Natural remedy can help treat breast cancer: study

A study from Dalhousie University suggest that the cordyceps mushroom, used in traditional Chinese medicine, can help treat breast cancer.

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Julie Jordan holds a cordyceps mushroom at the Atlantic Centre for transplantation research at Dalhousie University. Photo: Karen Jouhal

Talk about a magical mushroom.

A study from Dalhousie University suggests that the cordyceps mushroom, used in traditional Chinese medicine, can help treat breast cancer.

While the mushroom can’t help treat the initial cancer lump, it has been shown to decrease the chance of cancer cells moving to the rest of the body. This means breast cancer would be much less deadly, as it wouldn’t have a chance to spread.

Julie Jordan, a researcher at Dalhousie, has been working with the mushroom since 2002 when she started her master’s degree. She discovered so much about the mushroom that she switched to a Ph.D in the middle of her research.

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The cordyceps mushroom. credit: Karen Jouhal

The cordyceps mushroom

It’s Chinese name is Dong Chong Xia Cau Which means winter worm, summer grass.

The mushroom is a parasitic mushroom.

Its spores get inside insects, like caterpillers and start growing. This kills the insects and the mushroom grows inside. By summer time, the mushroom stars growing out of the incest’s body, like summer grass

She began working at the Atlantic Centre for Transplantation Research at Dalhousie as a technician, but was quickly interested in the work being done on the mushroom and Echinacea by Tim Lee.

The cordyceps mushroom has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine. According to Jill Forse, a natural health practioner, it was the medicine of kings. She’s worked in the field for three and a half years in Kentville, N.S.

“It’s always been a luxurious treatment,” she says.

And it still is. If Forse wanted to buy 100 grams of the mushroom from her retailers, it would cost $780.

The benefits of consuming the mushrooms are also high.

According to Chinese medicine, the mushroom tonifies, or strengthens the kidney’s chi, or essence.

“(The) strengthening would be to slow down the aging process and boost the immune system,” said Forse.

One of the greatest benefits to the natural treatment is there are almost no side effects.

Jordan says that she was drawn to study the mushroom because most natural medicine hasn’t had much scientific testing. In countries like Chine and Japan they trust medicine like the mushroom because the have been used for thousands of years, but in western countries, people tend to be more hesitant to use medicine that hasen't been tested there.

“Most of the drugs on the shelves come from natural health products anyway, to some degree . . . whereas something like this hasn’t had a lot of rigorous testing until recently,” says Jordan.

“I had a particular interest in breast cancer,” says Jordan, “just like any other woman would, and I thought it would be interesting to study how this fungal extract could potentially be beneficial in breast cancer.”

The tests were conducted on animal models of breast cancer, Jordan says, mentioning that the animal models are the only effective way to retrieve good reliable test results. During the research, they found the mushroom doesn’t just help treat breast cancer, it could also help transplant patients.

Jordan was having trouble finding positive results when she started working on her study, so she decided to test the mushroom on one of the transplant models in the laboratory.

“We thought it was suppressing the immune system,” Jordan says, “so we tried it on one of the transplant models in the lab because in that situation you want to suppress the immune system response.”

It worked, but when they went back to their breast cancer testing, they found it also affected the spread of the cancer cells.

“It actually had two immune functions; it could stimulate the immune system like in a cancer setting and it could suppress the immune system in a transplant setting, “ said Jordan.

That’s pretty unusual, says Jordan.

“So that’s the next step, (to) figure out what’s doing the job and then hopefully someone is interested and we can go a little further,” says Forse.

Once she figures it out, it could be of interest to pharmaceutical companies, who would continue working on the mushroom, eventually conducting human testing.

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This information is truly amazing ! I do hope that researchers continue working very hard on cures for various cancers. I have lost 2 loved ones to cancer 2 Aunts and my Grandmother who had cancer but did not die from it initially which happen to be relatives of Julie Jordan, I can see where Julie's interest for her research to cure cancer is obvious not only has she lost loved ones but she would like to prevent others of loosing their loved ones.We Love you Julie for your hard work and efforts looking for a cure for this horrible disease. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK !!!

Posted by Yvonne Isiah-Flieger | Jan 22, 2022