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Medicinal mushrooms

Interview: Medicinal mushroom expert Mark Kaylor discusses maitake and reishi mushrooms, cancer, syndrome X and integrative medicine

Thursday, October 27, 2005
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Editor of NaturalNews.com (See all articles...)
Tags: medicinal mushrooms, reishi mushrooms, cancer treatments

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Mike: I'm here today with Mark Kaylor of Maitake Products. Can you tell me about the company and the line of products you represent?

Kaylor: I'm here with a company named Maitake Products; maitake is actually the name of a mushroom. It's a Japanese word -- "mi" in Japanese translates as dancing, and "taki" translates as mushroom. "Shiitake" means mushroom from the shii tree, and in this case we have dancing mushroom, which is maitake. We're known for a variety of medicinal mushroom products, particularly two: The SX-Fraction and the maitake D-fraction.

Mike: Do you do any work with reishi mushrooms?

Kaylor: Yes, we certainly use reishi. You can't be a mushroom company and not work with ganoderma. It is really the heart and soul of not only of medicinal mushrooms, but of holistic. We could talk for hours on what the reishi mushroom is capable of doing and what it can be used for. It's interesting, I was actually just in Hong Kong doing a lecture on medicinal mushrooms for cancer treatment. I went around and started looking in local stores. And you go into what would be like a 7-Eleven there, and you find reishi extracts actually on the shelf. That's how pervasive it is through at least parts of the Asian community.

Mike: These mushrooms have been used medicinally throughout Asia for literally thousands of years, and quite effectively and safely, I might add. Here in the Western world, many people are just now waking up to the medicinal qualities of mushrooms. Is it having much success now?

Kaylor: Yes, I think it's a growing process. We don't have much when you compare to the thousands of years of experience in China they've got medical texts that are 4,000 years old that rave over the benefits of shiitake mushrooms, the reishi mushroom and Cordyceps mushroom. Obviously we're nowhere near that in Western culture, but there's definitely a trend and a change happening. There's more and more research being done outside of Asia that is opening people's eyes, so there's a growing acceptance. I've done traditional medical shows for a number of years, where there are MDs who use conventional prescription drugs, and they would come along and see a chart or graph showing our maitake D-fraction used for cancer treatment. They'd be intrigued, and they'd say, "What is this, what's it from?" And as soon as we said the word mushroom they'd say, "Okay, thank you," and they would walk away.

Mike: Really? That's sad.

Kaylor: But now they're willing to linger. They'll stop and talk and explore a little bit. Or the other thing that happens is: "Oh yeah, I know mushrooms, wink, wink," which is a totally different application of mushrooms and not what we're talking about it's not even the type of mushrooms we're talking about. But I think there's definitely a growing acceptance. More companies are doing it, more quality materials are being made and more research is being done. So I think it's really getting -- not a foothold yet -- but really a toehold at this time.

Mike: Now, one of the things I've heard even from other physicians here that I've interviewed is that people are having good success using reishi mushrooms and other mushrooms in conjunction with chemotherapy and other conventional treatments. Have you seen that mushrooms provide a protective effect for healthy cells while enhancing the toxicity of chemotherapy to cancer cells?

Kaylor: Yes, definitely, with our maitake D-fraction, we actually have a couple of clinical trials done in conjunction with chemotherapy treatment. We've found out a couple of things. One is that it decreased the negative side effects of the chemo agents by roughly 90 to 95 percent. So the decrease is in hair loss, pain, nausea, vomiting and less of a decrease of red and white blood cells. All the things we associate with and are afraid of when we talk about chemo and radiation therapy significantly improved.

In the one study that was done in Japan, everybody reported quality of life improvements, which is very significant. With certain chemo agents, the maitake D-fraction actually seems to potentiate the activity of the chemo agent, so it may kill more cancer cells than it would without it. Some of the other mushrooms, particularly the reishi mushroom that you mentioned, are incredible mushrooms to use to really protect yourself from the damage associated with these processes.

Unfortunately, chemo and radiation are not as selective as we'd really like them to be. So having something that's going to boost the body's overall immune function is certainly going to be useful. They're anti-inflammatory, which can be useful, and they're an antioxidant, which I know there's debate about, but the research seems to be clear that they are effective in conjunction with chemotherapy. Reishi stimulates the liver, and in traditional Chinese medicine, reishi is said to calm and nourish the "shen." The shen is the emotional center, and as you can imagine, anybody who has been diagnosed with cancer or is undergoing chemo or radiation is certainly going to have some emotional disturbance. So Reishi is very well-suited to help balance, protect and support the body in that process.

