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itself is a popular food. D-fraction has
been used as an immunostimulant and
adjuvant in cancer treatment, as well as
having claimed benefits on cholesterol
and hypertension.13,14 A cautionary
piece by the American Cancer Society
notes a potential for hypotensive and
hypoglycaemic side effects, as well as
discussing the evidence for efficacy
of D-fraction use.15 A reasonably
comprehensive summary of maitake, this
'king of mushrooms', is also available,
again noting its anticancer properties.14
The final medicinal fungus I want to
mention is the lion's mane or bearded
tooth mushroom, Hericium erinaceus,
an American native of the tooth fungus
group, distinguished by its long 'spines'
and characteristic appearance growing
on hardwoods. Inspection of the recent
literature certainly suggests that exciting
times lie ahead for Hericium chemical
constituents, for in addition to anticancer
properties, stimulation of nerve growth
factor (NGF) synthesis indicates a strong
potential in the future treatment of
Alzheimer's disease.16 Described as a
choice edible, lion's mane mushroom
contains simple organics such as threitol,
D-arabinitol and palmitic, thought to
be responsible for its antioxidant and
hypoglycaemic effects. It has also been
investigated for a supposed anti-
dementia action and anticancer activity
as well as interesting stimulation of nerve
cells and myelination.15 Investigation
of cultured samples demonstrated the
presence of HeLa cell growth inhibitory
substances, including the phenolic 'Y-A-2',
and the phenolic hericenones A and B.17
NGF synthesis-inducing substances
included the 'phenol analogous
compounds' hericenones C, D, E, F,
G, and H, and the erinacines A to I,
all of which could be important in
treating Alzheimer's dementia.16
Not unexpectedly, anti-cancer
polysaccharides were also present.
There is no doubt that cordyceps
and these other medicinal fungi will
increasingly feature in our Western
complementary systems in the coming
years, as research results reinforce and
vindicate their traditional uses in Asian
medicine. Many of them have long been
used as medicinal foods in Asia, while
being something of a novelty here in
the West. I've no doubt that will change
as we adapt to new philosophies and
Recent findings indicating an inverse
relationship between such mushroom
consumption and the risk of breast cancer
will surely act as triggers to encourage
their use.18 Advances in artificial culture
of exotic fungi replacing wild harvesting
of sometimes scarce natural resources
provides opportunities to supply
products of consistent quality.
1. Longmore B. Fun guy to be with. Rescript (Pharmaceutical
Society of WA newsletter) Sep 2012;98:13. At www.pswa.org.
2. Wikipedia: Orphiocordyceps unilateralis. At: http://
3. Yarnell E, Abascal K, Rountree R. Clinical Botanical Medicine.
2nd edn. NY: Mary Ann Liebert; 2009. p. 67.
4. Wikipedia: Ophiocordyceps. At: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
5. Reference 3. p. 75--6.
6. Daniel Winkler. Mushroaming [blog]: Cordyceps sinensis. At:
7. Li R, Zhao Y, Jiang X. Chemical composition of Hirsutella
beakdumountainsis, a potenetial substitute for Cordyceps
sinensis. African J Biotech Nov 2011;10(72):16286--94.
8. Pharmacopoeia Commission of PRC. Pharmacopeia of
the People's Republic of China. Beijing: Chemical Industry
Publishing House; 2005.
9. Reference 3. p. 75--6, 244.
10. Siev M, Weinberg R, Penman S. The selective interruption of
nucleolar RNA synthesis in HeLa cells by cordycepin. J Cell Biol
11. The Review of Natural Products. 3rd edn. Facts and
Comparisons: St Louis, Missouri; 2002. p. 724--5.
12. Kidd PM. The use of mushroom glycans and proteoglycans in
cancer treatment. Altern Med Rev 2000;5:4--27.
13. Maitake supplements. At: www.livestrong.com/article/197790-
14. Reference 1. p. 472--3.
15. Maitake mushroom. At: www.cancer.org/
16. Kawagishi H, Zhuang C, Shnidman E. The anti-dementia effect
of Lion's Mane mushroom and its clinical application. Lion's
Mane Townsend Letter for doctors and patients. At: curezone.
17. MizunoT. Bioactive substances in Yamabushitake, the Hericium
erinaceum fungus, and its medicinal utilization. Food and
Foods Ingredients Journal of Japan 1998;175:105--14. At: www.
18. Roupas P, Keogh J, Noakes M, et al. The role of edible
mushrooms in health: Evaluation of the evidence. J Functional
Foods Oct 2012;4(4):687--709.
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