At TEDMED, TEDTalks favorite Paul Stamets gave an emotional talk about new medical uses for mushrooms — including a variety that, he says, helped treat his mother’s cancer. Stamets spoke about powerful medical uses for mushrooms and their extracts, from anti-tuberculosis effects (Agarikon) to Cordyceps, a treasure trove of potential medicines, such as cyclosporine, which prevents organ rejection in transplant patients, and the recently FDA-approved drug Gilenya, from Novartis, for treating multiple sclerosis (MS). He can even use mushroom compounds to steer the migration of insects across the landscapes and control diseases carried by insects and animals. The most heartfelt moment of his talk, though, was when he brought his mother to the stage and told how he was able to help her to go from stage 4 breast cancer to tumor-free.
Afterward,TEDBlog sat with Paul and his mother and asked for more of the story.
Paul, you talked about treating your mother who had stage 4 breast cancer with mushrooms. Could you tell us your personal story behind that?
Being able to help your parent is a great feeling. They gave life to me, and as the youngest child, being able to help one of them feels good. I could have helped my father too, years ago, but it didn’t happen. He was terminally ill, and in a coma at that point, and we were standing in the circle of doctors. I brought all the references, and they said: If you want to give this to your dad, we’ll give it to him through his feeding tube. We had a meeting with my brother and sisters, and they all said, Yes, we agree; let him try. But my father had remarried, and my stepmom said no. It was like: “I am coming back to rescue my dad, I can do this!” I had all the mushrooms with me and the references, and the doctors had been convinced. But my stepmother had the right to stop it. And I felt tremendously defeated, and it brought me sorrow for a long time.
When my mother ended up having cancer, I could do something, and I could help. It was like a balance; I could help one of them, you know. That makes me feel very good. And my family feels good. My mother had stage 4 breast cancer and now she is tumor-free.
What mushrooms did you use? and how do they work?
In my mother’s case, I used Turkey Tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) [in combination with conventional medicines, including taxol and herceptin]. The Turkey Tail product we make is available at Whole Foods under the Host Defense label. Their use supports immunity.
I saw the picture of me and my mother standing on stage later on, and it still brings tears to my eyes.
Many people with cancer become ill when their immune system takes a nose dive. With the immune system now vulnerable, potential lurking pathogens such as bacteria and viruses can take hold making it more difficult to stop healthy cells from turning cancerous.
But, we shouldn’t be surprised with the millions of deaths associated with cancer or low immunity – especially when you consider the loss of minerals in our farming soil; the overabundance of sugar in the diet; artificial ingredients inside too many heavily-processed foods plus the proliferation of GMOs.
Conventionally-trained healthcare providers know little to NOTHING about nutrition, herbs and mushrooms
For example, according to world-renown mycologist Paul Stamets, ‘of the 140,000 species of mushroom-forming fungi, science is familiar with only 10 percent.’ Such a shame – when you understand that mushrooms have some of the most potent natural medicines on the planet.
Thankfully, there are many scientists looking at the health benefits within the plant kingdom – especially with regard to the Reishi mushroom. Known for its immune building and anti-aging virtues, more recent research highlights the antibody-mediating, multi-mechanistic power that makes Reishi a super cancer-fighter.
How does reishi target (and kill) cancer cells?
1. Reishi assists the immune system in preventing secondary infections. As if cancer wasn’t challenging to begin with, secondary attacks on the immune system from environmental pathogenic influences, such as viruses and bacteria, make the immune system particularly vulnerable in those already experiencing oncological issues.
2. Reishi helps breast cancer patients. Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is the most pervasive cancer of this type. New findings confirm that Reishi is a suitable IBC therapeutic – because of its ability to selectively inhibit cancer cell viability.
The Journal of Nutrition and Cancer published findings, from researchers, that showed the Reishi mushroom consistently inhibited cell invasion and disrupted cell spheroids involved in the invasive nature of cancer cells.
3. Reishi has multi-faceted immunomodulatory effects. Studies highlight how Reishi can identify potential pathogenic invaders by amplifying natural killer cell activity. Because Reishi’s therapeutic action can break down fibrinogen, an outer layer that protects cancer cells, they are more susceptible to cell death.
4. Keeping healthy cells intact has been demonstrated by Reishi. In a study observing its effects on ovarian cancer cells and cell-mediated responses, Reishi inhibited cell colony formation and cell migration demonstrating its ability to protect already healthy cells. The study also highlighted how Reishi takes action to assist in inhibiting tumor cell growth.
5. Reishi regulates programmed cell death. Referred to as apoptosis, reishi extract has the ability to stop cancer cells in their tracks. Eventually all healthy cells die, but certain cancer cells do not undergo apoptosis and divide endlessly wreaking internal havoc. Reishi intermediates this process successfully.
6. Reishi beats cancer at its own ‘cell-squeezing’ game. Cancer cells, through the protein-destroying enzyme, matrix metalloproteinase squeeze their way into healthy cells and destroy surrounding tissue. They can also enter the bloodstream to metastasize. Reishi has been shown to block the enzyme and prevent cancer from penetrating where it does not belong.
Remember, not all Reishi supplements are created equal. To access the benefits that have been obtained in studies it is essential to use standardized Reishi extracts containing assayed levels of Ganoderma Lucidum, the active therapeutic agent.
