Reishi mushroom is a natural product that may enhance immunity and response to chemo/radiotherapy, improve quality of life, and manage some side effects. 

How do experts use reishi mushroom?

Both medical groups and integrative experts provide recommendations for reishi mushroom in treating people with cancer. Learn more about the approaches and meanings of recommendations: Integrative Oncology Programs and Expert Guidelines ›

Clinical practice guidelines

These 2018 guidelines found that in adults with type 2 diabetes, reishi mushroom was shown to lower glycated hemoglobin (A1C) by at least 0.5% in randomized controlled trials lasting at least 3 months. Our note: A meta-analysis including the study that this recommendation was based on found no evidence of an effect on HbA1c.

Published protocols, programs, and approaches

Reishi mushroom is used in programs, approaches and protocolsa package of therapies combining and preferably integrating various therapies and practices into a cohesive design for care from these integrative oncologists, drawing from both scientific research and observations from years or even decades of treating patients:

Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO, and Karolyn Gazella

Approaches are described for certain cancer types, or along with certain conventional therapy treatments, or for particular conditions such as insulin resistance.

Uses of reishi mushroom:

  • Colorectal cancer
  • Hormonal balance
  • Enhancing immune system function
  • Mushroom extracts during radiation therapy to support immunity and reduce fatigue

Keith Block, MD

Block KI. Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Care. New York: Bantam Dell. 2009.

The integrative Block Program has recommendations to people who are at different places along the cancer continuum:

  • Those who’ve been recently diagnosed
  • Those in treatment
  • Those who’ve concluded treatment and need to remain vigilant to prevent recurrence

Uses of reishi:

  • Core diet plan and in extracts
  • Priming the immune system before surgery
  • Enhancing immune cell cytotoxicity
  • Targeting cancer progression pathways
  • Immune surveillance
  • Enhancing effectiveness of chemotherapy

Gerald Lemole, MD; Pallav Mehta, MD; and Dwight McKee, MD

Lemole GM, Mehta PK, McKee DL. After Cancer Care: The Definitive Self-Care Guide to Getting and Staying Well for Patients with Cancer. New York, New York: Rodale, Inc. 2015.

These doctors present easy-to-incorporate lifestyle changes to help you “turn on” hundreds of genes that fight cancer, and “turn off” the ones that encourage cancer, while recommending lifestyle approaches to address each type.

Reishi is part of a whole foods diet in this book.

Neil McKinney, BSc, ND

McKinney N. Naturopathic Oncology, Fourth Edition. Victoria, BC, Canada: Liaison Press. 2020.

This book includes descriptions and uses of many natural and complementary protocols for cancer in general and for specific cancers. It also includes information on integrative support during conventional cancer treatment.

Uses of reishi mushroom:

  • Chemotherapy support
  • Protecting from radiation from imaging tests
  • Radiation therapy fatigue
  • Chemotherapy fatigue
  • Integrative support plan for chemotherapy
  • Inhibiting NF kappa
  • Preventing tumor resistance with gemcitabine and capecitabine
  • Weight loss and metabolic cachexiaweakness and wasting of the body due to severe chronic illness protocol
  • Natural targeted agent
  • Immune modulation
  • General leading remedy for integrative cancer care to balance immunity and promote healing
  • Bladder cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Sarcoma
  • Skin cancer (non-melanoma)
  • Uterine cancer

Other expert assessments

Chinese medicine clinical service

Development of evidence-based Chinese medicine clinical service recommendations for cancer palliative care using Delphi Approach based on the evidence to decision framework ›

Reishi was evaluated by a Chinese medicine clinical service but no consensus was reached regarding use, although the quality of evidence was judged as “high.” Some reviewers expressed concerns regarding its negative impact on blood cell count as well as possible negative herb-drug interactions between reishi and chemotherapeutic agents.

See further opinion on use with chemotherapy in the Commentary section below.

Traditional medicine

Reishi is used in traditional Chinese medicine to support immune function in people with cancer undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It has been used for over 2000 years in East Asia as a tonic for prolonging life, preventing aging, and boosting qi (life force or energy).1National Cancer Institute. Medicinal Mushrooms PDQ: Health Professional Version. October 5, 2020. Viewed February 10, 2021.

Learn more about traditional medicine and how to find practitioners: Finding Integrative Oncologists and Other Practitioners ›


Dosage has not been standardized for use in cancer care, but recommendations are available from these sources.

General information about dosing

Find general dosing guidelines regarding natural products and supplements in Dosing Guidelines ›


In traditional Chinese medicine and in many of the studies of medicinal mushrooms, hot water extracts have been used. The cell wall of the mushroom is indigestible by humans—hence, eating raw mushrooms for culinary or medicinal reasons is not recommended. Ground mushroom eaten as a powder is irritating to the liver, yet when that ground mushroom is decocted in hot water, the medicinal ingredients become available and it is safer to consume. As a result, several integrative oncology clinicians report that they prescribe hot water extracts of medicinal mushrooms.2McKinney N. Naturopathic Oncology, 3rd Edition. Victoria, BC, Canada: Liaison Press. 2016.

Expert commentary

Erlene Chiang, DAOM, LAc, February 17, 2021: Reishi is high in antioxidants, which is why it works so well in preventing cancer. However, if consumed in large quantities on a daily basis, it may interfere with chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Many oncologists are reluctant to have patients take high-antioxidant mushrooms or herbs during chemo and radiation, but many of my patients are still using reishi mushrooms because they feel they need the support during chemotherapy. The compromise is to use reishi five days after completion of a round of chemotherapy, in between chemo sessions, or on the “off” days during radiation. It can be taken up to the day a chemo session is started (and will not interfere with pre-chemo blood work). However, patients taking oral chemotherapy on a daily basis should not take reishi. The exception to this is if the oral chemo regimen has one-week-off periods, in which case it can be taken during that off week. Another exception is if the patient is doing palliative chemotherapy such as maintenance care chemotherapy. In that case it is generally OK to take reishi. Patients involved in a clinical trial [for other treatments] should not use reishi or other antioxidants or supplements that may interfere with the measurements from the trial.

Helpful link

Keep reading about reishi mushroom


Maria Williams

Research and Communications Consultant
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Maria Williams is a research and communications consultant who brings over 15 years’ experience in research, consumer education, and science communication to CancerChoices. She has worked primarily in public health and environmental health.

Maria Williams Research and Communications Consultant

Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher and writer for CancerChoices and also served as the first program manager. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher


Andrew Jackson, ND

Research Associate
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Andrew Jackson, ND, serves as a CancerChoices research associate. As a naturopathic physician practicing in Kirkland, Washington, he teaches critical evaluation of the medical literture at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington. His great appreciation of scientific inquiry and the scientific process has led him to view research with a critical eye.

Andrew Jackson, ND Research Associate

Last update: December 20, 2023

Last full literature review: June 2021

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.

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