The reishi mushroom has been mentioned in Chinese texts from the Han dynasty, about 2,000 years ago. It has also been depicted in ancient paintings, carvings, and pieces of furniture. Giving it the distinction of having the oldest written record of any other medicinal mushroom.
Reishi mushrooms have been used since ancient times in a variety of cultures. It was revered by Eastern medicine as the "plant of immortality" or the "queen of mushrooms."
Many believed reishi mushrooms prolonged life and prevented aging. However, because of how difficult it was to find and harvest in the wild, it was quite expensive. Pharaohs, nobles, and Chinese royalty were typically the only ones who could afford it.
The traditional Chinese texts described it as having therapeutic, anti-aging, and tonifying effects. Reishi was also believed to have the ability to strengthen heart function, increase energy, and boost memory capability.
Reishi is still used today and has grown in popularity all over the world for its medicinal properties.
Here is a comprehensive guide on Reishi mushroom benefits and the health benefits of this amazing medicinal fungi.
What Are Reishi Mushrooms?
Reishi mushrooms, otherwise known as Ganoderma Lucidum are medicinal fungi that typically only grow in hot, humid locations within Asia. It has many benefits and few side effects, leading to its rising global popularity and commercial cultivation.
Over 400 different bioactive compounds can be found in the mushroom, including:
- Fatty acids
There are over 2,000 varieties of Reishi mushrooms, but traditional Chinese texts referred to six Reishi colors.
Red Reishi is the most well-known variety and is generally considered to be the most potent. Purple Reishi, which is often referred to as black Reishi in modern times, is genetically similar to red Reishi. However, it has a more delicate taste and is effective at supporting the immune system.
Other colors of reishi are blue, yellow, black, and white and are not actually Reishi, but look similar and typically still have a variety of medicinal properties.
The traditional black Reishi was Amauroderma rugosum or "Jiǎzī." Yellow Reishi Laetiporus sulphureus or otherwise known as the "chicken of the woods." Blue Reishi or Turkey Tail, is otherwise known as Trametes versicolor, and white Reishi was Laricifomes officinalis or Agarikon.
Top 10 Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms and How they Work
Many medicinal mushrooms only have a limited amount of scientific research done on them. This makes it difficult to fully measure the effects they have on the human body.
However, the rich history of Reishi health benefits, combined with modern pharmacological studies, provides a strong case for the medicinal properties of the mushroom.
Depending on what you plan to use the Reishi for, the effectiveness of it may vary. Multiple studies support Reishi's ability to:
- Boost the immune system
- Fight cancer
- Increase mental wellness
- Decrease fatigue
Some of the other potential Reishi benefits may need more research. These potential medicinal properties have either not been extensively studied on humans, or there is conflicting evidence regarding them.
Reishi Mushroom Benefits List
Red Reishi is generally considered to be the most potent out of all the color variants. This is because red Reishi has a higher levels of ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides and antioxidant content, which is believed to have many potential benefits.
Reishi mushroom benefits include:
- Supporting the immune system and increasing antioxidant activity
- Preventing, slowing the spread of, and treating cancer
- Regulating the symptoms of various conditions
- Improving the health and functioning of various organs, including the heart, liver, and kidneys
- Improving mental wellness and decreasing fatigue
- Supporting healthy microbiota in the gut and maintaining microbiota composition
Reishi also has high nutritional value, being low calorie and high protein. It contains a high amount of fiber, amino acids, and a high proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
1. Boost the Immune System
Reishi may affect the genes in white blood cells and alter their inflammation pathways.
The Reishi mushroom contains triterpenoids, proteins, and beta-glucans. These three compounds all have strong immunomodulating properties and can potentially increase the reproduction and activation of immune cells.
This includes natural killer cells, a specific type of white blood cell that fights infections and cancer cells. It can also potentially increase the number of lymphocytes in those who have colorectal cancer.
The beta-glucans inside Reishi may stimulate and enhance the immune system. This potentially prevents infections and acts as an immunostimulant for those with HIV and other conditions.
2. Fight Against Cancer
It is not only through boosting natural killer cells and lymphocytes that Reishi helps against cancer.
Reishi contains polysaccharides, which is an immunostimulant and anticancer agent. Reishi is also the only known natural source of ganoderic acid, which:
- Is cytotoxic to carcinoma cells
- Suppresses tumor growth
- Inhibits the growth of lung cancer cells
The mushroom may also suppress the spread of aggressive breast and prostate cancer cells.
When it is used in combination with traditional cancer treatments, Reishi can help fight cancer and improve cancer patients' quality of life.
It can suppress tumor growth without causing bone marrow suppression or toxicity in organs, such as the liver or kidney. It is also possible that Reishi can help reduce nausea caused by chemotherapy and improve cancer treatment effectiveness.
In a study of over 4,000 breast cancer survivors, 59% consumed Reishi. Reishi may lead to the death of cancer cells and decrease the number and size of tumors.
It is possible that the beta-glucans in Reishi prevent new blood vessel growth, cutting off the blood supply to cancer cells. The Reishi mushroom also contains triterpenes, potentially decreasing the development and metastasis of tumors.
