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Agaricus

What You Need to Know About Agaricus

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Updated June 26, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Agaricus (Agaricus blazei) is a type of medicinal mushroom. In folk medicine, agaricus is used to treat a variety of health conditions, including major diseases like cancer and diabetes. Although research on the health effects of agaricus is fairly limited, some preliminary studies show that agaricus may offer certain health benefits.

Uses for Agaricus

Agaricus is often touted as a natural remedy for the following health problems:

In addition, agaricus is purported to strengthen the immune system, stimulate the digestive system, protect against osteoporosis and promote weight loss.

Benefits of Agaricus

So far, relatively few scientific studies have tested the potential health benefits of consuming agaricus. However, preliminary research suggests that agaricus may have some beneficial effects. Here's a look at some key study findings:

1) Diabetes

Agaricus may aid in diabetes control, according to a 2007 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. For the study, 72 patients with type 2 diabetes were given either agaricus extract or a placebo every day for 12 weeks. By the end of the study, members of the agaricus group showed significantly greater improvements in insulin resistance compared to those given the placebo.

In an earlier study (published in Biotechnology Letters in 2005), scientists discovered that beta-glucan found in agaricus helped reduce blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol in diabetic rats.

2) Immune System

Certain compounds in agaricus may help stimulate the immune system and reduce inflammation, according to a 2011 research review in the Journal of Medicinal Food. However, the review's authors noted that clinical trials are needed to test the immune-enhancing and anti-inflammatory effects of agaricus in humans.

3) Cancer

Several studies indicate that agaricus may help fight some forms of cancer. For instance, in a 2009 study from the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, tests on cancer cells and on mice revealed that agaricus extract may inhibit the growth of prostate cancer. In addition, a 2011 study in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta found that agaricus may possess anti-tumor properties that could aid in the treatment of leukemia.

Safety

Little is known about the safety of taking agaricus in the long term. However, there's some concern that agaricus may harm liver health. For instance, in a 2006 report from the Japanese Journal of Clinical Oncology, scientists linked consumption of agaricus to severe liver damage in cancer patients. It's thought that taking agaricus may increase your levels of certain liver enzymes.

Additionally, a 2011 report in Microbiological Research found that agaricus may have estrogen-like activity. Therefore, medical experts warn that people with hormone-sensitive cancer (including some types of breast cancer and ovarian cancer) take caution when consuming agaricus.

Since agaricus may also decrease your blood sugar levels, patients using medications to lower their blood sugar should consult a physician prior to consuming agaricus.

Where to Find Agaricus

Widely available online, supplements containing agaricus are also sold in many natural-food stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Using Agaricus for Health

Due to a lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend agaricus as a standard treatment for any health condition. If you're considering agaricus for a chronic condition, make sure to consult your physician before starting. Self-treating a chronic condition with agaricus and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Sources

Akiyama H, Endo M, Matsui T, Katsuda I, Emi N, Kawamoto Y, Koike T, Beppu H. "Agaritine from Agaricus blazei Murrill induces apoptosis in the leukemic cell line U937." Biochim Biophys Acta. 2011 May;1810(5):519-25.

Hsu CH, Liao YL, Lin SC, Hwang KC, Chou P. "The mushroom Agaricus Blazei Murill in combination with metformin and gliclazide improves insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes: a randomized, double-blinded, and placebo-controlled clinical trial." J Altern Complement Med. 2007 Jan-Feb;13(1):97-102.

Kim YW, Kim KH, Choi HJ, Lee DS. "Anti-diabetic activity of beta-glucans and their enzymatically hydrolyzed oligosaccharides from Agaricus blazei." Biotechnol Lett. 2005 Apr;27(7):483-7.

Lima CU, Cordova CO, Nóbrega Ode T, Funghetto SS, Karnikowski MG. "Does the Agaricus blazei Murill mushroom have properties that affect the immune system? An integrative review." J Med Food. 2011 Jan-Feb;14(1-2):2-8.

Yu CH, Kan SF, Shu CH, Lu TJ, Sun-Hwang L, Wang PS. "Inhibitory mechanisms of Agaricus blazei Murill on the growth of prostate cancer in vitro and in vivo." J Nutr Biochem. 2009 Oct;20(10):753-64.

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