I’d like to begin this article with 2 very important statistics:
The chance of an American man developing cancer in his lifetime is 1 in 2.
The chance of an American woman developing cancer in her lifetime is 1 in 3.
Pause and think about that for a moment…
…no really. Think about it.
How did we get here? Is it bad luck that plagues our species? (Interestingly enough, a recent study suggested that the majority of cancer cases are due to bad luck, 1)
To me, that seems just a bit nutty, though I’ll leave it at that for now.
Browsing the scientific literature, it’s apparent that numerous variables are involved in cancer development, including pesticides, asbestos, synthetic chemicals in our food, genetics, cell phone exposure, and weight. The list goes on (2).
Needless to say, many Americans will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime. And many will take action by seeking conventional medical treatment. Fair enough.
This is not a website telling people what they should or should not do regarding their health. I write articles that provide information based on evidence. What people do with this information is up to them.
Having said that, there’s a mushroom that individuals with cancerous conditions may find interesting. This particular fungus is known as the blushing wood mushroom (Agaricus silvaticus) – a species that can be harvested from the wild in North America and Europe. It’s a popular edible mushroom (reported to be quite tasty, though I’ve never partaken), and many people know it only as such.
There’s more to the blushing wood mushroom than just a tasty meal, however.
Agaricus silvaticus helps individuals cope with cancer. We’re not talking about rats, nor cellular cultures in petri dishes. We’re talking about real human beings – people with cancer who have directly improved their outcomes by consuming this mushroom.
Sounds too good to be true, huh?
I hear ya. Before we write this off as alternative medicine quackery, however, let’s take a few minutes to explore this a little further, shall we?
The therapeutic effects of the blushing wood mushroom
Many mushrooms have exhibited anti-cancer effects in numerous studies. Reishi, cordyceps, and Antrodia salmonea are just a few examples. The blushing wood mushroom is unique, however, in that most of its research involves its effects on the treatment of individuals with cancer.
For example, a study spanning two years involving breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy found that the patients who ingested Agaricus silvaticus tablets improved their nutritional parameters and experienced less side effects from drugs, including bowel dysfunction, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and fever compared to the placebo group (those who did not receive the mushroom).
Some of the specific results are quite astounding (3):
- In patients with 3 chemotherapy cycles, 30% of patients in the placebo group reported a reduction in appetite, compared to 0% of patients consuming A. silvaticus after 3 months of treatment.
- In patients with 6 chemotherapy cycles, 80% of patients in the placebo group reported poor appetite, while reports of poor appetite reduced with time in the A. silvaticus group after 6 months of treatment.
- After 6 months of treatment, 70% of patients in the placebo group experienced fever, compared to 0% of patients consuming A. silvaticus.
This randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial demonstrated not only the effectiveness of A. silvaticus in patients undergoing treatment for breast cancer, but the safety of its ingestion as well.
In addition to breast cancer, additional studies have analyzed the effects of A. silvaticus on the treatment of colorectal cancer. The lifetime risk of acquiring colorectal cancer is 1 in 20, and of the cancers that affect both men and women, it is is the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related-death in the United States (4).
Enter the blushing wood mushroom …
A series of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials demonstrated the therapeutic effects of A. silvaticus on patients undergoing treatment for colorectal cancer in Brazil.
- One study found that colorectal cancer patients who consumed A. silvaticus (30 mg/kg/day) while recovering from surgery experienced a significant reduction in fasting blood glucose levels that remained in the healthy range. Blood glucose levels in the placebo group increased, however, nearing prediabetic levels (5).
- A second study in this series found that patients consuming A. silvaticus (30 mg/kg/day) while recovering from surgery experienced a significant reduction in fasting plasma glucose, total cholesterol, and blood pressure levels, compared to patients in the placebo group. Overall, the researchers concluded that supplementation with A. silvaticus provided metabolic benefits to biochemical, enzymatic, and blood pressure parameters of post-surgical colorectal cancer patients (6).
- A third study found that supplementation with A. silvaticus (30 mg/kg/day) produced significant benefits in hematological (blood and bone marrow) and immunological parameters of colorectal cancer patients in the post-surgical phase. Patients in the placebo group experienced no significant changes (7).
- And yet another study in this series discovered that supplementation with A. silvaticus (30 mg/kg/day) improved overall quality of life in post-surgical colorectal cancer patients, compared to the placebo group. Such improvements included better mood and appetite with reduced complaints regarding restless sleep, gastrointestinal (GI) issues, and nausea. These improvements were not seen in the placebo group (8).
What makes Agaricus silvaticus so beneficial?
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how the blushing wood mushroom imparts its beneficial effects on cancer patients. If we look at the nutrient and chemical composition of A. silvaticus, however, we may discover pertinent clues.
The blushing wood mushroom comprises approximately 36% carbohydrates, 7% lipids (fats), and 41% protein – the rest being water, ash and fiber. For a mushroom – and in fact for any edible food – this is an extremely high proportion of protein.
You see, protein is an essential macronutrient, not just for maintaining balanced health, but particularly for recovery from trauma, i.e. surgery (9). In the instance of surgery, extra protein is required for tissue maintenance and wound repair. Surgical outcomes can be improved with a higher protein diet, and perhaps the supplementation of a high protein fungus – in this case, A. silvaticus – helps to achieve this goal.
What’s more, the blushing wood mushroom is a complete protein source with high biological value (easily used by the human body). Of course, elevated protein needs cannot be met with A. silvaticus consumption alone, though as shown in the aforementioned studies, it may help.
Looking deeper into the nutritional profile, the blushing wood mushroom contains a very high concentration of iron, zinc, copper, and potassium, with adequate amounts of calcium and magnesium, among other minerals. It is also a good source of vitamin C (10).
In addition to its nutritional value, the blushing wood mushroom may aid the body by imparting antioxidant effects. In a study evaluating the antioxidant potential of 5 Agaricus mushroom species, A. silvaticus demonstrated the highest “antioxidant power” of all species tested (11). In corroboration with this discovery, the antioxidant-rich blushing wood mushroom has previously been used to reduce oxidative stress in children with HIV (12), and to prevent the development of atherosclerosis in rabbits (13).
Research has repeatedly shown the benefits of consuming an antioxidant-rich diet, especially for its role in protecting against cancerous conditions (14). Perhaps it is this large “antioxidant power” of the blushing wood mushroom that, in addition to reducing oxidative stress and preventing atherosclerosis, also helps individuals cope with cancer.
Locating and identifying the blushing wood mushroom
By now you may be asking, “Where do I find such a mushroom?” As it turns out, I have yet to find any A. silvaticus supplements, or any retail supermarkets selling this mushroom (if your experiences differ, please let me know!).
It’s a good thing we discuss the foraging lifestyle here at Wild Foodism, else we’d be shrugging our shoulders, calling it a day.
The blushing wood mushroom grows in the coniferous woods of North America and Europe, generally from summer through autumn. Aptly named, its cap and stem quickly turn red when bruised, and its gills – initially pink – become darker with age. A. silvaticus produces a brown spore print. For a detailed description of this mushroom, check out the entry created by Rogers Mushrooms.
Let’s bring it all together
In summary, the blushing wood mushroom (Agaricus silvaticus) is an edible fungus whose utility extends beyond the arena of food into the realm of cancer treatment. Studies have shown that ingesting A. silvaticus supplements can improve the nutritional parameters, biochemical markers, and overall quality of life in individuals with breast and colorectal cancers. Its high protein and mineral content, in addition to its antioxidant power, may contribute to its physiological benefits. Pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say?
Mushrooms for the win, yet again!
Thanks for reading, and as always … happy foraging!
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