Since the 1980s, medicinal effects have been documented in scientific studies with the related Basidiomycota mushrooms Agaricus blazei Murill (AbM), Hericium erinaceus (HE) and Grifola frondosa (GF) from Brazilian and Eastern traditional medicine. Special focus has been on their antitumor effects, but the mushrooms' anti-inflammatory and antiallergic properties have also been investigated. The antitumor mechanisms were either direct tumor attack, e.g., apoptosis and metastatic suppression, or indirect defense, e.g., inhibited tumor neovascularization and T helper cell (Th) 1 immune response. The anti-inflammatory mechanisms were a reduction in proinflammatory cytokines, oxidative stress and changed gut microbiota, and the antiallergic mechanism was amelioration of a skewed Th1/Th2 balance. Since a predominant Th2 milieu is also found in cancer, which quite often is caused by a local chronic inflammation, the three conditions-tumor, inflammation and allergy-seem to be linked. Further mechanisms for HE were increased nerve and beneficial gut microbiota growth, and oxidative stress regulation. The medicinal mushrooms AbM, HE and GF appear to be safe, and can, in fact, increase longevity in animal models, possibly due to reduced tumorigenesis and oxidation. This article reviews preclinical and clinical findings with these mushrooms and the mechanisms behind them.
Keywords: Agaricus blazei; Grifola frondosa; Hericium erinaceus; anti-inflammatory; antiallergic; antitumor; clinical studies; mushrooms.