Can Medicinal Mushrooms Protect the Liver?

Photo by Jane Mitchinson

Photo by Jane Mitchinson

An increasing chorus of research is finding that some edible and medicinal mushrooms can help the liver heal and protect the liver against many of the toxins that are now bombarding our livers.

When the liver is damaged by toxins such as alcohol, pharmaceuticals, preservatives, pesticides and other toxins, liver cells begin to produce enzymes such as aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) in an attempt to heal and remove the toxins. As liver cells become more damaged, fibrosis can occur, which can progress to a complete shutting down of the liver.

A number of studies have shown that extracts from a number of medicinal and edible mushrooms reduce the levels of these enzymes in liver damage situations, and help bring about a healthier liver.

According to the research some of the more productive medicinal mushrooms in terms of reducing liver damage include:

  • Lentinula edodes (also known as Shiitake)
  • Cordyceps
  • Agaricus blazei
  • Ganoderma lucidum (also known as Reishi)
  • Ganoderma tsugae (Tsugae Reishi)
  • Pleurotus cornucopiae (Oysters)
  • Panus giganteus
  • and a number of others.

In a study last year, for example, Panus giganteus – also called Pteropus giganteus with a common English name of Indian Flying Fox, part of  many Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian recipes – was found to reduce AST and ALT levels at similar rates as a standardized extract of Silymarin (Milk Thistle’s active liver constituent). In this study, the mushroom was tested against liver injury caused by the drug thioacetamide.

In another study– this from Japan’s Osaka University – found that two different fractions of Shiitake mushrooms (hot-water extraction and ethanol extraction) not only decreased AST and ALT levels, but also inhibited the formation of collagen fibrils – which produce liver fibrosis.

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Liver fibrosis is quite common amongst those with a long history of drinking alcohol or taking pharmaceutical drugs.

The fact that many edible and medicinal mushrooms can not only reduce liver enzymes but also keep the liver from fibrosis lends once again to the conclusion that nature provides the best means for healing in the long run.

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Wong, W.-L.; Abdulla, M.A.; Chua, K.-H.; Kuppusamy, U.R.; Tan, Y.-S.; Sabaratnam, V. Hepatoprotective effects of Panus giganteus(Berk.) Corner against thioacetamide (TAA) induced liver injury in rats. Evid. Based Complement. Alternat. Med. 2012, 2012, 170303.

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Jayakumar, T.; Ramesh, E.; Geraldine, P. Antioxidant activity ofthe oyster mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus, on CCL4-induced liver injury in rats. Food Chem. Toxicol. 2006, 44, 1989–1996.

Akamatsu S, Watanabe A, Tamesada M, Nakamura R, Hayashi S, Kodama D, Kawase M, Yagi K. Hepatoprotective effect of extracts from Lentinus edodes mycelia on dimethylnitrosamine-induced liver injury. Biol Pharm Bull. 2004 Dec;27(12):1957-60.

Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn our health around. As I drove home that night, I realized this knowledge should be available to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.”

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