Category Archives: Integrative Medicine

Medicinal Mushroom in Cancer Care

Coriolus versicolor/PSK is a medicinal mushroom that has been used in Chinese Medicine for centuries to boost the immune system. It is an approved adjunctive cancer treatment in Japan and China. Recently, a study was published summarizing the results of 13 double blind, placebo-controlled trials looking at Coriolus Versicolor/PSK extract in 5 year cancer survival rates. This meta-analysis showed that when combined with chemo, radiation or surgery, Coriolus caused an absolute risk reduction of 9% in 5 year mortality, and had a Numbers Needed to Treat (NNT) of 11. What this means, is that for every 11 people taking Coriolus/PSK, an extra person was alive at 5 years.

To put this into context, the Numbers Needed to Treat for beta blockers for 5 years to prevent cardiovascular disease is 140. The NNT for tamoxifen to have a protective effect against breast cancer recurrence in women with early stage breast cancer is 15. Coriolus demonstrates an unbelievably impressive treatment result!!

We have already had a meta analysis of over 8000 patients showing that coriolus improves survival rates in stomach cancer and a meta analysis of over 1000 patients showing that it improves survival rates in colorectal cancer. Now this resent meta- analysis includes the highest quality studies on stomach, colorectal, breast, esophageal, and nasopharyngeal cancer. Other non-blinded studies that are still randomized controlled trials also show benefit in lung cancer.

So, the only question I am left with, is why Coriolus is not an approved adjunct cancer therapy the way it is in Japan and China? National health insurance has covered Coriolus for cancer patients in both of those countries since the 1970’s and 1980’s….If we want to practice evidence based medicine in oncology, it’s time to include Coriolus/PSK!

Eliza WL, Fai CK, Chung LP.Efficacy of Yun Zhi (Coriolus versicolor) on survival in cancer patients: systematic review and meta-analysis. Recent Pat Inflamm Allergy Drug Discov. 2012 Jan;6(1):78-87.

By: Dr Jen Green, ND, FABNO

Medicinal Mushrooms – Support and Safety during Breast Cancer

Integrative oncology is really a concept that’s becoming more and more commonly understood and hopefully something that we can see more often.

Mushrooms are a very important synergist with conventional treatment.  Some of the data on mushrooms is actually reported about as data on something called PSK which stands for Polysaccharide Krestin.  This is a compound that is extracted from a mushroom called turkey tail mushroom.  Also, its Latin name is Coriolus Versicolor. And just to confuse matters, it’s also been called Trametes Versicolor. All the same thing. Turkey Tail mushroom.

So they extract out this PSK, breast survival with PSKthis polysaccharide. These companies kind of just enzymatically react it a little bit. So it’s basically synonymous with what you get in the mushroom. And it’s called PSK. So a lot of the data on mushrooms is also data on PSK. That being said, this particular review took 31 trials and, again, we’re close to 10,000 patients when we combine all these trials together. And I boxed in breast. So if you look at that, the 10 year survival for breast cancer in people who just had chemotherapy, in these trials, was about 65%. In people who had that chemotherapy plus they added the use of Turkey Tail mushroom and/or PSK abstract, their survival went up to 81%. So that’s a significant improvement in survival with the addition of mushroom to the chemotherapy.

turkeytail mushroomThis is what Turkey Tail mushroom looks like. You can see why it’s called Turkey Tail.

Below is a relatively recent meta analysis that looked at 13 studies and they found that if you took all the cancers combined, there was a reduction in five year death rate from cancer by 9%.  Now, that might not sound like a lot, but this is an actually, statistically, this is an absolute reduction, which is a much stronger effect than a relative risk reduction. This study is so compelling that in countries like Japan, the use of medicinal mushroom is part of the standard of care.  So people who get chemotherapy and radiation in places like Japan, will also get recommendations for medicinal mushrooms because it has such a significant impact on improving survival. So this is something that I hope will become standard of care in the United States too.

So if we go back to the trial data and you look at all these cancers, the cancers that have the best benefit from the use of mushrooms include breast cancer. So breast cancer is one that I certainly recommend concurrent, at least, consideration for concurrent use of medicinal mushrooms.

The graph below is a survival graph. So if you follow the line on the bottom, you can see the numbers 0 – 5.  So that represents time in years. So if you go to the number 5, and then you just kind of make an imaginary line going up, your imaginary line will intersect those two end points there. The dotted line represents the percent of people – and you can see that by going across to the vertical axis and it’s written there for you too.breast cancer survival graph

So at five years, 72% of people who did not take mushrooms were alive without cancer. And on the other hand, if you look up a little further to the solid line, you see that 79% in five years were alive who had also taken the mushrooms. So there’s an improvement in the percentage of people alive at, really, any time point if you follow those lines when you add mushrooms in to conventional therapy. So that’s just how that’s represented in a graphic way.

