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Medicinal mushrooms and beta-glucans work, in part, by boosting and coordinating the activity of the immune system. Beta-glucans are often used in conjunction with other cancer treatments. The Bill Henderson Protocol in particular, advises that patients use beta-glucans as part of the cancer treatment protocol which also includes other supplements and dietary recommendations.
Beta-Glucans are complex polysaccharides that are found in medicinal mushrooms and yeast. They are also found in the cell walls of bacteria and fungi, which has led some scientists to believe that they’re an integral part of the body’s anti-microbial immune response. Beta-glucans are not produced naturally in the human body and must be consumed either in food or as a supplement. They play an important role in modulating the body’s immune response, coordinating the efforts of macrophages, neutrophils, monocytes, cytokines, antibodies, dendritic cells, and natural killer cells. Beta-glucans have the power to modify the attack of immune cells in response to invasion by infection or cancer cells, thereby strengthening the overall immune response .
The body’s ability to quickly recognize invading pathogens is essential for controlling infection. Some scientists believe that our bodies don’t produce beta-glucans because the ubiquitous presence of beta-glucans in bacterial and fungal cell walls makes these pathogens easier for the immune system to recognize when they invade the body .
While beta-glucans are an integral part of the Bill Henderson Protocol, the work of Dr. Livingston-Wheeler is also relevant in a discussion of beta-glucans and cancer. Dr. Livingston-Wheeler was an American doctor and cancer researcher who identified a cancer-causing microorganism called Progenitor cryptocides. According to Dr. Livingston-Wheeler, this organism could be present inside human cells in a non-infectious form, but infectious forms of this cancer-causing pathogen, during its evolution from harmless microorganism to infectious agent, took the appearance of a fungus as well as a bacteria. As such, it was regarded as a mycobacterium. Dr. Livingston-Wheeler is not the first cancer researcher who has observed this cancer-causing mycobacterium. Royal Rife (inventor of the Rife Machine) and Dr. Isaac Goiz (developer of Biomagnetism Therapy) also identified these cancer-causing microorganisms in their research. Research has shown that beta-glucans can play an important role in directing macrophage response to mycobacterial infections .
The human immune system, its various parts and how they all work together is complicated. Immunity involves a complex and overlapping system of checks and balances that’s beyond the scope of this book. But needless to say, immunity and the body’s immune response must be balanced and precise. An overactive immune system can produce diseases that are as devastating as an underactive immune system. In either case, if the immune system is overactive or underactive, it is “weak” in that it is not functioning properly. A well-functioning immune response occurs when invasion by a pathogen triggers a response that works to kill the foreign invasion or disease-causing cell while causing minimal damage to other, healthy cells in the body .
Cancer is a disease that is characterized by a weak immune system or an immune system that isn’t functioning in a coordinated way to attack and kill pathogens and cancer cells. Beta-glucans can help the body by coordinating the immune response. Beta-glucans bind to specific immune cells which enhances the coordination of all the various moving parts that must work together to keep our bodies healthy .
In addition to immunomodulation, beta-glucans also stimulate the production of immune stem cells in the bone marrow as well as the production of interleukins 1 and 6, gamma interferon, hydrogen peroxide, and tumor necrosis factor. Studies have shown that beta-glucan can reduce the incidence of upper respiratory infections by 23% via its action on the immune system .
Safety and Effectiveness
A number of studies have been conducted demonstrating that beta-glucans are effective at boosting the body’s immune response. Studies have demonstrated that beta-glucans have a healing impact on a variety of health issues from allergies and the common cold to cancer. And they’re affordable. They have an excellent margin of safety and therapeutic value for cancer patients and patients suffering from immune system dysfunction .
Studies have attempted to understand the beta-glucan mechanism of action, but still, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. One study noted that after ingestion of beta-glucan, repeated measurements of the blood indicated that it hadn’t been absorbed into the body. Yet, despite this, Immunoglobulin A concentration levels in the participant’s saliva increased significantly .
Research has demonstrated that beta-glucans don’t exert their effects directly against cancer cells. In other words, they don’t directly kill or inhibit the growth of cancer cells directly, but they can be an important part of cancer therapy because they help the immune system produce a strong and effective response against cancer cells. A healthy immune system can kill and inhibit the growth of cancer cells. And beta-glucans can fortify the immune system. One study demonstrated that beta-glucans were able to cause proliferation and activation of peripheral monocytes (white blood cells) in patients with advanced breast cancer. It still remains unclear how this immune response directly affects cancer cells. More research is needed to fully understand exactly how beta-glucans work in the body against cancer cells .
How Beta-Glucans Are Administered
Patients take beta-glucans by mouth, typically in supplement form. The Bill Henderson protocol suggests taking one 500 mg capsule for every 50 pounds of body weight. The supplements should be taken in the morning on an empty stomach .
Other routes of administration include:
- Injection into regional lymph nodes 
Possible Negative Effects
In vitro research (research conducted in petri dishes, outside of the human body) has shown that beta-glucans can trigger the proliferation of monocytic lineage leukemia cells and the maturation of dendritic cells derived from leukemia cells. At this time, until further research can be done, beta glucans are not recommended for leukemia patients .
Other Important Information
Beta-glucans differ in terms of size and branching patterns and these differences lead to variability in terms of how potent they are. It’s important to select sufficiently potent beta-glucans to achieve the best results. If you’re using beta-glucans as part of a comprehensive cancer protocol, be sure you purchase beta-glucans from a trusted vendor .
In general, beta-glucans of a larger size that are more complex such as those derived from Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushrooms) have higher immunomodulating effects. The Reishi mushroom has been used in Oriental Medicine for over 2000 years to control blood glucose levels, modulate the immune system, protect the liver, and kill invading bacteria. In addition to beta-glucan immunomodulating effects, the Ganoderma lucidum mushroom also contains active components such as ganoderic acid and triterpenes that have independent anti-cancer effects .
The ABM Mushroom (Agaricus Blazei Murill) is said to contain higher levels of beta-glucans than the other types of medicinal mushrooms. In Japan, an extract of a combination of mushrooms including ABM is purportedly used more often than chemotherapy to treat cancer. This extract is known as AHCC.
ABM Mushroom are also used to treat cancer in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
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