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Fruiting Body Versus Mycelial Extracts
It was previously thought that mycelial extracts might be more potent and cost-effective than the extracts of mushroom fruiting bodies. This concept has not stood up to scrutiny.17 The active constituents in mushrooms consist principally of beta-D-glucans, and secondarily of triterpenoids and ergosterol. Starch is utilized as an indicator of adulteration. Analytical methods that quantify the active compounds demonstrate that mushroom fruiting bodies are high in beta-D-glucans and very low in starch. Mycelium produced on cereal grains is low in beta-D-glucans and high in starch.
Ergosterol analysis shows the actual amount of fungal material in the products. Ergosterol also has antitumor and antioxidant properties18 and is a precursor to vitamin D2. When exposed to sunlight (UVB), mushrooms as well as human skin convert ergosterol to ergocalciferol (provitamin D2).19 Mushrooms grown on natural substrates contain precursors that yield secondary metabolites such as triterpenoids whereas mycelium produced on cereal grains lack such precursors. In addition to playing a complementary role with beta-glucans in immune system activation, triterpenoid actions are also hepatoprotective, lipid lowering, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and inhibit histamine release.20 The triter-penoids are lipids, e.g. ganoderic acids, responsible for the bitter taste of reishi and this bitterness can be used as a quick method of determining the quality of a reishi product.
Beta-D-glucans are a polysaccharide structural component of the cell walls of mushrooms, mycelium, yeast, certain bacteria, and cereal grains. The unique structural differences of beta-D-glucans determine medicinal activity and explain why fungal beta-glucans are more active than cereal beta-glucans.1
Beta-glucans activate or potentiate both innate and adaptive immune responses and have been described as "biological response modifiers" and "host defense" potentiators. Beta-glucans increase the number and functional activity of macrophages, natural killer cells, and other subclasses of T-cells. Beta-glucans are not degraded by digestive enzymes and pass intact into the small intestine where they activate specific beta-glucan receptor sites.18 The immunological potentiation is not only anti-cancer but also increases protection against viral, bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections.21 Beta glucans and protein-bound beta glucans are responsible for the medicinal properties of mushrooms and mycelia. Lentinan, a pure (1→3)beta- D-glucan, is extracted from shiitake mushroom Lentinus edodes. PSK and PSP are protein-bound beta-glucans derived from the fermentation of Trametes mycelium.
Combinations of mushroom extracts may exhibit synergistic effects. A study has shown that Trametes and Ganoderma were more active in inducing apoptosis of leukemia cells compared to Trametes alone. Interestingly, the study also found that ethanolic extracts were more anti-proliferative than aqueous extracts.22
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Dr. Traub received a BS in biological sciences from the University of California, Irvine, in 1976, graduated from NCNM in 1981, and completed a two-year residency there in family practice and homeopathy. He is a diplomate of the Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians (HANP) and a fellow of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology (ABNO), and served on the ABNO Board of Examiners for seven years. Dr. Traub served as AANP President from 2001-2003 and, in 2006, received the AANP Physician of the Year Award. He is the author of Dermatological Diagnosis and Integrative Therapeutics. He serves on the advisory boards of Nutritional Fundamentals for Health, Gaia Herbs, Nordic Naturals, Dermveda, and Kamedis. Dr. Traub has been medical director of Lokahi Health Center in Kailua Kona, Hawaii, since 1986 and is now medical director of Hawaii Integrative Oncology.
Dr. LaBant graduated from National University of the Health Sciences in Lombard, Illinois, in December 2016. This Spring, she began her two-year naturopathic oncology residency program at Lokahi Health Center under the direction of Michael Traub, ND, in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. She was born and raised in northeast Ohio, where she completed her Masters of Health Sciences from Cleveland State University. Dr. LaBant is passionate about endocrine and gastrointestinal health, integrative oncology, preventive health and wellness, as well as the use of botanical medicine, and biotherapeutic drainage therapies. In her time outside of the office, she can be found exploring and hiking the many landscapes of the Big Island.