Live from TEDMED

@TEDMED: Catching up with Paul Stamets, mushroom innovator

Posted by:

Yesterday at TEDMED, TEDTalks favorite Paul Stamets gave an emotional talk about new medical uses for mushrooms — including a variety that, he says, helped treat his mother’s cancer. Stamets spoke about powerful medical uses for mushrooms and their extracts, from anti-tuberculosis effects (Agarikon) to Cordyceps, a treasure trove of potential medicines, such as cyclosporine, which prevents organ rejection in transplant patients, and the recently FDA-approved drug Gilenya, from Novartis, for treating multiple sclerosis (MS). He can even use mushroom compounds to steer the migration of insects across the landscapes and control diseases carried by insects and animals. The most heartfelt moment of his talk, though, was when he brought his mother to the stage and told how he was able to help her to go from stage 4 breast cancer to tumor-free.

Afterward,TEDBlog sat with Paul and his mother and asked for more of the story.

Paul, you talked about treating your mother who had stage 4 breast cancer with mushrooms. Could you tell us your personal story behind that?

Being able to help your parent is a great feeling. They gave life to me, and as the youngest child, being able to help one of them feels good. I could have helped my father too, years ago, but it didn’t happen. He was terminally ill, and in a coma at that point, and we were standing in the circle of doctors. I brought all the references, and they said: If you want to give this to your dad, we’ll give it to him through his feeding tube. We had a meeting with my brother and sisters, and they all said, Yes, we agree; let him try. But my father had remarried, and my stepmom said no. It was like: “I am coming back to rescue my dad, I can do this!” I had all the mushrooms with me and the references, and the doctors had been convinced. But my stepmother had the right to stop it. And I felt tremendously defeated, and it brought me sorrow for a long time.

When my mother ended up having cancer, I could do something, and I could help. It was like a balance; I could help one of them, you know. That makes me feel very good. And my family feels good. My mother had stage 4 breast cancer and now she is tumor-free.

What mushrooms did you use? and how do they work?

In my mother’s case, I used Turkey Tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) [in combination with conventional medicines, including taxol and herceptin]. The Turkey Tail product we make is available at Whole Foods under the Host Defense label. Their use supports immunity.

I saw the picture of me and my mother standing on stage later on, and it still brings tears to my eyes.