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5 Cancer-Fighting Mushrooms and their Amazing Health Benefits

5 Cancer-Fighting Mushrooms and their Amazing Health Benefits

Edible mushrooms are the unsung heroes of natural medicine. They pack essential nutrients and vitamins that have the exceptional ability to boost our immune system and reduce the risk of terrible diseases like cancer and diabetes. Also, they taste amazing, or at least the gourmet mushrooms do!

Today, we take a look at five of the most common mushrooms that you can buy, harvest in the wild or even grow at home using an edible mushroom growing kit. We explain their health benefits and help you decide which ones are best for you.

Read on to discover the remarkable healing powers of edible tree fungi!

Reishi Mushrooms: Uses, Side Effects, and Health Benefits

Also known as “lingzhi,” the reishi mushroom is a rare type of fungus that grows on trees in hot and humid regions of Southeast Asia. It has been a staple ingredient in Chinese traditional medicine for millennia. In recent years, the powder extracted from dried reishi has become a frequent component of health supplements due to its cancer-fighting properties.

Uses & Characteristics

Reishi mushrooms have an oval, kidney-like shape and boast a dark red varnish that makes them easy to differentiate from other bracket funguses that grow on trees. If you spot one in a natural habitat, you will notice its soft, puffy texture and its fragrance that resembles burnt wood.

While you can eat fresh reishi mushrooms, most people leave them to dry before grinding them into a fine powder. Due to their extremely bitter taste, reishi are not optimal for cooking. Instead, you can follow in the steps of Chinese traditional doctors who have been using reishi powder infusions for centuries to treat affections of the heart, liver, and kidneys.

Health Benefits

Reishi mushrooms have amazing health benefits, as this medical study reveals. Consuming them regularly should increase white cell production in your body, which in turn enhances your immune system. White cells are the natural killer cells that keep your system safe from infections and inflammations.

Other reishi benefits for your well-being may include:

  • Reduced risk of cancer

  • Diminished fatigue

  • Better heart health

  • Improved mood

  • Stress alleviation

  • Blood sugar levels control

Additionally, reishi mushrooms are rich in antioxidants. In combination with other natural ingredients, reishi powder should help fight off viral infections, and reduce the pain of genital herpes and cold sores.

Side Effects

Consuming Reishi mushrooms in excess may have adverse side effects on your health, such as:

  • Liver damage

  • An upset stomach

  • Nasal itchiness

  • Bloody stools

Reishi mushroom powder also acts as a blood thinner. Therefore, you should avoid consuming it in combination with blood-thinning medicine or before you have to undergo surgery.

How to grow reishi mushrooms at home

Through the human introduction, reishi mushrooms have adapted to growing on trees in various regions of the world from North America to Australia. The good news is that you can grow them at home just as easily.

To plant reishi in your home, you will need a mushroom growing kit. This kind of equipment usually consists of a block of wood covered in reishi spores inside a bag. All you need to do is to keep it under a fluorescent light in a dark room and spray it with water several times per day. These humid conditions will provide you with the first baby reishi mushrooms in about two months.

You can harvest the mushrooms when the reishi antlers hit the top of the bag and begin twirling back around themselves. Leave them to dehydrate for a few weeks before using them in teas or tinctures.

Maitake Mushrooms: Uses, Side Effects, and Health Benefits

The maitake mushroom is a type of perennial fungus that grows in various regions of China, Japan, Europe, and North America.

Depending on the area where you encounter it, you may find that people refer to this mushroom in different terms. The Japanese call it “maitake”, which stands for the dancing mushroom. English speakers name it hen-of-the-woods, ram's head and sheep's head. While the Italians call it “la signorina,” which means the young lady.

Uses & Characteristics

The maitake mushroom grows at the base of large trees from fist-sized sprouting fungus. The edible part expands in a cluster of brownish-grey tubes that often curl and twist to resemble the dress of a lady dancer, hence its popular names in different cultures. The cluster may grow to as much as 100 cm in diameter.

The maitake mushroom is a frequent ingredient in Japanese cuisine. Its beneficial health properties have also earned its presence in various concoctions in traditional medicine and modern supplements.

Health Benefits

Although medical research is scarce on its healing properties, some clinical studies have found that the maitake mushroom may have potential health benefits for:

  • Alleviatingtype-2 diabetes alterations

  • Decreasing the risk of tumors

  • Reducing infertility

  • Lowering blood sugar

  • Diminishing lipid levels

  • Improving the autoimmune system

Maitake mushrooms are also rich in antioxidants and vitamins B and C. They contain fiber and minerals that improve digestion and amino acids that improve your overall immunity against illnesses. Since they are fat-free, and low in calories and cholesterol, these mushrooms make the ideal culinary ingredient for people who want to lose weight or prevent diabetes.

