Triterpene, Lingzhi Mushroom

This is a blog to challenge (expand) your mind and by introducing you to look about the power of plants from a scientific perspective. These last few weeks I received many emails from people crossing through my blog pages; I’m super flattered and managing to respond to most of your messages/inquiries: My advice and suggestions to your questions are intended to cautiously guide you to find your own solutions. When we find ourselves confronted with physical and mental issues, it is often best to consult TCM professionals and research diligently. I aim to help you by encouragement and to embrace your dilemma. You yourself are responsible to balance health, happiness and peace with your being.

To repeat a basic wisdom: Traditional Chinese Medicine is most powerful as a preventative. With this in mind; I am elated to see that today’s modern medicine increasingly consults with practitioners when engaging patients with life changing injuries or when send for long-term recovery. Preventative medicine is everything we achieve in the future. Although we can aid our body from becoming too sick, we often lack understanding what to include  to correctly incorporate TCM methods for body and mind to overcome illness. 

While studying TCM in Singapore in 2007, I became fascinated with plant-based science studies in various parts of the world conducted independently at the same time: Researchers in Hongkong had evaluated TCM claims from the mid-nineties about the powers of plant & mushroom triterpenes consumed by humans. They verified documentations from a scripture byZhang Zhongjing – the Hippocrates of China during the Han Dynasty (202 BC –220 AD) – he outlined correctly that “the power within Lingzhi mushrooms stops inflammation and even reverses wheezy chest distress (asthmatic) illness…” Although intuitive interpretations were based on thousands of practitioners documenting these findings, we can today corroborate that statement with DNA fingerprinting, that the essence that leads to this ancient claim is triterpene.

At the same time, I followed a research of a Spanish group that suggested the anti-viral properties in Reishi mushrooms could be utilized to curve (liver-) cancer and even viral replication of HIV.

Triterpenoids from different structural groups have been studied and described as having anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory powers. They isolated Triterpenes as an agent to potential treat anti-acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and reviewed these naturall products as anti-AIDS compounds. While their review included many triterpenoids, the pharmacological effects of these compounds did not necessary include an increase in the immune response. Rather, they were described as antiviral agents that could inhibit the replication of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in lymphocytes or increase cellular cytotoxicity, even apoptosis. 

Many plant species synthesize triterpenes as part of their normal program of growth and development. Some plants contain large quantities of triterpene in their latex and resins (Boswellia serrata), and these are believed to contribute to disease resistance. Although hundreds of triterpene have been isolated from various plants and terpenes as a class have been shown to have many potentially beneficial effects, there is only limited application of triterpene as successful therapeutic agents to date. In general, very little is known about the enzymes and biochemical pathways involved in their biosynthesis.

Yesterday I came across an article about a current study on understanding the complex chain reaction of Covid-19 infected patients and I’m puzzled again why in today’s world so few Western doctors coordinates with TCM practitioners to incorporate established knowledge on plant essence that can interrupt Sars-cov-2 protein structures or prevent RNA replication of Mers-CoV without toxic modern pharmaceutical solutions when treating and supporting recovery. 

Triterpenes found foremost in Ligzhi Mushrooms (Reishi) comprise one of the most interesting groups of natural products due to their high potential as pharmacological agents.

Usually they are present in plants used as ethnomedicines, such as Astragalus membranaceus, Boswellia serrata, Cayaponia tayuya (Tayuya root), Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi), Panax Ginseng or Tripterygium wilfordii. Many such compounds can either be used directly as active compounds or modified to increase their selectivity and potency. Such application theories had been understood for centuries and applied on millions of individuals and they have been correctly registered by respected medical practitioners. 

