A Guide to the Important Medical Mushrooms for Pets
Although all medical mushrooms have in common their beta glucans, each mushroom has a slightly different expression of its medically active components. So we know that there are some mushrooms, like the Turkey Tail for instance, that based on hundreds of years of practical use we have come to learn of its benefits for cancer patients. Likewise, other mushrooms have also been found to have specific medicinal applications, and I’d like to discuss those different mushrooms and their applications here.
Turkey Tail: Also Known as Coriolus versicolor or Trametes versicolor (Chinese = Yun Zhi or Cloud Fungus, Kawaratake)
This mushroom is pretty easy to identify, it has bands of colors across its fan-shaped mushroom cap resembling the colors of a wild turkey’s tail feathers. It is an important part of forest ecology, as it is a recycler of dead and dying trees. Turkey tail is found world wide, with around 15 species found in North America alone. Both the mushroom cap and the mycelial mass manufacture a number of biologically active molecules, many of which have potent anti-cancer properties. There has been more research on this species of mushroom than on any other. In China the mushroom extracts are used extensively for human cancer patients, along with specialized Chinese herbal formulas to break up the cancers. The Chinese medical philosophy believes that cancers are often areas where the energy and the tissues are stagnant and create blockages. By breaking up the stasis in these stagnant areas these herbal formulas help to tear apart the cancer (the herbal formula is a stasis breaker). When used in combination with medical mushrooms like the Turkey Tail these therapies can be very effective.
The best known polysaccharide extracts of the Coriolus turkey tail mushroom are called polysaccharopeptide Krestin (PSK) and polysaccharopeptide (PSP). Krestin is an approved anti-cancer drug in Asia and is responsible for several hundred millions of dollars of sales. In Japan PSK is routinely prescribed to cancer patients both during and after radiation and chemotherapy. When used this way it has been found to help reduce the side-effects of these strong cancer therapies, by reducing the lowered white blood cell counts that are common following radiation or chemotherapy treatments. It was the PSP extract that was used in the study that was performed at the University of Pennsylvania on dogs with splenic hemangiosarcoma.
Reishi Mushroom: Ganoderma lucidum (Chinese: Ling Zhi)
The Ganoderma (or Reishi) mushroom has been called “The herb of Immortality” for centuries. The darkly pigmented, woody textured, flat and shiny, kidney-shaped fruiting body of the mushroom grows widely around the world, and prefers to grow on dead hardwood trees. In the US you can find it on the northern section of the East Coast, the Gulf Coast and the Southwest. It grows widely in Asia, Europe and South America. The ganoderma mushroom is considered to be a tonic and longevity herb because it tonifies and detoxifies. It has been found to improve quality of life in elderly patients. The polysaccharide that Ganoderma produces is called PS-G. It has been found to suppress leukemia cells from dividing, and promoted apoptosis, and death in these cell lines.
Like many mushrooms, the properties that provide Reishi with anti-cancer properties also help with its anti-viral and anti-microbial activity. It has been found that the Ganoderma mushroom has activity against the herpes virus. The triterpenes in ganoderma have been found to have both antioxidant benefits as well as helping to lower blood pressure, and reducing allergic reactions. Other properties that have been determined for the ganoderma mushroom include enhancing bone marrow production, helping to regenerate bronchial epithelium, increases the number of white blood cells, protects against ionizing radiation, reduces the toxic effects of caffeine, and works as a muscle relaxant and analgesic.
Shiitake Mushroom: Lentinula edodes
Its interesting to note that some of the most powerful medicinal mushrooms, are also some of the tastiest mushrooms you could ever eat. In particular, the shiitake mushroom is one of the tastiest of the tasty, when it comes to edible mushrooms. Yet at the same time, it has some of the most potent anti-cancer components and some of the best research showing its scientifically determined ability to decrease blood cholesterol levels, prevent heart disease, reduce blood pressure and fight cancer. Shiitake is a good vitality tonic, and has been found to be especially good for the older pet. Shiitake has been found to turn on the white blood cells to work harder to strengthen the immune response. Shiitake contains a number of substances that have different functions. For instance, in addition to the beta glucans found in its cell wall, it also contains Lentinin, which has anti-tumor and immune-enhancing properties by increasing T lymphocytes and inhibiting viruses. Eritadenine, another compound found in Shiitake, lowers cholesterol, and improves circulation. The LEM, which is a protein bound with Vitamin B compounds and sugars has liver protectant properties as well as being able to stimulate the immune system via the T lymphocytes and NK t cells to have anti-viral and anti-tumor properties.
How to Give Mushrooms to Dogs and Cats
Fortunately for most pet parents, most mushrooms taste pretty good. The ganoderma (Reishi mushroom) as powerful as it is, unfortunately is quite bitter, and many pets don’t like the taste. If the ganoderma is blended with more bland tasting mushrooms then it might be accepted. There are no accepted dosages for mushrooms based on scientific studies in dogs and cats, but they are harmless, and in many cases more is better. Of course you can only give as much as your pet will accept if it comes in a loose powder. If its encapsulated you can get a lot more into your pet. Cats are not dogs, and often are pickier about what they will or won’t accept, so what has worked for me to help cat parents get the good stuff into their picky kitty, is to start by giving a very tiny amount, and mix it with some tasty food that they would kill for. This way they get a little taste, but think that it tastes mostly like the good stuff. Then, slowly over a period of several days to a week, gradually increase the amount of mushroom mixed with the bribe food, until they are getting an optimal dosage. For powder, with cats, I usually start with a pinch and work up to a 1/4 teaspoon, ideally twice daily. For dogs, who aren’t as discriminating, they can take as much as a tablespoon twice daily with no problems. For special mushroom extracts, like the PSP Coriolus mushroom extract, the dosage is based on weight. Give 1 capsule for every 10 pounds of body weight daily. Cat are always a challenge, but often that is what attracts cat people to cat “fur people”. Here is an interesting article about the difference between cat and dog people: http://topreveal.com/cat-owners-vs-dog-owners