Reishi mushroom is a staple of Chinese medicine, sharing the spotlight with other adaptogenic mushrooms.
It is also known by different interesting aliases like the “mushroom of immortality” or “the mushroom of kings,” suggesting both longevity and perhaps even royalty.
But how exactly does the reishi mushroom get these nicknames, and what do they signify?
Let’s dig a little deeper into the therapeutic and remedial potential of reishi mushrooms.
- What is Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma Lucidum)?
- How Does Reishi Mushroom Extract Work For Mental Health?
- What Are The Health Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms?
- How To Take Reishi Mushroom?
- Does Reishi Mushroom Have Side Effects?
What is Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma Lucidum)?
The reishi mushroom is a fungus that commonly grows in hot and humid regions of China. They are a revered part of Traditional Chinese Medicine where they were used and cultivated by Taoist monks for thousands of years.
Hundreds of Chinese texts refer to the mushrooms being used for harnessing spiritual energy to calm the mind, treat distress, and support positive energy, thus purporting longevity.
Members of the emperor’s family also used the mushrooms for the longest time before becoming available to the masses, hence the title, the mushroom of kings.
Reishi mushrooms are also known as lingzhi, with wild reishi mushrooms typically growing near hardwood trees. However, for using these mushrooms in supplements, cultures are also grown in carefully chosen controlled settings using hardwood logs as a starter medium.
People often describe these herbal or medicinal plants as harsh, given their woody texture and bitter taste. For this reason, they are mostly consumed as powder or tinctures by extracting the minerals they contain.
Reishi mushroom is one of the most researched herbs globally, and studies show it to be a soothing mushroom that can support mind, body functions and does contribute to overall health and wellness.
Different parts of the mushroom are used as medicine to treat several problems, including heart and liver problems, a weak immune system, cancer, kidney and lung disease, and even viral infection.
Most of the potent health benefits of reishi come from its active compounds, including amino acids, molecules, sugars, and triterpenoids, polysaccharides, and peptidoglycans.
When compared to other mushrooms, reishi is the only mushroom variety that features the compound triterpenes.
Also known as ganoderic acids, triterpenes are used for medicinal purposes in many Asian countries. They seem to possess anti-inflammatory, analgesic, hepatoprotective, cardiotonic, and sedative effects.
How Does Reishi Mushroom Extract Work For Mental Health?
In a nootropic capacity, reishi mushroom benefits primarily address stress-related health effects. It ranks among the top adaptogenic mushrooms that help the body and mind adapt to stress and difficult situations.
In particular, it is known for supporting the adrenals by promoting a balanced response to physical and emotional stress.
It may also help promote stamina, energy, and endurance while also boosting mental concentration and focus. As such, the addition of reishi mushrooms to the diet can help support the function of the nervous system.
Research shows that it also stimulates nerve growth factor (NGF) production that improves learning and memory.
The nerve growth factor is among the substances vital for healthy neurological function. One animal study showed that reishi mushrooms might have neuroprotective effects by supporting NGF production.
Another nootropic aspect relates to the mushroom’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties preventing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Both conditions are triggered by oxidative stress and inflammation.
What Are The Health Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms?
Lingzhi mushrooms have been in use by several Asian cultures yielding a host of physical, mental, and spiritual benefits.
For many people, using reishi mushroom supplements is for immune system support alone. However, it also has other potential purposes.
This mushroom type can help fight depression, regulate cholesterol, and support neuronal regeneration. In addition, taking reishi mushrooms can help increase antioxidant status, reduce blood sugar, and improve inflammation.
Science does provide some evidence of its effectiveness, with researchers now studying the chemical makeup of this mushroom to see how well it works.
Improves Cognitive Function
Among nootropic benefits, reishi mushroom consumption relates to brain health and wellness by offering neuroprotection.
Research findings testify that taking Ganoderma lucidum extracts taken orally promotes neural progenitor cell proliferation that enhances neurogenesis.
Evidence indicates that Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides can also help treat cognitive decline associated with neurodegenerative diseases (1).
Reduces Mental Fatigue and Improves Well-being
Fatigue triggers negative effects, including a decline in productivity, feeling blue or low all the time, and unwanted lethargy. To counter this effect, a dose of reishi mushroom extracts can help.
