Medicinal Mushrooms Cut Herpes Suffering Time in Half
GMI Research Group, Guest
Mushrooms, both wild and cultivated, have been prized for their medicinal value for more than 2,000 years. A staple of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ganoderma lucidum or lingzhi mushroom, commonly called reishi, are among the rarest and most prized of therapeutic, edible fungi.
Deemed by ancient healers as the “mushroom of immortality,” reishis are large, dark mushrooms with a shiny, slick surface and “woody” texture, which is unsurprising, considering that they grow on old, hardwood trees. In order to meet culinary and medicinal demands for this valued mushroom, reishis are now actively cultivated in different varieties, using wood chips and logs as growing mediums.
One potential benefit of supplementing with this superfood is its proven ability to ease the painful symptoms from recurrent herpes simplex viral infections.
Herpes: A Global Epidemic
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 3.7 billion people (nearly 70% of adults worldwide under age 50) are infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Often referred to as “oral herpes,” this type generally presents with lesions known as “cold sores” on or around the mouth. HSV-1 is mainly transmitted via oral-to-oral contact but can also cause genital herpes via oral-to-genital contact.
An estimated 417 million people from this same group (around 11% of adults under 50 worldwide) have HSV type 2 infections (HSV-2), or genital herpes. Both types of herpes are considered lifelong infections with no known cure.
While most herpes infections are asymptomatic, for some sufferers, outbreaks are severe and can recur frequently. Symptoms include painful blisters at the site of infection, open ulcerations that burn and weep, and chronic itching. Non-physical symptoms can be acute, including shame and a desire for physical isolation due to social stigma surrounding infection.
Mushrooms Speed Relief of Herpes Symptoms
With no known cures and few effective treatments, scientists are focused on finding ways to help sufferers manage this often-debilitating condition more effectively. It was to this end that researchers at the Toyodo Hijikata Clinic and Kansai Medical University in Osaka, Japan, conducted a clinical experiment on medicinal mushrooms’ ability to improve recovery time for patients suffering from outbreaks due to HSV-2.
Published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, the paper details the attempt to reduce the amount of time needed for patients afflicted by genital herpes outbreaks to return to an asymptomatic state using an herbal mixture comprised primarily of reishi-type mushrooms.
A total of 28 adults participated in this clinical study. These individuals had experienced recurrent herpes outbreaks for more than one year and had received standard outpatient care at other medical facilities without improvement.
The treatment mixture, a combination of two, powdered reishi-type mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum, Elfuinga applanata) and other traditional herbal remedies such as water chestnut and tropical almond, was administered to test subjects, while the control group received no treatment.
According to published results, the difference was dramatic: the mushroom and herb mixture provided “…fast, effective relief from symptoms of recurrent herpes (genitalis and labialis).” Herpes genitalis sufferers experienced a decrease in symptomatic time of more than 50% compared to the control group, with an average 4.9 days to recovery from pain and associated symptoms, while the group receiving no treatment required 10.9 days before relief was experienced.
Similarly, the time required to obtain relief from herpes labialis was nearly eight days without treatment but only four days when patients received the herbal supplement.
Effective Relief From Herpes Pain
A similar study provides reliable confirmation of the power of mushrooms to inhibit the pain associated with herpes outbreaks. Herpes zoster is another type of herpetic infection caused by reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox.
Also called “shingles,” herpes zoster is characterized by ulcerative lesions on the skin forming a painful rash-type cluster of blisters that can be slow to heal. Current conventional treatment protocols include oral antiviral medications, as well as pain medications to provide relief from these outbreaks.
The 2005 study, a pilot clinical trial, was published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine. Researchers provided a hot water extract of herbs containing Ganoderma lucidum, aka reishi mushroom, to five patients suffering from shingles. According to published results, pain relief was experienced within a few days of intake, with near-complete pain relief by day 10 of administration of the herbal extract.
Relief was experienced by patients of all ages (from 17 to 74 years) and in all outbreak locations (head, legs and lower body). Patients responded quickly to treatment and after more than one year of follow-up examinations, no patient had developed post-herpetic neuralgia, a lingering pain that is the most common after-effect of shingles.
Are Mushrooms a Prescription for Long Life?
Reishi mushrooms have been widely studied in modern medical research, with many of their traditional therapeutic powers confirmed.
Known for their ability to boost the circulatory and immune systems, people supplement with reishi mushrooms for health conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and to improve cardiovascular health, among other documented benefits. Some of the properties attributed to reishis include their ability to:
- Enhance disease resistance
- Reduce stress
- Improve sleep
- Lessen fatigue
- Support detoxification
- Suppress tumor growth
- Inhibit the formation of certain cancers
Mushrooms as Nutritional Medicine
Mushrooms are often considered a vegetable but are in fact a type of edible fungus. Rich in selenium, niacin, potassium, vitamins D and B3, as well as copper and iron, mushrooms are potent antioxidants that activate the immune system, eradicate dangerous free radicals and ensure proper functioning of nerves and muscles.
While eating reishi mushrooms is less common due to their tough, woody texture and bitter taste, this healing powerhouse is widely available as a tea and in both liquid and powdered extract formulas.
Red reishis have the longest history of medicinal use and have been shown to be effective in the treatment of a wide range of health conditions. Unlike other mushrooms, only the reishi (Lingzhi) has triterpenes (ganoderic acid), an important compound that gives them their bitter taste and is widely believed to be responsible for reishi’s amazing pharmacological effects.
Finally, mushrooms have a beneficial effect on the all-important microbiome, contributing a prebiotic effect by encouraging proliferation of healthy gut bacteria, resulting in better digestion, anti-aging effects and improved metabolic processes, including potential weight loss. This effect is attributed to the cobweb-like mycelium that make up the mushrooms’ structure, and connects mushroom clusters underground via a network of intelligent signaling pathways.
Explore the many healing effects of medicinal mushrooms and take advantage of Mother Nature’s infinite healing intelligence. GreenMedInfo has an in-depth database of nutritional-medical research. Find out more by exploring the 138 abstracts reishi mushrooms and their miraculous healing potential.
About the Author
The GMI Research Group (GMIRG) is dedicated to investigating the most important health and environmental issues of the day. Special emphasis will be placed on environmental health. Our focused and deep research will explore the many ways in which the present condition of the human body directly reflects the true state of the ambient environment.
 Am J Chin Med. 2005;33(4):517-23.
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