For centuries we have known that certain mushrooms have a beneficial effect on health but only more recently have the active compounds contained within them been isolated and studied.
Our immune systems are extremely complex and in order to protect us from bacteria and viruses and also genetic mistakes during cellular reproduction that result in cancer growth, these complex systems need to be in balance.
Nature has provided us with many plants and herbs that enhance overall immunity. Immune -potentiating botanicals are also used to increase the effectiveness of drugs and reduce side effects. The Chinese call this Fu Zheng therapy, which means to support the body’s natural balance. Zheng (also called Zheng Qi) is translated as meaning life energy, activity and resistance and when it is deficient a favourable environment for cancer is created.In Western terms the immune systems surveillance function fails to discover and suppress the growth of cancerous or mutated cells. The flow of “Qi” (sometimes spelled Chi) may be disrupted by poor nutrition, lifestyle, overwork, stress repressed or excessive emotions and lack of exercise. This Zheng qi, or Qi, is also damaged by the core medical treatments for cancer, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and in China and Japan Fu Zheng therapy has been used alongside these therapies with significantly improved outcomes.
If you have an immune compromised condition (eg. cancer, AIDS, leukemia or chronic infections such as Epstein-barr virus) then learn how to boost your immune system using mushrooms, plants, acupuncture, Qi Gong and with a good diet, supplements and lifestyle.
The technical advance is that we now know that many of the botanicals used in Fu Zheng therapy contain polysaccharides beta-1,6 glucan and beta-1,3 glucan. Beta-glucans are known as “biological response modifiers” and they specifically stimulate the innate branch of the immune system. Research has shown that beta-glucans stimulate macrophage, NK (Natural killer) cells, T cells and the production of immune system cytokines. They may also enhance Dendritic Cell function. Recent research has shown that frequently immune suppression means that these cells may be produced but may not mature and therefore not function as they should.
Obviously not everyone has access to an Integrated Oncologist or a Chinese Medicine Practitioner but there are products on the market like ” Immiflex” and “Biobran” (made from rice) and there are mushroom extracts, Astragalus, and other botanicals that can be taken alongside conventional therapy to minimise the damage and the side effects. Some mushrooms have specific action against certain cancers or conditions – for instance Turkey tail and Agaricus have been shown to kill sarcoma in laboratory conditions when few chemotherapy drugs have any effect. For a chart detailing specific actions of each kind of mushroom please see the link to Paul Stamets website, below. Shiitake, Maitake, Reishi and Oyster mushrooms are some of the more well-known varieties with very well documented research.
So, if you have a compromised immune system, try some Eastern therapies to improve your immune function, your Qi and your wellbeing and you will be amazed by how effective they can be.
My favourite sites for information on Mushrooms and extracts are: