The reishi mushroom has a long history of medicinal use throughout Asia, but its many benefits are still being discovered by inhabitants of the western world. If you’re interested in reaping the benefits of reishi mushrooms, keep reading!
What are Reishi Mushrooms?
Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) are also known as Lingzhi mushrooms. Traditionally gathered and grown in Japan and China, these polypore fungi are often cultivated in hardwood sawdust and on hardwood logs, particularly maple.
Ganoderma lucidum and a close cousin, Ganoderma tsugae, are also found in the eastern part of North America, particularly in Eastern Hemlock forests. They have also been found in temperate and tropical regions worldwide, and similar species have been discovered in the Amazon.
Identifying Reishi Mushrooms
Reishi mushrooms are kidney shaped, with a dark reddish cap and a shiny, almost wet appearance when fresh. New growth appears on the edge of the mushroom’s cap, and is a creamy whitish color. Sometimes a stalk is evident, particularly when the fruiting bodies are emerging from old fallen logs or stumps. Older reishi mushrooms often display concentric layers on their caps indicating previous growth spurts.
Although these polypores are often seen growing singly, they do sometimes appear in clusters. Both Ganoderma lucidum and Ganoderma tsugae have brown spore prints. Check wild reishi mushrooms for mold before using them. Toxic molds render these mushrooms unusable and can harm you so don’t take any risks!
Different reishi species have different characteristics, so it’s very important to know exactly what you are looking for when hunting reishi mushrooms. If you are a knowledgeable forager, you may find the occasional reishi mushroom growing in the wild.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with any lookalikes before gathering and using wild-grown reishi that you harvested yourself. Luckily, there are no known poisonous reishi mushroom lookalikes. At the same time, it’s important to seek help from an experienced reishi hunter who can help you determine what to look for and help you distinguish one species from another.
Reishi Mushroom Benefits
If you’re looking for a natural remedy to reduce blood pressure, boost your energy, and put the brakes on your aging process, then you might like what reishi mushrooms can do for you. These powerful but bitter-tasting fungi offer potent anti-inflammatory benefits, plus they can help your body eliminate toxins. They are also being studied for their anti-cancer benefits.
Reishi Mushroom Benefits List
Let’s take a closer look at the many reishi benefits. Keep in mind that there are quite a few reishi studies on file, but some benefits are mainly attributed to historical use and anecdotal evidence.
Thanks to reishi mushrooms’ high polysaccharide content, the so-called “10,000 year old mushroom” is linked to grater longevity. Throughout history, reishi users believed that these mushrooms could impart immortality. Today, we know that they actually boost the immune system and help keep blood vessels working normally. Reishi mushrooms are brimming with antioxidants that neutralize the free radicals associated with premature aging and chronic diseases.
Our bodies do a pretty good job of eliminating toxins on their own, but it doesn’t hurt to give our systems a bit of help. Reishi mushroom extracts have been linked to faster liver cell regeneration. By supporting healthy liver function, the King of Herbs helps keep this vital organ functioning at its best. Of course, you can help speed the process by avoiding harmful substances. Limiting alcohol is the most obvious method for keeping your liver healthy and helping supplements such as reishi work with greater efficacy.
Anxiety, depression, and fatigue are common. Reishi mushroom is being studied for its anti-anxiety properties, as well as for its ability to help people with mild depression feel better. Feelings of fatigue and unexplained aches and pains are often cleared up with reishi supplements, too.
You might find that reishi helps your quality of life if you are suffering from any of these symptoms. At the same time, it’s very important to continue taking prescribed medications. If you’re on antidepressants or other medications, double-check with your physician before adding a reishi supplement.
Traditional Asian medicine recognizes reishi mushrooms anti-cancer properties, and now the mushroom is being studied further for its potential. Preclinical trials and laboratory research suggest that reishi mushrooms may enhance long-term survivorship, improve quality of life, and perhaps prevent tumor growth and reduce cancer cell metastasis.
In test tube studies, reishi has been shown to affect white blood cells at the genetic level, even altering the cells’ inflammation pathways. Separate test tube studies have shown that reishi actually kills certain cancer cells.
