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Other common name(s): beta-glucan, hen of the woods, maitake D-fraction, maitake, maitake extract, ram’s head, sheep’s head
Scientific/medical name(s): Grifola frondosa
Maitake is a large edible mushroom native to the mountains of northeastern Japan. Its scientific name is Grifola frondosa. The maitake mushroom is eaten as a food, and an extract from this mushroom called maitake-D fraction® is marketed as a dietary supplement in the United States and Japan. The substance in the maitake mushroom is thought to be active in humans and is called beta-glucan.
Maitake D-fraction has effects on the immune system in animal and laboratory research studies. There is no convincing clinical evidence to date in available peer-reviewed medical journals reporting that the maitake mushroom is effective in treating or preventing cancer in humans, although some immune system effects have been demonstrated in people. Further human research is now underway.
How is it promoted for use?
Promoters claim that maitake mushroom extract boosts the immune system and limits or reverses tumor growth. It is also said to enhance the benefits of chemotherapy and lessen some side effects of anti-cancer drugs, such as hair loss, pain, and nausea.
What does it involve?
Maitake D-fraction is available in liquid extract, tablet, and capsule in health food stores, although the amount of beta glucan contained in each form may vary. The usual dosage of dried mushroom is between 3 and 7 grams daily. Maitake mushrooms are also available in grocery stores and can be eaten as food or made into tea.
What is the history behind it?
For thousands of years, Asian healers have used certain edible mushrooms in tonics, soups, teas, prepared foods, and herbal formulas to promote health and long life. In the past few decades, researchers in Japan have been studying the medicinal effects of mushrooms on the immune system, cancer, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
The Japanese word “maitake” means “dancing mushroom” because people in ancient times were said to dance for joy when they found these mushrooms, which were literally worth their weight in silver. Modern research on the maitake mushroom and its D-fraction extract began in Japan in the mid-1980s and has only recently spread to the United States.
What is the evidence?
Maitake mushrooms and the maitake D-fraction prepared from them contain a type of polysaccharide (a large molecule formed by multiple sugar molecules linked together). This molecule is called beta glucan, although some call it beta glycan. Beta glucan is found in several mushrooms, yeasts, and other foods. Beta glucan is believed to stimulate the immune system and activate certain cells and proteins that attack cancer. In laboratory studies, it appears to slow the growth of cancer in some cell cultures and in mice.
Most of the research on maitake D-fraction has been done in Japan using an injectable form of the extract. A 1997 study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science found that maitake D-fraction was able to enhance the immune system and inhibit the spread of tumors in mice implanted with breast cancer. In a 1995 report published in the same journal, researchers concluded that maitake D-fraction was able to activate the immune systems of mice that had been injected with liver cancer cells and seemed to prevent the spread of tumors to the liver. It also seemed to prevent the development of cancer from normal cells. However, a non-randomized study of 15 dogs with lymphoma did not find any evidence of benefit from the use of maitake extract.
A 2010 study tested beta-glucans from maitake mushrooms by giving them along with paclitaxel, a cancer chemotherapy drug, to mice. The mice that got beta-glucan along with paclitaxel seemed to have a faster recovery of white blood cell counts than those that didn’t get beta-glucan. Again, this has not been tested in humans getting cancer treatment.
While animal and laboratory studies may show a certain compound holds promise as a beneficial treatment, further studies are necessary to find out whether the results apply to humans. In 2002, a group of Japanese patients with different types of cancer were given maitake D-fraction and maitake powder in addition to standard cancer treatments. Although the researchers thought some patients showed improvement, the study did not include a control group. Because of this and other limitations in the study design, no reliable conclusions can be drawn. It’s impossible to say for certain whether any effect was caused by the maitake treatments or standard cancer treatments the patients also received. More scientifically designed studies are needed to determine maitake's potential usefulness in preventing or treating cancer.
A clinical trial of maitake extract on 34 women after treatment for breast cancer was completed in 2010, and found that the beta glucans from maitake have definite effects on immune function. Surprisingly, it stimulated some functions and slowed down others. The study didn’t measure anything about how cancer might be affected by these immune changes.
In another clinical trial, beta glucan is being tested together with other drugs to learn whether they increase the effectiveness of a monoclonal antibody (3F8). Combining different types of biological therapy may kill more tumor cells. This is a small open label trial (so called because both patients and researchers know which treatment is being administered) in patients with neuroblastoma that has not responded to treatment. The study is looking at immune effects, side effects, and the maximum tolerated dose of beta glucan. It’s expected to be completed in late 2015.
Ref: American Cancer Society
These supplements may also help reduce risk of developing colorectal cancer:
- A multivitamin daily, containing the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, the B-complex vitamins, and trace minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, and selenium.
- Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil, 1 - 2 capsules or 1 - 3 tablespoonfuls oil daily. Population studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of developing colon, breast, or prostate cancer. A few preliminary studies seem to suggest that fish oil might help reduce the growth rate of colon cancer cells, but more research is needed to know for sure. Ask your doctor before taking high doses of supplemental fish oil, which can increase the risk of bleeding, especially if you are taking blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin) or aspirin. Cold-water fish, such as salmon or halibut, are good sources to add to your diet.
- Probiotic supplement (containing a mixture of organisms including Lactobacillus acidophilus), 5 - 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units) a day. These "friendly" bacteria help keep the digestive tract healthy. Preliminary evidence suggests that probiotics might help reduce recurrence of tumors in people who have had surgery to remove colon cancer. Refrigerate your probiotic supplements for best results.
- Calcium, 1,000 - 1,200 mg daily. Calcium binds to ionized fatty acids and secondary bile acids to reduce mucosal toxicity and/or directly reduce intestinal proliferation. In fact, studies show a 14% reduction in risk among subjects with the highest versus the lowest categories of intake.
