Medicinal Mushrooms

What are medicinal mushrooms?

Medicinal mushrooms are a group of fungi that are used to treat and prevent several different diseases or to promote general health. Examples of medicinal mushrooms include maitake (Grifola frondosa, Polyporous umbellatus, Grifola umbellatus, and Boletus frondosus), shiitake (Lentinus edodes), reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), cordyceps (Cordyceps ophioglossoides), and turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) mushrooms. It is important to note that not all mushrooms are medicinal, and some mushrooms are toxic and deadly.

"It is important to note that not all mushrooms are medicinal, and some
mushrooms are toxic and deadly."

The active ingredients in medicinal mushrooms include polysaccharides (complex sugars), proteins, and glycoproteins (sugar-protein compounds), and they are commonly used as anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting supplements. Other conditions that have been treated with medicinal mushrooms include diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, lung disease, infection, gastrointestinal disease, and nerve disease.

Dietary supplements are substances that can be used to supplement the diet, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, botanicals, enzymes, and probiotics. While many supplements are sold over the counter, they still contain ingredients that have biological effects that should be managed by your veterinarian. Follow your veterinarian’s directions and cautions very carefully as their directions may be significantly different from those on the label.

There are differences in how countries regulate supplements. In the United States, these substances are not as vigorously regulated by the FDA as other medications, which means they can be sold without the manufacturer proving their effectiveness, safety, and without a guarantee of consistent or accurately reported ingredients. In Canada, products that have been evaluated for quality, safety, and effectiveness by Health Canada and authorized for sale will have a license number on the label.

 

How effective are medicinal mushrooms?

Limited studies in companion animals have been performed, but there is anecdotal evidence that medicinal mushrooms work to treat cancer and other diseases by increasing the effectiveness and activity of immune system cells. There is also some promising evidence in human studies, although more rigorous clinical studies are needed for each mushroom type.

 

How are medicinal mushrooms given?

Medicinal mushrooms are given by mouth in the form of capsules, powder, chewable tablets, or liquid extracts. Mushrooms may be given with or without food; however, if stomach upset occurs when dosed on an empty stomach, give future doses with food. Measure liquid forms carefully.

 

What if I miss giving my pet the supplement?

Give the missed dose as soon as you remember, and then wait the recommended amount of time between doses. Never give your pet two doses at once or give extra doses.

 

Are there any potential side effects?

Studies are limited for this supplement and therefore information regarding side effects is also limited. Side effects depend on the type of mushroom used and may include upset stomach, diarrhea, dizziness, and skin rash. Serious side effects may indicate a toxicity and can include seizures, severe vomiting or diarrhea, increased drinking, lack of appetite, yellowing of the skin or eyes, or weakness.

 

Are there any risk factors for this supplement?

Studies are limited for this supplement and therefore information regarding risk factors is also limited. Risk factors depend on the type of mushroom used, but in general, do not use medicinal mushrooms in pets that are allergic to mushrooms. Medicinal mushrooms should be used cautiously in pets with bleeding disorders, low blood pressure, liver or kidney disease, or immune-mediated disorders. They should be used cautiously in pregnant or nursing pets, as safety has not been established. Do not use medicinal mushrooms without veterinary monitoring, as prolonged use or high doses may cause harm.

 

Are there any drug interactions I should be aware of?

The following medications should be used with caution when given with medicinal mushrooms: insulin or other diabetes medications, anti-inflammatories, anti-coagulants, or immune modulators.

Vitamins, herbal therapies, and supplements have the potential to interact with each other, as well as with prescription and over the counter medications. It is important to tell your veterinarian about any medications (including all vitamins, supplements, or herbal therapies) that your pet is taking.

 

Is there any monitoring that needs to be done with this supplement?

There is no specific monitoring that needs to be done while your pet is taking this medication. Your veterinarian may monitor your pet to be sure that the medication is working.

 

How do I store medicinal mushrooms?

In general, store this supplement in a cool, dry place, protected from light. There are many formulations and manufacturers of medicinal mushrooms, so always follow the specific storage instructions on the product label.

 

What should I do in case of emergency?

If you suspect an overdose or an adverse reaction to the medication, call your veterinary office immediately. If they are not available, follow their directions in contacting an emergency facility.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Rania Gollakner, BS, DVM, MPH

© Copyright 2020 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

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