Mushrooms are the so called ‘vegetarian’s meat’, high in B12, selenium and various other great vitamins and minerals. Some of the Japanese mushrooms, like the Reishi, have achieved a sacred status among the ancient cultures of the world, revered for their medicinal properties. So what is it that makes mushrooms so special?
Mushrooms and cancer
Mushrooms of various varieties are being investigated for their use in cancer treatment. Interestingly, when used in combination, mushrooms are more potent than used alone. It seems the combination amplifies their abilities.
Studies of the fore-mentioned Reishi mushroom show that it has very promising anti-cancer properties, particularly in relation to its active constituents, the triterpenoids.
These compounds have the ability to halt the life cycle of a tumour cell at several stages. Triterpenoids can prevent the growth of new blood vessels to the tumour, promote tumour cell death, and prevent the spread of cancer to other areas of the body.
The Shiitake mushroom was one of the first to have identifiable anti-cancer properties. However, unlike other natural anti-carcinogens, it is not the mushroom itself that is anti-cancer, but rather the effect that it has on the body. It stimulates the immune system to be more aware of cells that have become defective, which can then be eradicated before they proliferate further. Shiitake strengthens the immune system by promoting the maturation, differentiation and multiplication of cells involved in host defence (immune) mechanisms.
The Maitake mushroom is also known for its anti-tumour properties. Studies have shown that Maitake is able to provoke an immune response against carcinogenic cells by inducing cell mediated immunity. 
When cooking mushrooms, sautéing or grilling is the best way to prepare them. Of course, you can also eat them raw! They can be added to almost anything, and the larger varieties are even a great meal on their own, stuffed with goats cheese (or feta), spinach or rocket. There are now many varieties available in local supermarkets, including the ones mentioned here – so there’s no excuse…have some mushrooms with dinner tonight and start enjoying the health benefits straight away!
Key words: Reishi, Maitake, Shiitake, cancer, immunity, anti-carcinogenic
 Wu, G.S et al. Anti-cancer properties of triterpenoides isolated from Ganoderma lucidum: a review. Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2013 Aug;22(8):981-92
 Ganeshpukar. A et al. Medicinal mushrooms: towards a new horizon. Pharmacogn Rev. 2010 Jul-Dec; 4(8): 127–135.
Masuda. Y et al. A polysaccharide extracted from Grifola frondosa enhances the anti-tumor activity of bone marrow-derived dendritic cell-based immunotherapy against murine colon cancer. Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2010 Oct;59(10):1531-41