06.06.2024 •

Reishi Mushrooms: Harnessing Their Healing Power to Fight Cancer

National Cancer Wellness and Awareness Day happens on June 26th. With a shocking number of 1 in 2 Canadians developing cancer in their lifetime, it’s clear that working to prevent cancer and taking a comprehensive approach to cancer wellness is needed. That includes exploring treatments that can complement traditional cancer therapies.

In recent years, medicinal mushrooms like reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) have become increasingly recognized for their potent healing properties. Used in traditional medicine for centuries, especially in China and Japan, reishi mushrooms have many benefits when it comes to addressing cancers.

Understanding Cancer and the Need for Alternative Treatments

Cancer remains one of the most formidable challenges in modern medicine, with its complex nature and diverse manifestations. Conventional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, are powerful tools in the fight against cancer. But they often come with debilitating side effects that can significantly impact a patient’s quality of life. As a result, there is a growing interest in exploring natural and holistic approaches to cancer management, and reishi mushrooms have emerged as a promising candidate in this regard.

The Immune-Boosting Power of Reishi Mushrooms

One of the key ways in which reishi mushrooms can address cancer is through their ability to bolster the immune system. The intricate interplay between the immune system and cancer cells highlights the importance of enhancing immune function in combating the disease. Reishi mushrooms contain bioactive compounds such as beta glucans that can stimulate the production of immune cells, including T-cells and natural killer (NK) cells, which play a crucial role in identifying and destroying cancerous cells within the body. By fortifying the immune response, reishi mushrooms empower the body to better recognize and eliminate cancer cells.

Targeting Cancer Cell Growth with Reishi Mushrooms

In addition to bolstering immune function, reishi mushrooms show promise in their potential to directly inhibit the growth and proliferation of cancer cells. Research has shown that the triterpene compounds found in reishi mushrooms can induce apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in cancer cells, effectively stopping their uncontrolled growth. Moreover, these medicinal mushrooms can help regulate angiogenesis, the process by which tumours develop new blood vessels to fuel their growth, thereby cutting off the blood supply to cancerous cells and impeding their progression.

Reducing Inflammation and Oxidative Stress

Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are key drivers of cancer development and progression. Reishi mushrooms exhibit potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can mitigate these harmful processes in the body. By reducing inflammation and neutralizing free radicals, reishi mushrooms help create an internal environment that is less conducive to cancer growth. Furthermore, these mushrooms can support overall cellular health and enhance the body’s defence mechanisms against carcinogenic insults.

Supporting Liver Health and Detoxification

The liver plays a critical role in detoxifying the body and processing harmful substances that could contribute to the development of cancer. Reishi mushrooms have been shown to support liver function and promote detoxification processes, which can help reduce the body’s overall toxic burden and protect against carcinogens. By enhancing liver health, reishi mushrooms contribute to overall systemic wellbeing and create a more resilient internal environment that is less hospitable to cancerous growth.

Dealing with the Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are powerful weapons when it comes to fighting cancer. And they need to be. But nausea, loss of appetite, and fatigue are common side effects that may be mitigated with the appropriate use of reishi mushroom supplements. Not only that, but because one of reishi’s main actions, as an adaptogen, is to help calm the nervous system, it may help reduce anxiety, manage stress, and support restful and restorative sleep without being a sedative.

Integrating Reishi Mushrooms into Cancer Care

While incorporating reishi mushrooms into a comprehensive cancer treatment plan can offer patients a natural and holistic approach to managing the disease, it’s essential to discuss its use with qualified healthcare providers, including oncologists. It’s possible that it may not be suitable for use alongside certain medications and therapies.

Still, whether used as a complementary therapy alongside conventional treatments or as a preventive measure to reduce the risk of cancer development, reishi mushrooms hold significant promise in the realm of integrative oncology. With their multifaceted benefits ranging from immune modulation to anti-cancer effects, reishi mushrooms offer a complementary avenue for individuals seeking a more holistic approach to cancer care and prevention. 


Dr. Melissa Carr is a registered Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine with a B.Sc. in Kinesiology. In practice since 2001, Dr. Carr has a passion for sharing health information. She has been a nutrition instructor and a health consultant, lecturer, and writer for 24 Hours Vancouver newspaper, Fraser Health Authority, UBC, and the David Suzuki Foundation, amongst others.