Reishi Mushroom: An Exciting And Powerful Superfood

Dr Jess says: I use reishi mushroom regularly with my patients, often in combination with cordyceps, to strengthen weakened patients or to boost general health and immunity. I have seen amazing results using reishi to treat a patient suffering from nephrotic syndrome (a kidney condition, where patients have too much protein in their urine). Reishi mushroom is also a key ingredient in one of the combinations I use to help improve sleep quality and treat insomnia. It is a lovely, safe and gentle, yet powerful mushroom. Xandra and I add a small amount to our coffee machine grinder, as it is great in a morning coffee. 

Reishi mushroom, known as Ling zhi, in traditional Chinese medicine, or by its latin name, Ganoderma lucidum, is an amazing Chinese dietary support that is starting to become widely known for its nourishing properties and extensive health benefits. It has been shown to work to treat a range of symptoms and medical conditions, including autoimmune issues, kidney problems and even to help to slow the progression of some cancers. 

used in traditional Chinese medicine, for calming and to aid sleep. Reishi mushroom’s Chinese name translates to ‘herb of spiritual potency,’ and there are two main varieties. Red reishi and black reishi. These are different varieties of the Ganoderma mushroom, and both are said to have different properties in traditional Chinese medicine.

red reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), is thought to be more calming, so is used to treat the traditional Chinese concept of ‘heart symptoms’. It is thought to help anxiety, calm the mind, aid sleep and insomnia, improve memory and concentration, and soothe palpitations. This is the more commonly available form of reishi. 

black reishi (Ganoderma sinense), is thought to be better for the traditional Chinese concept of ‘kidney’ (different from the medical interpretation of kidney) and so is deeply nourishing, helping to restore us after illness. It is also thought to be good for  supporting urinary symptoms, supporting healthy ageing and reducing back pain, and as a natural support to bone and joint problems. Most western herbalists primarily use red reishi as it is cited in much of the research, but many traditional Chinese herbalists use both forms. 

reishi is traditionally used for low energy, and to help digestion. It is classed in traditional Chinese medicine as a herb that tonifies Qi (our natural balance and energy) and nourishes the blood. This means it can aid exhaustion, a lack of appetite, heart palpitations, insomnia, shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing.

Studies support reishi’s benefit for treating fatigue, with a significant improvement over two months of treatment.1 A recent study also demonstrated its benefit over six weeks, in improving physical fitness and flexibility in a group of women with fibromyalgia;2 a condition characterised by muscle pain and fatigue.

Animal studies show that reishi mushroom can improve natural gut flora and help reduce obesity.3 It is also shown to improve the barrier of the gut wall, and secretory IgA, both very important in restoring bowel health, which plays a major contributing factor in leaky gut.4

reishi mushroom is said to help general health and longevity. Commonly referenced in ancient Chinese medical texts, and referred to as the ‘mushroom of Immortality’ and the ‘elixir of life’, reishi was prized and revered for its benefits to health. It has been used as a medicine for thousands of years in China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan.

Studies of healthy patients show that reishi is a powerful antioxidant, which protects the liver and reduces the impact of ageing.5

research shows it is very safe. Reishi mushroom has been granted ‘GRAS’ status, which means it is Generally Regarded As Safe by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), with a very low risk of side effects. Trials show no adverse effects from high doses of reishi mushroom.6

although studies are limited, it may help the immune system and treat cancer. Traditionally, herbs that nourish the lung Qi, like reishi, are thought to improve our natural defences against pathogens. This means that reishi mushrooms are an immune-boosting herb. One study saw a benefit in immune system function, measured by a blood test, after taking reishi for just one month.7

Small studies show that taking reishi mushroom may be beneficial for helping pain and symptoms in autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis,8 effective in helping the immune system fight lung cancer9 and effectively suppressed the development of cancerous lesions in the bowel.10 Small studies have also shown that it can help suppress breast cancer growth and metastases11 and may help prostate cancer.12

Chemicals in reishi mushroom significantly improved the cancer-fighting ability of the immune system, even in advanced cancer patients.13

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healing from herpes infections and HPV virus. Genital herpes infections are shortened and symptoms are relieved, when taking reishi mushroom.14

It has also been shown to be very effective (88% successful, over two months) at clearing strains of HPV (a virus that is implicated in cervical cancer), when combined with another mushroom (Trametes versicolor).15

effective at treating liver problems. Studies show reishi mushroom can potentially reverse fatty liver disease and improve liver enzyme blood tests, showing its benefit to the liver.16

kidney and prostate problems. Reishi mushroom may also help kidney disease (glomerulonephritis), and improves all markers and protein levels in the urine.17 It likely also helps urinary symptoms, in men with enlarged prostate called BPH; Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy.18,19

reishi mushroom dosage: Studies have used between 3-12g daily of dried ground mushroom powder, which can be added to hot drinks or taken with hot water. You can buy a good quality powder, or alternatively, grind the dried mushrooms in a coffee grinder yourself.

