It seems like every other day, there is a super food making its debut in the market. The latest on the list is the reishi mushroom. This beautiful red mushroom that looks almost like a work of art, has been used for many medicinal purposes for several years, especially in traditional Chinese medicine. In fact, the Chinese have been reaping the benefits of reishi mushroom tea for thousands of years by drying, cutting and boiling it in hot water. It is also known as Lingzhi (mushroom of herb and immortality) in China and Korea.
The Chinese regard this beneficial mushroom as something that has spiritual potency and an essence of immortality. It symbolizes success, well-being, divine power, and longevity. It is more revered for its pharmaceutical than nutritional value and its health benefits include blood sugar control, immune system modulation, liver protection and more.1
The mushroom is too tough to be edible but its many parts are used for sundry medicinal benefits. It is consumed in the form of tincture, tonic, tea, powder and extract. But are the health benefits of reishi mushrooms backed by science? Or are they just passed along by folklore?
1. Powers Up Your Immune System
Reishi mushrooms, known scientifically as Ganoderma lucidum, helps boost your immunity. How? It contains a high concentration of active components like organic germanium, polysaccharides, and triterpenes. These are proven to strengthen our immune cells.2
2. Fights Inflammation And Allergic Reactions
Reishi mushrooms are a natural anti-inflammatory agent, which also makes them very useful for those who suffer from allergies. The acidic substance called triterpenes turn off the body’s response to allergens. Studies have shown that the extract of these miracle mushrooms significantly inhibits several types of allergic reactions. These include positive effects against asthma and contact dermatitis. It can also be used for stiff necks and shoulders, conjunctivitis (inflammation of the fine membrane lining the eye and eyelids), bronchitis and rheumatism.3
3. Has Antitumor And Anticancer Effects
Reishi mushroom benefits cancer patients in several ways owing to its polysaccharide content, which has shown to have antitumor activity in mice. Reishi mushrooms also contain some triterpenoids which have demonstrated cytotoxic activity on hepatoma cells (cancer of the liver cells) in lab testing.4 The extract of reishi mushrooms has been widely used by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners for cancer treatment. Though not to be relied on as a stand-alone treatment, it is usually recommended as an immune system support supplement to complement chemo or radiotherapy.5
4. A Friend For Diabetics
After seeing reishi mushroom extract benefits for diabetes on animal models, researchers studied its effects on 71 patients with type 2 diabetes. The patients were divided into two groups to receive placebo or Ganopoly (product with reishi mushroom extract) for 12 weeks. Fasting and stimulated glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), plasma glucose, insulin, and C-peptide levels were monitored at set intervals. The Ganopoly group noted significantly lowered HbA1c levels at the end of the study. It was concluded that reishi mushroom extract is safe and effective for lowering blood-sugar levels.6
Another Malaysian study revealed that reishi extract capsules worked just as effectively in lowering blood glucose as oral hypoglycemics and insulin in comparative control patients. However, it also stated that reishi seems to be less effective on diabetics who have been dealing with the disease for long periods.7
5. Makes Heart Matters Better
One more item in the list of benefits of reishi mushrooms is its cardio-protective effects. It helps in cholesterol management along with hypertension, leading to better quality of your ticker.
Hypertensive rats fed with powdered mycelium of reishi mushrooms for four weeks saw an 18.6 percent drop in plasma total cholesterol. Total liver triglyceride and total liver cholesterol levels also dropped significantly–by 46 percent and 56 percent, respectively. They also showed improvement in systolic blood pressure, which was effectively lowered without causing a significant difference in the heart rate.8
6. Banishes Insomnia
In China, pieces of reishi mushroom are cut up and left to soak in wine for at least four weeks. This tonic is then consumed before bedtime for a good night’s sleep as reishi mushrooms are believed to have calming and sedating effects. A rat study also cements this belief. When they were fed with a water extract of reishi mushrooms, a significant increase of 8.5 percent rapid-eye-movement sleep was observed.9
7. Helps The Liver
Reishi mushroom exerts protective effects on the liver. According to a study, the effects of reishi mushroom water extract were studied in mice with an induced liver injury. The results revealed that this medicinal mushroom has the ability to heal the liver cells, probably due to their antioxidant properties.10
8. Counters Physical Effects Of Stress
Reishi mushrooms are considered to have adaptogenic properties. Substances that are adaptogens enhance the body’s ability to resist a stressor. We all know that stress wreaks havoc on not only our mental health but also our physical well-being. The negative effects of stress include decreased digestive secretions, higher blood pressure, increased inflammation, depleted energy. It can result in imbalanced homeostasis, which can be the root of many illnesses.11
Considering the many health benefits of reishi mushrooms, it would be a good idea to include this super food in your diet whenever possible.
|↑1||Benzie, I. F. F., and S. Wachtel-Galor. “Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects of Chinese Wolfberry–Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects.” (2011).|
|↑2||Babu, P. Dinesh, and R. S. Subhasree. “The sacred mushroom “Reishi”-a review.” The American-Eurasian Journal of Botany 1, no. 3 (2008): 107-110.|
|↑3||Babu, P. Dinesh, and R. S. Subhasree. “The sacred mushroom “Reishi”-a review.” The American-Eurasian Journal of Botany 1, no. 3 (2008): 107-110.|
|↑4, ↑8||Wasser, Solomon P. “Reishi or Ling Zhi (Ganoderma lucidum).” Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements 1 (2005): 603-622.|
|↑5||Jin, X., J. Ruiz Beguerie, D. M. Y. Sze, and G. C. F. Chan. “Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for cancer treatment.” status and date: New, published in 6 (2012).|
|↑6||Gao, Yihuai, Jin Lan, Xihu Dai, Jingxian Ye, and Shufeng Zhou. “A phase I/II study of Ling Zhi mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (W. Curt.: Fr.) Lloyd (Aphyllophoromycetideae) extract in patients with type II diabetes mellitus.” International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms 6, no. 1 (2004).|
|↑7, ↑9||Jones, Kenneth. “Reishi mushroom: Ancient medicine in modern times.” Alternative and Complementary Therapies 4, no. 4 (1998): 256-266.|
|↑10||Wu, Xin, Jun Zeng, Jinsong Hu, Qiong Liao, Rong Zhou, Ping Zhang, and Zuohong Chen. “Hepatoprotective Effects of Aqueous Extract from Lingzhi or Reishi Medicinal Mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (Higher Basidiomycetes) on α-Amanitin− Induced Liver Injury in Mice.” International journal of medicinal mushrooms 15, no. 4 (2013).|
|↑11||Nanba, H. “Antitumor activity of orally administered “D-Fraction” from maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa).” J Naturopathic Med 1, no. 4 (1993): 10-15.|