Mike: Now, it seems conventional medicine is increasingly comfortable with the idea of people perhaps using nutrition or medicinal mushrooms in conjunction with chemotherapy, but they're very uncomfortable with the idea of people moving away from chemo and only turning to mushrooms or cancer therapies that are in the alternative world. Do you have any comments you can share on that, or is that dangerous ground to even talk about?

Kaylor: Well, it's always dangerous ground, but I always speak up. I like to think that people are becoming more receptive as far as using these things. I think the general public is becoming more aware and more open to the idea of using them while they undergo chemo or radiation therapies. I actually saw a study this morning in one of my email newsletters for cancer treatment, where oncologists were basically saying, "Do not use supplementation while you're undergoing any conventional treatments."

Mike: Unbelievable.

Kaylor: It's back and forth. Obviously some people are more willing and open to it. There's still a huge amount of debate about what should be used. We mentioned antioxidants. Chemotherapy agents basically kill cancer cells through inducing an oxidative stress. So the idea is that if you take an antioxidant, it would undo that oxidative stress, thereby protecting the cancer cells. And that's the simple logic of it, but when you actually go and look at the studies and see what's happening in the body and apply this, you find that antioxidants protect the healthy cells from this oxidative stress and not the cancer cells from the oxidative stress. So we still have a lot of room for growth in that area. The bottom line is dollars and cents, and this is what troubles them. It is threatening every time a study comes out saying more and more people are spending more and more money on alternative practitioners. That's when the allopathic community gets in an uproar and starts trying to legislate, or the drug companies become very vocal about trying to shut these things down, because it's dollars and cents.

Mike: It's been a common theme here. I've talked to so many companies that have products that have uses going way beyond what they can even come close to stating in the marketing literature and the labeling. That's just the environment we live in today. But let me talk to you more about some educational information you have available now. You have a new book out on blood sugar control.

Kaylor: Yes, we have a book that's actually focusing on a condition called syndrome X, sometimes known as metabolic syndrome. It's a resistance syndrome that is pre-diabetes. The book has a beautiful pink cover entitled Syndrome X and SX-Fraction. It's really just a quick booklet; a quick look at a particular component of the maitake mushroom, which is very useful in helping the body correct the imbalance that has arisen through bad lifestyle choices, bad food choices and abnormally high stress levels. It is also very relevant for diabetes.

Mike: Are you the primary author of this book?

Kaylor: Yes, I'm one of the co-authors.

Mike: And you're a PhD, correct?

Kaylor: Yes.

Mike: What's your area of study?

Kaylor: Actually, the original PhD was at the University of Oregon, and it was an interdisciplinary program where I basically got to study everything I wanted and bring lots of things together. My interest really at that point was what moves some people to make changes and other people not to. I've worked now with cancer patients directly, and for example, what moves one lung cancer patient to actually quit smoking, while another one is puffing up before they come into your office to see you, even though they know they're dying from their lung cancer? So the efforts there were to really explore that process. Since then, I've studied more specific and more hands-on healing aspects. I'm studying nutrition and naturopathy. I've had opportunities to study with the Native American medicine men, shamans in the rainforest and pretty much anywhere I can gather information on healing.

Mike: Do you also visit Japan?

Kaylor: About every other year I go to Japan and do a lecture series. I'm now starting to do that in Hong Kong, as well.

Mike: Wonderful. Education will make all the difference.

Kaylor: You know, a lot of people just aren't aware of it. When you talk to a cancer audience, these are people that are very hungry for information; they're very hungry for hope and opportunity. I think that when we talk about this, one of the biggest crimes associated with cancer treatment is giving someone a terminal diagnosis. I don't believe anybody has the right to say, "You've got 3 to 6 months to live." I think that's criminal, it's inhumane and it impairs any possibility of healing in that individual.

Mike: Right.

Kaylor: So people out there looking for these alternatives, they're very hungry for it, and I try to provide helpful information that's actually going to be useful and applicable to them.

Mike: I'm very much aligned to that. When people get that message from a physician or an oncologist, it alters their belief system. And then their belief system shapes their physiological response, and suddenly it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, right? And then they die from it.

