Agaricus blazei, Almond mushroom

Agaricus blazei, sometimes named the Almond mushroom, Cogumelo do Sol in Brazil, or Himematsutake in Japan, is cultivated in Brazil, China, Japan and Taiwan.

It’s considered as one of the most important edible and culinary-medicinal biotechnological species. Agaricus blazei is rich in the immunomodulating polysaccharides, β-glucans, and has been shown to have antitumor, anti-infection, and antiallergic/antiasthmatic properties in mouse models.

In addition, it has shown anti-inflammatory effects in inflammatory bowel disease patients.

Agaricus blazei can play an important role in boosting the immune system, protecting intestines, decreasing blood sugar and promoting liver health.

Agaricus blazei was first discovered in Brazil, where the native cultures ate it as food, and prepared it as a tea for medicinal purposes.

Common Names

Scientific name: Agaricus blazei Murill.

Synonyms: Agaricus subrufescens, Agaricus brabrasiliensis, Agaricus rufotegulis.

Common names: Almond Mushroom, Almond Portobello, Golden Sun Mushroom, Gods Mushroom, Royal Sun Agaricus.

Japanese names: Kawariharatake, Himematsutake, Agarikusutake.

Chinese name: Ji Song Rong.

Brazilian names: Cogumelo do Sol (The Mushroom of the Sun), Cogumelo de Deus (The Mushroom of the Gods).

Mechanism of Action

There are several constituents and mechanisms of actions that have been linked to the Agaricus mushroom:

  • Phenols: Phenolic compounds have received much attention in recent years, especially by inhibiting in vitro lipid peroxidation and lipooxygenase.
  • Lipophilic triterpenes: Among the lipophilics are poorly water soluble terpene compounds, including highly active triterpenes and lipophilic vitamins. Triterpenes can be potent inhibitors of tumor growth in vitro and in vivo.
  • Agarol: Agarol is a ergosterol derivative and a tumoricidal substance that can be derived from A. blazei. Cytotoxic effects of Agarol have been determined by a MTT assay using A549, MKN45, HSC-3, and HSC-4 human carcinoma cell lines. Apoptosis was detected by flow cytometry analysis. Ergosterol has been found to inhibit tumor growth in mice via direct inhibition of tumor-induced angiogenesis.
  • Blazeispirols: Blazeispirols are bioactive ergostane-type compounds isolated from Agaricus blazei. Blazeispirols have chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic potentials. Blazeispirol A can cause both caspase-dependent and -independent cell death in human Hep 3B cells.
  • β-glucans: Read about β-glucans »

Medicinal properties

Studies have demonstrated that Agaricus blazei have the following medicinal properties:

The Agaricus mushroom has been and is used for a number of conditions: it is used in cancer therapy, for type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and hyperlipidemia, atherosclerosis, hepatitis B, dermatitis, digestive problems such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, and to reduce side effects due to cancer chemotherapy.

Anti-tumor activity, immunomodulation and cell signaling

Agaricus blazei has shown anticancer effects, tumor growth-inhibiting effects, and antimutagenic activity. Also, it supports cellular health, reducing the risk of abnormal cell growth in the body. 

The polysaccharides in the Agaricus mushroom are believed to be some of the most potent polysaccharides for immune health, given their ability to modulate the immune response and promote cellular health.

Both in-vivo and in-vitro studies have demonstrated the Agaricus mushroom has anti-carcinogenic activity in various cancer types such as lung cancer, ovary cancer, sarcoma, and Ehrlich ascites cancer. Also, it can inhibit the development of prostate cancer cells by promoting apoptosis, inhibiting proliferation and inhibiting angiogenesis mechanisms.

These effects are mainly mediated through the mushroom’s stimulation of innate immune cells, such as monocytes, NK cells, and dendritic cells, and the amelioration of a skewed Th1/Th2 balance and inflammation.

The most important of these compounds are a range of alpha-glucans (α-Glucans) and beta-glucans (β-Glucans).

Those glucans can cause activation of macrophages or natural killer cells and induce cytotoxic T-lymphocyte activity in tumor-bearing mice.

One strong mechanism is that Agaricus blazei may increase the activity of NK cells.

Agaricus extract may induce apoptosis in cancer cell lines. Also, extract of Agaricus mushroom can reduce tumor size, increase body weight, and reduce AST levels (an enzyme that indicates damage to the liver, heart and other tissue).

In addition, a beneficiary synergy has been seen between the mushroom and the activity of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

In a survey performed in Japan, 31% of the oncologists recommend the mushroom to patients suffering from urologic cancer.

Hepatoprotective

Lver cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related death in the world. Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common type of liver cancer.