There are many great reishi mushroom supplements available. Jess loves the quality of the powder and capsules from Myconutri, who sell organic reishi.

reishi mushroom side effects: Reishi can upset your stomach, or cause diarrhoea in large doses, but is generally very safe. Despite warnings, reishi does not seem to impact or increase risk of bleeding.20

Don’t take either the mushrooms or a supplement if you are allergic to reishi.

ways to use reishi mushrooms 

buy organic reishi powder and add it to your coffee. Add half a teaspoon to your cafetière or coffee machine with the coffee grounds, and make your coffee as normal. There are also ready made products with medicinal mushrooms like Four Sigmatic.

make a chocolate reishi latte. Heat one cup of organic full-fat milk (or non-dairy milk, if you prefer), whisking in a pan with 2tsp of cocoa powder, ½tsp of reishi, a pinch of cinnamon, a dash of cream (optional) and either honey or stevia to taste. Alternatively, blend all ingredients together, and heat through. Reishi, like porcini mushroom, is a great companion to chocolate and helps to bring out its intensity. 

take it in capsules, as a supplement. Check with your healthcare provider that taking reishi will not interfere with any other medications you are currently taking. 

add a teaspoon of reishi powder to your soups. Add to nourishing bone broths or chicken soup. Be careful not to add too much, as reishi can easily overpower your cooking. Black reishi mushroom is generally more pleasant tasting than red, and has been used in stocks, soups and stews for thousands of years. 

reshi mushroom Q&A:

It sounds really interesting. How long would I need to take it to see results?

It is difficult to say, as it varies between the individual and the symptoms being treated,  however we would consider this to be a relatively slow-acting herb. Many of the clinical trials with positive results gave reishi daily for between three and six months.

Can reishi be used with children and animals? 

Yes, reishi is generally considered safe for children and animals. As with all medicines and supplements, we would suggest you check with your medical provider or vet whether reishi would be suitable. 

Reshi is used widely in alternative medicine for pets and a herbal vet can help you to choose the best alternative medicine for your pet. A website called healthfulpets.co.uk, that sells a few different types of reishi supplements for animals, to treat a variety of issues, such as autoimmune conditions, ease of movement, digestion and longevity. 

 

references

  1. A randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study of a Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract in neurasthenia
  2. GANODERMA LUCIDUM IMPROVES PHYSICAL FITNESS IN WOMEN WITH FIBROMYALGIA
  3. Ganoderma lucidum reduces obesity in mice by modulating the composition of the gut microbiota
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/29248453/?i=1&from=reishi%20iga
  5. Triterpenoids and polysaccharide peptides-enriched Ganoderma lucidum: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study of its antioxidation and hepatoprotective efficacy in healthy volunteers
  6. Ganoderma lucidum (“Lingzhi”), a Chinese medicinal mushroom: biomarker responses in a controlled human supplementation study
  7. Effect of Ganoderma lucidum capsules on T lymphocyte subsets in football players on “living high-training low”
  8. Safety and efficacy of Ganoderma lucidum (lingzhi) and San Miao San supplementation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot trial
  9. Protection against lung cancer patient plasma-induced lymphocyte suppression by Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides
  10. A water-soluble extract from culture medium of Ganoderma lucidum mycelia suppresses the development of colorectal adenomas
  11. The mushroom Ganoderma lucidum suppresses breast-to-lung cancer metastasis through the inhibition of pro-invasive genes
  12. Androgen receptor-dependent and -independent mechanisms mediate Ganoderma lucidum activities in LNCaP prostate cancer cells
  13. Effects of ganopoly (a Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract) on the immune functions in advanced-stage cancer patients
  14. Herbal mixtures containing the mushroom Ganoderma lucidum improve recovery time in patients with herpes genitalis and labialis
  15. Control of oral human papillomavirus (HPV) by medicinal mushrooms, Trametes versicolor and Ganoderma lucidum: a preliminary clinical trial
  16. Triterpenoids and polysaccharide peptides-enriched Ganoderma lucidum: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study of its antioxidation and hepatoprotective efficacy in healthy volunteers
  17. Ganoderma lucidum suppresses endothelial cell cytotoxicity and proteinuria in persistent proteinuric focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) nephrosis
  18. Effect of an extract of Ganoderma lucidum in men with lower urinary tract symptoms: a double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized and dose-ranging study
  19. Randomized clinical trial of an ethanol extract of Ganoderma lucidum in men with lower urinary tract symptoms
  20. Kwok Y, Ng KF, Li CC, Lam CC, Man RY. A prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the platelet and global hemostatic effects of Ganoderma lucidum (Ling-Zhi) in healthy volunteers. Anesth Analg. 2005 Aug;101(2):423-6, table of contents. doi: 10.1213/01.ANE.0000155286.20467.28. PMID: 16037156.
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