Reishi Mushroom Health Benefits
Hailed as the mushroom of immortality, reishi is one of the most potent and popular species out of all the medicinal mushrooms. There are six classified species of reishi, yet it’s the red duanwood variety which has displayed powerful healing, rejuvenating and immune-strengthening properties. Red duanwood reishi has a beautiful glossy cap with a cork-like texture, and it traditionally grows wild on dead logs in parts of Europe and Asia.
The History of Reishi
Reishi’s benefits have been reaped for thousands of years, and the much-loved medicinal mushroom is mentioned in many ancient scriptures and texts. One of the oldest uses of reishi is recorded in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, an extensive herbal handbook which provides information on the benefits of a range of mineral and botanical substances. The book is still highly regarded today, and it is commonly referred to by Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners around the world.
Reishi’s historical importance is also reflected in a range of ancient artifacts. This striking mushroom has been embroidered onto silk robes worn by royalty, painted and sculpted, and it was often used as a symbol to depict longevity and spiritual development.
Reishi Nutritional Profile
Over 36 nutritional compounds have been identified in reishi mushroom. It has an extremely high polysaccharide content, plus it’s rich in beta-glucans, triterpenes, antioxidants, ganaddoral, luceidenic acid B, live enzymes, langston, coumarins and ergosterol. Reishi contains several minerals including potassium, magnesium and calcium.
The exact amount of each compound present in the reishi mushroom depends on a range of factors including the growing conditions, the age of the mushroom and its species or strain. Typically, a reishi mushroom is around 90% water, while the other 10% is made up of protein, fats, carbohydrates and fibre.
Reishi for Immune Support
From lowering blood pressure to helping to alleviate allergies, reishi has a whole host of health benefits, yet it’s most famous for its powerful immune-enhancing properties. Several scientific studies reveal that the polysaccharides present in reishi mushroom (as well as in several other species of medicinal mushrooms) are able to naturally increase the production of T-cells and macrophages. The beta-glucans in reishi act as immune modulators and help to fight off harmful invaders, while canthaxanthin displays promising anti-tumor potential.
As well as immune support, reishi also shows anti-inflammatory qualities. Researchers at the University of Texas Health and Science Center discovered that one dose of reishi displays the same anti-inflammatory effects as five milligrams of hydrocortisone.
Reishi: A Spiritually Potent Medicinal Mushroom
Monks, yogis and other spiritual seekers take reishi mushroom supplements in order to help them along their spiritual path. It is said that reishi mushrooms help to induce feelings of calm and peace, plus they can increase focus and concentration which is beneficial for long periods of meditation. Reishi can also be used as study tool to help to enhance memory and calm nerves before taking a test.
In Chinese, the term lingzhi loosely translates as the essence of immortality, and the mushrooms are said to enhance well-being, longevity and spiritual power. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, reishi is said to increase the flow of the three treasures: jing, qi and shen. Shen is a subtle yang energy which is believed to help us to stay balanced, centered and calm.
Reishi to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
This potent medicinal mushroom is one of only 16 recorded substances to be classified as having adaptogenic qualities. Adaptogens were first coined by the Russian pharmacologist Lazarev, who defined them as “agents which help an organism to counteract any adverse effects of a physical, chemical or biological stressors by generating nonspecific resistance”. In other words, adaptogens are ‘wise’ substances which work with the body to improve its current state of health. They can help to normalize the body's functions, recharge the adrenal glands, naturally lower stress levels and reduce anxiety.
