric, colorectal, leukemia and some lung cancers. US research shows that the mushroom may support conventional breast cancer therapies by bolstering the patients’ immune system. Turkey tail promotes the production of natural disease-killing white blood cells, which help the body fight tumorous cells. These same white blood cells also help to combat the HPV virus, which is a root cause of cervical cancer, as well as the hepatitus C virus, which can trigger the formation of liver cancer.
Cordyceps sinensis - Cordyceps has a long history as a tonic herb applied in both Chinese and Tibetan medicine. In India it is used to treat a plethora of ailments including cancer, diabetes and asthma. Modern scientific research is starting to confirm many of the fungi’s healing properties. Polysaccharides in Cordyceps contains beneficial fatty acids, amino acids and sterols. In animal studies, Cordyceps demonstrated anti-tumor, anti-diabetic and anti-platelet effects, as reported by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Another interesting and rather unique property of Cordyceps is its proven ability to enhance exercise and athletic performance, and resistance to fatigue, from a study out of UCLA. It is also known for stimulating the libido due to trace amounts of estrogen and testosterone and decreases insulin resistance.
Shiitake – You may already be familiar with Shiitake from your favorite Chinese dishes. Shiitakes stimulate the immune system, improving the body's ability to fight viral and bacterial infection, including the microbes that lead to dental cavities. Shiitakes lower cholesterol by inhibiting absorption and decreases the tendency of platelets to stick together. Platelet adhesion and aggregation are natural processes but can aggravate conditions like atherosclerosis and lead to blood clots. Like Turkey Tail, the Shiitake suppresses the growth of tumors and may prevent cancer formation. Additionally, it induces apoptosis in cancer cells, which makes them destroy themselves and has been shown to reduce the side effects of traditional cancer treatment by chemotherapy.
Maitake – (Hen of the Woods and Sheep's Head) Maitake grows around oak trees and is found in some parts of the US. Like Cordyceps, Maitake has been shown to have anti-diabetic properties, decreasing insulin resistance and resting glucose serum levels. What distinguishes the Maitake, though, is the numerous ways it has been found to fight cancer. Like other mushrooms on our list, Maitakes contain antioxidants, but that's only the beginning. They also contain a compound called D-Fraction. Research with cancer patients found that D-Fraction supplements suppressed both tumor growth and spread. Another study found that D-Fraction combined with traditional Interferon improved the treatment's effectiveness by at least 25%. Another compound, Z-Fraction, showed similar promising results. There is some evidence that it can lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, lower blood sugar levels, and reduce weight in rats, but this has not been shown for humans yet.
Lion’s Mane - Like other medicinal mushrooms, Lion's Mane are excellent for the immune system, containing polysaccharides and antioxidants. However Lion's Mane is primarily sought after, because of its positive effects on the brain and overall nervous system and it has been shown to improve both cognition and concentration, and to reduce depression and anxiety.
Lion's Mane has compounds which stimulate the production of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) which could be a valuable tool to treat people with nerve damage. NGF itself can't pass through the blood-brain barrier, meaning that injecting it into patients doesn't help. But Lion's Mane works differently, indirectly causing an increase in NGF. It is the only mushroom that has shown this trait. Additionally, Lion's Mane protects the network of "wires" that nerves use to send signals by promoting the growth of the insulation around them (called myelin).