CA Mushrooms
CA Mushrooms

Book Review

Medicinal Mushrooms: The Human Clinical Trials

By Robert Dale Rogers
2020, Prairie Deva Press
148 pages; paper; 8.5 x 0.36 x 11 inches
ISBN-10: 0865718954; ISBN-13: 979-8-6461-2037-4
Full color, photographs throughout; $19.95

Interest in purportedly “medicinal” mushrooms has exploded over the past few decades. Discussions of them and products made from them (pills, extracts, tinctures, etc.) (along with psychedelic mushrooms) have gone from the realm of hippies and wild-crafters to totally mainstream and Silicon Valley. We strive in the pages of FUNGI Magazine to present the latest peer-reviewed information on their chemistries and physiological activities—insomuch as it can be known. Robert Dale Rogers, author of The Fungal Pharmacy, is a regular contributor to FUNGI and a well-known authority on wild mushrooms and their chemistries, based in Edmonton, British Columbia.

A persistent criticism has long been that, while there is much anecdotal evidence of health benefits, and even curative properties, and much evidence gleaned from in vitro trials, and even evidence using animal models, the perceived belief is that there is not much evidence for their efficacy based on human trials. Such trials need to be done in an unbiased double-blind, placebo-controlled setup just like all other medical trials. Medicinal Mushrooms: The Human Clinical Trials examines 50 well-known mushroom species and cites over 500 clinical studies of their medicinal properties. Each focus describes the organism’s chemistry and studies with those compounds. For each, the author has a discussion of what is known from human trials—with all references cited. Rogers usually states the numbers of patients involved, how the study was performed, if a control was used etc. but interested readers can dig deeper by tracking down and reading the published findings for themselves.

I suspect this will be a useful starting point for those interested in learning more about the veracity of claims about medicinal mushrooms. In the Foreword to the book, Tradd Cotter wrote: “Clinical trials are needed to validate the effects of any treatments, specifically double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, where neither patients nor researchers are aware of the focus being studied; avoiding bias or false positives. This text has long been anticipated, as there are as many people touting the benefits of medicinal mushrooms, as there are criticisms of insufficient evidence. Rogers fulfills an important case for the therapeutic use of fungi and in an unbiased fashion is able to clearly communicate the myths surrounding the medicinal mushroom industry and its community of followers and consumers … ”

Compared to what is known experimentally about commercially available pharmaceutical drugs, our evidence-based knowledge of medicinal mushrooms seems scant. But it’s not nothing. Their efficacy can be argued but no longer ignored, given their popularity. Despite their increasing acceptance as alternatives to pharmaceutical treatments, many questions remain: Are these products a waste of money? Can prolonged use be harmful? As demand increases, can these products be sustainably harvested from the wild? Can they be cultivated? Rogers discusses several bioactive pharmaceuticals that got their start as a “medicinal mushroom” and doubtless there are more on the horizon.

— Review by Britt Bunyard
— Originally published in Fungi