Reishi mushroom (ganoderma lucidum); the infamous "Immortality mushroom"

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is a type of fungi extensively used in Asia (especially Japan and Chine) for thousands of years. It is generally consumed in powder form, tinctures or tea. There are different type of reishi mushroom, however the most commonly used one is the red reishi. Its main active ingredients are a variety of triterpenenoids (ganoderic acids), alkaloids and polysaccharides.

Its mechanism of action is complex, yet the outcome is simple; its an adaptogen, i.e. It promotes homeostasis, the body's system to regulate its variables and functions to maintain balance. Other common adaptogens are; ashwagandha, rhodiola rosea and ginseng.

But why has reishi been used for so many years and widely spoken about to this day? Because it is effective and luckily for me, widely studied, so the data can speak for itself.

Here are the main medicinal uses of reishi, according to academic resources:

1. Potential anti-cancer treatment

Studies show that ethanolic (alcohol) extracts of the spores of reishi mushroom inhibit tumour cell proliferation and induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in HL-60 cells (Human promyelocytic leukemia cells).The compounds that are the showing that potential are primarily the polysaccharides, exerting a significant immunity boost. A large part of the research was conducted in mice, which is of course something we should bear in mind, but it is understood that for ethical reasons not many studies can be conducted in cancer patients unless there is a tremendous background of previous cell or animal research prior to that.

Russell R, Paterson M. Ganoderma - a therapeutic fungal biofactory. Phytochemistry 2006;67:1985–2001.

Liu X, Yuan JP, Chung CK, Chen XJ. Antitumor activity of the sporodermbroken germinating spores of Ganoderma lucidum. Cancer Lett 2002;182:155–61.

Min BS, Gao JJ, Nakamura N, Hattori M. Triterpenes from the spores of Ganoderma lucidum and their cytotoxicity against meth-A and LLC tumor cells. Chem Pharm Bull 2000;48:1026–33.

Xie YZ, Li SZ, Yee A, La Pierre DP, Deng ZQ, Lee DY, et al. Ganoderma lucidum inhibits tumour cell proliferation and induces tumour cell death. Enzyme Microb Technol 2006;40:177–85.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0367326X11003285

http://www.pnas.org/content/110/34/13809.short

http://www.dl.begellhouse.com/journals/708ae68d64b17c52,58cadf0c6c913237,1af485045b17e424.html

 

2. Insomnia


As an adaptogen, reishi can reduce stress and to an extend "blunt" the cortisol spikes when we are stressed. A study in rats showed that a brew of reishi before usual sleep time can increase REM sleep significantly.

Kenneth Jones. Alternative and Complementary Therapies. February 2009, 4(4): 256-266.https://doi.org/10.1089/act.1998.4.256


3. Glucose control (potential therapy for diabetes)

A study conducted on both type 1 and type 2 diabetic patients showed that reishi extract can be as effective as certain anti-diabetic medication in reducing blood glucose and glycemic-response. However, the study also showed that the longer the patients were diabetic, the less significant the results were. Still, this shows potential for early-diagnosed diabetic patients.

Kenneth Jones. Alternative and Complementary Therapies. February 2009, 4(4): 256-266.https://doi.org/10.1089/act.1998.4.256

https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/abstract/10.1055/s-2007-969507

 

4. Immunity

Here is the major reason why reishi is so famous; it boosts our immunity.

The triterpenoids and polysaccharides of reishi have shown a tremendous potential in boosting immunity. As the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms states:

"The major immunomodulating effects of these active substances derived from G. lucidum include mitogenicity and activation of immune effector cells, such as Т cells, macrophages, and natural killer cells, resulting in the production of cytokines, including interleukins, tumor necrosis factor-d, and interferons. "

So, long story short, your bacteria/virus-fighting mechanism is boosted, anti-inflammatory response is boosted and anti-cancer cell function is boosted. I think this got me.

Also, a study conducted in 1998 showed that reishi has moderate anti-HIV potential, by inhibiting HIV-1 PR by 50%.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0031942298002544

http://www.dl.begellhouse.com/journals/708ae68d64b17c52,2ea43b2e1c72ed1c,0444eb934f7280cf.html

 

5. Hepatoprotective activity

Polysaccharides derived from reishi have shown potential against hepatotoxicity (i.e. Liver damage) by protecting the liver against toxic chemicals, as well as exerting anti-hepatitis B action. That's not to say that heavy drinkers or people with severe liver damage will be healed by reishi, but it can certainly reduce the damage.

http://www.dl.begellhouse.com/journals/708ae68d64b17c52,3389befb6be7818a,3ea891d772a09d0f.html

 

There is a vast amount of research, but for space and time purposes I cannot list them all here. You can find lots online, but I hope this fairly short article helps you understand about the hype for Reishi mushroom.

Stay healthy!

Caution:

Since immunity boost is one of reishi's main benefits, patients on immunosuppressive medication or autoimmune diseases should always consult their specialist before using reishi. Also because of the anti-platelet action, patients on aspirin, warfarin, clopidogrel or any kind of heparin should never use reishi without prior medical consultation.

Recommended reading:

If you want to look into reishi, any of the references mentioned above is available online, however if you want to start somewhere and have a spherical view over the many different body functions that reishi can improve, check this:

Kenneth Jones. Alternative and Complementary Therapies. February 2009, 4(4): 256-266.https://doi.org/10.1089/act.1998.4.256

Disclaimer:
I am not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be one. ALWAYS consult your medical doctor or physician before implementing any changes to your diet, medication or supplementation.

Cover photo credits:

http://www.reishimushroomtea.com/file/2014/05/BuddhaTeas-Reishi-Mushroom-Tea.jpg