Additional research in cancer patients shows that natural killer cells (a type of white blood cell) can display increased activity with reishi mushrooms as part of the overall treatment plan. This is important, since killer cells are responsible not only for fighting infections, but for fighting cancer.
In another study, reishi was shown to increase the number of lymphocytes (another important white blood cell type) in people fighting colorectal cancer.
While reishi’s anti-cancer properties are both promising and exciting, it’s very important to discuss treatment with a qualified physician. Researchers are quick to note that studies conducted on reishi mushrooms anti-cancer properties are not conclusive proof, and they state that reishi is not a suitable replacement for traditional treatment. At the same time, there are many supplements that haven’t been adequately studied, with benefits that haven’t been proven despite anecdotal evidence.
Many cancer survivors choose to take reishi supplements as part of a post-treatment regimen, with doctors noting that there really isn’t any harm in trying these so long as conventional treatments have come to a conclusion.
Strengthen Immune System
Rich in complex sugars called beta-glucans, reishi mushrooms can strengthen immunity, particularly when you’re already feeling under the weather. Be careful to take only the recommended amount of whichever supplement you choose though. Reishi mushrooms are completely natural, but they are potent. There are a few documented cases of reishi contributing to liver toxicity when taken in excess.
Reishi stimulates healthy blood flow, plus it displays some neuroprotective effects. While there isn’t much evidence, some research shows that reishi mushroom extract can stimulate nerve growth factor, improving cognition in those who are at a higher risk for Huntington’s Disease or Alzheimer’s Disease.
Many illnesses are associated with inflammation. For those suffering from a wide range of issues from arthritis to headaches and gout to sports injuries, reishi’s anti-inflammatory properties can help bring comfort and healing.
Lower Blood Pressure
As a natural blood pressure remedy, reishi mushrooms may help you get healthier overall. You don’t want to ditch blood pressure medications without checking in with your doctor though, nor should you take reishi with blood pressure medication before having a conversation about potential interactions.
Whether you’re trying to cut back on coffee or simply enjoy a greater feeling of vitality, you are likely to find that reishi mushrooms can give you that energy boost you crave. Be sure to take no more than recommended!
Who Should Avoid Reishi Mushrooms?
The benefits of reishi are undeniable, but this powerful mushroom isn’t for everyone.
- If you are taking blood thinners such as warfarin, do not eat reishi mushrooms or take reishi supplements. As a natural anticoagulant, reishi increases the risk of bleeding in people who take these medications.
- if you are taking immunosuppressant drugs, do not pair them with reishi. Because reishi stimulates the immune system, it can stop your drugs from working correctly.
- People who are undergoing chemotherapy should not take reishi. Despite its potential as an ally in the fight against cancer, reishi mushroom can make some chemotherapy drugs less effective. This can have serious ramifications.
- If you take cytochrome P450 2E1, 1A2, and 3A substrate drugs, you should avoid reishi since it can increase side effects.
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid reishi.
- Don’t take reishi mushroom or reishi extracts if you have low blood pressure.
- Avoid reishi mushrooms and reishi extracts if you will be undergoing surgery.
Reishi Mushroom Side Effects
Like just about every effective herb, the King of Mushrooms comes with some well-known side effects. Most of these are associated with frequent reishi mushroom use extended over a long period of time. If you take reishi mushrooms daily for more than a month or two, you might experience some unpleasant side effects. These include:
- Liver toxicity
- Frequent Headaches
- Dry Mouth
How Much Reishi Mushroom Should I Take?
If you determine that reishi mushrooms are for you, be sure to take a look at recommended doses on the supplement label. Different products come with different potencies; for example, dried reishi mushroom extract is about 10 times more potent than the same amount of dried reishi mushroom in whole form.
Certain reishi supplements have been further broken down into stronger compounds, and are recommended at even lower doses.
There are many good reishi products on the market. It’s always a good idea to see what others have to say as you decide which one is best for you so be sure to read reviews before purchasing.
While the benefits of reishi mushroom far outweigh these seemingly mild side effects, it’s a very good idea to discuss your plans and goals with a holistic health professional or a trained herbalist before making reishi mushrooms or reishi extracts part of your health plan.