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

Safety and precautions

We advise you to consult your physician before taking reishi mushrooms. We also advise that you work with a healthcare professional knowledgeable and experienced in using reishi mushrooms with people with cancer. 

Several individual cases of an elevated tumor marker have been detected with reishi use.1Liang Y, He M et al. An abnormal elevation of serum CA72-4 by ganoderma lucidum spore powder. Annals of Clinical and Laboratory Science. Summer 2013;43(3):337-40; Yan B, Meng X et al. Ganoderma lucidum spore induced CA72-4 elevation in gastrointestinal cancer: a five-case report. Integrative Cancer Therapies. 2014 Mar;13(2):161-6. 

Side effects

Adverse effects noted in clinical trials include nausea, insomnia, mild discomfort (dizziness and dry mouth), diarrhea, stomach discomfort and poor health.2Jeitler M, Michalsen A et al. Significance of medicinal mushrooms in integrative oncology: a narrative review. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2020 Nov 11;11:580656. Powder form can be toxic to the liver.3Wanmuang H, Leopairut J, Kositchaiwat C, Wananukul W, Bunyaratvej S. Fatal fulminant hepatitis associated with Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi) mushroom powder. Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand. 2007 Jan;90(1):179-81.

Interaction with cancer treatments

Some evidence shows that reishi may improve the effectiveness of radiation therapy and/or certain chemotherapy drugs in some cancers, but the evidence is not strong. Some researchers have expressed concern it may possibly interfere with certain chemotherapy drugs that depend on oxidation to kill cancer cells due to its antioxidant activity.4Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. About Herbs: Reishi Mushroom. February 5, 2021. Viewed February 11, 2021. However, we’re not aware of any evidence to support this. See the commentary from Erlene Chiang, DAOM, LAc, regarding use during chemo/radiotherapy in How do experts use reishi mushroom? ›

Interactions with medications

Reishi mushroom and its extracts should be used with caution by people taking antidiabetic, anticoagulant/antiplatelet or antihypertensive medications as the effects of the medications may be increased. People who have gastric ulcers or active gastrointestinal bleeding, or who will have operations in the near future, should consult their physicians before use.5Sohretoglu D, Huang S. Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides as an anti-cancer agent. Anticancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry. 2018;18(5):667-674.

Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides have antibacterial effects and may increase the activity of some antibiotics.6Sohretoglu D, Huang S. Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides as an anti-cancer agent. Anticancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry. 2018;18(5):667-674.

Do not use (contraindications)

Do not use reishi mushroom or its extracts if you have a known allergy or hypersensitivity to it or any of its components.

Preparation

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.7McKinney N. Naturopathic Oncology, 3rd Edition. Victoria, BC, Canada: Liaison Press. 2016.

Resource

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Authors

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, RN, MSN, 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, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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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, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. 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 and Program Manager

Reviewer

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: May 17, 2022

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.

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