The Benefits of Oyster Mushrooms

oyster mushrooms
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Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) are a type of medicinal mushroom. Often consumed as a food, it's also available in dietary supplement form. In certain systems of traditional medicine (such as traditional Chinese medicine), oyster mushrooms are used to treat a variety of health conditions.

Oyster mushrooms contain a number of substances thought to influence health. These substances include beta-glucan and several other polysaccharides (a class of carbohydrates found to affect immune function).

Uses for Oyster Mushrooms

In alternative medicine, oyster mushrooms are said to help treat the following health problems:

In addition, oyster mushrooms are purported to stimulate the immune system and protect against some forms of cancer.

Benefits of Oyster Mushrooms

So far, few scientific studies have focused on oyster mushrooms. While there's currently a lack of clinical trials testing the effects of oyster mushrooms, some preliminary research shows that the fungus may offer certain benefits. Here's a look at some of the available evidence for oyster mushroom's health effects:

1)  High Cholesterol

Several animal-based studies suggest that oyster mushrooms may help lower your cholesterol and protect against hardening of the arteries.

For example, a preliminary study published in Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology in 2003 found that oyster mushrooms may reduce total cholesterol levels. In tests on rats, the study's authors also observed that treatment with oyster mushroom helped increase the animals' antioxidant status and decrease their levels of triglycerides. High triglyceride levels have been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

2)  Cancer

Some preliminary research indicates that oyster mushrooms may possess cancer-fighting properties. This research includes a study published in International Journal of Oncology in 2008, in which tests on human cells demonstrated that an oyster mushroom extract may suppress the growth and spread of breast cancer and colon cancer.

Additionally, a mouse-based study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms in 2011 determined that an oyster mushroom extract may fight tumor growth, in part by activating certain immune cells. 


Although oyster mushrooms are generally considered safe when consumed as a food (when properly handled), some individuals may experience an allergic reaction to this fungus. In addition, oyster mushrooms may cause upset stomach when consumed in large amounts.

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of taking oyster mushrooms in dietary supplement form. Keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

You can learn more about how to use dietary supplements safely here.

Alternatives to Oyster Mushrooms

There are several types of medicinal mushrooms that may help strengthen your immune system. These mushrooms include maitake, ganoderma, and shiitake

Getting your fill of immune-boosting foods may also help enhance your immune function. 

For help in keeping your cholesterol in check, make sure to get plenty of soluble fiber (found in a wide range of foods, including flaxseed and many grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables), limit your intake of saturated fats, and load up on omega-3 fatty acids.

There's also some evidence that drinking green tea on a regular basis and consuming plant sterols may help combat high cholesterol.

Where to Find Them

Oyster mushrooms are sold as a whole food in many grocery stores. You can also buy oyster mushrooms in dietary supplement form in natural-food stores and stores specializing in natural products, as well as online.

Using Oyster Mushrooms for Health

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend oyster mushrooms as a treatment for any condition. It should be noted that using oyster mushroom supplements as a substitute for standard care in treatment of a condition (such as high cholesterol) may have harmful effects. If you're considering using them for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.

View Article Sources
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