A type of mushroom found in the forests of Israel may hold promise as a treatment against one of the deadliest forms of cancer. Cyathus striatus, the scientific name for the wild mushroom, has proven effective in treating pancreatic cancer in early animal trials conducted at Haifa University.
While medicinal mushrooms may seem a novelty in modern western medicine, mushrooms have become a standard line of defense against cancer in Japanese medicine as well as some natural and tradition medicine treatment protocols. Professor Solomon Wasser of Haifa University, who is also the editor of the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, is a pioneering leader in the research of medicinal uses for mushrooms in Israel and the world.
Wasserman’s laboratories have been responsible for discovering Ganoderma lucidum, a mushroom that was found to be beneficial to breast and prostate cancer patients as well as Pleurotus ostreatus and Pleurotus eryngii, both mushrooms that help lower LDL, or the ‘bad’ type of cholesterol.
Wasserman also has a living archive of over 1,500 types of mushrooms in his labs, many of which could have medicinal properties that have not yet been identified. He continues to scour the Haifa area for new varieties.
"Just in hunting through the Beit Oren Forest behind Haifa University, I found six strains that were new to science," he noted, pointing out that the untapped potential of the mostly unexplored mushroom colonies around the world.
The real challenge, according to Wasserman, is not the discovery of the mushrooms, but the ability to cultivate them in a commercial setting to be used in medicine.
"Medicinal materials are developed mainly from mushrooms that can be grown in commercial quantities, because otherwise the discovery doesn't have much meaning," Wasserman noted.
He also warned potential novice collectors about the dangers of ingesting some mushrooms. "Only a minority of mushrooms are edible; the majority are poisonous,” he said.