Triterpene of Boswellia trees, although not as rich in saponin compounds compared to Lingzhi Mushroom, have been shown to be beneficial in reducing inflammatory reactions. In various traditional medicines the oleogum resins from Boswellia species are used for the treatment of different diseases, including those involving the immune system. The anti-inflammatory principles of Boswellia resin are boswellic acids, which have been shown to act by inhibiting different mediators and pro-inflammatory enzymes such as 5-lipoxygenase (LOX) and human elastase. However, their mechanism of action is also related to their inhibition of certain components of the immune system. Clinical pilot studies thus far suggest the efficacy of these acids in treating several autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative C.

The immunosuppressive effects of Tripterygium wilfordii (Thunder God Vine) may also involve other triterpenoids, including celastrol, pristimerin, and tripterygone. Celastrol, for example, has exhibited activity against different symptoms and mediators of autoimmune diseases. In asthmatic mice it reduced the airway inflammation and decreased the number of inflammatory cells in the lung tissue. In mice with lupus it lowered the production of serum auto-antibodies and the levels of Immunoglobulin G (IgG) and NO which reduced albumin in the urine, and decreased both IL-10 production by peritoneal macrophages and the severity of glomerular lesions (a leading cause of kidney failure). Some of these effects have to do with the inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokines and enzymes, which is due to an inhibition of transcription factors. Pristimerin and tripterygone, have similar properties, but different mechanisms of action.

Generally, plants rich on triterpenes have been examined for their anti-inflamatory and antiviral properties, their possible use as immunosuppressant drugs should be considered for future research. Several structural groups of triterpenes have demonstrated specificity against transcriptional factors such as inhibiting STAT3 protein which enable the growth of lung cancer and isoprenoids that boost Nuclear factor of activated T-cells (NFAT) by strengthening muscle cell tissue and even preventing pancreatic cancer by oppressing anti-apoptotic properties.  Plants and Mushrooms rich on triterpene could be of particular interest in treating inflammation, cancer, and immune diseases!

Oxidative stress causes hyperhomocysteinemia (HHcy) related cardiovascular diseases; a serious side effect of hypercytokinemia when forced to intubate Covid-19 patients. This was confirmed early this year when a Chinese study re-visited the application of consuming Ganoderma mushroom extract to reduce Covid-19 effects on the circulatory system compared to administering high dosages of steroids. There is low-quality evidence that a single intra-articular corticosteroid injection may increase the risk of contracting the influenza virus ( or preventing its replication). Current standard therapy with dexamethasone at a dose of 6 mg once daily for up to 10 days decreased mortality in patients with COVID-19 on respiratory support. Interestingly, researchers found that survivors went on to have more lasting lung problems. 25% of intubated-survivors shown weeks after to have elevated levels of D-dimer, a protein fragment that arises when a blood clot dissolves. Ergosterol consumed through Reishi Mushrooms extract can reduce this “side-effect”.

So, I humbly conclude: If people with diabetes or the elderly in general would consume Ganoderma Mushroom extract we could prevent Neutrophils from undergoing immunometabolic reprogramming in severe SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) illness. It most certainly would only result in a benefit to prevent asthma, digestive inflammation and strengthen the heart/circulatory system. In vitro and in mice studies, plant derived triterpenes have shown apoptosis in cancer cells… Since there are no side effects from eating Ganoderma Mushroom extract and no interaction with modern medicine has so far been documented, what reservation could anyone have in not following this TCM advice?

The isoprenoid field is one of the fascinating interfaces between chemistry, biochemistry and biology. This field is progressing in two dimensions: in width—ever more isoprenoids are being isolated, and their structure elucidated; in depth—our knowledge of relationships between biochemistry, function and evolution is undergoing further refinement. Isoprenoids play an important role mediating plant–plant, plant–insect and plant–pathogen interactions.

TCM chef Raphael

Side Note: Although unlikely for me to promote a specific business; if you intend to purchase a Lingzhi Mushroom or Boswella product; please, consult with Eu Yan Sang international. I can personally voucher that their research, pharmaceutical efficacy and TCM medicines are unmatched and of superb quality. 

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