When I was little I lived in the middle of the countryside, and would often go out on long walks with my Mum and our dog. She’d point out all the interesting flora and fungi that grow in our hedgerows, on the sides of country lanes, and in woodlands, and this inspired a lifelong love of plants in my world.
Fast forward to today, and I am still exactly the same. Especially when it comes to mushrooms. I can tell the Shitaake from the Oyster from the Artist’s Bracket, no problem - and I’m pretty good at spying a Chanterelle here and there. I will admit though, until I started becoming interested in holistic wellbeing practices and ayurvedic medicine, I had never heard of a Reishi Mushroom.
You neither? Cool, I’m glad it’s not just me! But this mushroom has so many fantastic health benefits, I feel compelled to tell you all about it - so that’s exactly what I’m going to do in this handy guide to Reishi!
What are Reishi Mushrooms?
Reishi Mushrooms,or linghzi, is a mushroom which grows in very hot and humid conditions in Asia. Its Latin name is Ganoderma Lucidum, the Latin word ‘lucidus’ meaning shiny, which refers to the varnished appearance of the fresh mushroom. In Chinese culture, it’s regarded as the “herb of spiritual potency” and often used in medicine to promote longevity.
Reishi mushrooms have been used in ayurvedic and traditional medicinal practices for thousands of years, but they are only just beginning to become widespread in the Western World and are of scientific interest.
Whilst the fresh mushroom itself can be eaten (although it is noted to have a bitter taste), it is also readily found dried, crushed into powders or in extract form. These mushrooms are also known to contain over 400 different nutrients, including beta-glucans and triterpenoids,which can help to reduce the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease (Sissi Wachtel-Galor et al., 2011).
What are the benefits of Reishi Mushroom?
Supports immune system - According to research, Reishi mushrooms can affect the genes in our white blood cells, which are vital to our immune system. Reishi mushroom is thought to help alter inflammation pathways in these cells (Batra, Sharma and Khajuria, 2013)
There have been studies of the use of reishi mushroom for people with certain forms of cancer and, although further research is ongoing, it does suggest that molecules within reishi mushrooms can help the immune system to increase the activity in a specific type of white blood cell. These cells, called natural killer cells, fight cancers within the body (Jin et al., 2016).
In those with colorectal cancer, research has noted that reishi mushroom can help the body with the creation of another type of white blood cell, lymphocytes, to help the immune system. This improved lymphocyte function can also be seen in healthy individuals, and may have benefits for people under consistent stressful conditions, such as athletes - although more research is needed to solidify this (Jin et al., 2016 and Min et al., 2000).
They may help to protect against Alzheimer’s - Studies have shown that reishi mushrooms may hold neuroprotective properties, by supporting the production of a protein called nerve growth factor. This protein is essential in maintaining healthy brain function, and it is thought that future research with reishi mushrooms may help to uncover more about protecting the brain from the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (WebMD, n.d.).
They can help reduce fatigue and the symptoms of depression - Several studies have shown that taking supplements of reishi mushrooms can improve quality of life and wellbeing, and the participants of these studies also reported a reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression. By boosting the immune system and targeting the damage caused by free radicals (unstable atoms which damage cells, causing illness), and by regulating testosterone levels in the body, reishi mushroom might promote better energy levels (Batra, Sharma and Khajuria, 2013)
Promoting healthy sleep cycles and reduces stress - Reishi mushroom is adaptogenic, and has been shown to help regulate stress levels, and aid in relaxation. Using a supplement containing reishi mushroom before bed can help to promote better sleep cycles, and leave you feeling refreshed in the morning. By naturally reducing cortisol levels, reishi mushrooms can alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety, which is important for our stress response. This is why Vivo Life uses the fruiting body of reishi mushroom in our MAGIC Raw Hot Chocolate. Having a mug before bed can lead to an excellent night’s sleep - and I speak from experience there!
May improve heart health - Reishi mushroom is thought to help reduce triglycerides in the blood, and also help to increase HDL cholesterol. Other research has shown different results in this area, so it is thought that more studies are needed to find a direct correlation (WebMD, n.d.)
May improve liver health - Again, whilst more research is needed, there is promising evidence to suggest that reishi mushrooms can reverse chemically induced liver damage with triterpenes in the mushrooms promoting the regeneration of liver cells (Min et al., 2000).
Are there any side effects?
Fortunately, there do not appear to be serious side effects associated with reishi mushroom, however, it’s always worth consulting your doctor if you have concerns about starting a new supplement. There have been some reports of an increase in having an upset stomach when first supplementing with reishi mushrooms, as well as experiencing dryness in the mouth and a rash across the skin. The last two could be signs of a reishi mushroom allergy, so please make sure you consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about using a supplement which contains reishi.
It’s recommended that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, those who are due to undergo surgery, have low blood pressure or a blood disorder should avoid reishi mushroom.
Further to that, the supplement industry does not have strict regulation, so ensuring that any products containing reishi mushroom are high quality, and tested for pesticides, herbicides and heavy metals is key to ensuring that you are using a healthy product. Vivo Life’s MAGIC range, like all our products, is third party tested to ensure that you are getting the highest quality, natural ingredients with no hidden extras!
Min, B.S., Gao, J.J., Nakamura, N. and Hattori, M. (2000). Triterpenes from the spores of Ganoderma lucidum and their cytotoxicity against meth-A and LLC tumor cells. Chemical & Pharmaceutical Bulletin, [online] 48(7), pp.1026–1033. doi:10.1248/cpb.48.1026.
Cheng, C.-H., Leung, A.Y. and Chen, C.-F. (2010). The effects of two different ganoderma species (Lingzhi) on gene expression in human monocytic THP-1 cells. Nutrition and Cancer, [online] 62(5), pp.648–658. doi:10.1080/01635581003605516.
Batra, P., Sharma, A.K. and Khajuria, R. (2013). Probing Lingzhi or Reishi Medicinal Mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (Higher Basidiomycetes): A Bitter Mushroom with Amazing Health Benefits. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 15(2), pp.127–143. doi:10.1615/intjmedmushr.v15.i2.20.