Reishi is a medicinal mushroom also called the 'mushroom of immortality' in China. She originates from Asia. In Asian countries including China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam this mushroom has been used and named as a medicine for a very long time. Another name that is often used is Lingzhi, which means 'divine mushroom'. As the name indicates, Reishi is used to prolong the lifespan. Reishi belongs to the Ganoderma family. The mushroom grows at the base of several tree species, mainly maple. The mushroom is very rare in the wild, only 2 to 3 in about 10.000 trees will get Reishi. She is a parasitic fungus and uses a tree as a host. Nowadays Reishi is successfully cultivated on tree trunks or sawdust. In this way it is possible to market her as a medicine and food supplement. The mushroom is a polypore mushroom, has tubes on the underside instead of plates. These tubes can be white or brown as it ages. Out of these fine tubes the mushroom drops its spores that cause reproduction. The top of the cap is smooth, shiny and usually red, in the shape of a kidney or fan. Usually the hats are about 10 cm in diameter, but they can also reach about 25 cm in diameter. The stem lies about inside the hat, which stands vertically on it. Polypore mushrooms have hard hats, also called 'conks'. The young Reishi mushroom has a softer hat and feels corky.
Ganoderma lucidum. The name Ganoderma was given in 1881 by Petter Adolf Karsten. The botanical name has a Latin and Greek origin. Ganoderma comes from the Greek word 'ganos', which means 'brightness', and 'derma' which means 'skin, shine, shiny skin'.
Reishi, Lingzhi, Mushroom of immortality, glossy ganoderma
Reishi as Mushroom of Immortality
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Reishi has long been highly regarded as a widely used medicine. Texts throughout history praise the effects of this fungus. It is prescribed for a variety of diseases and ailments. Reishi has been used for centuries to keep body and mind young. As a booster of the immune system she would help the body ward off diseases. Old age symptoms such as forgetfulness would reduce by Reishi. This mushroom has been talked and written about for at least 2000 years. Probably several mushrooms of the Ganoderma genus were used and they all got the name 'Reishi' or Lingzhi. In 1578 the most famous Chinese book on herbal medicine, the Bencao Gangmu, brought more clarity to light. In this book the different Ganoderma species are explained and sorted by color. They were used for different purposes. Based on this book and various studies in 2017, most scientists assume that the official Reishi mushroom is the red one.
Medicinal mushroom for heart and vitality
The first mention of this mushroom was in a Chinese poem by Zang Heng, from the Han-dynasty. Linghzhi was mentioned here for the first time. The mushroom was used to increase the life force, or qi. At this time there was still talk about different colors, which were all suitable for a different purpose: Qinzhi, or 'Green Mushroom', was suitable for treating and healing the liver, Chizi the 'Red Mushroom', intended for the heart, Huangzhi the 'Yellow Mushroom', for the spleen, Baizhi the 'White Mushroom' for the lungs, Heizhi or 'Black Mushroom', for the kidneys and Zizhi the 'Purple Mushroom' for the mind. As mentioned before, most current scientists suspect that the Lingzhi mushroom is the red species. There is written about the mushroom as 'bitter and balancing'. It is suitable for treating chest pain, gives the heart qi a boost, nourishes the center, sharpens the mind and helps people not to forget, in other words the mushroom helps to improve memory. The mushroom is suitable for preventive ingestion to protect against various ailments and diseases. The body becomes light and better protected against old age. In this way life can be prolonged, so long that one achieves 'immortality'. So one speaks mainly about healing the area around the chest and the heart region. People who suffer from chest tension or an oppressive feeling would benefit a lot from this mushroom. In an old text it is recommended to take the mushroom as a supplement for a long period of time in order to make the body strong and to make the body stronger.
Traditional medicinal use of Reishi
The taste of the Reishi mushroom is bitter. Traditionally it is prepared in the form of a hot water extract. The fresh or dried mushroom is added to the water in thin strips or in powder form and will simmer for about two hours, covered and on a low heat. Then a dark, bitter liquid is left over. This can be heated again for two hours to increase the concentration. The result can be used or processed into another medicinal product, for example in combination with other medicinal mushrooms or health products.
Reishi in capsule form
Since 1970 almost all Reishi is obtained through cultivation. The mushroom grows on different substrates, including grains and sawdust. It is also grown on trunks of trees. After the fruiting bodies have formed, they are harvested and often dried and ground. This allows them to be processed into capsules that guarantee an easy daily intake.
Talisman for happiness
Also within art, Reishi is a prosperous mushroom. She has been depicted for centuries as a talisman for happiness within the traditional culture of China. As an image she offers health and a long life. The deity Guanyin is sometimes depicted with a Lingzhi mushroom.
Scientific research into the medicinal effects of Reishi
There is still a lot of research being done on Ganoderma mushrooms. Several results show that Reishi has special medicinal properties. To make this evidence really hard for the medical world, further clinical research will follow.
A study done with Caenorhabditis elegans, a laboratory nematode, showed that Reishi could prolong the life of this very small worm and slow down the aging process. In another study done with mice given an extract of Reishi, the results were positive. The immune system of the animals was strengthened. A main finding was that the mushroom stimulated the activity of natural killer cells. Responsible for this are the immune-modulating polysaccharides. These contents of the Reishi mushroom stimulate different cells in the body, like leukocytes, macrophages, monocytes and as mentioned natural killer cells. These natural killer cells play a very important role in our body: they scan for potentially damaged cells, for example due to a virus, and then kill them.
Reishi contains various ingredients, including immune-modulating polysaccharides (beta-glucans), triterpenes and alkaloids. It also contains the substances arabinaxyglycones, arabinogalactones, peptidoglycans, ganoderanes, triterpenes, proteins, sterols, oleic acid, cyclo-octasulfur, vitamin C, riboflavin or vitamin B2, germanium, flavonglycosides, lysozyme, proteinase, glucosides, coumarins and adenosine. The contents help the body prevent and cure diseases that affect the immune system. The substances have a protective effect and help the body fight against viruses, inflammations, infections and bacteria. The mushroom can also help in treating allergies. The mushroom works as a blood pressure reducer, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. As an adaptogen Reishi ensures that the body is balanced. Where there is a deficiency or imbalance, the contents of the mushroom provide replenishment. When the body undergoes a certain kind of stress, Reishi helps the body to deal with it better. The body comes in a calmer state, reacts better to its environment. In this way Reishi is very interesting for people who suffer from burn-out, sleep problems, lack of energy, reduced concentration and forgetfulness.
Reishi as a cancer drug
As mentioned before, more research is needed to convince science of the effects of the Reishi mushroom. Meanwhile, there are already countless stories of experience of people who have healed their bodies thanks to this mushroom. Whether it is a serious allergy, an inflammation, an ailment of the heart. Reishi is also known as a for cancer. Within the alternative medicine Reishi is often advised as a supplement to (regular) cancer therapy. The present polysaccharides capture free radicals that are released by radiation. In-vitro studies already show that the mushroom inhibits the growth of tumors. As mentioned earlier, its immune-enhancing effect plays a major role.