- Vitamin D - Preliminary studies suggest that vitamin D supplementation alone may be associated with up to a 50% reduction in colon cancer risk. More research is needed. Dosing guidelines for Vitamin D have been a subject of much controversy with some experts recommending conservative dosing of 400 - 1000 IU per day for adults while others hold that much higher doses are necessary. Also some megadose Vitamin D supplements have now appeared in health food stores. High levels of vitamin D may be particularly risky in patients with Sarcoidosis, Histoplasmosis, Parathyroid disease and some types of lymphomas. Speak to your doctor about proper amounts of Vitamin D for your particular case.
Herbs are a way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. However, herbs alone should never be used to treat colon cancer, and you should talk to your doctor before taking any herbs if you are being treated for colon cancer. Some herbs and supplements can interfere with chemotherapy and other treatments. As with any therapy, you should work with your health care provider to diagnose your problem before starting treatment. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, make teas with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 - 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 - 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 - 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures alone or in combination as noted.
- Green tea (Camellia sinensis) standardized extract, 250 - 500 mg daily. Green tea contains antioxidants and can help boost the immune system. It may help prevent cancer, although studies haven't been able to prove that. Use caffeine-free products. You may also prepare teas from the leaf of this herb. Green tea can worsen symptoms in patients with Glaucoma and may be contraindicated in cerain patients who suffer from liver disease and osteoporosis; speak with your physician.
- Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) standardized extract, 150 - 300 mg 2 - 3 times daily. Animal studies suggest it may have cancer fighting properties. One study in humans found it strengthened the immune system response, which is often weakened during chemotherapy. You may also take a tincture of this mushroom extract, 30 - 60 drops 2 - 3 times a day. Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs) interact with Reishi mushroom.
Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa) standardized extract (D-fraction), 600 mg twice daily. Preliminary studies suggest it may help the body fight cancer, although more research is needed to know for sure. You may also take a tincture of this mushroom extract, 30 - 60 drops 2 - 3 times a day.
- Turmeric (Curcuma longa) standardized extract, 300 mg 3 times a day. Turmeric or curcumin has been shown to kill cancer cells in test tubes. Studies are under way to see if it has the same effect in humans. Don't take Turmeric if you have gallstones or bile duct obstruction. Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs) interact with Turmeric.
Source: Colorectal cancer | University of Maryland Medical Center
University of Maryland Medical Center
Shiitake mushroom (shee-TAH-kee )
Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) mushrooms have been reported to have cancer-preventing properties. However, little research has been conducted verifying the antitumor activities of "mycochemicals" in shiitake mushrooms. In this study, potential roles of an ethyl acetate fraction from shiitake mushrooms were investigated by in vitro bioassays.
The activities of an ethyl acetate fraction were evaluated by [3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide] (MTT), apoptosis bioassay, cell cycle analysis, and Western blot analysis using two human breast carcinoma cell lines (MDA-MB-453 and MCF-7), one human nonmalignant breast epithelial cell line (MCF-10F), and two myeloma cell lines (RPMI-8226 and IM-9).
Concentration-dependent antiproliferative effects of the fraction were observed in all cell lines using the MTT assay. Approximately 50 mg/L concentration of the fraction induced apoptosis in 50% of the population of four human tumor cell lines and the fraction-induced apoptosis may have been mediated through the pro-apoptotic bax protein which was up-regulated. Cell cycle analysis revealed that the fraction induced cell cycle arrest by significant decrease of S phase, which was associated with the induction of cdk inhibitors p21 and the suppression of cdk4 and cyclin D1 activity. Compared to malignant tumor cells, nonmalignant cells were less sensitive to the fraction for the suppression of cell growth and regulation of bax, p21, cyclin D1, and cdk4 expression. A 51% antiproliferative effect occurred at the highest concentration of the fraction (800 mg/L).
These data suggest that inhibition of growth in tumor cells by "mycochemicals" in shiitake mushrooms may result from induction of apoptosis.
J Altern Complement Med. 2006 Mar;12(2):125-32.
Lentinan was extracted from shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes) via a new cost-effective procedure that resulted in high purity (88%) and yield. Unlike previous reports whereby the lentinan was given parenterally, in this study the emphasis was on the oral administration of lentinan. The goal is to document whether the efficacy of the antitumor property is still expressed through this route of administration.
Initial study on the action of lentinan was conducted using murine lymphoma (K36) cells in a AKR mouse model. Further investigation on the effectiveness of the extracted lentinan was then performed using human colon-carcinoma cell lines in mice. Six established human colon-carcinoma cell lines segregated into three groups of different degrees of differentiation were used in this study. One group was not fed (control) and the second group was prefed with lentinan for 7 days prior to inoculations with the cancer cells. The size of the tumors that developed was rated after 1 month.
Significant regression in tumor formation was observed in prefed mice compared to control (unfed) mice when K36 or human colon-carcinoma cells were used. Significant reductions in the size of the tumors were observed in mice prefed with lentinan. Follow-up investigation proceeded with the use of nude mice (athymic). Lymphocytes extracted from AKR mice prefed with lentinan for 7 days were inoculated into the nude mice. This was then followed by inoculation of the human colon-carcinoma cell lines into these mice. Much smaller tumors were formed in nude mice inoculated with lymphocytes, in contrast to the larger tumor formed in nude mice without lymphocytes inoculation.
This study showed that the antitumor property of lentinan was maintained with oral administration. In addition, "primed" lymphocytes, when given passively to immunodeficient mice, were able to retard the development of tumors in these mice.