Side Effects

Consuming maitake mushrooms should not lead to any health complications unless you have an autoimmune disorder if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

These mushrooms are easier to digest when you cook them, so it is best to avoid eating them fresh to prevent indigestion. Additionally, you should refrain from consuming it before you have to undergo surgery due to its blood-thinning properties.

How to grow maitake mushrooms at home

You can easily grow maitake indoors with the help of an edible mushroom growing kit. You need to set it up in a cultivation room under fluorescent light and where you should keep temperatures between 60-70°F and relative humidity between 60-65%.

You should be able to harvest mature maitake mushrooms after about 3 or 4 months after installing the kit. The best time to consume them is when they are young. The older they get the harder it will be to digest.

Morel Mushrooms: Uses, Side Effects, and Health Benefits

The morel is the gourmet mushroom that every chef wants to include in the specialty dishes of a high-end restaurant. These mushrooms are difficult to find and usually come with a hefty price tag. They grow in the forests and prairies of North America, India, and Northern Europe, but only in spring and early summer.

Uses & Characteristics

Morel mushrooms have a recognizable honeycomb-like shape and grow at the basis of large trees in hot and humid climates. They grow as large as your hand and come in a variety of colors that range from pale white to dark brown.

Due to their rich, earthy taste, morels usually end mostly in culinary dishes. They have important health-inducing properties, minerals, and antioxidants, but they are rarely part of medicine or supplements.

Health Benefits

Unless you have a morel mushroom growing kit at home, you will have to buy this precious fungus from farmers’ markets or stores. More hardcore mushroom enthusiasts harvest them directly from the wild. Regardless of where you get morels, and in what form (fresh, dried, supplement), you should consume them to enjoy these essential health benefits:

  • Cancer prevention

  • Anti-oxidative action

  • Blood sugar levels balance

  • Liver damage repair

  • Enhanced autoimmune protection

Morel mushrooms are also rich in iron, zinc, and copper among other minerals. They pack a healthy punch of vitamin D, protein and fiber. As a result, they are ideal for people who struggle with vitamin deficiency and indigestion.

Side Effects

Consuming raw or undercooked morel mushrooms may lead to indigestion. People who have fungus allergies may also experience vomiting and nausea. Ideally, you should always cook these fungi well to remove the natural toxins in them that usually cause an upset stomach.

How to grow morel mushrooms at home

It is difficult to grow your own morel mushroom at home, but not impossible. The end result may not have the earthy, woody flavor of the ones that grow in the wild, but they will taste great nonetheless. Also, they will cost you less money and trouble.

You can use a morel mushroom growing kit that you buy online to grow the first spawns of morels. Set up the kit under a tree in the yard, preferably in late summer or early autumn to allow the fungus to develop until spring comes along.

Seasoned morel growers should confirm that it takes several tries to obtain a successful harvest, and it may take up to two years to see the first morels spawning from the ground.

Porcini Mushrooms: Uses, Side Effects, and Health Benefits

If you are familiar with Italian cuisine, you are well-aware of the enhancing flavor of porcini mushrooms. This penny bun mushroom is the ingredient that usually increases the price of a pizza or a pasta dish, not only their taste. Its unique aroma and important health benefits make it a regular favorite for chefs and gourmands alike.

Uses & Characteristics

Also known as Steinpilz or cep, porcini mushrooms are an edible fungus that you can add to your meal in either fresh or dried form. It has an earthy flavor and a meaty texture that makes it perfect for soups and sauces.

Porcini grows mostly in the forests of North America, Europe, and Asia under the shade of birch, pine and chestnut trees. They have a cream-colored cylindrical stem and a dark brown rounded cap. They are easy to spot, and you should harvest them before they are overripe and develop multiple black spots on their surface.

Health Benefits

Besides being a tasty, gourmet mushroom, porcini also comes with a broad range of health benefits, such as:

  • Potential prevention of colon cancer

  • It promotes weight loss

  • It reduces inflammation

  • It provides fiber for gut health

  • It delivers protein for muscle mass enhancement

Porcini mushrooms are also rich in antioxidants and consuming them should improve your immunity against viral infections. Additionally, they do not contain any cholesterol, trans fat or saturated fat, so they are ideal for diabetes patients or people who want to prevent weight gain.

Side Effects

Consuming porcini mushrooms is relatively safe. However, people who have respiratory issues or asthma may develop allergies upon inhaling spores from fresh porcini.

How to grow porcini mushrooms at home

You may find it hard to harvest porcini mushrooms in the wild. Fortunately, you can grow them at home with porcini spores and mushroom kits.

You need to set up the mushroom growing kit in a cool, humid environment where the temperature remains between 60 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. Keep the moisture at a high level by spraying the area daily. Porcini mushrooms should spawn in a couple of weeks. Allow them to grow at the desired size before harvesting.