Reishi can help regulate immune cytokine levels, which are associated with the survival, growth, and progression of cancer cells. By regulating cytokine, the immune system's antitumor activity may increase.
3. Improve Gut Health
The polysaccharides present in the Reishi mushroom may have a prebiotic effect.
Prebiotics feed probiotics, which help support the growth of healthy microbiota in the gut. This allows Reishi to help maintain microbiota composition.
4. Manage Fatigue, Stress, and Depression
Reishi is an adaptogen, a type of plant that help combat stress by stabilizing physiological processes and maintaining homeostasis.
This means it can potentially support the neurological, endocrine, and immune systems to help relieve stress and decrease feelings of irritability. Reishi may also increase cerebral blood flow and potentially support brain function and stimulation.
Studies have found that taking Reishi supplements can reduce fatigue in about four to eight weeks, depending on the study.
5. Maintain Cholesterol Levels
Reishi can potentially help manage cholesterol levels through triterpenoids.
The triterpenoids in Reishi mushrooms may have hypocholesterolemic properties. The triterpenes, alongside beta-glucans, may also lower "bad" LDL cholesterol and heighten "good" HDL cholesterol.
Reishi can also help manage the inflammation that is associated with having a high-cholesterol diet.
6. Increase Antioxidant Activity
Reishi contains antioxidants and potentially can improve the body's antioxidant activity.
Antioxidants help prevent cell death or cell damage caused by free radicals. By protecting your cells, antioxidants reduce your risk for disease and help prevent premature aging.
7. Lower Blood Pressure and Improve Heart Health
If you have been wondering about how to improve your heart health, you may want to consider Reishi. Reishi can improve circulation, lower inflammation, and prevent clogged arteries.
It also can help lower blood pressure, benefiting those who suffer from hypertension. One study has shown that Reishi's effectiveness may be comparable to Losartan. A medication that is commonly prescribed for high blood pressure.
The Reishi mushroom contains hypotensive peptides that may help lower blood pressure. It is also possible that the triterpenoids in Reishi mushrooms may have antihypertensive properties.
8. Manage Allergies
The Reishi mushroom may regulate the release of histamines. This potentially produces an antihistamine effect without causing many of the side effects antihistamines tend to have.
The Reishi mushroom not only potentially helps alleviate allergy symptoms, but it also may improve the oxygen supply of the body. This is especially helpful for those who struggle with asthma or other breathing problems.
9. Manage Diabetes
Diabetes is a condition that inhibits the body's ability to effectively maintain blood sugar levels.
Reishi has the potential ability to inhibit the activity of a glucose-producing enzyme. By inhibiting this enzyme, Reishi may lower a person's blood sugar.
The Reishi mushroom may also reduce kidney stress. This, combined with its potential ability to lower blood sugar levels, could prevent those with diabetes from having kidney problems.
10. Improve Liver Function
Reishi may potentially:
- Promote liver cell regeneration
- Improve liver function
- Prevent liver disease
This improves the liver's overall health and allows it to better remove toxins from the body. By promoting cell regeneration, Reishi can also help the liver better manage blood sugar and reduce allergy symptoms.
Reishi Mushroom Side Effects
Reishi is generally considered safe to consume.
In most cases, there have been little to no side effects caused by consuming the mushroom. These minor side effects typically include:
- Digestive distress
- Dry or itchy mouth
- Itchy throat
The only exception to this is two case studies. In both cases, it is possible that switching to Reishi powder from another consumption method was the root cause of the reaction.
It is recommended that certain people avoid consuming Reishi mushrooms, including those who:
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Will be undergoing surgery as the mushroom may increase the risk of bleeding
- Have low blood pressure or a blood disorder
- Are taking medications, especially anticoagulants, antiplatelet drugs, and high blood pressure prescriptions
- Are allergic or sensitive to mushrooms
Even if Reishi mushrooms typically only have minor side effects, you should consult your healthcare provider before consuming the mushroom. This will ensure it will not interact poorly with any medications you are taking.
Depending on the type and form of Reishi mushroom being ingested, the recommended dose can vary.
Typically, the highest doses are when a person consumes a whole Reishi mushroom is anywhere from 25 to 100 grams.
The mushroom is very hard and woody so rather than consuming whole it is recommended to steep in hot water to make a medicinal tea. Reishi has a bitter flavor, so you may want to add sugar or a similar sweetener to taste.
The recommended dosage for extracts is about a tenth of the dosage of a whole Reishi mushroom. This can range from about 1.5 to 9 grams daily. When taking Reishi mushroom extract, be sure to follow the instructions provided on the label.
Where to Buy Reishi Mushrooms
There are many health benefits including using reishi mushroom for cancer treatment. The mushroom can boost the immune system, improve the health and functioning of various organs, promote an anti inflammatory response, and so much more.
Even though Reishi does not typically cause side effects, consult your healthcare provider before consuming Reishi mushrooms, extracts, or powders. If you are taking a ganoderma lucidum reishi mushroom supplement, follow the instructions provided on the label.
Shop Annanda Organics for quality certified organic medicinal mushrooms.