The slide below relates to two trials on estrogen receptor negative cancer. So this is breast cancer that does not express that estrogen receptor. Generally speaking, estrogen receptor negative cancers are harder to treat and they’re a little bit more aggressive. And so these become more significant, these results.PSK and breast cancer

So in the first trial, what they did is that they gave these women mushrooms in addition to conventional chemotherapy. And they found that by giving mushrooms in addition to chemotherapy there was a significant improvement in overall survival.

In the second trial, they gave women either chemotherapy or a PSK extract and there was comparable survival. So this is particularly of interest and I’m not sure I would go as far as to recommend mushroom substitute for chemo. This was not a chemo that is commonly used for breast cancer, but it does indicate the power of mushrooms to extend overall survival when combined with or used concurrently with and beyond chemotherapy.

By: Lise Alschuler, ND FABNO

10 Tips to Boost Immunity

Taking care of your immune system is the key to getting well and staying well.

Incorporate these simple elements into your daily life and you can truly create robust immunity and vitality.

Adequate, Restful Sleep

Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. If you’re having trouble sleeping, talk to your health care provider about supplementing with Melatonin which also supports normal antioxidant function. A normal sleep cycle is linked to reduced rates of cancer.

Regular Exercise

Make sure you get a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. Keep in mind that strenuous or prolonged exercise can have the opposite impact on your immunity. A 30-minute walk can meet your exercise needs while invigorating your senses and lifting your mood!

Nutritional Insurance and Supplementation

Take a high potency high quality multi-vitamin daily (iron free and copper free) check with your doctor first. It’s often hard to eat during treatment and your nutrient needs are increased. Taking a high quality supplement is a good insurance policy, especially if you struggle to get adequate fruits and vegetables into your daily diet.

Protein is Crucial to Robust Immunity

Make sure you get 3-4 servings of high quality protein daily (or use protein powders, smoothies and shakes to supplement). Although plant based diets show lower rates of cancer, it is not required to be vegetarian or vegan to eat a healthy anti-cancer diet. Low immunity as well as poor wound healing is linked to inadequate protein intake.

Enhance Your Adaption to Stress

Ongoing stress saps immunity and resistance to illness. Consider incorporating Adaptogenic Herbs such as Astragalus, Ganoderma, Cordyceps, Ginseng, Eleutherococcus (Siberian ginseng), Ashwaganda, Agaricus, and Rhodiola (with the permission of your doctor) into your diet to support your physical body in managing stress. Balance this with 30 minutes of daily exercise and purposeful relaxation time.

Promote Healthy Intestinal Ecology Rich in Friendly Bacteria

Eat fermented foods or take a probiotic supplement (ask your doctor first). The health friendly bacteria in your gut is actually a vital and essential part of normal immunity as well as normal detoxification and inflammation control.

Supplement with Vitamin D

Ask your health care provider to perform a blood test to make sure your Vitamin D levels are between 55-80 ng/ml. Low levels of Vitamin D have been linked to increased rates of infection and increased rates of cancer. While it’s a good habit to get a 30 minutes of sun exposure in the morning or late afternoon to increase Vitamin D naturally, it can be difficult to bring your levels up to the ideal range without a supplement. I recommend Vitamin D Synergy with Vitamin K, but you can pick up a Vitamin D supplement at nearly any grocery store.

Mushrooms ImmunityEat more mushrooms

Mushrooms are rich in polysaccharides and beta glucans that enhance normal robust immunity. Mushrooms are also rich in Selenium which has been shown to be a vital nutrient to normal immune and cardiovascular health. Tip: you can also get a daily dose of Selenium from just 2 brazil nuts daily! Be sure you do not have a food sensitivity before you incorporate mushrooms into your regular diet.

Try Acupuncture

Natural Killer Cells are part of your immune system’s army that specifically targets viral infections and tumor cells. Acupuncture may trigger your body to produce more Natural Killer Cells, boosting your immunity and resistance to infections.

meditate immunityMeditate Daily

Meditation doesn’t require yoga pants and a zen garden. Just find a peaceful or quiet space and clear your mind for at least 20 minutes once or twice daily. Meditation not only has a positive impact on immunity but also on mood, sleep, concentration and memory.


By: Dr Nalini Chilkov