Kaylor: We already know there are people who are supposedly days away from dying from cancer and wake up one morning, and their body is completely free of cancer. We have no idea how those people do it. As long as there's always that chance and that opportunity for that healing to happen, I don't think you should take that away from anybody.

Mike: I agree completely. We've talked a little bit about cancer and syndrome X, or pre-diabetes. These mushrooms have many other uses in terms of dealing with health challenges aside from that. Just the simple anti-viral properties are legendary in these mushrooms. It helps people overcome viral infections or defend against the common flu. Are there any anti-inflammatory effects that might interest people?

Kaylor: Well, I think the whole maitake mushroom has some mild anti-inflammatory effects. I think the reishi mushroom in particular is a very potent anti-inflammatory, particularly for just general inflammation in the cardiovascular system and inflammation that may be associated with the respiratory system, like asthma and bronchial problems. There are clinical studies done showing reishi is very effective for treating bronchitis, which is inflammation of the bronchioles. So that's very specific. They also are very specific for allergies and seasonal allergies, because of the inflammatory response often in the membranes of your nose and throughout other parts of the body. Reishi is very effective for that and certainly anti-inflammatory.

Mike: Interesting. Products that people can look for in the health food stores are the D-fraction? Is that the number one?

Kaylor: If you're concerned about immune health, whether it's because of a disease or you just know it runs in the family, the maitake D-fraction is a product specifically for that, for boosting immune response.

Mike: And then SX-Fraction is for syndrome X?

Kaylor: Yes, the SX-Fraction is a different component of the same mushroom, the maitake mushroom. This would be useful for lowering blood sugar levels, lowering insulin levels, lowering blood pressure and lowering triglycerides. It lowers LDL, the so-called "bad" cholesterol. It raises HDL, the so-called "good" cholesterol. And it may even effect the conversion of LDL to BLDL, which is very bad cholesterol, so to speak. So it has some distinct cardiovascular benefits, as well.

Mike: Are there some other products you want to mention that are available in the channel?

Kaylor: Yes, there are several mushrooms. We can talk about any one of them, probably for more time than you want to spend. I think the Cordyceps mushroom, which is widely used in Asia, is a truly legitimate anti-aging product. Traditionally it was considered a yang-tonic, which would be adding fire, energy and movement to life. If you think about how we look at aging, we tend to think of it as contracting. Our shoulders start to sink in a little bit, we have less energy, we're tired, we don't think as clearly, we're not as energized mentally. These are the things we associate with aging. I don't think they go hand-in-hand with aging. I think Cordyceps can certainly be useful for that. Cordyceps increase SOD production, which is a naturally-occurring antioxidant in the body, in both the liver and the brain. It crosses the blood-brain barrier, so it is very protective for those systems.

Mike: Isn't that used in sports nutrition quite a bit?

Kaylor: Cordyceps are, yes. Its claim to fame was when the Chinese started getting back into Olympic competition. Their first competition they were shattering world records by like 30 seconds, and when asked what their secret ingredient was, they said it was Cordyceps. We've found out it was Cordyceps, but it was also growth hormones, steroids and everything else, like we're seeing now with our baseball players in the U.S. But Cordyceps truly are a legitimate anti-aging product to support brain and lung health. They control and strengthen the beat of the heart, so your heart pumps more blood, which nourishes the body. So literally it effects virtually every system in the body.

Mike: Is Maitake Products your company, then?

Kaylor: Actually, I'm a consultant with the company; I'm responsible for education and training. I do lectures for them. I have my own private practice and work primarily with late-stage cancer patients. I also work with individuals who have what I call the "unnamable" or "untreatable." These are people with problems that Western medicine has not named, or "it's just all in your head," or they have a name for it but they have no treatment for it. Those are the people I end up working with, mostly.

Mike: You know, I have some ties with a traditional Chinese medical clinic, and they always get the patients that conventional medicine has given up on. So by the time they come to you or other clinics like that, they are so far beyond hope because conventional medicine says, "We can't do anything for you." But yet, I'm sure you still see success stories, don't you?

Kaylor: Yes, up to the instant they pass away I think there's always hope for them. How much hope is left to fate and the Universe and whatever belief you may have. But there's always that chance. It would be really nice to get to people early. I would love someone to come to me saying, "I've got a cold. What can I do for it?" But the reality is, particularly in Western culture, that most people will seek this out as a last resort when other things have failed, or when they're very afraid of the conventional treatment. Now, I don't mean to indict conventional treatment -- if you're in a car accident, by all means get to the hospital, not the herbalist. As for cancer treatment, I'm one of the few alternative cancer practitioners that allow for and recognize that there is some benefit to the proper use of radiation and chemotherapy in the right person with the right cancer at the right time. So I allow for it and I do think it's useful. We just need to do our research on it, find out if it works and find out if the five-year prognosis is any better for the treatment. If it isn't, then why do it?

