Enoki Mushroom: A Cancer-fighting Fungi

Did You Know…that the enoki mushroom is a powerful immune booster that, when eaten regularly, can help cut your risk of cancer nearly in half?

Japanese mushrooms have long been prized for their medicinal merits, and the enoki mushroom, also called the enokitake mushroom, is no exception.  Celebrated not just for its immune-enhancing benefit, the enoki is proving to be the consummate cancer-fighting fungi.

Wild or Farmed?  Both! 

The enoki mushroom as sold in stores is characterized by its milky white hue, long stalk, and small mushroom cap.  In the wild, however, the enoki mushroom is colored brown and golden, and retains a wide, squat head and short, stubby stalk.  Farmers intentionally transform the enoki mushroom in order to simplify harvesting and prolong shelf life, but whether wild or domesticated, the enoki mushroom retains its high nutritional profile.

A Remarkable Discovery 

The anti-cancer capabilities of enoki mushrooms were first noticed by Dr. Tetsuro Ikewawa, who realized that something quite remarkable was happening in the Nagano Prefecture of Japan.  The Nagano population was enjoying significantly lower rates of cancer death than were populations from nearby provinces.  And of all the Nagano villagers, it was the enoki mushroom growers and their families who seemed to be immune to cancer-risk.

Upon investigating, Dr. Ikewawa discovered that enoki farmers were almost half as likely to die from cancer!

Japanese researchers have isolated two unique polysaccharide compounds called flammulin and proflanin that have been proven to exhibit exemplary cancer-fighting activity against melanoma and ehrlich ascities tumors.  A 2009 study published in the journal Immunology showed that daily consumption of enoki extracts improved the survival rates of mice infected with HPV (the primary cause of cervical cancer) by 60%.

A 2010 study confirmed the immune-strengthening benefits of enoki mushrooms by identifying three unique beta glucans, which are natural compounds that help the body stave off disease, including cancer.  These beta glucans were found to increase the production of cellular nitric oxide.  Nitric oxide is one of the key components of cell-to-cell communication and is an imperative part of the immune system response.  Without sufficient nitric oxide to fuel cellular communication, our bodies cannot destroy diseased cells.

Immune-Boosting Benefits 

Enoki mushrooms offer a smorgasbord of nutrients and antioxidants.  They are high in thiamin, niacin, potassium, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, and selenium, and low in dietary cholesterol and sodium.  Amino acids valine, lysine, and ergothioneine fortify the immune-heightening properties of the enoki.  Cherished for its health benefits, the enoki mushroom has been used in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine for centuries as a tonic for liver disease, stomach ailments, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.


Time to Shop

The enoki mushroom, which also goes by the names golden needle, velvet foot, and winter mushroom, is easy to add to your diet.  Mix in to a stir fry, or enjoy on top of a crispy Asian salad.  The mild flavor integrates well with a variety of ingredients and spices.  Experts recommend against frequent consumption of raw enoki, as the mushroom contains a cardiotoxic protein whose potential adverse effects are mitigated when heated at 100 degrees C for 20 minutes.