Reishi is a traditional Chinese mushroom with adaptogenic properties that provides many benefits.
The purported health benefits of reishi include control of blood glucose levels, modulation of the immune system, liver support, bacteriostasis, and more.
In this article, we will look at the benefits of reishi, its safety, and its history.
Table of Contents
- What are Reishi Mushrooms?
- Health Benefits of Reishi:
- Reishi Safety:
- Naming & Taxonomy:
- History & Traditional Use:
What are Reishi Mushrooms?
Reishi, also known as the “Mushroom of Immortality”, is a fungus that grows out of decaying wood. It is considered to be one of the most beneficial herbal remedies in traditional Chinese medicine.
In China, this mushroom is called lingzhi.
It is a large, dark brownish-red mushroom with a glossy exterior and a woody texture. The exterior of the mushroom has a varnished sheen to it.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), reishi has been used for thousands of years for its medicinal benefits.
According to TCM teachers, lingzhi acts to replenish Qi, ease the mind, relieve coughing and asthma, and is recommended for dizziness, insomnia, palpitation, and shortness of breath.
Today, reishi is commonly used to aid the immune system. New research also shows that this mushroom may have promising benefits for cancer patients.
Health Benefits of Reishi:
There are many purported health benefits of reishi mushrooms. Most of the scientific research on this herb has been done via test-tube research or animal studies, as there are only a handful of human clinical trials.
1. May Support the Immune System
Considerable evidence supports the use of reishi mushrooms for supporting the immune system.
Various in vitro (i.e. test tube) studies show that the phytochemicals within reishi work to increase white blood cells, NK cells, and increase macrophage activity.
In particular, reishi works to increase innate immune function.
Innate immunity, also known as natural immunity or non-specific immunity, is a series of defense mechanisms that respond quickly to various invading pathogenic microorganisms. They also play an important role in the initiation and effect processes of specific immunity.
Studies have found that a variety of innate immune cells such as natural killer (NK) cells, dendritic cells (DCs), and macrophages can regulate the innate immune response.
Enhancing the body’s non-specific immunity is of great significance to improve the overall immune function of the body.
Summary:Reishi may be beneficial in supporting immune health. Human clinical studies are required to confirm this finding.
2. May Reduce Cancer Growth
Recent research shows that reishi may have some promise in combating cancer.
The initial research involving reishi and cancer was conducted in the 1980s in animal models. A reduction in cancer growth by 74%-95% was shown in a variety of different trials.
While the initial animal studies looked very promising, human clinical trials haven’t been as clear-cut.
Two primary studies showed that reishi mushrooms helped to increase cellular immunity in 80% of the patients involved. In addition, quality of life scores were improved in around 65% of the patients involved.
Summary:While reishi may be beneficial in reducing cancer growth and increasing cellular immunity, human clinical research is needed for verification of these findings.
3. Antioxidant Properties
Reishi is rich in powerful antioxidants, which have a variety of health benefits.
Antioxidants protect cells from oxidative damage, which helps to decrease the risk of mutations and carcinogenesis. They also protect immune cells, allowing them to maintain immune surveillance and response.
Various test-tube studies have been conducted to show the effects of reishi and its antioxidant properties. In particular, one study showed that reishi extract protects against oxidative damage induced by reactive oxygen species.
Summary:Reishi may have antioxidant properties, but additional studies are required to confirm this.
4. May Help to Regulate Blood Sugar Levels
New animal research shows that reishi may be helpful in stabilizing blood sugar.
A trial conducted on mice showed that reishi extract helped to lower the serum glucose levels in obese/diabetic mice, with effects seen after the first week of treatment.
As with all animal trials, this should be taken with a grain of salt. Further human clinical research is needed.
Summary:Reishi may be beneficial in regulating blood sugar levels, however, further clinical research is needed for verification.
Safety Class: 1 (can be safely used when consumed properly)
Interaction Class: A (no clinically relevant reactions are expected)
Reishi mushrooms are generally well tolerated and safe to be taken by most people. Allergic reactions are rare but have been reported. There are no known contraindications or precautions to taking reishi.
Pregnancy & Lactation:
There are no known cautions with taking reishi during pregnancy.
Tincture (1:5): 4–5 mL (80–100 drops), three or four times per day.
Decoction: Add 1–2 oz. dried cut/sifted mushroom to 32 oz. water. Simmer slowly for 2–4 hours until reduced by one-half (16 oz.). Take up to three or four cups per day.
Capsules: Mycelial extracts. Take three 500 to 1000 mg tablets, three times per day.
Naming & Taxonomy:
Scientifically, Reishi is known as Ganoderma lucidum. The word “lucidum” is Latin for shiny, referring to the varnished appearance of the mushroom’s surface.
The Chinese name of this mushroom is lingzhi, which translates as “spirit plant”.
Red reishi is relatively rare in the wild, and throughout the history of China, its use was restricted mostly to the emperor, his court, and the upper classes.
History & Traditional Use:
Reishi has been used in Chinese medicine for just over 2000 years.
Wild lingzhi is rare, and in the years before it was cultivated, only the nobility could afford it.
The sacred fungus was said to grow in the abodes of the immortals, “on the three aisles of bliss” off of China’s coast.
Its reputation as a “cure-all”, however, may have been enhanced more by its scarcity, and use by the rich and powerful members of Chinese society rather than by its genuine effects.
Nevertheless, the Ganoderma species continue to be a popular traditional medicine in Asia and their use is growing throughout the world.
Reishi contains immunostimulating polysaccharides known as ß-glucans, bitter triterpenes such as ganoderic acid and ganoderenic acid, and a protein known as ling zhi-8 protein.
Adaptogen, immune stimulant.
Reishi is a safe herb with promising adaptogenic and immune-supporting effects, as well as the ability to potentially stabilize blood sugar.
Consider using reishi to naturally support your body.
As always, speak to your doctor before starting any herbal regimen or supplement plan that may interfere with medications you are taking for existing medical conditions.
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