Mike: Right, Dr. Ralph Moss has studied that extensively.

Kaylor: If you want to get the literature and the documentation on the studies that have been done for a particular therapy, or with your particular cancer, it's an outstanding resource for that.

Mike: And I want to go back to one thing you mentioned earlier about helping people really make a change, because that resonates with me, as well. You can put out all the information you want, and some consumers will end up just being information junkies, so to speak. They will learn it intellectually, but fail to integrate it into their lives. Any insights on how we're going to improve this situation out there?

Kaylor: I think that's truly the $6 million question. I mean, you've been walking the show here, and this is a natural products health food show. It's not a particularly healthy community and audience, and yet a lot of these people are extraordinarily knowledgeable about supplements, diets and lifestyle choices. So there's a big gap between knowledge and applying knowledge. I think it all comes down to several things. Presenting the information in a manner that a person can hear it and utilize it is important. Help them understand the situation. When I do a lecture on insulin resistance and diabetes, I actually spend three quarters or even more of the lecture saying "How did this develop?" so they can actually start seeing the ties. "Oh, you mean all that stress is actually my cortisol levels affecting my insulin imbalance?" So you start tying in these things and you make it real for them. I think that's a big part of it. I think after that, oftentimes you need to bring them back to themselves and literally ask them, "Do you want to live?" I do this with some of my cancer patients, the so-called "terminal patients." Oftentimes they've never asked themselves that question.

When they force that question and ask themselves, they realize, "I really do want to live." All of a sudden lights start going on and they start making choices. "I want to live, I want to be engaged and I want to be here for my children and my grandchildren." Whatever the reason may be, you can use that to motivate people. I always tell people, particularly in situations like that, if they've been given a six-month diagnosis, to make a plan for something that they want to do a year from now. Something very important. It could be someone graduating from school, it could be a trip that they've always wanted to go on. Give yourself that goal and surprisingly, more times than not, people will get to that goal. It may not sound like a lot, but you've just added 6 months to a person's life, all by scheduling that ever-wanted trip to Bali or wherever it is they really wanted to go.

Mike: Sure. It seems like that moment where the lights go on, as you say, is the moment where the patient maybe for the first time takes responsibility and realizes that they can alter their outcome.

Kaylor: Yes, I think that we do that in all aspects of our life. In Buddhism there's what they call the "A-ha!" moment, when all of a sudden, all those years of lectures and meditation and reading and everything just kind of hits you. Like, "Oh, now I understand what they're saying! Aha!" And I think the same thing can happen with health. It's having the time and energy to sit down with the person and work with them at that point. Unfortunately, allopaths don't do it. They kind of see you in 10 minutes, you're in and out, that's it. My first sit-down with a client is two to three hours.

Mike: Where's your practice located?

Kaylor: I'm actually in Southern California. But I have clients all over the U.S., and since I'm now lecturing in Hong Kong, I've picked up some clients in Hong Kong, as well.

Mike: Is there a website for that clinic?

Kaylor: Well, we're still working on the website, so that's in progress.

Mike: Okay. Is there a site for the Maitake company?

Kaylor: There's a website for Maitake. It has a lot of the research that's been done, particularly on the maitake mushroom as well as some the mushrooms that are widely used elsewhere in the world, but not necessarily that widely used in the West. The site is www.maitake.com.

Mike: Thank you very much, Mark, for taking a few minutes here.

Kaylor: Thank you. It's been a pleasure, I appreciate it.

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About the author:Mike Adams (aka the "Health Ranger") is a best selling author (#1 best selling science book on Amazon.com) and a globally recognized scientific researcher in clean foods. He serves as the founding editor of NaturalNews.com and the lab science director of an internationally accredited (ISO 17025) analytical laboratory known as CWC Labs. There, he was awarded a Certificate of Excellence for achieving extremely high accuracy in the analysis of toxic elements in unknown water samples using ICP-MS instrumentation. Adams is also highly proficient in running liquid chromatography, ion chromatography and mass spectrometry time-of-flight analytical instrumentation.

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