Local actress Jacelyn Tay is touting lingzhi, which is sold in her health-care and wellness clinic, Body Inc, as being beneficial to dogs with cancer.
On Wednesday, she posted on Facebook that one of her clients had given lingzhi to her cancer-stricken dog.
Accompanying the post were before-and-after photos of the dog's fur looking darker and shinier after the lingzhi "treatment".
Tay said the lingzhi capsules sold at her clinic seemed to have "brought down" the dog's "cancer cells" and aided in its recovery.
Mushrooms in the lingzhi group, which are rare and expensive, have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years, supposedly for their effectiveness in nourishing the heart and boosting the immune system.
Tay added that she was thinking of giving them to her own dog, but told The New Paper that she has no idea about the dosage to give as she is not a veterinarian.
"I think my client just tried it because she was desperate as the dog had cancer. There's no harm trying," she said.
Her post attracted about 20 comments, several of which asked about the price of the lingzhi capsules sold in her clinic. In reply, Tay said a bottle of 60 capsules costs $160 and that she herself takes two to three capsules daily.
Dr Jean-Paul Ly, a veterinarian at the Animal Recovery Centre in Serangoon, supports the judicious use of lingzhi and other herbs for animals.
He said that lingzhi has a few components that could have helped the dog by stimulating its immune system and killing the cancer cells.
Dr Tai Yesun of Nam Sang Veterinary Clinic in Balestier, who prescribes herbal medicine to about 70 per cent of her clients, said: "We use lingzhi to nourish the heart, calm the shen (state of mind), strengthen the chi (energy) in the blood, stop coughs and help with asthma."
Acknowledging that their views are not common among veterinarians in Singapore, Dr Ly and Dr Tai said that herbs like lingzhi were not a cure-all and their effectiveness and dosage varied for each case.
Said Dr Ly: "I've never seen a cancer that's been cured just by lingzhi. But I have seen it slow down, I have seen animals feel better, eat better and sleep better.
"To me, that's more important: The quality of life improves because of herbal medicine.
"We still do chemotherapy, but I combine this with herbs to drastically reduce the side effects and even the dose of chemotherapy."
He emphasised that the best way to prevent cancer was a good diet and stress-free environment.
Dr Teo Jia Wen of Mount Pleasant Animal Medical Centre (Redhill) was sceptical of lingzhi's cancer-curing properties.
"Even if it works, you have to ask if it was only lingzhi, or also chemotherapy or surgery. If lingzhi alone could cure cancer, then no one in the world should be dying of cancer," she said.
"There is a severe lack of research on using herbs for animals. Some herbs do work. In our clinic, we do give milk thistle, which is scientifically proven to help with liver issues. But the majority of this is just guesswork."
An administrative worker who gave her name as Ms Lee, 26, told Shin Min Daily News: "There is no conclusive evidence whether lingzhi can fight cancer. As a public figure, Jacelyn Tay should take greater responsibility for what she says."
This article was published on April 12 in The New Paper.
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