This article was written over 2 years ago and accuracy cannot be certain due to advancements in medicine and technology.
Dr Baumann Skin Types
Cosmeceutical Critique: Mushrooms: Part I

Vol. 38, Issue 6, Page 37 (June 2007)

Mushrooms have been used in folk or traditional medicine for thousands of years. Extracts of medicinal mushrooms have been used in China, Japan, and Korea to treat disorders ranging from allergies, arthritis, bronchitis, and scleroderma to cancer, especially of the stomach, esophagus, and lungs. Species of mushrooms used in traditional medicine include Lentinus edodes (shiitake), Ganoderma lucidum (lingzhi in Chinese, reishi in Japanese), Grifola frondosa (maitake), Hericium erinaceum (yamabushitake), Inonotus obliquus (chaga), Schizophyllum commune, Trametes versicolor, Flammulina velutipes, and Cordyceps sinensis (Life Sci. 2004;75:1051–62; Integr. Cancer Ther. 2003;2:358–64; Mini Rev. Med. Chem. 2004;4:873–9; Crit. Rev. Immunol. 1999;19:65–96).

Mushrooms are known to be rife with bioactive compounds such as triterpenes, proteins, lipids, cerebrosides, and phenols. They are also rich in vitamins, fiber, and amino acids, and low in calories, cholesterol, and fat (Mini Rev. Med. Chem. 2004;4:873–9).

A broad review of mushrooms has noted that their polysaccharides prevent carcinogenesis and tumor metastasis and exhibit antitumor effects by activating host immune responses. Consequently, mushrooms are thought to offer great potential as pharmaceuticals and health-promoting agents (Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 2002;60:258–74). Several antitumor polysaccharides have been developed from the fruiting body, mycelia, and culture medium of medicinal mushrooms, including Lentinus edodes, Ganoderma lucidum, and Schizophyllum commune, as well as Trametes versicolor, Inonotus obliquus, and Flammulina velutipes (Crit. Rev. Immunol. 1999;19:65–96).

Because the wide-ranging applications of mushrooms are sufficient to warrant a journal dedicated to the abundant research on the subject (International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms), one column could hardly suffice. As our focus is the supportive research on a botanical that is gaining some notice for its dermatologic applications, we will limit our discussion to the few species used in dermatologic products. G. lucidum, which is known as the “mushroom of immortality,” is featured this month as one of the better-researched mushrooms that is also now used for dermatologic purposes.

G. lucidum

In Asia, G. lucidum is a popular food that is said to foster health and longevity. It also is used as a dietary supplement in the form of tea, powder, or extract (Int. J. Mol. Med. 2006;18:657–64). In traditional Chinese medicine, G. lucidum is an important ingredient for treating immune function disorders (Exp. Oncol. 2006;28:25–9).

Ancient Chinese practitioners used G. lucidum in dried powder form to treat cancer (Integr. Cancer Ther. 2003;2:358–64). The mushroom continues to be used as a home remedy for cancer prevention and treatment, as well as for treating wounds and inflammation (J. Altern. Complement. Med. 2003;9:491–7). Indeed, extracts and isolated components of G. lucidum have exhibited antitumor activity (J. Altern. Complement. Med. 2006;12:777–89; Int. J. Oncol. 2006;29:695–703; Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 2002;298:603–12).

A recent evaluation of the antiproliferative effects of G. lucidum showed that the alcohol extract of the spore might exhibit antitumor and antiangiogenic properties (Oncol. Rep. 2004;12:659–62). The alcohol extract has also been found to dose- and time-dependently inhibit cellular proliferation and induce apoptosis in MCF-7 cells. Investigators have suggested that the antitumor effects of this mushroom species are a result of multiple mechanisms (Int. J. Cancer 2002;102:250–3).

In a study of the mycelium of G. lucidum found in South India, researchers determined that the ethanol extract had antiperoxidative, anti-inflammatory, and antimutagenic properties in rats and mice (Teratog. Carcinog. Mutagen. 2003;Suppl. 1:85–97). The researchers concluded that the extract had medicinal potential.

Also working with G. lucidum found in South India, investigators recently studied the antimutagenic properties of a methanol extract of the mushroom's fruiting bodies. In the Ames Salmonella mutagenicity test, the extract dose-dependently inhibited sodium azide (NaN3), N-methyl-N'-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine, 4-nitro-o-phenylenediamine, and benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P) induced his(+) revertants. In vivo, prior administration of the extract to rats inhibited B[a]P-induced mutagenicity. The extract also prevented hepatic damage and restored the liver's antioxidant defense in response to B[a]P exposure (J. Ethnopharmacol. 2006;107:297–303).