Blazeispirol A (BA) is the most active antihepatoma compound in Agaricus blazei. BA can inhibit the growth of Hep 3B cells and increase the percentage of cells in sub-G1 phase in a concentration- and time-dependent manner.

Also, BA treatment can result in in DNA fragmentation, caspase-9 and caspase-3 activations, poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase (PARP) degradation, down-regulation of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL expressions, up-regulation of Bax expression, and disruption of the mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) in Hep 3B cells.

Agaricus blazei has shown hepatoprotective activity against chemical or viral infections.

Also, it can substantially reduce AST liver enzymes in hepatitis B and GBT levels in hepatitis C. Agaricus can reduce stomach swelling, reduce fatigue and aches in the liver area, and reduce liver and spleen size in hepatitis B.

Insulin regulation

Agaricus blazei supports healthy insulin sensitivity, which can help regulate blood sugar levels so that they are not too high.

It may decrease insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes. Other animal and clinical research indicate that the mushroom can lower blood sugar and control insulin.

Lowering blood cholesterol

The Agaricus blazei mushroom has the ability to lower blood cholesterol, inhibit the negative effects of pathogens and also deter angiogenesis.

Agaricus extract can exert estrogen-like activity and may help prevent atherosclerosis. Actions that have been identified include cell signaling, macrophage development suppression and endothelial cell recovery from vascular damage.

Antioxidant

Agaricus blazei works as an antioxidant, helping to protect the body from free radicals, which can cause damage to cells and lead to aging, infections, and disease.

Anti-inflammatory activity

Agaricus extracts have been able to demonstrate the ability to decrease the ulcer wounds induced by stress. A. blazei extracts can be useful in inflammatory diseases because of the activation of the immune system.

Anti-mutagenic

Extracts of Agaricus may offer protection to cells exposed to methyl methanesulphonate. Methyl methanesulphonate is a mutagenic agent. The enzyme beta-DNA polymerase, involved in repair mechanism following exposure of DNA to alkylating agents, is thought to be responsible for this effect.

Antiangiogenic

Antiangiogenic substances have also been isolated from Agaricus. Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels.

Traditional Medicine

Agaricus blazei has been used in traditional medicine and as a health food for the prevention of a range of diseases, including infection, allergy, and cancer.

In Brazil natural healers use Agaricus for treating diabetes, multiple sclerosis, hepatitis, high cholesterol, and heart disease.

In Japan, natural healers use Agaricus for the enrichment of antioxidants, anti-mutagenesis, anti-tumors, an inhibitor of cancerous tumors, and as a booster of the immune system.

Possible Uses

  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Cancer treatment
  • Diabetes
  • Hepatitis
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Stimulant
  • High cholesterol
  • Ongoing liver disease
  • Bloodstream disorders
  • Digestive problems
  • Prevention of heart disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Stomach ulcers
  • To boost the immune system
  • Physical and emotional stress

Recommendation

Preventive use: Most oral Agaricus capsules are available in 400 mg to 500 mg doses, taken once, twice or three times daily. Studies have used up to 1,500 mg per day for 12 months. For diabetes, 500 mg of Agaricus mushroom extract three times daily.

Health problems and acute use: 1,5 to 2 grams daily. It has been reported that patients have been taken Agaricus powder at a daily dose of 12 g (in three divided doses; before each meal or between meals; p.o.).

Notes

  • Intake of Vitamin C may increase the absorption of active substances.
  • Recommendations for medical mushrooms have a wide span ranging from a few hundred milligrams up to many grams a day. Historically, a huge variation of preparations, powders, and strengths of extracts has been used. Sometimes, it can be difficult to compare different products and recommendations.

Side Effects & Safety

Agaricus mushroom extract seems to be safe for most people when taken for up to 12 months.

Powdered Agaricus seems to be safe for most people when taken for up to 6 months: a specific Agaricus powder has been safely used in doses up to 5.4 grams daily for 6 months.

Contraindications

  • An in vitro study suggests that Agaricus extract has estrogen-like activity and therefore should be used with caution. Patients with hormone-sensitive cancers should discuss its use with their physician.
  • Agaricus products can cause blood sugar to go too low (hypoglycemia) in some people with diabetes.
  • Hypersensitivity to Agaricus.
  • Pregnancy and Lactation: insufficient reliable information available; avoid using.

Adverse reactions

  • Consumption of Agaricus has been associated with hepatic dysfunction in cancer patients. A few people who took Agaricus mushroom during treatment for cancer have developed reactions, and a few have had allergic reactions. In a study conducted in 2011, one patient developed a liver dysfunction-related food allergy, drug lymphocyte product.
  • Agaricus products can also cause nausea, diarrhea and upset stomach (not dose-depending).
  • Cheilitis has also been reported.

