Agaricus extract may benefit patients with certain cancers. But more studies are needed to confirm these observations.
Agaricus blazei is an edible mushroom grown in Brazil and Japan. It is used to treat arteriosclerosis, hepatitis, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, dermatitis, and cancer. Laboratory studies and experiments done in mice have shown that agaricus can stimulate the immune system and has anticancer effects. Compounds present in agaricus prevent formation of blood vessels needed for tumor development.
There are no clinical data to support this use.
One study showed that agaricus extract taken orally, improved the quality of life in patients with gynecological cancers.
Agaricus is used in traditional medicine to treat hepatitis and a small clinical study showed that agaricus helps improve liver function in patients with hepatitis B.
There are limited in vitro and animal data suggesting that agaricus mushroom has antidiabetic effects. One small clinical study showed that agaricus reduced blood glucose levels in healthy subjects.
One small clinical study showed that agaricus reduced cholesterol level in healthy subjects.
There are no clinical data to support this use.
Do Not Take If
You are allergic to agaricus or other mushrooms.
You are taking drugs that are substrates of Cytochrome P450 3A4 (agaricus may increase the risk of side effects of these drugs).
May cause liver damage in cancer patients.
Cheilitis (swelling of the lip) has also been reported.
Agaricus blazei is an edible mushroom native to Brazil and is cultivated in Japan for medicinal uses. It has been used to treat arteriosclerosis, hepatitis, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, dermatitis, and cancer. The polysaccharides and anti-angiogenic compounds present in agaricus are thought to be responsible for its antitumor properties. Agaricus was also shown to have antidiabetic effects in vitro and in animal studies (8)(9).
Studies using agaricus extracts suggest beneficial effects including improving insulin resistance in diabetic patients (10)(11); reducing weight, body fat, and serum glucose and cholesterol levels in healthy individuals (12); and improving quality of life in patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis (30).
The anticancer potential of agaricus has been explored in a few studies as well. The antitumor and immunomodulatory effects of agaricus have been shown to be via immunopotentiation or direct inhibition of angiogenesis (3)(4)(6)(21)(22). And an agaricus extract enhanced doxorubicin-induced apoptosis against drug-resistant human hepatocellular carcinoma (24). Oral administration of the extract improved the natural killer cell activity and quality of life in gynecological cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy (7). Preliminary data show that daily intake of agaricus powder improves quality of life among cancer patients in remission (26); and supplementation with an agaricus extract resulted in immunomodulatory effects, although no improvements were reported in survival in patients with multiple myeloma (29). Agaricus extract did not confer any benefits in elderly females (25). Larger studies are needed to resolve the ambiguity.
Whereas a small study reported that agaricus extract may improve liver function in patients with hepatitis B (13), liver damage and deaths (14) along with cheilitis (15) have been reported following consumption. Brefeldin A, a compound isolated from agaricus, was shown to have estrogenic activity, but did not stimulate growth of breast cancer cells (27).
Agaricus is an edible fungus. It is available as freeze-dried mushroom or as concentrated liquid extracts, teas, or capsules. The whole mushroom is often added to soups, sauces, or hot teas.
Mechanism of Action
Agaricus extract was shown to exert estrogen-like activity and may help prevent atherosclerosis via dual roles in cell signaling, macrophage development suppression and endothelial cell recovery from vascular damage (16). Both aqueous and organic extracts of agaricus offered protection to cells exposed to methyl methanesulphonate, a mutagenic agent. The stimulus produced by linoleic acid on beta-DNA polymerase, an enzyme involved in repair mechanism following exposure of DNA to alkylating agents, is thought responsible for such an effect (19).
Ergosterol, a major constituent of agaricus, was found to inhibit tumor growth in mice via direct inhibition of tumor-induced angiogenesis (6). Other studies demonstrated that polysaccharides present in agaricus extract caused activation of macrophages (5) or natural killer cells (17) and induced cytotoxic T-lymphocyte activity in tumor-bearing mice. Specifically, activation of natural killer cells was mediated through IL-12-induced IFN-gamma expression (18). Furthermore, agaricus extract stimulates caspase 3 activation and reduces telomerase activity (19) possibly through regulation of Akt signaling (20) thereby inducing apoptosis in cancer cell lines. Blazeispirol A, produced by agaricus fermentation, causes both caspase-dependent and -independent cell death in human Hep 3B cells (21). Agaritine, a hydrazine-containing constituent also exhibits anti-tumor activity toward U937 leukemic cells mediated through apoptosis (22). In another study, polysaccharides isolated from agaricus were shown to induce apoptosis in HL-60 cells through a signaling cascade of mitochondrial caspase-3-dependent pathway (28).
An in vitro study suggests that agaricus extract has estrogen-like activity (16) and therefore should be used with caution. Patients with hormone-sensitive cancer should discuss its use with their physician.
Hypersensitivity to agaricus.
Consumption of agaricus has been associated with hepatic dysfunction in cancer patients (14).