Sulphur Shelf Mushrooms: Uses, Side Effects, and Health Benefits

Also known as Laetiporus or chicken of the woods, the sulphur shelf mushroom is an edible fungus that grows almost everywhere on the planet. Due to its particular taste that resembles chicken meat, this mushroom is a cult favorite for vegetarians. Its health benefits also recommend it for common use in anti-bacterial food supplements.

Uses & Characteristics

The sulphur shelf mushroom looks like a stack of orange, meaty fungus that grows on trees like eucalyptus, sweet chestnut, and willow in humid environments. The "shelves" can grow up to 10 inches across, and at full maturity, the mushroom may weigh as heavy as 100 pounds.

The chicken of the woods is a perennial mushroom that thrives even through the hot summer months. It usually spawns in early spring and lasts until the last days of autumn. People use it fresh or dried in a variety of dishes. The dry powder that results from grinding the dry shelves is rich in antimicrobial properties, which makes it an ideal addition to infusions and concoctions during the cold season.

Health Benefits

You can easily cook the sulphur shelf mushroom similar to how you would cook chicken. It is not your typical gourmet mushroom, but you can still fry it, grill it and add it to soups, stews, and sauces to increase their consistency.

Regardless of how you choose to consume them, sulphur shelf mushrooms should provide you with essential health benefits, such as:

  • Cancer prevention

  • Lower risk of developing diabetes

  • Heart disease prevention

  • Increased protection against viral infections

  • Improved condition of your teeth and bones

  • A soothing effect for inflammations

The chicken fungus is low in fat and has no cholesterol. As a result, diabetes patients and people who look to lose weight can use it as a lighter and healthier alternative to poultry and still benefit from its chicken-like flavor.

Additionally, the sulphur shelf mushroom has a reliable ability to inhibit the growth of staph bacteria and Bacillus subtilis, which may lead to severe respiratory problems and digestive issues respectively.

Side Effects

Consuming sulphur shelf mushrooms in reasonable quantities should not lead to health problems. However, excess consumption may lead to mild indigestion and nausea.

How to grow sulphur shelf mushrooms at home

You should be able to grow sulphur shelf mushrooms at home by using a mushroom growing kit. The best time to set up the kit is during April or May and preferably inside. You can move it outside in June, and expect early fruiting in August.

Similar to other homegrown fungi, you may expect the first shelves of chicken of the woods to develop several years after inoculation.

The Bottom Line - Which of the 5 Cancer-Fighting Mushrooms is Best for You

Nature offers us plenty of edible foods that pack essential benefits for improving and maintaining our health. Edible mushrooms embody this aspect of our environment to perfection. Whether you add them to your dishes or in your tea, fungi like Reishi, Maitake, Morel, Porcini, and Sulphur Shelf can enhance your well-being even if just for a little bit.

This conclusive table should help you determine which of these five cancer-fighting mushrooms are best for you:

Health benefits against





Sulphur Shelf













Heart Disease






Low Immunity






Vitamin Deficiency


















Liver Damage













On a separate note, Reishi mushrooms have a natural stress-relieving ability, but we consider that all of these five edible fungi can put you in a better mood. They can alleviate stress mostly because they taste amazing, but also through the joy of growing them at home in mushroom kits.


  • Jason

    From your nice chart I gathered that eating a combo of Morel mushroom and Maitake will lead to the best results. I think they can complement each other nicely when it comes to their benefits for different affections. Am I right?

  • Nathan

    @Trevor While I don’t have any numbers to show you, I can say that it all varies based on the form of the fungus since there are multiple ones. The dose of reishi mushroom varies based on the form of the fungus, so it is important to know which form you are using. Consuming the mushroom itself can lead to excess quicker, while extracts is less powerful. Maybe other people that are more in the know about this can share more light on the subject.

  • Kath

    @James I hope the cure gets made within the next 3-5 years. We have a lot of bright people working on it and they are testing everything, including mushrooms. Unfortunately some things move slower than they should plus there’s always the need to test different things and this takes a lot of time, effort and money. Either way, I think consuming more mushrooms would help us all get a stronger immune system.

  • Lily

    I think I will start growing a few different mushrooms. I love morel mushrooms but they take a while to grow so I’ll get the mushroom growing kit and start with them. So, I’ll start with growing Morel mushrooms and then I’ll also get porcini mushrooms because they grow a lot faster. Somewhere in between are the maitake mushrooms that take a few months to grow. I feel that growing a few of them will give me the best results and I’ll have more mushrooms so yay :)!

  • Cyndy

    It was great to read a little about the 5 mushrooms: reishi, maitake, morel, porcini and sulphur shelf as I’d only known about the reishi and morel mushrooms before so I’m adding to my mushroom knowledge. I love the summary table and it’s awesome to see that all the mushroom help to fight against cancer and stress which are sadly quite commonplace today. However, for an individual based on his/her specific issue, I’m sure he/she can find a mushroom that could help and purchase a kit to get started on the path to improved health and wellness.

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