Shiitake mushrooms and their use as an IV cancer drug in Japan, relate to AHCC and how it works
Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) mushrooms are the second most commonly cultivated edible mushrooms in the world. Native to Asia, they are also called Black Forest mushroom, Lentinula, Pasania fungus, Hua Gu, Golden Oak Mushroom and Oakwood mushroom. Medicinal use of shiitake mushrooms dates as far back as 100 A.D. in China. Today, Shiitake mushrooms are extremely popular in the West as both a specialty food product and as a dietary supplement.
Since the 1960s, a large number of studies have been undertaken to determine the health benefits of Shiitake, particularly those that relate to cancer. Shiitake has been licensed by the Japanese FDA as a leading prescription for cancer treatments and Shiitake extracts are used in a wide variety of herbal remedies. In particular, two compounds extracted from the mushroom are of significant benefit to cancer patients: Lentinan and AHCC. Lentinan is a beta glucan that may prevent the increase of chromosomal damage induced by anti-cancer drugs, and AHCC (activated hexose containing compound) helps reduce the side effects of cancer treatment and inhibits tumour activity.
AHCC is produced from the mycelia of Shiitake and was originally formulated to lower high blood pressure. In 1992, researchers published results indicating AHCC’s highly beneficial influence on the immune system. It is the world’s most researched specialty immune supplement with over 100 supporting research studies. Today it is used in over 700 Japanese clinics and hospitals. AHCC has been extensively studied in human trials with research conducted in Japan, China, Korea, Thailand, Spain and the US. For example, a 2009 study entitled Alleviating effect of active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) for anticancer drug-induced side effects in non-tumor-bearing mice, (Pubmed), concluded, “These results support the concept that AHCC can be beneficial for cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.”1 In Japan, it is legally identified as a “functional food,” is available without a prescription, and is frequently used for general health and wellbeing as well as for serious medical conditions.
AHCC’s primary mode of action is its powerful immune boosting capability. This allows it to help a wide range of conditions from colds and flu to cancer, hepatitis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Essentially the body has two types of immunity, innate and adaptive. Innate immunity addresses immediate, non-specific threats (e.g. a cold or flu), while the adaptive immune system is slower to respond but produces specific responses to specific threats (e.g. cancer cells in a particular organ). The innate system comprises chemical messengers called cytokines, natural killer (NK) cells, (a type of white blood cell that destroys infected or abnormal cells), macrophages (a white blood cell type that ingests bacteria), and dendritic cells (white blood cells that introduce foreign substances to the B and T cells for identification and destruction). Adaptive Immunity consists of B and T cells (white blood cells that create a specific destruction for a specific invader.
AHCC has in numerous clinical trials demonstrated its ability to: increase the production of cytokines; increase the activity of NK cells by 300-800%; double the number of macrophages; increase the number of dendritic cells and; increase the number of T cells by as much as 200%. A study published in the Journal of Hepatology compared 113 post-operative liver cancer patients taking AHCC with 156 patients in a control group. The AHCC group had significantly lower recurrence of malignant tumors (34% versus 66%) and achieved a significantly greater overall survival rate (80% versus 52%). 2
In addition to cancer, Shiitake is frequently utilized in cases of high-cholesterol, immunostimulation and to treat persistent, serious infections, such as those that rapidly sread through hospitals. This is why it is routinely given to compromised immune patients when they check into Japanese hospitals for any type of treatments.
Another benefit of Shiitake which has recently been identified, is an extremely powerful antioxidant called L-ergothioneine which had previously been identified in chicken liver and wheat germ. Other antioxidants including selenium, uric acid and vitamins A,C and E, are also present in this mushroom power-house.
In general, Shiitake, and any of its extracts, have little to no side-effects. In addition, there appear to be no negative effects from incorporating Shitake extracts into existing health regimens as it seems to work well with other drugs, herbs and treatments. However, people with fungal allergies have occasionally developed throat, skin. nose or lung irritation.
1. Shigama K, Nakaya A, Wakame K, Nishioka H, Fujii H.Alleviating effect of active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) for anticancer drug-induced side effects in non-tumor-bearing mice. Amino Up Chemical Co., Ltd., 363-32 Shin-ei, Kiyota, Sapporo 004-0839, Japan.
2. Matsui Y, Uhara J, Satoi S, Kaibori M, Yamada H, Kitade H, Imamura A, Takai S, Kawaguchi Y, Kwon A, Kamiyama Y (2002). “Improved prognosis of postoperative hepatocellular carcinoma patients when treated with functional foods: a prospective cohort study”. J Hepatol 37 (1): 78–86. DOI:10.1016/S0168-8278(02)00091-0. PMID 12076865.