A Sydney doctor looks for possible answers in medicinal mushrooms
Would you take a medicine that, instead of curing your existing illness, boosts your immunity which prevents you from contracting an illness in the first place?
In the past few decades there has been a dramatic increase in cancer rates.
One in two people are likely to have had cancer by the time they reach 85, and one of the main reasons is that we are all living longer.
So, what if there was a drug you could take to continue to lead a healthy life to a ripe old age?
This is the kind of treatment Sydney doctor Gregory Berry wants to bring to our attention in his latest book, Cancer Immunization.
Dr Berry calls this ‘proactive immunomodulation’, which in simple terms means actively taking steps to boost one’s immunity to prevent diseases.
And he says such wonder medicines are readily available now.
Three ancient medicinal mushrooms – Ganoderma, Coriolus and Cordyceps – have immunotherapeutic agents, called beta-glucans which are said to boost the body’s capacity to fight illnesses.
In Asian medicine, these plants have been used for over 1500 years. They are said to ensure a longer survival rate for cancer patients, slow ageing and reduce the side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
More recently, this has recently been substantiated by Western research too, says Dr Berry.
When added to standard treatments, these drugs have been shown to achieve greater survival rates for several cancers in randomised controlled trials.
Dr Berry’s book brings together such clinical trials, along with animal studies and laboratory investigations, as proof of his proposition and asks the question that has him perplexed – why is this not common knowledge?
Why is the world oblivious to these wonder drugs while many suffer illnesses and painful treatments such as chemotherapy?
“Cancer is frightening and disempowering,” says Dr Berry.
“The adjunctive use of at least one of the three Asian immunotherapies must be pushed to the highest priority of any country’s government which is willing to reach out with compassion to those who need it so much. We need validation of current research and, if the Japanese experience is proved correct, all three should be made available to all cancer patients as soon as possible.”
Dr Berry has particularly singled out India for taking a lead in this research and cultivation.
Cordyceps, also known as caterpillar fungus or keera ghaas (insect grass) in India, is found in high Himalayan altitudes.
Dr Berry is a member of the India Club in Sydney and has worked in close association with many Indian doctors, whose professionalism he regards highly.
He feels that India is well-poised to take up this challenge to further research these ancient medicines.
Cordyceps that is found growing naturally in the wild is hard to find and is very expensive.
Good quality Cordyceps can cost as much or more than its weight in gold.
While China has been mass producing these mushrooms for medicine using greenhouse farming, Dr Berry says that India should adopt these techniques and take “a shortcut to good health”.
Dr Berry believes private companies in India can start generating money by exporting these greenhouse cultivated plants which are in demand the world over.
These companies would then be in a position to feed money back to Indian universities through grants to facilitate further research.
Extracting compounds from these plants and making specific drugs would be the next stage.
This is Dr Berry’s suggested plan and vision for India and he wants to take this vision to every researcher, every politician, and every Indian if he can.
With the help of Shubha Kumar, President of India Club Inc, he is planning a visit to India in February next year to take this mission forward.
If the compounds from these plants are so effective, it begs the question – why aren’t pharmaceutical companies promoting research into these treatments? Dr Berry believes it is because they have a vested interest in keeping people ill.
“Such an immunity-boosting drug could make us disease-free and they would lose the millions they make,” Dr Berry says.
“Why else would the facts about its efficacy be hidden, in spite of various proofs and research on its efficacy for cancer and other illnesses?”
Dr Berry has made it his personal mission to take this information far and wide.
“As a doctor, you can treat only one person at a time and there is only this much you can do. When you see an opportunity to treat an entire population, and you see it is not being done, then the first question you ask is ‘why?’” he says, with passion.
“Prevention is better than cure, so why not boost your immune system?”
“You cannot rely on these herbs alone, but we can use this in conjunction with Western medicines,” he explains.
“Mother Nature’s therapy will kill early cancers before they get a hold on the body. We need more research to find out how to use this most effectively.”