Research conducted on 132 people showed that taking reishi mushrooms reduced signs of fatigue and improved quality of life (2).
People involved in the study suffered from neurasthenia, a condition associated with headaches, irritability, pains, aches, and dizziness.
Other human studies on breast cancer survivors showed the effectiveness of reishi powder by presenting reduced fatigue and improved well-being after 4 weeks (3).
Alleviates Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression
Reishi mushroom extract, ranked among nootropic adaptogens, also can reduce the level of anxiety a person experiences. In addition, it creates several effects that can help calm the central nervous system and provide adrenal support.
In addition, it can help calm the mind and support a more profound, restful sleep.
Enhances Antioxidant Status In The Body
Antioxidants are molecules that help prevent cellular damage in the body and reishi mushrooms have features that enhance the status of antioxidants in your body.
This mechanism can protect the body from long-term health threats that could otherwise trigger chronic diseases.
Its high antioxidant content is also beneficial for the brain by lowering tissue damage and cell aging, leading to cognitive decline.
A study conducted in 2013 found that reishi contains antioxidants that fight harmful immune responses (4).
Boosts the Immune System
One of the essential benefits of reishi mushrooms is to support the immune system. It works like other adaptogens to support the immune system in times of stress.
These mushrooms contain over 200 polysaccharide compounds that boost the immune system and make it stronger. Important among these are the beta-glucans present in the fungus.
Human studies on reishi mushrooms show it alters the inflammation pathways in white blood cells (5).
Because it can enhance immune function by affecting white blood cells, it may also be beneficial for fighting infection.
Research on colorectal cancer patients showed an increase in white blood cells. Most of the improvements observed were in the unwell people, but it can also benefit healthy people (6).
Has Anti-Cancer Properties
Reishi mushrooms are a popular remedy for people suffering from cancer. It has several cancer-fighting properties, with many studies showing promising results.
Its most beneficial effect regarding anti-cancer properties shows a decrease in the size and number of tumor growth. In addition, some test-tube studies also indicate that reishi mushrooms can cause the death of cancer cells.
Research indicates that the complex sugars, beta-glucans, may stall the growth and spread of cancer cells.
Findings from one of the studies show that in more than 4,000 breast cancer patient survivors, about 59% of them consumed Reishi mushrooms (7).
It is also commonly used to treat prostate cancer patients as it directly affects the hormone testosterone (8).
Research also indicates that reishi mushroom consumption stimulates natural killer cells against various cancer cell lines (9).
But while reishi mushrooms seem to diminish cancer cells effectively, they are still not a substitute for actual cancer treatment.
Helps With Blood Sugar Control
These mushrooms can also provide support with blood sugar regulation, as seen in some research. Further studies on humans also presented similar results.
Several animal studies indicate that the polysaccharide content in reishi mushrooms may have anti-diabetic effects, potentially lower blood sugar levels, improve insulin resistance, and lower pancreatic tissue damage.
While there is potential in the fungus to control blood sugar levels, there are still risks involved in using it for that purpose. More evidence and more research are needed before it can be used as a medicine.
Improves Liver Function
Optimal liver function is crucial for the detoxification of the body. Reishi mushrooms help improve liver function and prevent liver disease allowing the body to flush out toxins and bacteria and improve immunity.
In this case, reishi mushroom benefits include protecting liver tissue from the toxic effect of certain bacterial infections.
Animal studies show that the polysaccharide content in reishi mushrooms inhibits inflammation in liver cells. It also restores antioxidant systems in the liver to recover following an infection.
Plus, in acute liver injuries, reishi mushroom induces a hepatoprotective effect. On the flip side, reishi can also cause liver toxicity, especially when consumed in powdered form.
How To Take Reishi Mushroom?
The long list of reishi mushroom health benefits tells us that this is a very versatile mushroom.
If you have access to the natural reishi mushrooms, you can cook them in soups, stirfries, or even blend in a smoothie. Another way to go is to dry them for later consumption.
One of the more traditional ways to take reishi mushrooms is by brewing them into tea.
The original texture of the reishi mushrooms is like glossy wood with a bitter taste which makes them difficult to eat raw.