Investigators studied two different fractions of G. lucidum extract (one containing mainly polysaccharides, one a triterpenoid fraction devoid of polysaccharides) to determine their effects on SW 480 human colorectal cancer cells. Both fractions inhibited SW 480 cell proliferation, but the triterpenoid fraction was more potent. The polysaccharide fraction suppressed DNA synthesis in the cancer cells and diminished formation of diphenylpicrylhydrazyl radicals. The investigators concluded that G. lucidum extract exhibits antiproliferative properties against co-lorectal cancer and has antioxidant activity (Exp. Oncol. 2006;28:25–9).

Research also suggests that G. lucidum has potential against other cancers. In a study of highly invasive breast and prostate cancer cells, investigators found that the mushroom's spores and unpurified fruiting body inhibited both types of cancer cells via a common mechanism (inhibition of transcription factors AP-1 and NF-B in breast MDA-MB-231 and prostate PC-3 cancer cells). In addition, the mushroom preparations suppressed cell migration. The researchers concluded that G. lucidum has potential in cancer therapy (Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 2002;298:603–12; Integr. Cancer Ther. 2003;2:358–64).

In a comparison of three Ganoderma species (G. lucidum, G. sinense, and G. tsugae), wildly grown vs. cultivated, researchers found that extracts of all three species inhibited cell proliferation in the human breast cancer cell lines MCF-7 (estrogen dependent) and MDA-MD-231 (estrogen independent). G. tsugae was the most potent (J. Altern. Complement. Med. 2006;12:777–89). Effects on normal human mammary epithelial cells were also considered, with no significant cytotoxic activity observed.

In the same study, the researchers compared different parts of the fruiting body (pileus, stipe, and whole fruiting body). The most potent inhibitory effects in both cancer cell lines were exhibited by extracts from the stipes of G. tsugae and wildly grown G. sinense, and the strongest immunopotentiating activity in mouse splenic lymphocytes was demonstrated by extracts from the stipes of G. lucidum and wildly grown G. sinense.

Jiang and associates, who have been very active in researching G. lucidum, found that the mushroom inhibits cell proliferation in a dose- and time-dependent manner by downregulating the expression of cyclin B and CDC2 and upregulating p21 expression. Apoptosis of PC-3 cancer cells was induced with a slight reduction in NF-B-regulated Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl expression. The research team concluded that multiple mechanisms are activated by G. lucidum against cancer, and that this species offers various potential applications in cancer prevention and treatment (Int. J. Oncol. 2004;24:1093–9). In a subsequent experiment, the same team demonstrated that G. lucidum inhibits proliferation of breast cancer MDA-MB-231 cells by downregulating Akt/NF-B signaling, representing a potential therapeutic avenue for this cancer as well (Nutr. Cancer 2004;49:209–16).

More recent work on angiogenesis related to prostate cancer by most of the same investigators showed that G. lucidum inhibits early angiogenesis, specifically capillary morphogenesis of aortic endothelial cells in vitro. This effect results from the inhibition of constitutively active AP-1 in prostate cancer cells (Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 2005;330:46–52).

Recently, Jiang and colleagues demonstrated that G. lucidum inhibits breast cancer MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cell proliferation and contains compounds that act specifically against estrogen receptor and NF-B signaling, reinforcing the suitability of the mushroom species as an agent for breast cancer prevention and treatment (Int. J. Oncol. 2006;29:695–703). And some of the same researchers showed that G. lucidum hinders oxidative stress-induced migration of MCF-7 breast cancer cells and, thus, warrants consideration as an antioxidant adjuvant in chemotherapy (Int. J. Mol. Med. 2006;18:657–64).

At the Store

The chief dermatologic products that include reishi mushrooms are Aveeno's Active Naturals Positively Ageless and Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Plantidote Mega-Mushroom Face Serum.

Aveeno has combined shiitake and reishi mushrooms in a formulation, called Natural Shiitake Complex, that is designed to promote cell renewal and ameliorate the cutaneous signs of photoaging.

The Origins products—which also include a Plantidote Mega-Mushroom Eye Serum—combine the mushroom species Hypsizygus ulmarius with Cordyceps and reishi with ginger, turmeric, basil, resveratrol, and argan nut oil to “maximize the skin's defenses against aging,” according to Dr. Weil's Web site.


The medicinal qualities of various mushroom species are well established. With emerging evidence of the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antitumorigenic activity of G. lucidum in particular, there is reason to investigate the potential applications of this botanical agent in dermatology. More research is necessary in the form of independent randomized controlled trials to determine the efficacy of new topical formulations that are designed to harness the great potential of this long-used mushroom species.

Mushrooms are being used in dermatologic products to promote cell renewal and “maximize the skin's defenses against aging.” ©Juliet Kaye/FOTOLIA

DR. BAUMANN is director of cosmetic dermatology at the University of Miami. To respond to this column, or to suggest topics for future columns, write to Dr. Baumann at our editorial offices via e-mail at

PII: S0037-6337(07)70431-X


© 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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