Ask your integrative healthcare practitioner to help suggest a dosage and high quality Reishi supplement that best reflects your needs. And, while you’re at it, ask how you can incorporate Reishi mushroom into your regular diet.
If you’re looking to boost immune function and avoid disease, investigate the health benefits of Reishi, Shitake, Coriolus versicolor (“Turkey tail”), Cordyceps, Maitake and Chaga plus many other organic foods, herbs and spices. The reward is worth the effort.
About the author: Christine M. Dionese L.Ac, MSTOM is an integrative health expert, medical journalist and food writer. She’s dedicated her career to helping others understand the science of happiness and its powerful effects on everyday human health. Christine practices, writes and speaks on environmental functional medicine, personalized medicine and epigenetics, food science and sustainable living.
Cordyceps Revealed: Important Information
The difference between Cordyceps ‘Militaris’ and the inferior Cs-4 Paecilomyces (Fungi).
“Browsing through the supplements at your local GNC, or searching online for relief from stress and fatigue, you might feel a little overwhelmed by the numerous choices.
If you’re considering a long term supplement, you’ve undoubtedly heard of an Ancient Chinese remedy called Cordyceps sinensis.
Many Cordyceps supplements advertise the ability to help reduce fatigue, boost immunity, promote vitality, and increase energy levels. Product descriptions focus on the miraculous effect of the Cordyceps fungus, and how this mystical mushroom has been used for thousands of years by Ancient Chinese and Tibetan doctors to treat a plethora of ailments ranging from kidney and liver disease to sexual impotency and fatigue.
Purveyors of products containing Cordyceps list stories of their historical use, and how these miraculous mushrooms were more recently used by the Chinese track and field team when they broke nine world records during the 2003 Track and Field World Championship in Germany.
However what these brands rarely, if ever, reveal to you is the authenticity of the Cordyceps species that they use in their formulations.
If you take a closer look at their labels, you may notice that most of these products are labeled “Cordyceps Cs-4.” That may not mean much of anything to you right now, but this is something you need to pay attention to.
What many companies fail to tell you is that Cs-4 is actually not genuine Cordyceps sinesis. Cs-4 has recently been confirmed scientifically to be a different species from the true Cordyceps species used traditionally in Chinese medicine. If you’re buying a product that contains Cs-4, you are not, in fact, getting thousands of year’s worth of herbal knowledge bundled into a convenient, easy to swallow pill.
CS-4, also known as Paecilomyces hepiali, is not only of a different genus, but also of a different species entirely.
The true species of Cordyceps is known as Cordyceps sinensis. So you must be wondering why many well known brands are calling it by another name, Cs-4?
Once thought to be the same Cordyceps species that was used thousands of years ago, new discoveries have revealed that Cs-4 is a contaminant and instead belongs to a group of fungi called Paecilomyces.
Rather than labeling their products to reflect the true scientific name, companies continue to misrepresent their Cs-4 supplements as Cordyceps sinensis. This is done because they want you, the consumer, to make an automatic association between their pill and the much talked about Ancient remedy with thousands of years of use under its belt.
Due to this continuous mislabelling over the years, Cordyceps sinensis is now unfortunately regularly interchanged with Cs-4.
Many of these companies have dedicated research teams that know they are not using true Cordyceps, but they also know that by changing their labels to reflect their true ingredients, you might look at their product very differently and would be less likely to buy it.
You may now be asking yourselves how you are supposed to know whether the supplement you are taking is authentic?
After decades of controversy, scientists have confirmed that Cordyceps sinensis is the true species of Cordyceps used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In recent years, the Chinese government has even gone as far as to officially recognize Cordyceps sinensis as the true Cordyceps species and has officially documented this recognition in The Chinese Pharmacopia, which is considered the bible of herbs and fungi used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
- Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, Vol 8, No. 4, 2000, Pages 248 – 257 Pharmacological Functions of Chinese Medicinal Fungus Cordyceps sinensis and Related Species by Sheng-Yuan Wang and Ming-Shi Shiao
Although this announcement has caused quite a stir in the Asian health supplement market, it has been largely overlooked in the U.S., where mushroom supplements are only just beginning to gain popularity.
While many U.S. supplement companies continue to misrepresent their Cs-4 products as the true species of Cordyceps sinensis and therefore reap the benefits of its popularity, other companies are flat out refusing to switch to the authentic species.
Why continue to use the wrong species, even if you know it’s the wrong species? This is probably due to the fact that the true species, sinensis, is much more difficult, time consuming, and expensive to cultivate. It requires very stringent growing conditions and is therefore a more precious commodity than the fake Cs-4.
As you can probably guess, Cs-4 is relatively easy and cheap to grow and sustain, and therefore many manufacturers continue to buy it in large quantities. This means that companies can switch to sinensis, but it will cost them in terms of both time and money.
If you’re currently taking a Cs-4 supplement, keep in mind that Cs-4 is not genuine Cordyceps and should not be misrepresented as such.
We have to take the time to read the ingredients of any supplement that we are considering purchasing, and see for ourselves how the product presents their ingredients.
If they say they are using, “Cordyceps Cs-4,” then you know right away that they themselves are either ill-informed, or misrepresenting the Cordyceps name to get your attention.”