This is why most users take these herbs in the form of capsules or dried powder to evade the bitter taste.
Supplements are also a good option as they tell you exactly how much of the good stuff you are getting in each serving.
Reishi mushroom supplements can vary from powders, tinctures, capsules, tablets, and even energy bars. Given the wide variety available, look for products that don’t contain any additives or fillers.
The type of supplement may also affect its bioavailability, meaning how much of the active ingredients will be absorbed and used by the body.
- Use the powder form of the supplement if you’re not comfortable swallowing pills.
- Tinctures yield a higher concentration of active ingredients.
- Tablets and capsules are more accurately dosed.
- Energy bars are preferred for their taste and convenience.
Because of its mildly calming effects, experts recommend talking reishi mushrooms in the evening.
Others prefer to take the mushroom of immortality in the morning on an empty stomach. Drinking water along reishi improves absorbability, as does pairing it with vitamin C foods.
The dosage of mushroom powder or reishi extract depends on the form of the mushroom consumed. Appropriate doses will also rely on the user’s health, age, and the condition being treated.
When eaten fresh, the dose can range between 25 – 100 grams daily. However, products like capsules, powders, or extracts contain more concentrated doses and require smaller amounts.
The following are doses that have been tried during studies with safe results and no side effects.
- Dried mushroom: 1.5 – 9 grams daily given orally
- Powder: 1 – 1.5 grams daily given orally
- Tincture: 1 ml daily administered orally
- Most supplements sold in capsule form use between 600 mg and 1000 mg of reishi extract per 2-capsule serving, although higher strength formulas are going up to 1500 mg per capsule as well.
Always consult with your doctor to see which product will serve your needs best as there is no established daily value for its consumption.
Does Reishi Mushroom Have Side Effects?
Reishi mushrooms have been used to treat health conditions from stress and mood support to intestine and breast cancer patients.
But while there are significant health benefits, reishi mushrooms can also present some side effects when used in the wrong amount, in the wrong way, or for improper purposes.
Some of the common side effects of reishi products include their effects on low blood pressure.
- For instance, reishi mushrooms are known to lower blood pressure, but if mixed with other medications, the herbs might cause blood pressure to drop too low.
- If you are not using any medications for blood pressure but often suffer from it, talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women are also advised not to consume reishi mushrooms. Their safety hasn’t been tested with sufficient research, but it is better not to use these products during gestation and immediately after.
- People suffering from bleeding disorders also need to proceed with care as reishi mushroom supplements may cause antiplatelets or anticoagulants to become more effective.
- One blood disorder called thrombocytopenia causes blood cells to clump together and form clots. High doses of reishi may increase the risk of bleeding in people with this condition. Studies show that blood thinners combined with the Ganoderma lucidum can cause an individual to bleed excessively.
- Likewise, people using immunosuppressants should also avoid taking reishi supplements for risks of contraindications with medications.
- While these supplements can help control blood sugar, they might also drop it too low if taken alongside a diabetes medicine. Combining the supplements and other drugs is a risk and should be discussed with a doctor beforehand.
Other possible side effects of reishi mushroom supplements can include dry mouth, digestive distress, or bloody stools.
While there are some risks associated with taking reishi mushroom supplements, the benefits of this medicinal mushroom outweigh the risks.
More than just a culinary wonder, reishi mushrooms help boost the immune system, are used in cancer treatment, provide heart and circulatory support and ensure optimal liver functioning.
Using this superstar of Eastern medicine is one of the best ways to invest in your health, especially if you want to take your hectic lifestyle down a notch without compromising productivity.
- Can you take reishi mushrooms daily?
Reishi mushrooms can be taken daily but for a limited time only. It is considered safe to take supplement products for up to a year, but the powdered form should only be taken at a maximum of 16 weeks.
- Does reishi mushroom make you sleepy?
Reishi mushrooms have sedative benefits that can make you sleepy. However, they are known to improve and promote sleep quality. Therefore, these mushrooms are often prescribed by herbalists to treat insomnia.
- How does reishi mushroom respond to stress?
Reishi mushrooms have adaptogenic abilities that improve the immune system, help the brain relax, provide adrenal support, and alleviate insomnia to bring stress levels down.