Reishi Health Benefits at a Glance
Immune-Strengthening: Helps to regulate and support the functioning of the immune system
Antibacterial: Fights bacterial infections including streptococci
Antiviral: Helps to protect against viruses
Anti-Inflammatory: Can relieve muscle aches and reduce the symptoms of arthritis
Anti-Ageing: Contains antioxidants which help to fight free radical damage
Neuroregenerative: Helps to enhance cognitive development
Adaptogenic: Enables the body to better cope with a range of stress factors
Allergy Alleviator: Ganoderic acids can help to inhibit the release of histamine
Liver Support: Can detoxify, support and strengthen the liver
Fights Fatigue: Helps to increase energy levels
Meditation Aid: Can help to produce feelings of calm
Lower Blood Pressure:Triterpenes present in reishi may naturally lower high blood pressure
Safe to Use: The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia states there are no severe reported side effects
How to Choose the Best Reishi
It’s important to carefully source your reishi if you really want to buy a high-quality product. For convenience and practicality, choose to buy reishi mushrooms which have been prepared into a concentrated extract. Concentrated extract powders undergo a process to make them more nutritionally potent. For example, ten pounds of raw who mushrooms can be transformed into one pound of powerful extract powder that contains ten times the nutrients as the raw mushroom. A few other markers to consider when buying high-quality reishi mushrooms include:
Ethically Sourced: Sustainably cultivated either on land or in a laboratory
Pure: 100% natural with zero added fillers or preservatives
Carefully Prepared: Prepared without the use of harsh chemical or excess heat
Reputable: Purchase from a brand who specialize in selling medicinal mushrooms and tonic herbs
Packaging: Should be sealed in an airtight pouch or jar
Concentrated Extract: For a more potent dose of reishi
How to Use Reishi
Reishi mushrooms require a lot of care and preparation to transform them into a palatable and digestible supplements. Slices of raw reishi need to be cleaned, boiled in water, stewed and strained in order to create a tonic tea. Luckily, nowadays you can purchase pre-a prepared reishi powder; reishi is also available in capsule, tablet and tincture forms.
You can dissolve reishi powder into warm water to make a tonic tea, or blend it into smoothies, juices and shakes. You’re probably thinking, what does reishi taste like? Well, it does have a distinct earthy and bitter taste, which can be masked with other herbs, spices or natural sweeteners. Many people find that they become accustomed to the taste of reishi over time. You can also buy medicinal mushroom complex powders which consist of several different species of mushrooms such as chaga, turkey tail, tremella and maitake, for a more potent blend with a milder taste.
Reishi isn't limited to being used in beverages, as it can also be used in a range of foods including sauces, soups, dressings, raw chocolates, cakes, protein balls and bars, and much more.
Reishi Dosage and Side Effects
If it’s your first time taking reishi supplements, then it’s a wise idea to start small and gradually increase your dosage. Begin by taking less than half a teaspoon, and then slowly up your intake to a whole teaspoon of reishi powder if required. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners may prescribe larger doses for people suffering from chronic illnesses.
The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia states that reishi is safe to ingest, and there are no severe reported side effects. However, this mushroom can be particularly potent, and on rare occasions it may cause a dry mouth, dizziness or stomach aches. Lower your dose or contact your healthcare provider if you experience any of these reishi side effects.
An increasing number of juice bars, health stores and health-conscious chefs are using reishi recipes. The most common way to use it is to make a plain tonic tea. However, you can add a splash of your favourite nut or coconut milk, along with a dash of cinnamon and your sweetener of choice for a warming creamy reishi tea. You can also experiment with adding different medicinal mushrooms such as chaga, tremella, turkey tail or other tonic herbs and spices to make an ultra-nourishing superfood elixir.
Reishi coffee is also becoming increasingly popular, as coffee pairs well with reishi’s strong flavour. Just make your coffee the way that you prefer it, then add in 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of reishi powder and stir until it dissolves. A top tip is to blend in a teaspoon of virgin coconut oil to create a creamy vegan-friendly bulletproof-style reishi coffee. If you want to get the same pick-me-up without the jitters that are associated with caffeine, then you may want to try making tonic teas with energy-enhancing superfoods such as pine pollen or ginseng.
The famous mycologist, Paul Stamets, said that “reishi stands out as one the most valuable of all polypore mushrooms in nature for the benefit of our health”. With its incredible health benefits, reishi is sure to make an excellent addition into any diet.
Name: Reishi (Red Duanwood Reishi)
Latin Name: Ganoderma lucidum
Common Names: Lingzhi, Mushroom of Immortality, Ganoderma Motif, Spirit Plant
Reishi References and Sources
Reishi’s numerous health benefits are too long to list here, so if you want to learn more about them as well as about other healing medicinal mushrooms and tonic herbs we recommend these books:
Willard, Terry: Reishi Mushroom: Herbs of Spiritual Potency and Medical Wonder
Nong, Shen: Shennong Bencao Jing (The Classic of Herbal Medicine)
Hobbs, Christopher: Medicinal Mushrooms: An Exploration of Tradition, Healing, & Culture
Rogers, Robert: The Fungal Pharmacy:The Complete Guide to Medicinal Mushrooms and Lichens of North America
Stamets, Paul: Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World
Wolfe, David: Eating for Beauty