There are some perplexing concerns especially relative to the content of agaritine. Argantine is a well-known carcinogenic and toxic substance in animals, that must be completely and fully evaluated.

Consult your doctor or therapist before use.

Herb-Drug Interactions

  • Medications used for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs): Agaricus mushroom might decrease blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. Taking Agaricus mushroom along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
  • Cytochrome P450 substrates: Agaricus inhibits CYP3A4 and can affect the intracellular concentration of drugs metabolized by this enzyme.

Herb-Lab Interactions

  • May lower blood glucose levels.
  • May cause an elevation of liver enzymes.

Background and taxonomy

Agaricus subrufescens was first described by the American botanist Charles Horton Peck in 1893. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was cultivated for the table in the eastern United States.

It was discovered again in Brazil during the 1970s, and misidentified as Agaricus blazei Murrill, a species originally described from Florida.

It has been marketed under various names, including ABM (for Agaricus blazei Murrill), cogumelo do sol (mushroom of the sun), cogumelo de Deus (mushroom of God), cogumelo de vida (mushroom of life), himematsutake, royal sun agaricus, Mandelpilz, and almond mushroom.

In 2002, Didukh and Wasser correctly rejected the name A. blazei for this species, but unfortunately called the Brazilian fungus A. brasiliensis a name that had already been used for a different species, Agaricus brasiliensis Fr. (1830).

Richard Kerrigan undertook genetic and interfertility testing on several fungal strains, and showed that samples of the Brazilian strains called A. blazei and A. brasiliensis were genetically similar to, and interfertile with, North American populations of Agaricus subrufescens. These tests also found European samples called A. rufotegulis to be of the same species.

References

  • Firenzuoli F, Gori L, Lombardo G. The Medicinal Mushroom Agaricus blazei Murrill: Review of Literature and Pharmaco-Toxicological Problems. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2008;5(1):3–15.
  • Hetland G, Johnson E, Lyberg T, Kvalheim G. The Mushroom Agaricus blazei Murill Elicits Medicinal Effects on Tumor, Infection, Allergy, and Inflammation through Its Modulation of Innate Immunity and Amelioration of Th1/Th2 Imbalance and Inflammation. Adv Pharmacol Sci. 2011;2011:157015.
  • da Silva de Souza AC, et.al. Agaricus blazei Bioactive Compounds and their Effects on Human Health: Benefits and Controversies. Curr Pharm Des. 2017;23(19):2807-2834.
  • Satoshi Ohno, Yoshiteru Sumiyoshi, Katsuyoshi Hashine, Akitomi Shirato, Satoru Kyo, and Masaki Inoue, “Phase I Clinical Study of the Dietary Supplement, Agaricus blazei Murill, in Cancer Patients in Remission,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2011, Article ID 192381, 9 pages, 2011.
  • Marina M. Padilha, Ana A.L. Avila, Pergentino J.C. Sousa, Luis Gustavo V. Cardoso, Fábio F. Perazzo, and José Carlos T. Carvalho.Journal of Medicinal Food. Apr 2009.
  • Hetland G, Johnson E, Lyberg T, Kvalheim G. The Mushroom Agaricus blazei Murill Elicits Medicinal Effects on Tumor, Infection, Allergy, and Inflammation through Its Modulation of Innate Immunity and Amelioration of Th1/Th2 Imbalance and Inflammation. Adv Pharmacol Sci. 2011;2011:157015.
  • Shimizu T, et.al. Agarol, an ergosterol derivative from Agaricus blazei, induces caspase-independent apoptosis in human cancer cells. Int J Oncol. 2016 Apr;48(4):1670-8. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2016.3391. Epub 2016 Feb 15.
  • Costa Orsine JV, Novaes MC, Ramirez Asquieri E, Cañete R. Determination of Chemical Antioxidants and Phenolic Compounds in the Brazilian Mushroom Agaricus sylvaticus. West Indian Med J. 2014;63(2):142–146. doi:10.7727/wimj.2011.216
  • Ayeka PA. Potential of Mushroom Compounds as Immunomodulators in Cancer Immunotherapy: A Review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018;2018:7271509. Published 2018 Apr 22. doi:10.1155/2018/7271509
  • Zheng-Yuan Su, et.al. Blazeispirol A from Agaricus blazei Fermentation Product Induces Cell Death in Human Hepatoma Hep 3B Cells through Caspase-Dependent and Caspase-Independent Pathways. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2011, 59, 9, 5109-5116. doi.org/10.1021/jf104700j
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