For many years, conventional medicine has incorporated botanical compounds into pharmacology, leveraging the powerful components of many plants and fungi alongside synthetic compounds to create medications. Mushrooms are one example of this. However, more and more research continues to emerge concerning mushrooms and their medicinal qualities when used on their own.
Research indicates that medicinal mushrooms—particular species of fungi that contain powerful medicinal qualities—may provide outstanding benefits to sick pets. One focal area of medicinal mushroom research is their benefits to pets with cancer.
If your pup or kitty has been diagnosed with cancer and there appears to be little more you can do to help, consider adding medicinal mushrooms to his or her treatment regimen. The anti-viral, anti-cancer and immune-supporting properties of these interesting fungi may provide surprising results and give your cat or dog a better quality of life.
What are medicinal mushrooms?
Medicinal mushrooms are not the same kinds of mushrooms as the ones you’d find in a store or cook with. A number of different species contain medicinal qualities, including anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-cancer or anti-tumor properties. These mushrooms help to support your pet’s natural defense systems, allowing for faster recovery. They may also provide powerful antioxidants to reduce cell damage by free radicals, as well as maintain blood cells that help eliminate cancer cells.
Medicinal mushrooms contain polysaccharides, specifically beta-glucans, which are some of their most appreciated compounds. Beta-glucans bind to receptors on white blood cells in the intestines. From there, the white blood cells carry them to various organs, lymph nodes and bone marrow, where the beta-glucans help improve immune system function. Overall, these compounds can activate the immune system to help the body more effectively fight off cancer metastasis, or spreading, and repair damaged tissues.
Many medicinal mushrooms also contain terpenes, alkaloids, sterols, phenolic compounds, proteins and fatty acids, each of which contributes to the immune response in its own way.
Some of the most popular medicinal mushrooms include:
- Cordyceps: This mushroom has been shown to be beneficial in both human and animal patients. It contains anti-tumor and anti-mutagenic properties and can also help balance the endocrine system. Cordyceps is also thought to be “life enhancing.”
- Maitake: Maitake contains lots of beta-glucans and is believed to have anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties. It is also known for supporting brain function, nerve function, stable blood pressure and reduced blood sugar.
- Reishi: Reishi is one of the most common medicinal mushrooms used for cancer in pets and is often blended with other mushrooms for enhanced effects. It stimulates the immune system—particularly natural “killer” cells—and may also help support the liver and provide antioxidants.
- Shiitake: The Shiitake mushroom contains phytochemicals including enzymes, amino acids and minerals to provide vitality and energy. It is also known to support the immune system and cellular functions, helping to fight cancer by stimulating white blood cells and antibodies.
- Turkey Tail: In recent research, Turkey Tail mushrooms have been proven to improve survival in canine hemangiosarcoma patients, delaying the progression of cancer and extending survival times in pets. It also has powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-viral effects.
In the supplement market, medicinal mushrooms may be blended together to mix the powerful properties of each mushroom and provide synergistic effects.
One of the biggest benefits of medicinal mushroom treatments is the lack of severe side effects. Very few side effects have been reported in pets at all, allowing pet owners to feel safe when administering this natural treatment.
Mushrooms and pet cancer
Medicinal mushrooms have the power to aid in a wide range of diseases because of their immune-bolstering effects. However, they have been particularly notable in the treatment of cancer.
Medicinal mushrooms may be a useful alternative form of treatment to help pets undergoing more conventional cancer treatments. They are often complementary, used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation therapy to help cats and dogs cope more easily. However, they can also be used alone.
Numerous types of mushrooms have been shown to be effective in tumor treatment in dogs with cancer. The mushrooms do not have a direct effect on cancer cells. Instead, they influence the immune system to have increased immune responses around cancerous cells.
Administering medicinal mushroom to your furry friend with cancer may help prevent the future development of tumors, may reduce the size of existing tumors and may prevent existing tumors from spreading.
In addition to cancer, medicinal mushrooms may be beneficial in treating other diseases by supporting the immune system and encouraging the repair of organ tissues. Kidney and liver disease, in particular, may be treated effectively through medicinal mushrooms.
A prescription is not necessary to purchase medicinal mushrooms for your ill pet. However, you should exercise precaution and research any company you consider purchasing medicinal mushrooms from, as well as research the types of mushrooms offered. Certain mushrooms may be more effective on particular types of cancer.
If you think medicinal mushrooms will help your beloved canine, consult your veterinarian to learn about the best types of medicinal mushrooms for their particular ailments.