A team from the University of Western Sydney’s Centre for Complementary Medicine Research (CompleMED) is working with the Cardiac Health Institute to find out if the medicinal mushroom, Ganoderma lucidum, can reduce high blood sugar, often a precursor to diabetes – as well as treat other health problems.
The clinical trial is the first of its kind to rigorously test the mushroom – known in Asia as the ‘King of herbs’, because of its huge range of medicinal properties – and needs 170 Sydneysiders to take part.
UWS PhD researcher Nerida Klupp hopes the findings contribute to western medicine’s knowledge of this Chinese herb, and provide much-needed clinical evidence of a possible new treatment for people with metabolic syndrome.
“Many people in Australia have high blood sugar, which is often classified as diabetes or pre-diabetes. Many also have other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol,” she says.
“Scientists and doctors now know these conditions are linked, and a person with at least three of these health problems is diagnosed with a condition called metabolic syndrome – also called ‘Syndrome X’.”
“Affluent countries with lazy lifestyles and bad diets are at particular risk, with 44 per cent of Americans aged over 50 years of age diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. While we don’t really know how prevalent the condition is here in Australia, we suspect similar trends to those in the United States,” Ms Klupp says.
“Currently there is no single pharmaceutical treatment for metabolic syndrome, which is why we are conducting the first randomised clinical trial to test if this medicinal mushroom can offer western medicine an effective, long-term treatment to help lower blood sugar as well as control other problems associated with the condition,” he says.
Nerida Klupp says the mushroom has been revered in Asia for over 2000 years.
“Ganoderma lucidum, which is also known as Reishi, has long been used to fight a wide range of diseases, and was thought to be the ‘elixir of immortality’ – enhancing vitality and helping to delay ageing,” she says.
Thankfully, there has been increased cultivation of the herb over the last thirty years, and preliminary animal and human pilot studies have proved promising, suggesting it can have a positive effect on blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and blood fats.
Traditionally, Ganoderma lucidum has been considered to be even more potent when taken in combination with another medicinal mushroom called Cordyceps sinensis.
“Cordyceps is also thought to have significant health properties, so we want to find out if Ganoderma is effective on its own, or whether it works better in combination with the second mushroom,” says Ms Klupp.