Shiitake mushrooms can protect you

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Dear Pharmacist: I'm not a fan of fungus, but I've heard that shiitake mushrooms are good for cancer. What do you think? — C.E., Boston

Dear C.E.: I think some mushrooms are amazing! Shiitake, known botanically as Lentinula edodes, are great for immune function. Shiitake extracts also appear to have antiviral (even influenza), antibacterial and antifungal effects. Ironic that fungus fights fungus, but it's basically good fungi (shiitake) killing the pathogenic ones.

A 2009 study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice had data to show that shiitake had "extensive antimicrobial activity against 85 percent of the organisms it was tested on, including 50 percent of the yeast and mould species in the trial."

Researchers isolated a substance called lentinan in shiitake that helps your immune system do a better job of getting rid of cancer cells. They concluded that lentinan helps "prolong the survival of patients with advanced gastric cancer." In another Japanese study, published in Cancer & Chemotherapy, July 2012, researchers looking at shiitake's effects on liver cancer suggested the mushrooms "might be used for alleviating side effects of chemotherapy and preventing the progression of liver cancer for patients with chronic hepatitis." Shiitake is active against the hepatitis B virus, so you might say this is a liver-loving mushroom in many ways. It protects the colon, too.

Many studies have found that shiitake mushrooms are helpful for everyday ailments. Some research shows that shiitake may reduce cholesterol levels in the blood and lower blood pressure. They're also are a natural source of protein and vitamin D.

There are excellent shiitake supplements/extracts sold at health food stores, and you can also buy multitasking formulas that contain different medicinal mushrooms. Those are a little harder to find. Two good ones are MycoPhyto by EcoNugenics or Mushroom Optimizer by Jarrow.

This is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Go to SuzyCohen.com.

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